Why seed bead brands matter
When I started beading, I had no idea that there was any difference between beads. I noticed that some shops stocked seed beads called ‘Miyuki seed beads’. Others mentioned ‘Matsuno seed beads’, or TOHO seed beads. Perhaps even Czech seed beads, or even no mention at all. But what did these names mean? Well, they referred to the manufacturers – the brand of seed bead. And, I’m here to tell you why seed bead brands matter.
What are seed bead brands?
As I’ve just mentioned, they are simply the manufacturer’s name. So, ‘Miyuki seed beads’ are made by the Miyuki company in Japan. ‘Preciosa seed beads’ are made by Preciosa in the Czech Republic. I’m sure you get the picture…
You will see that all of these have one thing in common. Their bead size. So, for example, size 11/0 seed beads. Now, this is one of the most common sizes. I’ve got another whole blog post explaining more about seed beads. So, if you need more information there, use this link.
Now, you might expect that all these size 11/0 seed beads are identical. They are pretty close, but not quite identical in size and shape.
Why is this? Well, each manufacturer has a specialised process for making their beads. So, it may be broadly similar, but the manufacturers will all have closely guarded secrets that make their beads unique.
Think about it… The same is true in any industry. What would be the point in making exactly the same product as someone else? You would have no means of competing.
So, for now, just hold onto that thought. If you do want to delve deeper into the difference between seed bead brands, then this blog may help. I also have a photographic illustration to demonstrate this…
Why seed bead brands matter
Now, you may be sitting there thinking, ‘so what?’ Why does this difference in seed bead brands matter at all?
Possibly, if you’ve been beading for a little while, you will have made some discoveries.
Firstly, if you mix up two different brands within the same project, bad things are likely to happen! Maybe your work won’t sit right. Or maybe you’ll end up with a very uneven looking finish.
All you need to do is take a look at the photo above to see what I mean. It shows a peyote stitch strip – same bead count, same number of rows in each colour. But look how differently those colours sit together. That’s because each colour is made by a different manufacturer.
But did you know that using a different brand of seed beads to make the same project can have a huge impact on how it works. Now, I’m not talking about using red Miyuki and blue TOHO in the same project. I’m talking about those cases where the designer used Miyuki brand to make the project, but you then try to make it with Matsuno brand. Just to give some random examples.
You shouldn’t end up with the kind of unevenness that you saw in my little test strip. But you may find something worse. Possibly the project just won’t work out at all. Or possibly, it just ends up looking different to the original.
An example to illustrate the point
Now, this is something with which I’ve been experimenting for a few months. I’ve deliberately made the same project using different brands of beads. And I’ve found some very interesting results.
Take a look at the set of photos below…
Now, believe it or not, this is exactly the same beaded box design. But I’ve made it with three different types of seed bead.
The three samples explained
On the left, you can see my Rivoli beaded box. When I made that, I used size 11/0 delica beads. So, yes these are cylinder beads, and yes, you would expect them to look a little different from the rounded seed beads.
But what you might not be expecting is the difference between the brands of rounded seed beads.
So, in the photo on the right, I made a version inspired by Brach’s peppermints. I called this one my Peppermint Candy beaded box. For this, I used size 11 Miyuki seed beads. And, I discovered, my box acquired a more ’rounded’ look. Plus, it was harder to get the tension right to get it to hold its shape. I expected all of this. But I was surprised to find that I also needed to alter the actual box structure slightly to make things work.
I then applied this new stitching to the sample you see in the middle. That’s my liquorice allsorts beaded box. But, this time, I used Matsuno brand seed beads. Now, these are little closer to the cylinders in shape. So, I found they created a more solid, but also more angular structure. Interesting, right?
And, if you take a look at the photo below, where I’ve shown the two seed bead boxes side by side, you should hopefully see that there is also a difference in size.
Of course, you don’t have to take my word for this. You can try out these patterns for yourself. (In the section above, I’ve linked to each tutorial as I talk about it, so just follow the links to try the ones you want).
Why seed bead brands matter for designers
All this is very interesting. But what does it mean for you?
Well, if you’re a designer, it means three things:
- be aware that there is a difference between brands
- when you are writing a tutorial, you MUST specify the brand that you used. So, in your materials list, don’t just write ‘size 11/0 seed beads’. You should be more specific, e.g. ‘size 11/0 Miyuki seed beads, colour code xx’
- take this idea and use it to experiment. Try the same project with different brands and see what happens. Then, you’ll begin to discover which brands are best for which types of design
The photos above show another example of the same project made with different brands of beads. See how the shaping changes even though the tutorials remain identical?
What you need to know as a beader
You’re probably already working out why seed bead brands matter. But let me just give you some practical things to consider as a beader.
- When you buy beads, check the brand. Make sure you know what you’re buying, and make sure you keep it labelled.
- As you store your beads, try and store all the beads of each brand together. So, for example, a box of Miyuki brand, another box of TOHO brand. You can colour order within those boxes, of course. But you need to be able to locate your different brands easily. And if you want more storage tips, try this section.
- When you’re following a pattern and the designer has specified the brand they used, make sure you also use that brand
- If you’re following a pattern and no brand has been specified, that’s fine. Just be aware: if you start to experience difficulties with the project, it could be because you used a different brand to the designer.
Advice for anyone selling beads
For any of the big retailers, I’m sure I don’t need to say this. But for anyone who is an individual, or maybe not that experienced as a beader, read this…
I’ve just explained why seed bead brands matter…a lot! So, when you’re acquiring your bead stocks, make sure you know which manufacturer has produced them. AND make sure you label that on the tube/bag of beads AND on any listing that you’re creating to sell them.
You’ve just seen why your customers need to know exactly what they’re buying. So, if you provide helpful information, then they’ll keep coming back to you for more.
Now, all of this is a learning curve. It’s something that comes with experience. And, quite honestly, after 19 years of beading (a lot!), it’s still something in which I’m learning new things.
So, just take away from this an awareness that not all beads are created equal. And this fact can make some better suited to particular projects.
If you’re on a budget, thinking how this means you’ll need to get even more beads, then I’m sorry if that sounds a little depressing. On the other hand, if you love buying beads, then this should be music to your ears. I’m giving you permission to go out and increase your stash by getting really picky about the brands you use!
And, if you love designing, then this is yet another element to explore. So have fun!