It’s rather unfortunate that we can’t devise a way to have all of our favorite beads on tap, with a never-ending supply of them ready to use at the touch of a button. Because even bulk beads come in a finite quantity, only to be replenished on our next trip to the bead store, leftovers are a common occurrence. If, like many beaders, you also tend to purchase new types of beads on a whim, they are even more common. The last few grams of seed beads, or the last bead or two on a strand have a tendency to hang around, too low in quantity to make their way into a design. Even if you purchase beads specifically for each project, leftovers can happen.
There are two major downsides to having leftover beads: they take up room in one’s stash, and they have a tendency to drag down our reserves of creative inspiration. Leftover beads can seem to call out “why haven’t you thought of a way to use me, yet?” Short of sweeping all leftovers into a broom bead box and shutting them away in a dark cupboard, the only solution is to just go ahead and use them up. Here are 5 fun ways to put those pesky hangers-on to good use.
1. Make a Charm Bracelet
All you need is a bit of chain and a pile of headpins, and you can eliminate almost any assortment of random accent beads from your stash. They don’t even have to match! In fact, the more eclectic, the better. Of course, if you do want to turn a motley crew of beads into a polished looking ensemble, you can always sort them by color, shape, or size and attach them in a pleasing pattern.
The sorting method would also work for a quick pair of asymmetrical earrings. By creating a visual relationship between two piles of beads, you can make a pair of earrings that looks like a match with a twist.
2. Do Some Bead Embroidery
Whether it’s traditional bead embroidery, soutache, or shibori, random beads are perfect for these kinds of projects. If you have multiples of some beads, you can make matching earrings. Otherwise a pendant or cuff is the perfect place to showcase not only your leftover accent beads, but those random few grams of seed beads as well. In any embroidery method, one or two accent beads is plenty, so this is a great way to use up just a handful of leftovers.
3. Colorblocking and Patchwork Patterns
Seed bead addiction is no laughing matter, especially when it means that we end up with so many packets and tubes of colors that lost their appeal after the first project. When these seed bead leftovers start to pile up, it’s time to make use of stripes and geometric patterns. Luckily, abstract designs and multicolor palettes have become super trendy for jewelry lately, and of course the possibilities are endless.
When mixing and matching multiple bead colors without even glancing at your color wheel, a strong neutral can really help to bring everything together. Try incorporating opaque black or white for at least a quarter of the beads in your project to get a nice, cohesive look.
4. Make Bead Soup
Few things are more satisfying than tossing a bunch of beads together to make a lovely mélange of color and sparkle. If you happen to have lots of leftovers in monochrome or analogous colors, all you need is a package to mix them in and you’re halfway to a gorgeous project. Bead soups are great for adding interest to plain stitches, or for making…
5. Freeform Projects
Many beaders feel a bit intimidated by freeform beadwork. It’s hard to work without a net, but the results can be amazing. The nice thing about leftover beads is that we’ve already lost some of our attachment to them – otherwise we’d be restocking and they wouldn’t be leftovers at all. Use your random beads – alone or in a soup – to create a freeform project. Peyote stitch cuffs are a great place to start, and there are tutorials for them everywhere. Netting and right angle weave can be easy to work in freeform if you don’t mind breaking the rules. Flat and circular brick stitch also allow for lots of tweaks that make freeform beadwork possible.
Do you have a favorite treatment for leftover beads?
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