Saturday, February 2, 2013

What I learnt about bead stitching

Dear friends,

I'm aware it's February already. I promised myself I would start sewing in Feb but I did not. I spent the first day of Feb beading away. But sadly I'm putting down my beads. It's not goodbye. It's just back to reality. You know - sewing bags and writing patterns.

I've had a really great January. Did not have a single dull moment.

Although my experience with beading is not much, I've realised I already have my preferences and hatreds.

Seed beads
Singapore is a beading heaven. There are so many beads supply shops that one is spoilt for choice. Before I started to understand my own preferences, I would simply buy just any kind of seed beads. But after struggling with imperfect and odd sizes of seed beads, I realise that I really don't want the aggravation of culling the odd sizes. It's fine to use any kind of seed beads when you only use a few pieces. But when the entire design consists of seed beads, you want it smooth sailing.

I've discovered that Miyuki seed beads are the most uniform in size. However, I have problems buying them in Singapore. Other than this one shop, I can't seem to find them anywhere else. And yep, you guessed it. They're horribly expensive. I have used another brand Toho which is much cheaper and I am able to buy them at one particular shop in Chinatown. However, the colours are really limited. When it comes to colours of seed beads, I'm very drawn to matte colours. And Miyuki beats Toho hands down. Toho beads are very light and I would say as uniform as Miyuki beads. I've discovered another Japanese brand called Matsuno beads. I haven't tried using them yet but I got the feeling they're not as good. It's just based on sight and feel so I could be wrong. They're cheaper than Toho beads so I won't be unhappy if they turn out to be great.

I've also discovered that not all Japanese seed beads are equal. At Golden Dragon shop in Singapore, the crew recommended some Japanese seed beads. I've tried them but the beads are all unevenly sized.


Delicas are cylindrical beads while seed beads are rounded. Miyuki seems to be the dominant player in delica market. In fact, you could get Miyuki delicas in several beads shop in Singapore. At Golden Dragon, these delicas are kept in a showcase and you need the crew to take them out to show you. I really wonder why the shop chooses to keep the delicas in the showcase. I mean how do you see the colours? And Golden Dragon has pretty surly crew! So far I've only used Miyuki delicas and they're so perfect. I will try Toho delicas one day just to compare. I'm pretty certain Toho delicas are cheaper. On my wish list? Larger delicas. They're really hard on the eyes.


I've used nylon and polyethylene thread. For the nylons, I've tried Nymo and Meister. I dislike both. For nylon threads, you need to stretch and condition them by pulling them against beeswax. Other than the horrid smell of beeswax which I cannot stand, the nylon thread tends to tear and fray easily. The pros? They come in many colours.

For polyethylene thread, I love Fireline because they're so strong. I have the 4pound, 6pound and 8pound with 4pound being the finest I can find. They only come in 2 colours - crystal and smoke. I think I can live with that. Cons? They're really hard to cut. You need a dedicated scissors or a nipper.


Spiral Rope

I really love this technique of making jewellery because it's so easy and I love the spiral look. Certainly I should stop making spiral rope necklaces and bracelets. Anyway I made two more and yes, they will be the last ones for a long while.

These are the seed beads combo I used. I used Toho seed beads. I can't take credit for this combo. I would never use orange colour but I saw this combo on this tute and really liked it. Since I already have the turquoise and the cream, I decided to go to the bead shop to get a small pack of orange seed beads. These are size 15 which means they're very, very small. (the bigger the number, the smaller the beads)

I really love how the necklace and bracelet turned out but I think the necklace doesn't suit my skin tone.

Flat Herringbone Stitch

This green/blue bracelet is done in flat herringbone stitch. This is a stitch I'm unfamiliar with and I wanted to make a practice bracelet using this stitch. I used Japanese seed beads in the biggest size I could find. The beads turned out to be very uneven in size and I'll say it if you won't. The bracelet is hideous. Well, I got to practice the stitch. I think for future flat herringbone bracelets, it would be wiser to use a cylindrical bead instead of a rounded seed bead. The nature of the stitch makes it easier for the beads to sit together if they're not rounded. Oh, would be nice if the beads are of uniform size! These Japanese beads came from Golden Dragon and I would be happy never to buy them again.

I learnt this flat herringbone stitch entirely by watching these youtube videos:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Even Count Flat Peyote Stitch

This bracelet is done using Miyuki delicas in even count peyote stitch.  Peyote stitch is really good for making pretty patterns especially if you use delicas. Since the delicas are cylindrical, they all stack up nicely to give you a canvas to "paint on".

I realise I really don't care for flat bracelets. There is another stitch called odd count flat peyote stitch and I decided I don't need to practice it because it's quite similar to even count flat peyote stitch. Odd count flat peyote stitch is even better if you want a nice symmetrical design "painted" on the "canvas".

Tubular Peyote Stitch

I have learnt tubular peyote stitch before when I attended a beading class.

Remember this needle case I made? The body is made using tubular peyote stitch and the cover is made using circular peyote stitch. I used Miyuki delicas. This needle case is not easy to make for a beginner but for someone more experienced, I think it's not so hard. The difficulty lies in getting the right colour bead in the right position for the designs. Of course the more intricate your design, the harder it is on your eyes!

Anyway, I decided to start on a tubular peyote stitch bracelet. To make this, I let the seeds straddle a knitting needle. It just makes it easier to hold. I used size 10 Miyuki seed beads. This video explains tubular peyote stitch pretty well. I'm unable to complete this bracelet but I didn't intend to. I've put this in a WIP case and I'll work on it whenever I'm sick of sewing.

A lot of beading work is repetitive and it's usually the first few foundation rows which are difficult. So that's my plan - to have a few WIP beading projects and work on them when I can steal away. I promise not to cheat!

There are so many more stitches to learn in beading. Unfortunately, I need to be serious about sewing again. It's really been fun discovering stitches and my own preferences. I think I could make a really good beader if I had started at least a decade ago. However, I'm getting older and my failing eyesight is the one and only thing standing between me and my beading. Well, that and my sewing. I can't believe I wrote that!


Laurie-Jane said...

You could sell these on your stalls, I know if I was there my daughters would buy them, they always have pocket money that they are itching to spend. So while their Mum buys a bag you get the kids money too. Just a thought and a reason for you to carry on beading guilt free.

Bethany said...

Wow! I don't know if I'd have the patience for all that!

Fiona Markham said...

Great blog post Jane - not sure I would ever have the time (or patience) to do beading but it is very pretty.

Anonymous said...

get some kindergarten first grade type scissors that you give kids that won't cut skin, and use that for the fireline, it's amazing, if the scissors don't work, they are TOO sharp

Anonymous said...

Hi! May i know where you get your seed beads? I can't seem to find brick and mortar shops that sell them and online shopping isn't too convenient for me currently/:

Projects By Jane said...

Hi Anonymous,

I live in Singapore so unless you also live in Singapore, telling you where to get the seed beads won't help.


Anonymous said...

Hi, although this post was awhile back I would be really grateful if you could advise me on where to buy seed beads. So far, I've noticed that online shops, eg, vivebeads which are Singapore based have reasonable prices. Are the beads at shops at people's park more affordably priced? Thank you so much!

Projects By Jane said...

Try these places:
1. People's Park Centre - Mix and Match, Golden Dragon, Lai Guan
2. Orchard Gateway - Beads Etc
3. Koi Ming - google them 3 locations.
4. Arab street - a few but I forgot their names; just walk and see, it's a short street.

I personally like Mix and Match best. Price wise, Beads Etc is a bit pricey. It's cheaper buying from the shops versus online.

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