Bead Sizes

What do the numerical sizes for seed beads mean? Basically, sizes used to refer to how many beads fit into a certain space. Now that different manufacturers in different countries produce beads, this measurement is no longer valid but the numerical bead sizing system remains. Essentially, the higher the number, the smaller the bead. (I always say “The older I get, the thinner I get” to remember. Its not true – but it does jog my memory!) As an example, size 13 seed beads are much smaller than size 10 seed beads and may require different thread and needle choices. The Japanese started creating seed beads (Toho and Miyuki are the brand names) that were more uniform and slightly larger than the corresponding Czech seed beads, but the number system is the same.

Other beads are sized by their millimeter measurement. Patterns will refer to 4mm, 6mm, etc. beads used and it means just what it sounds like. 6mm beads are larger than 4mm beads, measured around the widest part of the bead. Even Japanese beads other than seed beads (i.e. cubes, triangles, drops) are measured by millimeter.

Pliers FAQ

What are all the different pliers for? Here’s a rundown:

Round Nose Pliers (also called needle nosed) – These have cones on the end. Their sole purpose is for making loops and round shapes. They are not good for holding wire still.

Chain Nose Pliers – Flat pliers that come to a point. These are good for getting into tight spots, flattening crimp beads, opening and closing jump rings and holding wire in place. 

Bent Chain Nose Pliers – The same as Chain Nose pliers but with a bent end. These are great for tightening coils and getting into narrow spots.

Flat Nose Pliers – These are the same as Chain Nose pliers but they don’t come to a point – their diameter is the same the whole length of the jaw. These are good for holding the wire in place, flattening crimp beads and chain mail.

Nylon Jaw Flat Nose Pliers – Same as Flat Nose pliers but with nylon coating on the jaws. These are for making spirals and straightening wire.

Cutters – Essential pliers for cutting wire. Side cutters can get up close for a more flush cut. End cutters provide a less jagged edge when cutting wire. Heavy duty cutters are for cutting heavy gage wire.

Bail Making Pliers – These are like round nose pliers, but the cones are the same diameter the whole length of the jaw. They are for making consistently sized loops and bails. Some have several diameters in one plier.


Choosing Thread

Thread is useful for seed bead weaving or stringing very light beads. Thread comes in sizes designated by letter, not numbers as with beads. B is the most common size and comes in the most colors. It is useful for almost any bead weaving project. The reason to use thinner thread (Size A is thinner, Size O even thinner and Size OO the thinnest) is if you are passing through very tiny beads many times. B is suitable for most stitches with size 11 beads. The reason to use thicker thread (size D) is if your project is very heavy or you are sewing through leather or buckskin. D will not go through size 11 beads more than 3 times. If you are having a problem with fraying, you may wish to apply beeswax to the thread.

If your project is very heavy, consider using Fireline instead of thread (Nymo or Sylamide). Fireline feels like thread but is made partially with metal. It was invented by the fishing industry and is designated by weight (i.e. how heavy is the fish you are trying to catch – 4 lb., 6 lb., 8 lb., etc.) Most beading projects don’t require more than the 4 lb., but think about how heavy the project is before using it. The advantage is that Fireline doesn’t stretch out and thread eventually will. The disadvantages are that it costs a little more, only comes in two colors and once you knot it – it can’t be undone. We definitely recommend Fireline for the warp threads (the up/down) on a bead loom so there is no stretch. You can then use thread for the weaving part.