Sunday, March 18, 2012

[AOTM] Lynn Davy - "Starting your journey onto the seedy-side"

What do I need to get started on my journey to the Seedy Side?

A quick guide to basic materials for seed beading. There is a lot I could say on this subject but I’ll try to keep it simple!

Seed beading or ‘beadweaving’ is great because you need so little equipment. Basically you need some beads, a needle, some thread, something to put the beads in, and scissors.

So quite why I have an entire roomful of bead stash is a deep mystery to my long-suffering family…

The equipment is simple, but the choices are wide and it can be hard to know where to start.

Thread, first.

For years I beaded with polyester sewing thread because there wasn’t anything else. I still use it sometimes for the pretty colours. But it tends to fray and tangle and these days there are plenty of specialist beading threads on the market.

Of which the best IMNSHO is a Japanese effort called KO. It’s expensive but smooth and pretty non-tangly. It achieves this by having a coating on the outside of the thread, so be warned: once you’ve unpicked a couple of times, you’re at risk of the coating becoming damaged. Change your thread as soon as it starts to look at all frayed or wispy. Otherwise you will find it suddenly disintegrating into a fluffy mess!

A cheaper alternative for a beginner is Nymo – widely available and the dinky little spools are so handy. It does tend to fray a bit and you shouldn’t suck the end in order to thread the needle, as that just makes it fray apart even more. I still use this a lot. It comes in B or D thicknesses – B is thinner – I mostly use D.

For weight-bearing or rigid constructions there is Fireline – originally a fishing line but very popular with beaders. It takes a bit of getting used to as it is stiff and gets kinked and tangled – I hated it when I first tried it but now I wouldn’t be without it. Much cheaper if you can get it from a fishing shop and not a bead shop. I mostly use the 4lb size (that’s the breaking strain… 6lb is thicker and even tougher).

Needles – beading needles are specially long and thin and widely available from bead or sewing shops. Size 10 or 12 is an ‘average’ beading needle; as with beads, the higher the number, the smaller the size, so for tight spots or very small beads you might want to go down to a size 13 or even 15 needle. Use the thickest needle you can get away with, especially if making a big piece. It’ll be easier on your hands.

I sometimes use short ‘sharps’ needles if I’m stitching one-bead-at-a-time designs. They’re more robust and less bendy. My long needles always end up looking like bananas…

Scissors – any sharp embroidery scissors will do. Some people swear by a heated ‘thread zapper’ to burn away any wispy loose ends. I’ve never trusted myself not to burn through something vital though!

Oh, and something to put beads in – there are specialist mats and trays of all sorts, but I swear by my trusty plastic Nutella lids!

Stay tuned for more about beads in the next post…

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