I Needed This Tool 24 Years Ago…

May 3, 2017 , In: Studio

I saw a post on facebook a couple of weeks ago that expressed frustration over something that has consumed my life for the last 24 years…  What do you do when you have a seed bead disaster?  All the colors, all the sizes, all the shapes…all mixed together, intentional or otherwise.  I can’t even tell you how often this happens to me, but I distinctly remember the very first time.  I started out at age 10 storing my beads in drawers like this.  One day the whole set of drawers got knocked over from behind, so when it was tipped upright all the drawers fell out and every single bead became part of the ugliest bead soup ever.  AND I had to vacuum up everything I couldn’t scoop up out of shag carpet.  I cried.  I hand sorted everything back into the separate drawers and started saving my baggies from bead store trips.  Thus started my ever evolving search for better storage and sorting techniques.

Intentional or not, I do work with a lot of bead soups.  Sometimes the cat knocks the tray over and my nicely laid out work tray is suddenly a soup in the carpet.  Sometimes a thread gets caught on the tray.  Sometimes I need a soup for freeform or fringe.  Years ago I gave up sorting them apart into their components.  If the colors are focused, I store them with the same color seed beads, but anything where the colors are too mixed gets stashed in a separate box for mixes. I try to dig through that box when I start a new project, in an attempt to use up good mixes or locate beads that I don’t have singly any more. 

So, when I saw this facebook post asking for help sorting beads apart after a disastrous soup incident, I paid attention to the comments.  Several people mentioned diamond sieves – used for sorting gems by size.  As much as I love a new tool, I didn’t really relish the idea of clanging my glass beads around in a metal container.  Then someone posted a link to this item…and I bit….

I was so excited for this set of 3D printed bead sorters to arrive.  The set comes with a lid, sieve cups for 6/0, 8/0, and 11/0, and another shallow cup for the bottom.  I ordered the extra cup for 15/0, and chose the rainbow colorway, so that I could stack them in order without having to read the embossed number or look at the hole size. Lazy much?  Wait, yeah, that’s the whole point of this.  But would they work as I hoped?

Oh My Beadness…where has this been all my life.  Why has it taken someone so long to make this?!?!  I can’t tell you how often I have dreamed of this exact tool.  I used the spaghetti strainer and a smaller powder shaker as a kid, trying to achieve the same effect, but the holes in both were just off-size enough that beads either got stuck or didn’t fall through at all.  I was expecting to have the same problem with these…but did not!  I don’t know if it’s due to the fact that the holes are actually calibrated properly, or if the plastic is less likely to trap the beads, but very few get stuck in the holes.  It would be a good idea to have a toothpick or other gentle probe nearby, particularly if you are sorting matte beads. 

The only, super minor (at least to me) downfall is sorting delicas.  I don’t typically use many delicas because I do so much freeform work, but I do have some unintentional soups that have them mixed in.  Unfortunately, the size and shape of delicas means that about a third of them slot through the holes in the last sieve and end up with the 15/0s, and the other two thirds stay above with the 11/0s.  Some of this is due to their odd size – smaller than an 11 but bigger than a 15, and some is due to the corners on such a tubular shaped bead. 

If you seed bead at all…if you have a cat…if you stack too many projects…this tool is for you.  If you HATE having beads mixed together, to the point of sorting them apart manually – you need this tool.  If you finally came to terms with your mixed up beads, but still wish you could get all those tiny matte metallic burgundy 15/0s out of that weird mix you made in college…buy this tool!  I swear this is an honest, unpaid review.  It is not often that something so far surpasses expectations!  Now I need to buy new baggies to hold all the things I’m going to sort apart.  ***edit:  I asked the seller to make me a larger set – if you’re interested she has updated the Etsy listing with the bigger diameter as an option!

I asked the rest of the team if they had any tools that are as indispensable for them as this sorter will be for me, and a couple of them had things to share:

From Cathy Spivey Mendola My favorite tool that I use almost daily is a pair of bail making pliers that can make 2 mm to 9 mm loops. I always used to use a small pair of pliers that had a round nose/flat nose. If I needed to make a larger bail I would have to use a sharpie to shape around or some other pen/pencil. But since buying these multi loop pliers I don’t know how I lived without them for so long! I use them for so many things-straightening out wire, forming wire into larger shapes-as well as making bails and loops. I bought them a little less than 2 years ago from Julie Sanford after doing a workshop with her. I had borrowed hers and fell instantly in love!

From Lesley WattNot so much a tool as a life saver when you’re a clumsy clot like me and forever dropping things! This has been a life saver when I’ve spilled steel shot or spilled pins all over the floor. Good for separating base metal beads from soup too…

From Claire FabianI was just looking at my tools. There are not really a lot of special tools…really some too-damn-expensive-but-absolutely-worth-it high quality pliers/cutters, my beloved Dremel who even helps me putting holes into earring cards (took me way to long to have that revelation) and in the end some of my most important tools usable for nearly everything: knitting needles (except knitting)!

I do hope you will check out all of these items, and find some new things to help out your own work.  Do you have something that you find indispensable to your creative work?  Please comment and share!  We would love to know!



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

    That’s a pretty nifty idea! And 3-D printed as well!

    • Kelly R
    • May 3, 2017

    WHERE has this tool been all my life?!?!?! <3

  2. I NEED a set of these!! Thanks for letting us know about them.

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