Supplies, Tools & Storage Techniques

About Beads & Findings - coming soon!

Common bead types, shapes & sizes

Seed bead colors & finishes

Faux versus real

What are findings

Jewelry Making Reference Guides

Necklace lengths & necklace styles

Different bracelet styles

Jewelry metal colors & finishes

Helpful Design Tools

Beading graph paper

Color theory

Where to buy beads & beading supplies

If you're lucky enough to have one nearby, shopping at your local bead shop is a great place to start.  If you don't have a dedicated bead store nearby,  major craft stores (such as Michaels and Jo-Anns) have been expanding their selections of beads and beading supplies, due to the ever-growing popularity of DIY beading.

If shopping online is your thing, there are numerous online retailers to choose from.  The ones we shop from the most frequently include;,,,, and  You can also score some interesting finds on (just take note of where an item is shipping from - some are shipped from overseas and can take extra time to arrive).

Where to Buy Beads & Beading Supplies

Setting up your workspace

Every crafter dreams of having their own dedicated space that they can call their own.  The ideal space would have a great worktable, super storage and ample lighting.   If you've got such a space, that's great!  If not, here's a few solutions that will help (at least until your uber craft room manifests itself).

Lots of light (preferably "natural daylight")

No matter where you work, at a table, with a tray in your lap in front of the TV, or with a portable tray where-ever and whenever you can (you go girl!) - you're going to need good lighting.  Bright light makes it easier to see those tiny holes in those tiny beads - resulting in less eye strain and fatigue.  Depending on the workspace, we use table-top lamps, gooseneck LED floor lamps and overhead lighting.

Daylight bulbs

We also switched over to "natural daylight" LED light bulbs in all of our work lights because they best represent the true colors of the beads (whereas soft warm and cool lightbulbs skew colors one way or the other).  If you want to make sure that you're seeing colors the way they appear out of doors, look for full spectrum lightbulbs (rated with a color temperature of 6500K and a CRI of 96%).  They are a bit more expensive, but provide a bright, natural light that's great to work under.  While originally marketed to photograpghers and folks combatting SADS (Seasonal Affected Depression Syndrome), daylight bulbs are now widely availble at most big box stores and are routinely coming down in price.

A good work surface

How you set up your beading workspace is going to depend on the type of beading you're doing, and where you're most comfortable working.  If your doing beadstringing or wire work, a table is probably prefrable.  If your bead stitching, you might work better in a comfy chair with a bead tray on your lap (we cover bead mats, trays and design boards in more detail below).

Portable tables

Cara and I used a sturdy folding table for years.  It worked well because we could easily move it from room to room, depending on where we wanted to work, and it kept our projects off of the dining room table, kitchen counter and coffee table (where they had constantly been in everyone's way).  Note: If you're going to work at a folding table, make sure you get one that is relatively steady (you don't want every little bump to send your beads flying).

Bead Mats, Trays & Design Boards

If there's a fire - we're grabbing our bead trays (and our dogs)!

Bead mats - a MUST have!

One item we find invaluable for any type of beading project is a bead mat.  Beading mats are a thin, soft, felt-like foam that you lay on the table and pour your piles of beads on.  Bead mats range in size from 7"x7" to 13"x18".  Note:  If you're going to use a jewelry display tray or "Bead Mat Tray" (described in the section below), then you'll want one of the larger sizes so it will fit snug around the inside edges of the tray.

Bead trays - our FAVORITE solution

We love portable bead trays - in fact, we probably do 95% of our work from them!  You can use them at a table, on your lap in a favorite chair, even travel with them. There are several features we look for in a good bead tray - We think a good bead tray has several important qualities. 

Creative beaders have come up with their own take on trays ranging from small cookie sheets to plastic lidded containers or even fancier cloth rimmed trays.  Like these folks, over time we came up with a solution that works great for us that we're happy to share with you.  Please note: We do not receive any form of compensation for any products we mention here - or anywhere on our website.

Jewelry Display Trays

We discovered that jewelry display trays make great portable beading trays.  While they're not meant for this purpose, their compact size, sturdy build, shallow (but not too shallow) depth and stackable design make them darn near perfect for our use!  Just cut a bead mat down to size, slip it in the bottom of the tray and you're good to bead.  There are many different styles available that we have purchased and tried - and some are definately better for this unique purpose.  Here's a link to the style we prefer

We purchase stackable plastic jewelry display trays (that are 14.75" x 8.25" x 1" high) and then line the bottoms with cut down bead mats.  These make a great, very sturdy little surfaces to work that have the added benefit of stacking beautifully when not in use.  The nearly 1" interior depth (made slightly shallower with the bead mat in the bottom) easily accomodates larger beads so the trays still stack nicely even with projects in them.

Jewelry trays typically come in either black or white and can be found from various online sources. Some are offered with a removable pin board in the bottom to pin jewlery to for displaying purposes (save your money as you won't be needing those).  Also, beware of thin, cheap ones with cardboard bottoms - you DON'T want those.  If you try this solution, make sure you buy the ones that have a nice flat 1/4" edge rather than the ones that have a thin "pointly" edge that can be very uncomfortable on your wrists while you work. 

