Today we are thrilled to welcome Rene Block as a guest blogger! Rene is an expert in seed bead weaving; she runs her own blog, Menat Designs, chronicling her inspirations and creations. Oh, and did we mention she used to work at Beadazzled in Virginia?
In honor of both “Seed Bead Month” and Women’s History Month, this talented artist will share her knowledge, discuss her weaving process, and offer some wise advice about the art of beading.
I’m a beader who ran before I could walk; I wove both on and off-loom before I ever learned about Soft-Touch wire or how to crimp properly. Even though I barely weave at all these days, seed beads still have a place in my heart and bead stash.
I’ve been beading for as long as I can remember, but my interest really took off after I got interested in Ancient Egypt. I wanted to have magnificent collars of my own to wear, but the only way to find one was to make one.
My beading habit took on a life of its own after that; I remember the awestruck feeling I had when I walked into an actual bead store in high school.
Living in the DC metro area has been a huge boost for my creativity; it’s such a cultural melting pot that I’m always inspired to try combining different styles and elements just to see what happens. My husband is gracious enough to indulge my shameless bead habit, while my little girl already has a small stash of her own. Their support is priceless; it gives me the ability to take on really ambitious projects, many of which involve seed beads.
There are two major types of seed beads: Japanese Delicas and Czech glass. Many beaders have a decided preference for one or the other; my preference tends to vary depending on what kind of project is currently under construction.
Delicas (sometimes referred to as cylinder beads) can be two or three times the price of comparable Czech seed beads, and sometimes more. Miyuki, the maker of Delicas, is able to manufacture beads of nearly uniform size and shape using their specialized machinery. This high standard of quality, plus the expense of some of the wonderful finishes and lusters they are able to offer, leads to a much higher price point than the more irregular Czech glass seed beads.
Their uniformity means that Delicas are absolutely fantastic for weaving, as the finished piece will have a very neat and polished appearance.
I also recommend using Delicas when learning any new weaving stitch; their uniformity makes it much easier to see where a mistake has been made. I actually taught myself how to weave in high school from a book, and I will never forget how frustrated I was trying to learn odd-count circular peyote. I kept making the same mistake, but because I could never find it I must have restarted that project ten times! My irregularly shaped beads made it nearly impossible for my novice eyes to see where I’d gone wrong.
To this day, I can spot a weaving mistake much quicker with Delicas than with Czech beads.
Czech seed beads are also good for weaving, though, especially if you like a more handcrafted look. They are used by many cultures around the world, such as the Guatemalans, the Zulus of South Africa, and various Native American tribes, as part of their traditional arts. Czech beads are also great for projects that require a large amount of budget-friendly seed beads, such as multistrand necklaces or beaded flowers.
Like Delicas, Czech seed beads come in a range of colors and finishes. While Delicas are a uniform cylinder in shape, Czech beads tend to be a bit more oval. They can also have a greater variation in hole size, and the holes of two different colors may even have different shapes. Square holes are generally seen in beads that are silver-lined, and round holes are nearly always found in transparent and solid colors.
I’m one of those beaders who prefers to weave with Delicas, although I’ve been known to tweak a project to work with Czech beads because I could only find the color I liked in a Czech bead. But my choice of beads for a project is always ultimately based on what will achieve the results that I want in the colors that I am looking for.
I highly encourage every beader to play around with both types of seed bead to see what is most comfortable and enjoyable to work with. After all, beading is such an individual art form that not every type of bead will be appropriate for every type of style, but every artist benefits from trying new things — even if they ultimately don’t work!