Sunday, January 24, 2010

All Beads Are Not Alike

Before I started this project, I thought of beads as items that are attached to needlepoint a few at a time, preferably with a doubled strand of silk (for strength).  Judy Harper uses beads on her canvases as accents, to bring sparkle or a bit of shine to her designs.  Her way of working is similar to the way I've used beads in the past.  You can read about Judy's use of beads on her blog.  This entry is a good explanation of how she works.

But like anything else in needlework (or in Life), there are many ways to go about beading.  I decided it was time to take a serious look at the beads themselves.  With the help of Nandra at Sundance Designs and Pat in North Carolina, and a few visits to bead sources in my area, I collected a ton of clear beads to examine.  What you see in the photo above are beads from Sundance, from Tojo, from Mill Hill, from SJ Designs, from Miyuki and from unnamed sources.  Each is different.  Some are larger than others; some have different finishes; some are different shapes.

Generally speaking, beads come in frosted, regular, or iridescent finishes.  Beads also come in various shapes such as faceted hex beads, square cubes, oval drop beads with holes near one end, round glass beads, or column shaped beads that are rounded cylinders like a cut up length of spaghetti.  They also can have their holes lined with paint, sometimes with silver and sometimes with gold (the gold lined ones seem to be called Gilt Lined).

I knew I wanted clear beads that would allow the painted canvas below to show and also that would allow the threads they were attached with to show.  That removed frosted beads and beads whose holes were lined from the equation.  Since I'm working on size 18 NP canvas, I knew I wanted beads that were size 11 or the smaller size 14.  So I tossed out all the beads that didn't meet my criteria and ended up with three contenders.

Here they are, with a photograph and then the description of each below.

Sundance hex beads #250 (size 14) with an iridescent finish -  The 250 beads are very sparkly because they are six sided and the sides act as facets, reflecting the light from the iridescent coating.  An area stitched with them looks a bit like candied fruit.  If you haven't seen sugar-coated citrus slices, or coated grapes with egg white, rolled them in a dish of sugar and then frozen them, here is a link-

Sundance round beads #160 (size 11) -  These are completely clear glass beads that are round.   An area stitched with these looks like it is covered in a coating of ice.

Miyuki Delica beads #4054 (size 11) with a slight iridescent finish - These are not as iridescent or sparkly as the Sundance #250 beads, probably because they are cylinder-shaped without facets.  Their shine is intermediate between the two other bead types.  An area stitched with them looks icy but reflects the light more than the Sundance 160s.

I decided using the Sundance #160 beads (the round glass ones) would give me the look I wanted but I probably will also use a few Miyuki #4054 beads on the dog tags and belt buckle to give that area a bit of a special shine.

If you are interested in seeing more bead colors and finishes, explore Sundance Designs' website.  First, head to the link below.  Then using the drop down menu header, choose Beads as the "Product Type."  The clear 160 beads in size 11 I'm using are at the bottom of the first page.  Click on any photo to see a larger image and the list of sizes that color is available in.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
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