Updated on July 27, 2022 by Sarina
If you love crafts and beautiful things, you will love beading and bead weaving. It is a guarantee from me. And the best thing is that most of the things needed to start beading are quite inexpensive and easily available.
Supplies and Tools needed for Beadwork
Round seed beads and cylinder beads are the most commonly used beads for bead weaving. Out of those Japanese beads (called Delica beads) are the most preferred. They are all of the same size resulting in superior work. This is important in the beads that you buy, whichever brand you buy. Another qualifier is the cuts and abrasions on its surface. This will wear out the thread you use, and break the whole work.
You can buy seed beads in many sizes. Starting from size 15 to 5, size 15 being the smallest. As you can see, higher the number, the smaller the seed bead. A size 10 is the most commonly used seed bead.
Other than the glass beads you can also add other beads into the bead weaving. Gem stone beads are the favourites.
Deciding on how many beads you need for a project is easy if you have a ready-made kit, but otherwise it quite difficult to estimate. You can try to line them up side by side inside a space marked one inch and then calculate the area of your project and decide on the beads you need to cover this area.
The common funda for selecting a needle for beading is simple – it should pass through the hole of the bead. Most hand sewing needles would not go through most seed beads. If you take a random bead it might, especially if you have low-quality differently sized seed beads. But there will be many beads through which your ordinary needle will get stuck. So you need Beading needles – those with small eyes.
You also need a strong needle that will not bend after some time – this is important in bead weaving on a loom. And a long one that will reach across the many threads on your beading loom.
You can use size 10 or size 12 bead embroidery needles for bead embroidery/weaving with normal seed beads- these work with the normal seed beads of size 10/11. With smaller seed beads you will need size 13 and 12 beading needles. Remember with needles, higher the number thinner the needle.
A twisted wire needle or collapsible eye needle is preferred with thicker yarns. You can also use a special beading hook needle for bead embroidery.
The thread you choose for beading will have to go through the bead holes several times – ordinary sewing threads will suffice for some time but after a short period, they will start to either break or start to fray. Beading threads need to be stronger than regular embroidery or sewing thread. Woven nylon thread and silk thread are the most commonly used bead weaving thread.
Silk thread is usually used to string expensive beads. It is lustrous and looks classy but when you have a project with lots of beads, the silk thread will fray after some time. Silk threads look beautiful when used with pearls (with those small knots in between). Silk thread is available in a variety of colors
Nylon beading thread is the most popularly used beading thread. It is used in bead embroidery, bead weaving in the loom. You can buy nylon thread in a variety of colors. Nylon thread is available “pre-waxed” or preconditioned. But if you find it is not, you can apply beeswax on it yourself to make the passing through the holes of beads easier.
You may need to experiment with a lot of brands before you find the best beading thread that will not tangle easily, break, fray, and easily thread through the needle.
For seed beads, you can buy size 2 Nylon beading thread. A higher number indicates a thicker thread. If your thread is not preconditioned you can use a thread conditioner
Another choice is plastic (polyethylene) beading threads (also called Monofilament). When it is clear, it is also called illusion cord. Some consist of a single filament but some are braided and bonded beading threads.
Stretch floss is a thin plastic beading material – You would mistake it for a fishing line. It is the same material. You can get this in as transparent as well as black. You can easily thread this through beads, and do the beading without tangling. But the disadvantage is that after some time it can change shape somewhat. But there are brands which sell these plastic threads which are very durable.
Elastic beading cords / Stretch cords are another type. They have many advantages – Main one is that it stretches. You can buy stretch cords in many different sizes. The most commonly used stretch cord sizes are 0.5mm and 0.7mm – these work with seed beads.
Other than the plasticky-looking stretch cord you can also get a polyester-covered stretch cord. This comes in many colors
For bigger beads, you can use thicker strings/cords. If you are using thicker threads, just remember to choose the beads first and select the largest cord that will fit through the holes of the beads once or even better, when doubled over.
The advantage of beading wire over beading thread is that when beads are strung on a beading wire they can be shaped the way you want them to.
Which beading wire you choose will depend on the diameter of the hole of the smallest bead you are stringing. It should fit just right through the hole. There are beading wires made of one single strand and ones made of several strands twisted together. The ones which are made of many strands are better because they are more flexible, and they are also less prone to break or bend in unattractive ways. You can get beading wires with more than 40 strands twisted together
Please note that beaded motifs made with wire cannot be washed – so if you want to toss your clothing with the beaded motif attached to the washing machine, make it with thread.
For seed beads, you can choose a beading wire of diameter 0.010″ to 0.15″. You can get very thin beading wire for very small beads.
There are many types of bead looms available in the market – from simple to complex. The best is to buy a Bead Loom with an adjustable wooden frame or an Ojibwa loom ( Continuous Warp Bead Loom). It can be adjusted to make long bead weaving projects. Both of them can make bead projects which are as long as 25 inches long.
You will need a strong thread as warping thread
Bead board, trays and mats
I usually keep my beads in styrofoam trays. You can get a commercial bead mat to keep the beads spread in front of you without running after them every time. You can alternatively use a felt fabric piece for this or even a clean towel would do as a mat.
The bead boards are usually plastic pegboard material in which you can place each bead. Some bead boards have separate compartments to keep your beads. You can try out your combinations in terms of colors and patterns in an easy way with these bead boards.
A beadboard is used to lay out the beads in the pattern you have chosen, and you can start to weave the beads in the same order in which they’re laid out on your board- very convenient if you get confused by complex patterns. A bead mat is usually a 14-inch square but when you make it yourself you can cut it the size you need. The best is to buy a bead mat tray.
Metal wire tools
A pair of chain-nose pliers and Flat nose pliers (Needle Nose or Chain Nose Pliers) and wire cutters are the most essential things when working with beading wire. Flat nose pliers are used to press the crimp beads and also to press wires together.
You can also buy a round nose plier and a crimping plier. Other tools you might want to have are knotting awl and tweezers
When you have made knots on your bead stringing material, it can come off aftersometime. You have to apply glue ( a flexible glue) to make it secure.
You can buy paper patterns or get patterns for beadweaving from websites. You can find the patterns as a part of some pattern books.
You can use fleece, faux suede, and felt as backing for bead embroidery. Fusible fleece can be used where you need to fuse the work. You can also use a firm Sew-In Interfacing.
A ruler, good sharp scissors, thread snipper, masking tape – these are all handy when working with beads.
Even if you have all of the above you may quit beading soon if you find yourself getting ailments related to beading for a long time without the necessary precautions. Eye strain, hand fatigue, back pain – all of these are usually heard among passionate beaders. But then this is true about anyone passionate about anything. When you do things continuously for a long time, abandoning all precautions you will have to face the consequences.
Ergonomics in beading involves proper seating, magnifiers, and good lighting. I have been warned against sitting infront of the computer continuously for more than 3 hours without blinking the eye and even breathing – just joking. But I feel I will do that one day.
This is a tool used to make holes bigger inside beads.
If you are looking for convenience in stringing beads, look no further than a bead spinner. It is a device that lets you string a lot of beads (should be of the same size and color) very quickly. If you are interested in this, it means you are passionate about bead weaving and beadwork. Best wishes