What are seed beads? Seed beads are a generic term for ‘very small beads’ and they are in a class alone.
As we discovered from basics of beads, beads are measured by millimeters [mm].
Seed beads, being in a sub-category of beads range in size from several millimeters [mm] to well under mm in size but they are measured by these crazy numbers that look like this; 15/0 or 15° and 11/0 or 11°.
So what do these numbers represent?
Well to put it simply the numbers are approximately how many seed beads it takes to make an inch. That is the general rule of thumb.
For example, 15/0 size seed beads takes approximately 15 seed beads to make an inch and 11/0 takes 11 seed beads to make an inch and so on.
Now here is another little tidbit, when you hear someone speak a seed bead size they will either say “size 15” or “15 aught”. It puts the /0 or ° in visual terms.
Since seed beads are 'very small beads' the range of size is limited, but none the less, there is more than one size as we clarified above.
The smaller the number in size the larger the seed bead.
These larger seed beads may also be called 'ee-beads', ‘crow beads’ or ‘pony beads’ which are generally the 6/0 or 8/0 size beads.
They will also have larger bead holes.
This allows these beads to be easily strung onto heavier thick cords or leather strands, great for children's craft projects and macrame.
Like everything else in the beading world they are available in a variety of selections, finishes, colors and even shapes.
Some are single holed, some are doubled holed. The assortment goes on.
This will be half the fun of discovering what awaits you to find and what you will create with them.
There is a wide variety of uses for seed beads.
As introduced in 'What is Beading?' the most commonly known use for seed beads is bead weaving, both on and off loom.
Also seed beads are used in bead embroidery to embellish either garments and accessories such as wedding dresses or handbags.
Native American garments are a prime example of incorporating seed beads with jewelry making and embroidery.
There is a long, rich and interesting history behind these little delights.
They are fun to play with and you can and will find many uses for them.
Since I do neither weaving or embellishing, scattered throughout this page are some other ways seed beads that I have found to use seed beads.
When purchasing seed beads they are sold in a few different manners.
You can find them in vials of loose beads measured by ‘grams’ or sold in bags by the ounce, as shown in these pictures here.
This allows convenience for viewing in the beading aisles of your local craft and hobby stores for you to pour over the selection.
Plus as you will see here from my favorite hobby store, Hobby Lobby, they offer color combo packets. I find this a quick inspiration for themed projects.
Seed beads are also sold as ‘hanks’.
Hanks are a unit of multiple temporarily strung strands that may range from 8” in length to 20” in length.
Which way will be the easiest for you?
Maybe give them all a try to familiarize yourself with the options available to you.
There are a variety of stringing materials available for seed beads and based on the size of the bead hole increases or narrows your selection.
Silk and nylon threads are typically used when weaving with seed beads.
Bead weaving consist of sewing the beads together using bead needles, so these threads need to be thin enough for multiple strands of thread to pass through a seed bead hole.
A beadweaver's choice material is a material called 'Fireline'.
This is a specially treated thermally fused polyethylene.
Here is one bead-weaver's take on using 'Fireline', Patrick Duggan Designs.
For the larger holed seed beads, pony or crow beads there is satin and leather cords. With a larger hole a larger cord is more practical to use.
Beading wire or thin wire is also an option based on your personal needs.
All of these stringing materials are available in a variety of diameters and your needs will be determined based on each individual project you create.
Here is a great informative video from Beadaholique that covers some really great basic info for beading thread for weaving.
Did that help?
I hope so. Now...
There are many places both on and off line to find beading patterns should you decide to move more into this area. Seed beads are alot of fun and can be very addicting.
Here is a prime example of what a seed bead addiction can create in you.
One of my beading buddies, Marilyn Southmayd, has been so taken with working with seed beads that she has written her own book to help and encourage others with this.
Her story is like most of us, we started beading and then just let it take us where the beads called us. Marilyn's was in weaving and writing about about it.
Here is just a sample of some of her work.
Marilyn has been such an inspiration to me personally to see what can be done with these treasures called seed beads. I have been able to see them with new eyes never realizing just the possibilities that were out there.
Bead weaving is on my 'to do' list, now I just have to find the time.
I hope this has been of help to you as a quick introduction to what are seed beads. There is still so much more to learn then what is here.
This isn't even the tip of the iceberg on the topic of seed beads and there is too much to share here.
For a more explanation I found this informative article from Fire Mountain Gems titled ‘Seed Beads 101’ that has a great explanation and expands more on this topic.
You will find charts of sizes and shapes plus articles for more history of seed beads.
Fire Mountain Gems even has printable PDF forms for graph paper to create your own patterns based on the type of stitch you would like to use.
In addition to this there is a wealth of info on YouTube as well for the different stitches, types of threads and so, so much more.
Enjoy the journey of your exploration with your projects and your new discovery with seed beads.
Please send us pictures of your creations so we can share it with our Bead At Home audience.
We get our best inspiration from each other.
If you should have any additional questions while you are visiting be sure to reach out and contact us.
In the Meantime...