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.
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.
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.
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.
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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