Monday, March 26, 2012

Beads on Canvas - Part 2

This blog entry will be about different types of beads and different types of needles for stitching beads on your needlework.
Seed beads are small glass beads used frequently by needleworkers.  There are several different types of seed beads.  The cylinder beads go by the name of delica, or Magnifica if you are purchasing Mill Hill.  They are perfectly cylindrical beads with thin walls and large holes.  I will refer to them as delicas in this blog.  Czech seed beads are shaped like donuts and they have variations in size and shape and you don’t want to use them in your needlework.  Japanese seed beads, what most people think of as just seed beads (which is the term I will use) are shaped like rounded cylinders and are more uniform in size and shape.
Most needlework stores carry Mill Hill beads for you to use for needlepoint and cross stitch.  If you have the opportunity, go to a bead store.  The sheer assortment of seed beads will astound you.  The colors, the finishes, one color on the outside of the bead, another color on the inside of the bead, you will wonder why you settled for Mill Hill in the first place.  If you don’t have a bead store near you, there are online stores, but unless you know exactly the bead color for which you are looking, it is hard to tell the color on a computer screen.
I dislike having to cull out bad beads, I just want to put the bead on the needle and go.  If the bead will not fit through the eye of the needle or the size or shape is so dramatically different, I will look for different types of beads.  These issues have been my experience with Mill Hill beads.  I have had better luck with the seed beads at bead stores, because the quality is just better.
The best type of beads to buy are Japanese seed beads, the worst quality seed beads are from China.  Of the Japanese seed beads, TOHO and Miyuki are the quality names.  Miyuki seed beads are sometimes named Miyuki Rocaille.  Don’t be thrown by the word Rocaille, they are seed beads.
The two sizes of beads favored by needleworkers are the 11/0 and the 15/0 beads.  Really, all you need to know is that the 11/0 are the larger sized seed beads.  If you want delicas, the beads that are 11/0 are smaller than seed beads of that size.  You can buy 10/0 delicas which are about the same size as the 11/0 seed beads.
Here is an example of seed beads, the top row is 11/0 Mill Hill, the next row is 11/0 Miyuki and the bottom row is 15/0 Miyuki.
Comparison of Seed Beads

As you can see from the top row of beads (Mill Hill), the size of the beads is not completely uniform.  The second row of beads (Miyuki Rocaille) are much more uniform for the same 11/0 size.  The bottom row shows you the difference between the 11/0 size, which is the top two rows and the 15/0 size which is the bottom row.
This picture is a comparison of delica beeds to seed beads.  The top two rows of beads are 11/0 delicas.  Notice the finish, one is matte, the other is actually transparent with red on the inside.

Comparison of Delicas and Seed Beads

The bottom row is seed beads, 11/0 size.  Notice the shape and size are different than the delicas, but they are all 11/0 size.

A note on delicas.  There is some question as to the durability of some of their bead colors.  Painted or dyed beads can have the finish wear off.  Galvanized delica beads, or metallic delica beads, should really be avoided as the finish will tarnish.  Other issues have been that pink, purple and red beads may fade.  If in doubt, ask the store owner if the colors are permanent.  I suggest the owner because the owner should know more than just a store clerk.  Don’t get me started on store owners that don’t even know their own merchandise.
Liz wrote in the comments for the last blog that you may want to use colored thread with transparent beads because it will change the color of the bead.  She is certainly correct and here is an example of transparent seed beads with a red colored thread.

Transparent Beads

This is a really interesting effect, so don’t bypass using a thread of a different color than the underlying canvas color.
Tubular beads may also be used on canvas.  This is also a transparent example of a bead.

Tubular Beads

A beading friend of mine said that the edges of tubular beads are rougher than the edges of seed beads, and will cut through the thread.  She suggested that placing two small seed beads (the ones above are 15/0) prevents the thread from rubbing against the edge of the tubular bead.  In this picture I just ran a thread through the beads, but I’d want to make sure that those seed beads on the ends laid uniformly before using this method.
There are many other types of seed beads, some that are triangular, some square, some with different shaped holes - again, go to a bead store and explore.  It's a lot of fun!

There are many other types of beads you may use on needlework besides glass seed beads.  There are crystal beads, stone beads, metal beads, shell beads, and wood beads, and more.  For crystal beads use beading wire when sewing them on your needlework.  The 8 lb weight of Fireline is good for this use.  The inside of a crystal is rough and will cut through every other type of thread, but Fireline has a wire core, which will withstand the sharp edges of the crystal.  I would also use the beading wire on stone beads.  When in doubt, you can test how rough the bead is on the thread by placing the bead on a piece of thread and moving it back and forth a little.  Any wear on the thread should indicate caution.
Now for needles.  If you are like me you hate having to thread a beading needle with that teeny tiny eye.  I also don’t like sharp beading needles.  If I have to use a beading needle I use the John James size 10 blunt beading needle.  It is not that hard to thread.  However, you may not even need to use a beading needle.  This is joyous news to many.  The John James size 26 tapestry needle will go through TOHO and Miyuki size 11/0 seed beads and 11/0 delica beads.  The John James size 28 Cross Stitch needle (which is just a tapestry needle, I don’t know why the different name) will go through most 15/0  TOHO and Miyuki seed beads and through all 11/0 TOHO and Miyuki seed beads.  Your chances of either of these needles working with Mill Hill seed beads I can’t answer.
The reason that you will like the tapestry needles much better than beading needles is the size of the needle’s eye.  Those beading needles have the tiniest eyes, but tapestry needles have elongated eyes.  The John James tapestry needles seem to have a thinner eye than other tapestry needles, which allows them to pass through the beads.  You may find other manufacturer’s tapestry needles work as well, but I know that these needles definitely do work.  It’s all I use.


  1. These are just tremendous posts on beads! Thankyou so much!

  2. These posts on beading are really informative. Thank you.

  3. Another big thank you! You're providing invaluable information here.