where beads are born
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.
seed bead shapes and sizes
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°.
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.