Sunday, April 3, 2016

Top 5 Beading Pet Peeves

Everyone has at least a few pet peeves. Even the usually-relaxing world of beading is not immune to the effects of irritation. A pet peeve is a thing that annoys you every time, which you inevitably love to complain about. It’s as human as our fascination with tiny bits of colored glass. Although each of us has our own unique list of favorite annoyances, many of them are common; most likely because it doesn’t matter how calm or reasonable you are – some things are just really annoying. These are my personal beading pet peeves, which I’m sure I share with many other beaders, too!

Top 5 Beading Pet Peeves

1. Broken Beads

There are so many reasons that a broken bead is beyond infuriating. First of all, it usually happens while weaving in thread, which means that the break is miles away from where you’ve added the most recent stitches, and it would take ages to undo all of your work to remove the offending bead and replace it. With some techniques it’s okay to lose a bead here and there, but for most it’s super obvious that there’s a gap in the pattern. A broken bead can ruin hours and hours of work.

Seed Bead Breakage
There's no "good" way to fix a broken bead like this.

The worst thing about broken beads is that they’re usually 100% our fault. We know that the bead holes are getting full because we can feel it as we try to pull the needle through to weave in a tail thread. And yet, we ignore that little voice telling us to put on a size 13 needle just to be safe, and instead try to force the needle until we hear the telltale crunch of exploding glass.

2. Kinky Peyote Thread

If you’ve worked with peyote stitch much, you may have noticed that it plays havoc with beading threads. Fireline is particularly susceptible to the twisting, kinky mess that results after so many rows of peyote. The thread closest to the beadwork gets twisted tighter and tighter with each new row, causing it to coil in on itself and making every stitch take longer than usual. The tighter your tension, the kinkier the thread gets.

Kinky Fireline
At this point it's like trying to bead with straw.

I generally work with a wingspan of thread for every technique and project, but many years ago I started using no more than one arm’s length for nearly anything involving peyote stitch. Shorter lengths of thread don’t get as kinky to begin with, and it means less time until a fresh, untwisted thread is needed.

Twisted Fireline

3. Surprise Bead Coatings

Has this ever happened to you? You’re browsing a bead shop online and spot a new bead color that you simply must have. You read the description carefully and everything seems great. You order the beads and wait for them to arrive, imagining all of the designs that you’ll make with them. The box arrives and you rip it open, only to discover that the color you liked so much is just a coating that is already starting to flake around the bead holes.

Coated Glass Beads
Do you really want to hurt me, coated beads?

Material quality is extremely important to me, and I always try to use the best beads in my designs. I intentionally avoid beads that aren’t going to stand up to the normal wear-and-tear of jewelry, and I rely a lot on product descriptions to know what I’m buying. It’s super annoying when essential details like color coatings are left out, especially because the colors are usually so awesome.

4. Spills

I drop things. Sometimes my hands just go on vacation from my brain and the next thing I know, there are beads (or coffee, or spaghetti sauce) everywhere. Sometimes it’s a container of recently decanted beads that I drop. Sometimes I drop something else into my workspace after setting up a project and there’s a bead explosion. Fortunately this usually only happens to beads in the vicinity of my bead tray, so most of the spill is contained within my workspace anyway. I can clean up some of the mess as I stitch, and scoop up the rest when a project is complete.

Explosive Bead Spill
This is what happens when you drop your camera on a pile of beads.

The worst kinds of spills are those that turn a few lovely beads into a gigantic bead soup. Most beaders have experienced this at least once, and a lot of bead sellers have, too. We even have a name for the resulting mixture: broom beads. I had quite a few major bead spills before I started beadweaving full time, which is why I never, ever, ever, ever, store beads loose. Especially seed beads. They all stay in their little packets and tubes where they can’t cause any trouble.

Culled Bead Mix
This is what broom beads would look like - if I didn't keep my seed beads locked up tight.

5. Having to Start a New Thread With Only a Centimeter To Go

There’s no short quip that quite describes this pet peeve, yet it happens all the time. You’re weaving away, getting close the end of a piece of beadwork, and realize that your thread is going to be too short to finish. You’re going to have to cut a new thread, put on a stop bead, and weave it into place - all for just a centimeter or two of beadwork. And you can’t just cut a short piece of thread, oh no. You have to use a full length because if you try to gauge how much you need to finish, you’ll only come up short again and have to add ANOTHER thread.

Fireline Beading Thread
The Preciousssss...

Working exclusively with Fireline for so many years has made me very stingy with thread. Every time I have to toss a tail that’s not short enough to truly be garbage, but not long enough to be of any possible use, I cringe. Trying to make the most of expensive threads is a constant source of beading anxiety. But I love my Fireline, and in the end it’s worth it.

What are your biggest beading pet peeves?


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  1. My pet beading peeves! ALL OF ABOVE! Been there..done all that! HA Good post

  2. Wow, I can totally relate to all the Pet Peeves mentioned.

  3. I completely agree with your list of pet peeves. I'd have to say that one of my biggest pet peeves with beading are the super duo/twin beads, and having to either ream them a new hole (ha) or throw them away because there isn't a hole, or half of a hole. I once purchased a container which had more 'bad' holes, than good, and had to return them.

    1. I find this is sometimes true for daggers and drops as well, which is why it's always a good idea to purchase them on strands. It's too bad there's no way to screen two-hole beads!

  4. My pet peeve in the last half year or so is quite literal: in July I got a lab/Great Dane mix dog, and he doesn't understand the concept that when I'm working on the lap desk in the bed, he can't be jumping around on the bed, nor can he shove his head into my lap and knock the desk out of the way!

  5. I'm with you on all of these as well, especially number 5. It's so frustrating! Like you, I add a full length. Often there is enough left over for little things, like earring components, or when I want to experiment. As you say, Fireline is expensive but worth it. For me, the expense is one of the main reasons I don't like 'frogging' my work, it just seems like such a waste.

    My biggest pet peeve is sort of related. I really hate having to start a new thread in the first place. I often work with double wingspans to try and avoid this, but it doesn't always work. Actually, let's just face it - I hate threading needles and weaving ends into my work, and avoid it as much as possible.

    1. Agreed on both counts! The beads to be salvaged would have to be pretty special to make cutting up Fireline worth it, and I've only done it a handful of times in almost ten years. And tail threads are like creative Kryptonite.

  6. Bead explotion. Love that phrase. Unfortunately, I use it way to often when my husband walks in on me crawling around the floor looking for beads.

  7. Try this way of adding thread when you have just a small amount of Fireline left. Good way to use up short pieces of Fireline too!

    1. Neat technique! I dabbled with connecting threads together back when I first started beading, but I felt that I could never really trust it. Plus it's a lot more work than just adding a stop bead and weaving in excess. I think most art forms have their own variation of totally boring but completely necessary steps.


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