This article will be in a couple installments, as not to be too long in just a single sitting.At the end of this I will post a few links for those who wish to purchase over the internet, some sites I know to be reliable and great with delivery and product.
To start, the Best advice I can give, is buy some really inexpensive beads, even small plastic ones, or a combination pack of glass seed beads, (any brand will do, i don't endorse this brand it is just an image off the net) and practice. A package like this, in size 11 or 10 will average $2.95 - $3.95 American dollars.
When you are talking about size in beads, the higher the number, the smaller the hole, the lower the number, the larger the hole. Your average small little beads like this (above) that look like little plant seeds, are size 11 and generally made out of glass. These come in many colors, usually opaque, meaning you don't see through them, the color is solid and in what is referred to as crayon colors.
Here are some abbreviations to get familiar with, these are beaders terms and will help you in ordering or understanding when you see only abbreviations next to a description.
AB - AURORA BOREALIS, A RAINBOW EFFECT
DY - DYED, COLOR IS APPLIED TO THE SURFACE OF THE BEAD AND WILL FADE OR RUB OFF OVER TIME
IRIS - IRIDESCENT, METALLIC RAINBOW FINISH
M - MATTE FINISH, A DULL OR FROSTED LOOK
OP - OPAQUE, A SOLID COLOR, LIGHT WILL NOT PASS THROUGH IT
S/L - SILVER LINED, A TRANSPARENT BEAD WITH A SILVER LINING
C/L - COLOR LINED, A TRANSPARENT BEAD WITH A COLORED LINING, LINING COLOR MAY FADE OVER TIME
T - TRANSPARENT, USED WHEN A COLOR IS ALSO AVAILABLE IN OPAQUETR - TRANSPARENT, LIGHT WILL PASS THROUGH
TYPES OF BEADS
Lets start off by talking about the different shapes and types of beads available to you. Once you feel you are comfortable enough to spend money on nice beads for your projects and ready to go for it, you will know a little more about what you want.
Be you a Beginner or an Expert, there is a HUGE variety of beads out there, and it can be intimidating to walk in and hear someone talk about, or see names for shapes colors and styles and not have a clue.
Bead sizes go from sizes 0 to 24, and some are even smaller than that. Always remember, the smaller the number, the bigger the hole. The most common size is 11; that is your typical bead you find in most jewelry and on your clothes you buy form the store, the slightly larger size you often see accompanying that is often a 10 or an 8. Be sure to check your package before you buy, it will say the size on it. If you are just starting out, practice with 10 or 8. Size 20 thread will work in this size easily, even when doubling the thread such as in a picot.
In French, rocaille means “rubble,” or “pebbles," . The term is also used to describe a style of art as well but that isn't necessary for our beading terms.
These are a probably the bead most people are familiar with. The are the easiest to find and the least expensive to buy and make. They come in the widest variety of colors and sizes, and are sold in the largest variety of stores both online and off. they look like little rounded almost bubble-ish beads, the above pictures are also rocailles.
Our next type of seed bead is called a Delica bead. Delicas are also a small bead much like a rocaille, except they are produced mainly in Japan, and they are laser cut, giving them a much more uniform cut. they tend to be a lot less rounded or a lot less pebbly in appearance, and seem to butt up to each other much cleaner than other seed beads. Many higher quality jewelry workers prefer Delicas, but watch out, you can find some cheaper quality Delicas that have sharper less finished edges, which cut snag and tear threads. You can see this by looking at the bead edges, and they appear to be slightly chipped and you will notice in your threads right away.You know then you have a lower quality and I would suggest using those on cabled jewelry only, not threaded jewelry or projects.
Also with some rocailles and other lower quality seed beads, the holes can be deformed, seemingly closed or semi-closed, but Delicas normally appear to have a nice even open hole, and the edges of the beads often appear to be much thinner and uniform. Be aware though, you will pay more per gram and or ounce for these than you will other seed beads. Often when you can not find these with regular jewelry supplies, you can find these in the embroidery supplies.
CZECH SEED BEADSPronounced check, as in Czechoslovakia, these seed beads are another type of rocaille, they just happen to be mainly produced in the Czech Republic. You have to decide for yourself after using a variety of beads what type of bead you prefer. some artists stick with only one type of bead while others prefer a variety.
SQUARE and TRIANGLE and HEX BEADS
Not all seed beads are round, some square or triangle or even hex shaped. as with the Delicas, the square seeds tend to be laser cut and quite uniform, in both length and end evenness. These (all 3 shapes) however do not often vary greatly in size, normally there are only 2 or 3 sizes offered, depending on your outlet, and those sizes are generally 10 -11-12. Some examples of these beads are as such.
PEARLS,WOOD , STONE, BONE, CORAL ETC
Beads made of other materials can be seed beads as well as larger focal beads so I will include them here. You will find many different types of pearl in different colors, rough, sooth, you will find coral that has been polished, stones of every type made into the most beautiful little beads, bone, wood plastic, and some very nice polymer clay also. Just about any material you can think of, there are beads made from it.
When you are ready to purchase your new beads, you must consider how you are going to purchase them... what quantity... what is the store your are purchasing them from offering... are you ordering online? in a bead specialty shop craft store? By the ounce, package, tube or by the hank? Lets take a look at a couple of your options real quick.
If you are ordering online, you will have just about all the options available, how do you choose?
A hank is a set of pre-strung beads, with several of these strings together in a bunch. a hank can be as few as 5 strings of a very expensive type bead, to as many as 4000 rocailles or it can go by weight, depending on the vendor.
Some examples of hanks look as such:
You may find your selection in a package like the sample shown in the very first picture in this article, or in a tube like the following sample:
Here the beads are being sold by weight, which is most often how they are sold to you when you order over the internet...
Here they are being sold in another type of plastic and paper package, also by weight, you may find this in your craft store or on the internet as well:
These are just some of the samples of how you may find your beads and what to expect when shopping. With a little patience and net surfing, it can be more fun than intimidating, even if you are shopping in town, just take a breath and have a good time with it :)
So, this is your first bit about seed and the difference between the shapes and what to look for. Most of the images here I used from Fire Mountain Gems, which is an incredible bead site, and they ship all everywhere I can think of so far, I have friends who have ordered in England and Australia :)
Their link is http://www.firemountaingems.com/ and you can find all the beads plus many many more in many colors, and just about any other gem or stone you you are looking for.
Another great site with excellent bead quality is http://www.oldstyle.net/ and they have a great online catalog.
Stay tuned for the next installment and more links and tips to come.:)