Make sure you also get a pack of bead mats (sold separately) that you can cut down to size and place in the bottom of the tray(s) to keep your beads from rolling around.  I use the leftover scraps of bead mat as handy little table mats I can  place individual findings or small quantities of beads on while I'm sorting and designing (so there's no waste).  The photo at right shows the style jewelry tray we typically buy. 

A similiar (new) solution from BeadSmith

BeadSmith must have been reading our minds because they recently came out with a similiar style stackable bead tray that they call the Bead Mat Tray (we found it on Amazon).  They made their Bead Mat Tray a larger 11"x14" to accomodate their standard size bead mat (so there's no need to cut it down to size).  Other than that, it is a similiarly lightweight, sturdy, stackable, molded plastic tray.  The only other difference is that they made theirs 1/2" deep where as the jewelry display trays are 1" deep.  If you're working predominately with smaller size beads, or you don't plan on stacking trays with large projects still in them, that shouldn't be an issue. 

Between the two . . .

The Bead Mat Tray is great for table work and more involved projects that require ample space.  But, for smaller projects, working in front of the TV in my narrow chair, or when we use large beads that we may want to still be able to stack, we still prefer the jewelry trays with the cut down bead mats.

Design Boards

In additiona to a bead mat, most bead stringers like to work with some form or style of bead board or design board.  Bead design boards come in various shpaes ind sizes ranging from travel size to extra long sizes (for longer necklaces).  They are typically made of lightweight molded plastic that have shallow necklace-shaped grooves with units of measure along the sides.  You lay your beads in the grooves (which hold them in place) while you work out the desired order or pattern (and length).  Then, when it looks the way you want, you can start putting it all together.  The size bead board you use will depend on the size project you ultimately want to make.  If you are going to be making bracelets and shorter necklaces - a standard bead board will do.  For long necklace, you will want an extra long bead board.

Sorting & Storing Beads - oh my!

There's no shortage of bead storage solutions.  Sorting and organizing beads is a necessary evil, and for some (including Cara) a favorite pastime!  Here's what we've learned and what we've settled on.


Common bead storage solutions

Organizer Trays are the first thing most folks try out. The thing we don't like about organizer trays is that beads have a tendancy to jump out of their compartments and get all mixed up with neighboring beads.  It's also a hassle to get all of the beads out of the tiny compartments - big fingers, little beads, tight corners.  And don't even get me started on the nightmare of trying to reorganize a large bead stash - forget about it!  And, while hard plastic jars keep beads separate and are easier to handle, they're bulky and expensive.

Our favorite bead storage solution

Several years ago, Cara figured out a solution that has been an absolute life saver for us - and it's all we use now.  We put all of our beads and findings in small, individual ziptop bags.  These bags are available in numerous convenient sizes - our favorites are 2"x2", 2"x3", and 2"x4" (we use larger sizes to keep awkward items such as cut lengths of cording and beading wire tidy and protected).

Zip 'em up!

Plastic ziptop bags are cheap, keep beads separete, can be tossed on a bead tray or in a bin for worry free transport, are easier to sort and a breeze to store!  You can find these bags from various sources such as and Amazon.

How to label bags of beads

Label each bag before you pour the beads in it.  We write the bead (or findings) info on a small white sticker.  Then, we use clear masking tape to tape the sticker on the inside of the bag - with the info facing out.  That way the sticker never falls off and you always know what's in the bag.

Sorting & storing your bagged beads

If you choose to bag your beads, storing them becomes as easy as tossing them in an open drawer, clear shoe boxes or, if space is limited, larger gallon size bags.  We've purchased numerous 10 drawer rolling organizers that we use to sort our bags of beads by type, size and color.

Basic Beading Tools

Regardless of the type of bead work you'll be doing, there are at least a couple of tools that you'll probably need.  You may be able to find one or two in your house's toolbox, but it's more likely that you'll need to pick up smaller, more delicate jewelry making versions, which will give you better results.  Like most tools, prices vary considerably from one manufacturer to another.  We suggest that, if you're just starting out, get yourself some of the following basic tools that fit both your hands and your budget.  Then, as your skills progress, you can always upgrade to higher quality tools.  We like to put our "dream tools" (usually Lindstrom) on our birthday & holiday wish lists.


There are two main types of needles used for beading - stitching needles and stringing needles.  Below, we'll share which ones we use for each and why.

Stitching needles

We use John James English beading needles for our bead stitching projects.  These needles range in size from 10 (which is the thickest) to size 15 (which is the thinnest and most delicate).  English beading needles also come in different lengths - short and long.  The needles we most often use (that work well with the majority of our stitching projects) are the size 12 longs.  We prefer these because they are easier for us to hold (due to their longer length) and are able to easily pass through the small holes in tiny 15/0 seed beads.  You may want to experiment with different types of needles to find what works best for you.

