A question we get quite often at The Potomac Bead Company and in our Facebook Beading and Jewelry Making Group is – What is the best way to store beads and jewelry making supplies? You’ve probably asked yourself this very question as you’ve rummaged through a box of bead supplies looking for that small bag of crimp beads.
As you do more and more beading work, you can expect to accumulate supplies quickly you’ll soon be looking for bead storage solutions to keep you organized. It’s important to find a solution that allows you to find the beads and beading tools you’re looking for quickly, but also so that you can easily take inventory of the products you do have and don’t make unnecessary re-purchases of things you can’t find.
I’d like to share with you some recommended tips and bead storage ideas from The Potomac Bead Company and what has worked best for us!
TIP 1: PLASTIC TUBES ARE THE BEST – AND OUR FAVORITE!
You may have noticed that the Potomac Bead Company sells a large majority of beads, both seed beads and many others, in clear plastic bead storage tubes. This is because WE LOVE TUBES and they are a great seed bead storage solution for a number of reasons.
- They Are Clear – Using clear storage is a big advantage because you can see exactly what bead and what color bead is inside. Although things like old film canisters or pill bottles are great storage options, you can’t see what is inside without popping the lid off and that can be cumbersome when it has to be done repeatedly.
- The Lid Is Secure – Unlike plastic bags that can tear and are sometimes difficult to close, the tubes we use at Potomac Bead have secure, well-fitting lids that keep your beads safe and reduce the risk of accidental spillage. For extra security, you can store your tubes in plastic bags just in case a tube breaks.
- Storage Hook for Hanging – If you’re workspace allows for hanging storage, the hook on the lid makes this a great option. This keeps the beads up and off your workspace with easy visibility.
- Easily Repurposed – Probably the best thing about tubes is that they are SO easy to repurpose! Don’t throw tubes away! They make great storage solutions for beading needles or for beads that are sold in strands.
- Informational Label – Labeling is a key factor when it comes to storage of beads. At Potomac Bead our tube labels provide all necessary information; bead names, bead type, price, color, item number, weight, and more!
TIP 2: USE CLEAR CONTAINERS WITH SECURE COMPARTMENTS
When plastic tubes aren’t large enough, or don’t make sense, stick to CLEAR containers with secure lids and separate compartments when the beads you are storing are tiny. In some cases, plastic bags ARE a good option, for things like cabochons, cup buttons, and other large products, but when it comes to small beads or findings, stick to something more secure. At Potomac Bead we love the Bead Smith Storage Circle and the Bead Smith Storage Stack Jars as storage options for beads and accessories. These will keep your beads and accessories separate and give you easy visibility and access to them. We especially prefer this solutions for metals and findings and we recommend keeping metals of one kind together. Therefore we suggest using a separate container for all your sterling, gold plated, pewter, and so on and labeling it as such This will ensure your metals stay separate and you will only need to access one container when working with a specific metal type.
TIP 3: USE PLASTIC TRAYS OR BEAD CUPS WHILE WORKING ON A PROJECT
While working on a project, it’s important to stay organized. While we don’t recommend this for storing beads, we do recommend using plastic trays or cups to hold beads while you’re in the middle of a project. This will prevent your beads from sliding around and mixing up on your bead mat, especially if you’re working with a large number of different beads. When you’re ready for a specific bead, you can grab your cup or tray and dump what you need onto your bead mat!
TIP 4: LAYERED BEAD MATS FOR NO-SLIP PROJECT STORAGE
If you’re on the go a lot and prefer to take your beading projects with you so that you can continue working, you may have wrestled with different ideas on how to transport them. After trying many things out, we’ve discovered a pretty inexpensive solution that works well! Simply take a bead mat, cut it in half, place it on a plastic tray or in a plastic shoe box and place your project on top. You can then layer the other half of the bead mat on top to help prevent the project from moving around. From there you can even continue layering more projects on top, each project sitting on it’s own bead mat. When you’re ready to work on your project, you simply lift out the mats and grab the project you need!
TIP 5: A BEAD SCOOP EEZ IS YOUR NEXT BEST FRIEND
If you don’t have a bead scoop, you should get one! Although this basic metal tool may seem pointless, I assure you it is not and it makes bead project clean-up a breeze. After you’re finished up with a project, the bead scoop is great for separating out beads that may have been mixed together, gathering them up to put back in storage tubes or bags, and even getting them out of the edge cracks of Bead On It Boards. A Scoop Eez makes bead clean-up quick and easy and is worth every cent!
TIP 6: PLASTIC SHOE BOXES WITH LABELS
Our last and final recommendation for storing beads is all about how to organize and categorize them, and what we use to accomplish that! When storing the actual tubes of beads, we prefer to use CLEAR, plastic shoe boxes that stack together with bold, visible labels on the end. Again the clear plastic allows for good visibility and the labels eliminate the headache of rummaging through boxes to figure out what’s inside. We recommend organizing beads by brand, and then by size in the plastic boxes. After all, it’s how we do it at the Potomac Bead Warehouse! So for instance Miyuki 11/0 seed beads would be stored in one plastic bin, Miyuki 15/0s in another, 4mm Potomac Crystal rounds in one, RoundDuos in one, and so on. It’s not important to separate and organize beads by colors, but it is by brand and size. You don’t want to mix Miyuki 11/0s in with Toho 11/0s because although they are technically the same “size”, they do have their differences. In the same way, you do not want to organize purple 11/0s with purple 15/0s, purple crystals, purple delicas, and more. You will spend a lot of time digging through your box of purple beads looking for the 15/0 size you need. Keep beads together that can be interchangeable and when you’re selecting beads for a new project, you’ll have all the sizes and types organized ahead of time for easy selection.
I hope these 6 tips are helpful to you when storing, organizing, and handling your beads. If you have a solution that you love, please SHARE YOUR IDEAS with us! We are always looking for new and better ways to do things and love input from fellow beaders!