Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Theory and Practice of Bead Organization, Part Three: Seed Beads

There are so many seed bead kinds, colors, sizes, and shapes, that trying to organize them requires a whole separate system of containers and organizers.

In the software, BeadEnCounter, that I'm working on, seed beads are tracked separately from other kinds of beads and findings. They have their own section in the database, and I can print out a current inventory any time I want to. This is invaluable when I want to purchase new beads, because when I'm confronted with a whole rack of beads in a store, I find myself drawn, over and over to the same range of colors. After I purchased my third batch of 505 blue plum in 11/0, I said "this is enough!" and started keeping the list in my purse.  It's right next to the long list of medications I take, and just about as important!

Of course, not all stores, local or online, adhere to the same numbering system as Toho does. If they use their own numbering, you'll have to rely on color descriptions, which can also vary. Delicas have their own system. But at least I know if I've bought too many tangerines, or if I happen to need a tangerine in size 15. Having a list, as well as organizing your beads, can let you know where your palette is thin. For instance, since I divide my drawers of regular beads by colors, I know that I've got red beads out the wazoo, and very few actual clear beads. Yellow and white are also under-represented.

In designing the software, I found I needed several important criteria to distinguish among my seed beads. Size is first. Then comes shape, then code/color.  Cost is not as important as it is with regular beads, as it's impossible to count all the seed beads in a piece. I can guesstimate (a word which interestingly, my spell-checker does not flag) that I've used a certain number of grams, or half of the container I bought, but I can get close enough for costing that way. I generally only worry about seed-bead costs with the heavy metal type beads, which can run close to a dollar a gram. 

Every store, it seems, packages their seed beads differently. This makes comparison shopping difficult, unless you're able to break the prices down per gram. However, I've found that if you get on the email list and watch the sales, the most economical way to buy seed beads is from Artbeads.  At times they have dollar sales where 8gms of beads will be discounted 75%, depending on the original cost. Or they'll have 50% off sales. If anyone has a better source, let me know.

Artbeads uses small plastic bags for their beads, 8gms each. Other stores around here use round tubes, with 30 gms in them. Or triangular tubes. Or short round tubes with 15 gms. Or different tubes for different sizes of beads.

In any case, it's impossible to logically organize anything when everything is in different containers. Drives me nuts. So I standardized on these plastic containers with a flip-top like a Tic-Tac box.  Dee's Place has them in at the best price I've found anywhere, locally or online. She ships quickly too, I've ordered several times, trouble-free. I get the smaller ones for small amounts of beads. The 3.75" ones will hold 28-30 gms of beads easily. 

And then I lay them down in these "project cases" from Stacks & Stacks. Right now, they're divided by size, though my size 11's are just about to outgrow their case, when they all come home from the project boxes they're currently in.

Inside the box, I'm not terribly fussy about how the colors sequence. I figure if they get messed up, I'll just see some new combinations that might spark an idea. What I do not want is two layers of containers. That's why I chose the shallow document case. I can fit about 55-60 containers in one case. One layer means I can see them all without shifting anything about.

Notice the labels? First each item is entered into the software, with a code if it has it, by size & color if not. Each flip-top is labeled with the P-touch as I transfer the beads into it. If there are special facts, such as one being a heavy metal or extra-costly, I note that on the label too. I found that one bead mixture was costing about $27 per 30 gm tube. But by combining two other $3.95 colors, I got my own custom mixture that is essentially identical. At least I can't tell them apart. 

I'm still working on way to stack these boxes so each of them is accessible without having to pull one off the bottom all the time. 

Soon, I'll include a picture of my working area, with all the storage in place. 

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