It’s never easy finding bead shops when you want them! Or, so I’ve found!
I think, as beaders, we all experience the same dilemmas. First, many shops have closed. So, a lot of us don’t have a local bead shop/store (LBS). Or, if we do, it’s part of a huge general craft chain like Hobbycraft or Michael’s.
So, without being able to pop into a local shop, how do you find the beads you need?
This usually ends up in an online search. Literally, you are googling ‘buy xxx’. The trouble with that is, you have no idea whether the websites that come up are any good. Often they are located in a different country, so maybe you’re looking at paying more on shipping than on the actual beads.
This is very much the scenario faced by the beginner. Now, as you get more experienced, you start to discover your ‘favourite’ shops. These will be the places that you risked trying on those initial searches. If they proved good, then you keep coming back.
But what if you’ve just got a new pattern and it asks for a kind of bead that your favourite shops don’t stock? Well, then you find yourself back in that ‘google search and pray’ category.
But it shouldn’t – doesn’t – have to be this way!
Helping you find bead shops
That’s why I set up the beading directory and included a category for bead shops. Now, this is only going to be as good as the beading community makes it. So, as it starts out, you’re not going to find a very long list.
So, I need your help. If you run a bead shop, or you know the owner of your favourite shop, please make sure it is listed. Anyone can add a listing. So, you don’t have to be the shop owner, although it might help if you are!
The point is, this resource will only become truly useful if it has as many shops listed as possible.
Now, I still can’t guarantee that you will find a shop carrying the beads you need. But at least you will have a great list to start looking. You may also find that there is a bead store near you that you didn’t even know about!
Support your LBS!
I work primarily as a designer. But the more I received emails from customers asking where to buy materials for my patterns, the more I realised that I needed to set up some kind of bead shop myself. It just helps customers if they can buy everything they need in one place.
However, I have never had (still don’t have) aspirations to become a ‘proper’ bead store. I simply want to focus on stocking a few beads that my projects use, in a basic range of colours. So, for anyone who doesn’t yet have a favourite store, or a local bead store, this will give them something to start with.
Alongside that, I try to be vocal about encouraging beaders to support their LBS. There used to be far more bead shops around than there are today. Particularly over the last couple of years, I’ve seen shops with decades of history behind them, having to shut down.
A lot of this is part of a general trend that extends beyond the beading world. It is much easier to buy online now. So, physical shops are finding it harder to compete. An online retailer can afford to lower their prices, making the physical shops appear to be too expensive.
Perils of buying online
However, if you’ve done any beading before, you know all about the perils of buying online. Colours often aren’t what you thought they would be. Sometimes the bead is a wildly different size to what you were expecting. And it’s really hard to put together a colour scheme when you’re shopping online.
Yes, it may be hugely convenient, but it’s just not the same as physically holding beads and seeing their colour.
So, I’m not condemning the online shopping experience. But I do say, if you still want the option of buying in person, then please support your LBS as much as you can.
What else do bead shops offer?
Apart from the opportunity to see the beads before you buy them, a lot of physical bead stores also run classes and workshops. This is invaluable when you start learning. Or even when you’re a seasoned professional!
You may think you can learn what you need from YouTube, but what happens when you get stuck? You can’t ask the camera to show you a different angle. YouTube isn’t going to leap out and help you.
That’s where your bead shop comes in. Even if they don’t run regular classes, the shop owner can often help out and advise. They may be willing to give you some time to teach you a technique. Or, maybe it’s as simple as just answering a small question.
Plus, you get the community spirit that builds up around these places. You’ll get to meet other beaders in your area.
More shopping options
The reality for most of us is, no LBS. So, other than shopping online, where do you buy beads?
Well, some bead groups have opportunities. Maybe one of the members also sells beads. Or maybe the group has a shop visit at some sessions, so the members can all buy beads.
Bead shows are the other option. Think of this as a shopping mall full of nothing but bead shops. …Glorious!… This may be physical shops who have travelled and taken a stall to sell some of their range. But bead shows also give individual designers who normally just trade online, the opportunity to sell in person.
So, again, this is a great way to make new beading contacts, not just buy beads!
The beading directory includes links for beading groups and bead shows too. So, make sure you check those out as well. And remember, be open to new experiences!