Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Beginner Series: More About Seed Beads (Part 1)

Happy new year everyone!!! Sorry I'm late, but the end of year usually means busy days for me. :)

Well, to start the year I want to share with you the first part of an article I'm writing for those of you who have never heard about bead weaving, but wish to learn more about it. In this article I'll explain about the most common types of seed beads and their manufacturers.

If you want to learn more about other materials we use in bead weaving, please check my other articles HERE.


The beads we use for bead weaving can be made of any material (paper, plastic, wood, glass, shell, gemstones…) and can have any form and size. They all have a hole where you can pass a thread, cord or wire.

Beads are created in many places around the world. If you google for African beads or Tibetan beads for example, you'll see the amazing variety of colors and shape of beads created in those countries. I selected some images to give you an idea:

Photo Credit: earthcandyarts

Photo Credit: Africa Facts

Photo Credit: bodaciousbeadschicago.com

Photo Credit: aliexpress.com

But today the countries that stand out in the production of beads are: Japan with the top three market manufacturers: Matsuno, Miyuki and Toho; Czech Republic with the companies Preciosa (it was called Jablonex in the past), CzechMates and many others; Austria - with the Swarovski company; and China.

And before I start to explain about the types of seed beads, I want to make clear for you the difference between the terms "beads" and "seed beads".

"Beads" refers to beads of any type and any size.

"Seed beads" is a term used to identify the small beads, like the ones in the picture below.

Photo Credit: fusionbeads.com

Seed Beads Types

Round Seed beads:

The most common type of seed the beads is round. They are also called rocailles in some places. Their format may vary from one manufacturer to another. For example, the Czech round seed beads are a bit more flat, resembling a donut shape. On the other hand, japanese seed beads are more close to the cylindrical shape.

In the picture below I found on Linda Kandy website, you can see the difference in the format of the seed beads from each manufacturer. They are all the same size and were woven in a small sample of peyote stitch. Another thing you may notice is that the beads from Toho and Miyuki are more regular in size and shape than the other ones. That's why the beads from these two brands are more expensive.

Photo Credit: lindaklandy.com 

The picture below is a print screen I took from this video on Youtube. I chose it because you can see better the difference between the Czech and Japanese seed beads. In the upper needle you see Japanese seed beads in sizes 11/0, 8/0 and 6/0 (from smallest to largest). In the needle at the bottom you see Czech seed beads in sizes 15/0, 11/0, 8/0 and 6/0 (again, from smallest to largest). It's because of the difference in their shapes that sometimes you cannot mix them in a project. For example, when a designer specifies in a project that you need Japanese seed beads or seed beads from an specific brand, it's because the beads from other brands will not work well in the project.

Photo Credit: junemoonbeads's youtube channel

Another important difference that we couldn't see in the pictures is that the holes of the Czech seed beads are smaller than in Japanese seed beads.

More pictures of round seed beads:

From Toho:

Photo Credit: auracrystals.com

From Miyuki:

Photo Credit: auracrystals.com

Czech seed beads:

Photo Credit: auracrystals.com


The seed bead size is defined by a number. The most common sizes are: 15/0, 13/0, 11/0, 10/0, 8/0, 7/0, 6/0 and 3/0. It may sounds weird, but this is how we identify the sizes: a number with a slash and zero at  the end. I don't know why it is written in this way, but it's the standard used by most of manufacturers and bead stores. But I've seen in books and magazines people writing the size using a number followed by the degree symbol: 15°, 13°, 11°, 10°, 8°…

The easiest way to understand this system is keeping in mind that the larger the bead, the smaller the number. So a seed bead size 8/0 is larger than a seed bead size 11/0. That's because the numbering is specified by the amount of seed beads that fits in the length of 1 inch.

Thus the seed bead size 11/0 is identified in that way because in 1 inch (= 2.54 cm) will fit eleven seed beads of this size aligned. If you align seed beads size 6/0, you'll see that six beads will fit in the space of 1 inch. Now you can understand why the lower the number, the greater the size of the bead and vice versa. The picture below shows three different sizes of seed beads in the space of one inch.

Photo Credit: firemountaingems.com

And remember that the smaller the bead, also the smaller the hole size. That's why it's important we have needles and threads of different sizes, like I explained in this article.

There are also round beads with square holes. They are available in transparent colors with the hole painted in silver (silver lined finish). The square hole creates an interesting effect on the bead. But the only manufacturer I've ever saw selling these beads is Matsuno (with the Dynamite beads).

These are some bracelets I made some time ago using the square hole round seed beads:

And in the pictures below you can see better the square hole:

Photo Credit: firemountaingems


The Japanese seed beads are sold in tubes or plastic bags with 5 to 30 grams (or more). It will depend on the store. The Czech seed beads are usually sold in hanks - they come in strings, like the ones sold at beadaholique. One hank has twelve strings tied together and weigh approximately 35 grams (1.3 ounce). Some stores sells half a hank. But it's getting more common for stores to sell Czech beads in grams as well.

In this picture you see Japanese seed beads sold in 28 grams tubes

Photo Credit: beadsbyblanche.com

Czech seed beads sold in hanks

Photo Credit: beads and blooms

Czech seed beads sold in grams (in zip-lock bags)

The price of seed beads varies widely according to the manufacturer, color and finish. Japanese and Czech seed beads are the ones with better quality. They have a more uniform size and shape, and the colors are consistent.

But when I say the colors are consistent I mean the color of beads from a same batch. Because in fact some colors may vary slightly from batch to batch, and that happens with all manufacturers. And that's why I recommend you always buy more beads  than you think you will need. I usually like to buy at least 16 grams of seed beads because I know it's more than enough for the projects I'm used to.

When I started learning beadwork I bought some packages of Chinese seed beads because they were very inexpensive (I remember buying 40 grams for 1 dollar). They aren't available in many colors as the Japanese or Czech seed beads. And they are way more irregular in shape and size. Their hole size is also irregular - there were some beads that I couldn't even pass my needle through). But despite those problems, I was able to create a nice crochet necklace and some bracelets in peyote using the Chinese seed beads. It took me a long time culling the beads though -  culling consists of sorting through the beads and removing the too big or too small ones (or with another defect).

Well, I think that's all I have to talk about round seed beads. If you have any question or want to add something to this article, please feel free to use the comments section below. I'll continue this article in the next post, where I'll talk about cylinder beads.

And to inspire you, I'll leave a picture of my last project with Czech seed beads and some pictures I found on Google of projects using only round seed beads.

Photo Credit: peetjes.canalblog.com

Photo Credit: JacarandaDesigns

Photo Credit: Rynya (biser.info)

Photo Credit: artful home 

Photo Credit: Aramara (etsy)


  1. Great post Larissa, I've shared it on pinterest *hugs* Kazz

  2. Thanks, newbe here, I did not have a clue!

  3. I have been reading your posts for a long while now , you have a great blog ! Wanted to ask you about the Dyna-mite beads from FMG .. how are they as far as uniformity ? From the picture you have shown they look pretty good as opposed to most Czech beads, which I love as well , however the project I want to take on requires somewhat uniform beads and ALOT of them. Thanks in adavance ! :-)

  4. Do you sell any of your patterns?


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