where beads are born
We can all agree that knitting with beads adds sparkle and pop to any knitting, crochet, or jewelry project. Confusion comes in when we wonder which bead to choose for what project. There are so many different kinds of beads out there! So let's try to examine what kinds of beads there are and how they relate to each other and our work.
Japanese beads range from delicate hand crafted beads for jewelry made from glass or porcelain to mass produced seed beads and buttons which are used in both jewelry and fiber work.
Lots of countries make beads. Among the foremost in the world are the Czech Republic, Japan, and Italy.
Let's start with Italy. Most of the beads produced in Italy are meant for use in jewelry. They are famous for their millefiori (literally million flower) beads which boast intricate designs.
Beads from the Czech Republic fall into three main types: Pressed glass beads which are used for jewelry and clothing embellishment, handmade lamp work beads which are mainly used in jewelry, and seed beads which are used in jewelry, clothing, and fiber work.
seed bead shapes and sizes
Seed beads, both Czech and Japanese, come in many shapes and sizes. They can be round, which are often referred to as rocaille beads, cylindrical, tubular, rectangular, or even triangular just to name a few of the shapes!
When it comes to sizing, there are two different sizes that affect how a bead looks and works with fiber.
The first is external diameter which is the distance around the outside of the bead. Here is where things get tricky. Both Czech and Japanese beads use a system which measures how many beads, lined up with the holes facing up will fit in one inch. This means that 6 size 6° or 6/0 (both are actually pronounced six aught but are often said as six oh or simply size six) will fit in one inch. Using this concept, a 6° bead is larger than an 8° one and smaller than a 4° bead.
The second size is the internal diameter or the size of the hole. This is much harder to quantify because these sizes have never been standardized, and there are a lot of assumptions as well as misinformation about the differences between Czech and Japanese beads. So, let's look at the diameters of the two seed bead sizes most commonly used in fiber work: 6° and 8°.
What does this mean for fiber work? In short it means that a Czech 6° will fit the same size yarn as a Japanese 8°. The important difference between these two beads is that a Czech 6° is a bigger (on the outside) than a Japanese 8° which means that on larger yarn, the Czech bead will be more easily seen than the Japanese bead. If you are working with a heavier weight yarn, having the beads become an integral part of the design will be easier if you are using Czech beads. Conversely, if you want the beads to be very subtle in the design, you would want to use a Japanese bead.
How does this affect which size bead you should chose with your yarn? We will answer that question more fully in the next part of this article, but for now we will note that Czech 6° seed beads will fit anything up to and including a squishy worsted weight yarn and Japanese 8° seed beads will fit anything up to and including a squishy worsted weight yarn.
That's all for this week. Next week we'll talk about bead colors and finishes and how to pick a bead that will work with whatever weight yarn you are using.
We're just a couple of bead chicks who found fiber and came over to the dark side. It's OK though, we brought cookies :)
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