Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Talkin' Shop Tuesday - A Seed-y Subject

This installment of Talkin' Shop Tuesday will deal with the subject of seed beads - those often teeny-tiny beads that can be used in so many ways to produce so many amazing effects. They can be woven into sheets or shapes by hand or on a loom, and different colors and/or types can be used to produce designs and even images.  Let's take a look at some of the terms related to seed beads and some other useful information for anyone who loves to work with these versatile beads.

Seed Bead Shapes

Seed Bead - Generically, any small bead, however the true seed bead is a bead formed through the drawing of glass into long, narrow diameter tubes. Thetubes are then cut into uniform sized pieces which may or may not be reheated. The reheating creates a slight rounding of the cut edges. Seed beads come in many finishes, shapes and sizes.
Rocaille - Round seed bead made of hard (non-lead) glass
Bugle Bead - Tubular seed bead of soft (lead) glass, usually not rounded, also comes in a twisted version
Charlotte - Rocaille (usually a size 13/0) with ground facet(s)
Macca, Cut Bugle - Bugle with hexagonal section, usually black
Two-cuts (hex cuts) Bugle Bead - Short segments cut from maccas, also comes in a twisted version
Three-cuts Bugle Bead - Two-cuts faceted by grinding
Square Cut Seed Bead - reflect light in every direction and add interesting dimensions and texture when mixed with round beads
Triangle Cut Seed Bead - catch and reflect additional light, adding extra sparkle and a more angular, modern look to your designs
Fringe Bead - These glass beads are almost drop shaped, but not quite. They are really a round bead with an off-center hole. They make great texture when used for bead embroidery and can be used in place of the traditional teardrop shape for many other uses. Magatama Bead - See Fringe Bead
Delica - Seed Beads which are precision cut through the use of computerized manufacturing, most uniform seed bead.
Crow Bead - The largest of the seed beads, crow beads typically are tube shaped with slightly rounded ends and measure 9mm x 6-7mm with a larger 3mm hole for threading on cord or leather. They received their name from their common use by the Crow Indians as a decoration on native leather clothes and accessories.
E-Bead - Trade name for size 6/0 rocaille (round) seed beads
Pony Bead -  Pony beads are slightly smaller than crow beads, and bigger than most seed beads with a diameter of about 4mm. Used as a trade bead in the early history of US exploration, these beads got their name because they were easily transported in bulk on the packs of ponies used by settlers and explorers.
Glass Roller Bead - Similar in shape and size to a crow bead, glass roller beads have thinner sides with the threading hole typically measuring 4mm. The edges are also not as rounded.

Seed Bead Finishes:

Alabaster - milky or opalescent glass. 
Aurora Borealis (ab) - an iridescent coating, applied to only one side of a bead, which produces a multi color, rainbow effect.  Also known as a rainbow finish
Ceylon - a pearlized finish on an opalescent bead, primarily in pastel colors.
Color-Lined - a transparent bead with an opaque color inside of bead. 
Dyed - bead is dyed after it is formed. 
Duracoat - durable coating on a galvanized bead. 
Galvanized - metallic plating applied to the surface of the bead. 
Ghost - finish combining matte and aurora borealis finishes.
Gold-Luster - a semi-transparent high-gloss finish with a gold hue.
Iris - a permanent rainbow effect applied when the beads are still hot. Also known as iridescent, oil slick, peacock,
Luster - a semi-transparent high-gloss finish.
Marea - pinkish gold finish similar to an AB finish. One half of the bead has a gold finish, and then an AB finish is applied to the entire bead.
Matte - a frosted non-shiny finish. Also known as a frosted finish
Metallic - metal-like shiny finish.
Oil Slick - Iridescent finish applied to a bead before it has been allowed to cool.
Opal  - milky or opalescent glass.
Opaque (Op) - a solid color where light does not show through.
Precious Metal - glass beads plated in gold, silver or platinum.

Scarabee - AB finish applied to entire surface area of a (usually black) bead.
Semi-Matte (S/M) - beads that have both matte and gloss finishes.
Silk Satin - textured to change appearance depending on the viewing angle. 
Silver Lined (S/L) - has a reflective silver lining in the hole of the bead.
Tortoise - two transparent colors swirled together.
Transparent - beads that light can show through, either colored or crystal.
Vitrial -  One half of the bead has a silver finish, and then an AB finish is applied to the entire bead, resulting in a rainbow slick effect.
White Heart - a transparent or opaque bead with a white lining in the core of the bead.

Common Brands of Seed Beads:

Matsuno Seed Beads - Manufactured by Matsuno of Japan, these beads are seeing their popularity increase. They are less expensive than Toho or Miyuki beads.  They mimic Delicas in shape, but are not as uniform and the holes are not as large.

Miyuki Seed Beads - Manufactured by Miyuki Shoji in Japan, these beads are well known for their high quality.  Miyuki produces seed beads, bugle beads, and Delicas, as well as other shaped beads such as cubes and triangles. Miyuki seed beads are shaped somewhere between a cylinder and a doughnut shape, although they are more regular than Matsuno seed beads.

Toho Seed Beads - Toho of Japan offers not only their own equivalent of Delicas, known as Toho Treasures, but a wide range of seed bead sizes and shapes including a uniformly regular cylinder bead called Aiko as well as some 3-cut and Charlotte-cut beads.

Seed Bead Sizes and Approximate Counts 

Seed beads are typically sold by size and the sizes are expressed as " x/0" (aught sizes) with the "x" being the number of beads per aught (a specific measure determined by the manufacturer). This means that the larger the number, the smaller the bead. For example, an 8/0 bead is larger than a 15/0 bead.

The following table outlines the average diameters and beads per inch of standard seed beads:

Aught Size Mm DiameterBeads per Inch (Strung)
6/0 3.3 10
8/0 2.513
9/0 2.215
10/0 2.016
11/0 1.819
12/0 1.721
13/0 1.527
14/0 1.424
15/0 1.325
Delica 1.820

Note that this is not a complete list - aught sizes run from 2/0 to 25/0.

This table will help you decide what size beading needle you should use when working with different size seed beads:

Bead Size Thread Size Needle Size
8/0 or Larger F Size 10
10/0 D Size 10
11/0, 12/0, Delica B Size 12
13/0 and 14/0 O Size 13
15/0 and smaller OO Size 15

Since many factors (size, finish, manufacturer's specs, etc) contribute to the number of beads per gram or hank, attempting to provide accurate counts is next to impossible. For the best estimates, visit the manufacturer's website or consult the site or shop where you purchased the beads. The following table will only give an approximate average count of seed beads by size/weight/hank.

Seed Beads Per Hank or Gram
Seed Bead Size Approx. Beads Per Hank Approx. Beads Per Gram
6/0 2100 15
7/0 2240 28
8/0 2880 38
9/0 3156 76
10/0 3540 100
11/0 4080 110
12/0 4440 190 – Also 11/0 Delica, Treasure and Aiko
13/0 4980 225
14/0 5100 255
15/0 5300 290
16/0 5500 665
18/0 5800 710
20/0 6000 752
22/0 6240 833

That's it for today. Hope you find this information helpful! 


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