Stringing needles (collaspable needles)

Sometimes, it's helpful to use a special type of needle when threading beads onto certain beading materials.  While beads easily slip right onto beading wire, leather cording, or thread, it can be very challenging to try to string beads onto materials such as ribbon, elastic stretch cord, etc.  That's when collapsable beading needles come in handy.  These needles allow you to thread your challenging cord through a collapsible loop and then easily fish the needle (with cording in tow), through the bead.  The most common types of collapsible needles are "twisted needles" and "big eye needles".

Please note:  Twisted needles are easy to use, but don't hold their shape well over time.  And, big eye needles hold their shape fairly well but are extremely sharp on each end and can easily provide a painful poke.

Beader's glue

Glue is a good tool to have around.  While we don't like to rely upon it solely for a connection, we do find that a touch of glue will provide extra protection and security to certain connections or closures.  There are increasing options when it comes to appropriate glues for jewelry making - but, with that said, you don't want to apply (and relay on) just any old glue laying around the house.  Jewelry glues are specially made to adhere to common beading materials (such as glass, stone, leather, metal, etc.), dry clear (which is VERY important), and hold extremely well (if allowed to cure).  We personally use G-S Hypo-Cement, SuperGlue, and even clear nail polish (in a pinch) for certain applications (such as sealing an open jump ring or touching up the end of a knot to prevent it from fraying and/or sliding open).

Flush cutters

Flush cutters are the tools we use most often, and we always have a pair nearby.  By the way, a "pair" of flush cutters (or "pair" of pliers), refers to just one tool - not two, as the word "pair" would seem to imply (like a pair of scissors or pair of pants). 

Flush cutters differ from standard wire cutters, or side cutters, because the blades are straight (or flush to each other), allowing you to cut your material off extremely close, so there is very little thread or wire poking out.  When using flush cutters, you'll need to hold them so that the flat (or flush), side of the blades are facing the side you are trimming, in order to get the closest cut.


The types of pliers you'll need to have on hand will depend on the type of beading you'll be doing.  If you're going to stick to bead stitching (or off-loom bead weaving) projects, then you'll probably be able to get by with just a pair of chain nose or flat nose pliers (described below).  We have found that it's very helpful to have two pairs lying around for when we need to open and close jump rings and ear wires.  That way, you don't need to try to hold the project tight with one hand while using the pliers with your other.  Instead of buying two chain or flat nose pliers, you can use a round nose plier as your second pair to open and close jump rings (and such).  That way, you'd also have a pair of round nose pliers on hand if/when you need it for wire work!

Chain Nose Pliers

Chain nose pliers are similar to flat nose pliers in that they are flat and smooth on the inside (with no teeth that can leave any undesirable indentations, or toothy marks, on your wire).  Unlike flat nose pliers, chain nose pliers have a slight curve along the outside edges and form a pointed, narrow tip at the end, so they are easier to get into tight places.  Chain nose pliers are handy for lots of tasks, including opening and closing jump rings and ear wires.  They are also commonly used when wire-wrapping and manipulating wire into desired shapes.

Flat Nose Pliers

Flat nose pliers are very similar to chain nose pliers (in that they also are smooth on the inside face), and you may be able to get by with either one or the other if you're just bead stitching.  However, if you're planning on doing a lot of wire work, flat nose pliers are a nice tool to have.  Unlike chain nose or round nose pliers, flat nose pliers, with their 90 degree angled edges, allow you to get a nice sharp, 90-degree bend in your wire when needed.  If you're mostly just using your pliers to open jump rings and ear wires (and not manipulating wire into shapes), flat nose and chain nose pliers both work fine and are interchangeable.  We personally prefer to work with chain nose pliers because of their pointed tips, which allow us to more easily hold smaller objects - like small jump rings.

Round Nose Pliers

Round nose pliers are invaluable when you're doing any type of wire wrapping, such as making wire-wrapped earrings.  The round, tapered ends of the tool (which are wider towards the back and narrower at the tips), are perfect for forming different sizes of wire loops.  Grabbing the wire towards the back of the tool will allow you to form large loops, and holding the wire closer to the tips will form nice, tight and small wire loops.

Crimping Pliers

Crimper pliers are mainly used to tightly fasten and secure crimp tubes and crimp beads in bead stringing projects.  The inside face of the pliers have two distinct notches (one towards the back and one in the front).  These are used to dent and then fold over or close/crush crimp beads or tubes to tightly secure flexible beading wire(s) together (such as when you attach an end clasp).  There are several different types of crimping tools available to beaders.  We use the standard blue handled crimping tools that come in three different sizes - standard, micro and mighty.  The "mico" is used for the smallest crimp tubes (1x1mm), the standard is used with 2x2mm crimp tubes and beads, and the "mighty" is designed for 3x3mm and larger crimps.

DIY Multi-Strand Bracelet with Cones Tutorial

Flush Cutters

Flat nose & Chain Nose Pliers

Round Nose Pliers


Interwoven Braided Woven Bracelet Beading Pattern
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