Thursday, March 10, 2016

Dollar Deals and the Accidental Seed Bead Stash

Size 15 Seed Beads

My current embroidery experiment is just the latest attempt in a long line of destash missions for my large collection of 15/o seed beads. Over the past 7 years, I’ve tried many times to put a dent in the quantities of 15/o’s that are in my stash, but it never seems to get any smaller. They’re just so tiny that no matter how much I use them, their volume never seems to get any lower. I once tried making beadwork bookmarks, I’ve made what seems like millions of beaded flowers with them, and of course I went through a brief rivoli obsession before moving on to other things.

The stash just never seems to get any smaller. Of course I’ve also added a few colors here and there as well. Once I discovered 15/o seed beads, I found that they were really quite useful - at least once in a while. Part of the trouble is that I didn’t know what I was getting into, so there are lots of colors that hardly ever get used – and a few that I like too much to use all the time. Bead hoarding comes in all shapes and sizes.

There’s currently a Dollar Days sale running at Fire Mountain Gems, which got me to thinking about the story behind how I ended up with an entire tackle tray of 15/o’s - even though I only use them rarely, and in such tiny amounts. I suppose you could call it a cautionary tale about making assumptions, but I like to think of it as a happy accident.

Size 15 Beaded Rainbow Flowers

When I placed my very first online bead order back in 2009, I had never set eyes on Japanese seed beads before. I had been using Czech seed beads from my local bead store for years, happily stringing and stitching without much awareness of the other possibilities out there. In that first order, I only included one package of 11/o TOHO seed beads, along with a bunch of other beads that were totally new to me. So, when the store mixed up the seed beads in my order and sent me 8/o’s by mistake, I had nothing to compare them to. A tiny voice was telling me that I knew there was very little difference between Czech and Japanese beads, but I was essentially working without a net. I assumed that TOHO sized their beads a little bit differently, just like Miyuki does with their Delicas.

Size 15 Seed Bead Stash

A few weeks later there was a Dollar sale at my new favorite site, and I went a little nuts ordering packets of 15/o seed beads in my favorite colors – and a bunch of exciting new ones! – thinking that they would be about the same size as the Czech seed beads I was used to. Imagine my surprise when the package arrived and I discovered a gaggle of little baggies containing what looked like colored sand at first glance. For a few moments I was totally heartbroken; I had been so excited to try out all of my new seed bead colors – what was I ever going to do with beads so tiny a single bead is practically invisible? Eventually I got over my initial disappointment and started thinking about ways to use these beads. It didn’t take long before I was stitching up little beaded flowers and using 15/o’s for accent fringe. Then I learned how to bezel and never looked back.

Beaded Starfish Lariat

Although I may have eventually tried out 15/o’s on my own, I’m not sure if the design discoveries I’ve made would have been possible without a big stash of little seed beads to choose from. If it weren’t for that one little mix-up, I’d probably have two or three essential 15/o colors and not much else. There’d almost certainly be no beaded starfish rings, and that would be a shame. Most seasoned beaders will say that mistakes can be the start of a great new design or technique. It turns out this is just as true for bead shopping as it is for the actual beadwork.

Custom Size 15 Seed Bead Mix

Have you ever had a big surprise in a bead order? Were you able to turn it around and make it work for you?


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  1. Well, sorta! Mine was actually a BAG of beads gifted me from an art group after I did a trunk show/lecture. I just started using some of the beads to outline and fill in a beaded project...well, working with the beads I thought they seemed large(er) than normal (I'm a 15 Delica gal!) and come to find out I was using #10 seed beads from the bag! So I had to run to ourlocal bead store and pick up some other size 10 little 15's and 11 seed beads just wasn't going to cut it! Oh I have more beads in my stash! HA

    1. It's interesting how our bead stashes grow that way. We start with a little bit of something, and the next thing we know, we have to keep stocking up on more just to use what we started with. One can never have too many beads, though!

  2. I understand getting carried away with an order! I ordered some size 16-24 vintage beads, on sale, and quickly figured out how much cheaper it was to order kilos of them. You can imagine my surprise when I found a 34lb box of beads on my porch! I have more than a lifetime supply of itty bitty beads!

    1. That's so exciting! It's definitely worthwhile to buy in bulk when you can.

  3. I once ordered sky blue 6/0s from Fire Mountain in a 40 gram package. Instead, I received a half kilo of the things. I think it took about ten years to make it through the bag since it turns out I don't like that shade if blue in my work.


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