Learn To Bead

At Land of Odds / Be Dazzled Beads – Beads, Jewelry Findings, and More


Posted by learntobead on June 9, 2013



Shopping in a bead store presents many overwhelming challenges — all the parts, all the colors, all the sizes, all the project possibilities. Many customers, when confronted with all these options, freeze up and get frustrated.

So, how SHOULD you shop, and how SHOULD YOU NOT shop in a bead store?

Any interesting stories out there?

What was your first trip to a bead store like.


From an article I wrote….
— Warren


To the consternation of staff, many a Bead Warrior, as they prepare to arrive at the field of bead-selection-battle, have not properly armed themselves.

They arrive by car. They arrive by taxi. They arrive on foot. But rarely do they arrive with a design plan in hand.

They arrive with ideas swimming in their heads, from magazine articles they’ve recently read, or advertisements they’ve seen, or dreams they’ve had. And it’s all in their heads.

And when they arrive at the door, then cross the threshold, there are too many intimidating choices confronting them, attacking them from the right and the left and forward and behind, and off to the side, and down the aisle, and over and around the corner.

The knitted scarf lady ready to conquer the bead world and find that blue bead for her fringe. But no yarn in hand. And there are so many blue beads. No sense of which blue will match. No sense of hole size. No idea what needle to use. Or how to get the beads on. Which “blue?” I asked, pointing to the 37 choices. Without a word, without any response to my question, she grabbed her purse and walked out.

A woman had a list of 17 items she needed for a project. We had 16 of these items in stock. The one thing we didn’t have was one color of a delica bead. I suggested some good substitutions. After all, there are almost 2000 colors of delica beads to choose from. She put all 16 items back, and walked out.

The fashion icon determined to turn a brief visit to the bead store into ultimate world conquest, withOUT her recently perused copy of the latest of the latest from the best of the best style magazine. But no picture in hand. And there are so many beads and chains to choose from. No remembrance of what she had seen. No idea of how to attach things. No clue about finishing off the piece.

The bead-weaver, knowing full well that success is just over that hill, a straight march, and that her right-angle-weave necklace will hup-two appear without much of a scuffle. Or tussle. Or hassle. Or, whatever else might get in her way. Yet no instructions. No supply list. No knowledge of stringing materials or tools.

The woman in need of jewelry repairs. No jewelry with her. Wants that bead or rhinestone or clasp to make her jewelry complete. Which is at home. And she can’t remember. Doesn’t know sizes. Vague on colors. Forgets materials. Clueless on attachments.

The woman who returns everything she doesn’t use – and then buys the same items for the next project which happens to use the same pieces. She frequently makes the 25-mile round trip to return even 1 bead not used. And then re-buys this very same bead on her very next trip on the very next week.

The student who wants a bail for a pendant, has left that pendant at home, and doesn’t remember which direction the hole is drilled.

The knowledge is all to be won – at the bead store. The field of battle. Shock and awe. Little preparation. Few soldiers. Few weapons. A daunting walk across the entrance, and that’s all it will take. To win. To accomplish. To finish. To conquer.

The lesson, not to be lost here, is that you need to come prepared. Sufficiently armed. Some forethought. Some planning. Some thought-through concept. Some willingness to make compromises.

The field of battle is very large. The opposing forces are onerous. Over 6,000 specifically named colors. Thousands of styles and sizes and shapes of beads. Nearly 20,000 individually named metal parts. Fifteen different kinds of metals. Forty-two possibilities of metal finishes. Nearly 500 choices of stringing materials. Sixteen separate types of needles. Too numerous to count issues of quality and pricing.



  1. Jennifer said

    Oh I feel your pain. It had been years since I had physically been in a bead shop, being a good 10hrs away from the closest one, so internet shopping it was. Easier but still just as hard.
    When I next found myself in a shop I wandered round like a kid in a lolly shop, touching and feeling the beads, oohing and aahing over everything. I then looked for just the things I wanted and left.n
    On a return trip, the next day, I went and just bought whatever I wanted. Knowing I had the things I needed, I went looking for things that appealed, whether I knew their future use or not. I liked it, I bought it. Of course we cannot always do this, but a list and the items you already have is a definite must!! when bead shopping.

  2. Wendy O. said

    I wanted to learn how to make brick stitch Native American-style earrings and I was too shy to ask the acquaintances I knew who were making them. I drove to the bead shop in Northampton, MA – the only one I knew about anywhere close to my home in CT – where the kind person behind the counter handed me a copy of a booklet with directions and pointed me in the general direction of the seed beads. I bought a couple of tubes, a spool of Nymo, a package of beading needles and I was on my way. I don’t remember where I got the ear wires, maybe from there. I became a self-taught seed beader and never looked back!

  3. e1aine said

    Mmm. I have a different problem – probably not so irritating for staff (I hope).

    I go in with no pre-conceived ideas at all, see gorgeous beads and immediately have inspiration and buy all the bits I need for the project inside my head. I spend ALOT! Then get home and because I don’t start straight away have no memory of the plan. If a new project is inspired I don’t have the right stuff to complete it. Abandon project and pop into the bead shop next weekend with no pre-conceived ideas.

    You should see the amount of beads in my shed!

    • Jennifer said

      Love this. I do the same, sorry did the same, but when I wanted to use said bead knew there was a better design so never used them. Now I prefer to have a drawing at least, and if that doesn’t work the way I want then it becomes a ‘free’ bead.

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