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Special Material: Seed Beads

Europe was home to a thriving bead industry before 1939, as well as Italy and France. But during World War the industry was destroyed. After the end of the Cold War in 1991, thousands of old seed beads were found. Today the best quality seed beads come out of Japan and the Czech Republic, and a few vintage looking styles from France as well. China and Taiwan produce seed beads, but they are not as high quality as those from Japan or Europe.

Bead manufacturers guard their color formulas just like world class chefs guard their signature recipes. Each company wants to have a particular color that everyone wants, that's how it sells beads. On a historical note, there is no true black glass bead because during World War II, the recipe for black glass appropriate for beading was lost and no one has been able to recreate it. Any so-called 'black glass' bead looks purple when held up to a light. There certainly are authentic antique black glass beads floating around that appear to have survived history.

seed beads

There are three units of bead size measurement. If one is not familiar with them, it can be quite confusing. Some manufacturers measure beads in aughts, refering to the number of beads able to fit into a standard unit. Others use millimeters, while other bead manufacturers use a beads per inch measurement. The most common size of seed bead is 11/0 or eleven-aught. In millimeters that is 1.8, and 20 beads per inch. Seed beads are sold either by 'hanks' or by gram in bulk form. A hank is a bundle or 12 strands of 20 inches of strung beads. As for Japanese beads, they are in particular sold in grams.

Frequently, seed beads are used for bead weaving, either on or off a loom. This process works the same as regular weaving, only with beads incorporated into the weft threads. Although at the beginning of the 20th century, beadweaving on a loom was quite popular, however, it tapered off after World War II. Now off-loom beadweaving has become the most widespread method, with bead shops offering classes in techniques from beginner to advanced.

To create various textures and patterns, there are several stitches commonly used. The one of the most ancient is the peyote stitch, and is sometimes called the gourd stitch. Peyote stitch is achieved by using uniform shaped and sized beads threaded together side by side in either odd or even numbered rows. Each bead is held together by the thread and surrounding beads. Another common beadweaving stitch is the brick stitch. It can also be known as the Cheyenne or Comanche stitch, as it was perfected by Native Americans. It can look a lot like the peyote stitch, but done properly the brick stitch looks as if the beads are stacked like bricks.

seed beads

Versatility is the nice thing about beading. According to the interest of beaders, they can express their own personal style through color, pattern, size of bead and even the size of the piece. Creative beaders can make simple little pieces or fantastic three dimensional sculptures. For beginners, they can start with a newbie beading class and a kit. Some important festivals, such as Christmas, will become an exciting event if your love ones can wear the beaded gift made from you!

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