Blessed by the Bead Goddess

September 11, 2017 , In: Beadwork, General, Studio

I’ve been working to get out of my creative and personal rut lately by a full house sort/organize/purge and clean.  Last weekend (Labor Day long weekend) I worked really hard to get my clothes, bedding and other household linens sorted.  I weeded out my wardrobe and took a carload to donate.  Considering most of my wardrobe comes from the thrift store anyway, this always seems like the completion of a cycle for me.  On our Monday off, a friend and I went thrifting to check out all of the sales.  I told myself not to buy anything I didn’t need, and definitely nothing to replace what I just donated the day before!  I found a few fun things, a doll, and a new chair for $15…but at the last store I had a major score.  By major, I mean the Bead Goddess must have been very proud of how ruthless I was during my purge…because I found seed beads.

I saw a basket in the bottom of a case next to the checkout and immediately recognized tubes of Japanese seed beads.  As soon as the clerk brought the basket out for me I knew I had hit the mother load.  With the storewide 50% off sale, all of the 5″ and 6″ tubes were $1 and the 3″ tubes were $0.50…I didn’t even count them in the store, I just bought them all.  My friend and I then stopped for an overdue lunch and brought the beads in to the restaurant to peruse and count.  There ended up being 99 tubes.  We totaled the retail value of all of the tubes and discovered that I had paid about $80 for nearly $500 worth of beads.  The best thing about this score is that I am a cheapskate when it comes to seed beads.  I am uncomfortable paying the full retail price for anything, but especially fancy permanent metallic colors…and this batch of beads was full of colors I never buy!

A find like this creates a project when I get home…I do not store my beads in tubes.  Years ago I realized my main pet peeve in bead and other craft storage is storing “air” instead of goodies.  Like most beaders, I am constantly evolving my storage and finding better ways to keep and display my beads, but my seed bead storage has not changed for years.  I store seed beads in individual baggies, grouped by size within larger quart and gallon bags, and grouped by color in large flat plastic bins.  This storage method suits my need to eliminate packed air, and allows me to find the exact size bead I’m looking for in the right color quickly.   Because I design with color in mind first, I will go to a specific box and be able to grab the bag of purple 11/0 to find the exact bead I need.

So when I get home with new beads, I first have to decant them into baggies (tubes will be donated to my local creative reuse store).  Then I group them by color, and start putting them away, box by box.  Besides my dislike of storing air, this storage method alleviates unintentional bead soups as much as possible.  Occasionally a bag bursts, or I forget to close it, but because they are all stored with the same color and same size of beads, any soup that mixes itself is still able to be stored in the same bag.  When I was storing beads in tubes, I would frequently have so many in a container that the lids would pop off and make combinations so horrible I was compelled to sort the beads apart again. 

As I go through each container and baggie, I always end up with some strays.  I don’t feel its necessary to put 5 stray beads back with their friends if I’ve put that bag away already, so I just toss leftovers into this big jar.  This jar sits near my workspace, so if I need a stop bead or a few stray black beads for something I’m working on, I don’t have to get up and rummage.  Because I had so many beads to put away this time, I decided to do some much needed maintenance.  I went through each container, making sure beads were in the correct size bags, and replacing any baggies that were worn out.  I thought it would be fun for you all to see the aftermath of this multi-day project!

Red and pink seed beads.

Orange, peach, copper and yellow seed beads. This is the least full of all the boxes because I typically use yellow and orange. I laid out all of the baggies separately to give you an idea of how much can be compactly stored. The brown and green boxes have over twice as many baggies as this one.

Greens – yellow-green through emerald green seed beads.

Teal and turquoise seed beads. Seafoam and other very blue greens also live in this box.

True blue seed beads.  Navy, cobalt, and powder blues.

Plum, purple, violet seed beads.

Brown, ivory and goldish metallic seed beads.

Gray, crystal, and silver metallic seed beads.

Black and white seed beads.

I also decided to pull off my old labels, because I had to rearrange the contents of some boxes to make things fit.  My mixes are now in another larger box with lower quality seed beads so that I could use that container.  I divided up the beads slightly differently than before and everything is much more comfortable now.  To avoid having to find batteries for the label maker, I reached for my stickers and used them to color label each box instead.  This project has been MUCH overdue, so I’m glad the bead score necessitated this overhaul. 

Do you have any storage methods that really work for you, or is your storage still evolving?  We would love to have you share what really works for you, or where you still need help!  Maybe someone will share something that will change your storage woes forever! 


Lindsay Star

Lindsay Starr is a beadwork and mixed media artist currently based in Nashville, TN. She spent her early childhood in Alaska, and her school age and college years in Oregon. Lindsay has a great appreciation for history, science, and nature and is consistently inspired by insects, sea life, color, and the significance of beads and beadwork throughout human history. She spends her days beading, walking at the zoo, and practicing yoga. Lindsay loves to share her knowledge and passion for beads and beadwork to hobbyists of all skill levels.
  1. Reply

    Hi Lindsay. I can’t believe anyone else is so obsessive about their bead storage. LOL. I just went through all of my beads and re-bagged all of them because I couldn’t see through the baggies anymore. When it gets to that point they tend to start breaking and spilling the beads. I use multi-drawer plastic containers that I keep on shelves in my work room. I keep my focals in multi-compartment flat containers according to the material it’s made of. I recently went through all of my 27 drawers of gemstones and seed beads (which are in separate drawers, of course) and re-bagged all of my beads. I had to order baggies 3 times! LOL. But it was very zen to sit and do it and it felt SO good to get it done. Now I have to pack to move but I will be ready to go when I get settled. :o)

    • Divya
    • September 11, 2017

    I too store all my beads (not a seed beader)by colors. I currently use plastic covers but I find then very inconvenient as with use they either tear or do not close fully and the all the beads get mixed with each other. I am on the lookout for a better system though

  2. Reply

    Wow! what a great score! the colors are delicious.

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