Seed Beads 101

Seed bead designs are intricate and detailed, and some can be considered wearable works of art! If you’re interested in seed beading but have been too afraid to take the plunge, you no longer need to fear. We will break down the basics and help get you started with seed beads.

Seed Bead Terminology
Seed Bead: A small bead usually round in shape used in loom bead weaving, off-loom bead weaving, and jewelry designs.

Delica: A cylindrical-shaped seed bead very consistent in size and shape. These are high-quality beads that will give you exact shapes in looming or weaving.

Tila: A flat, square-shaped seed bead with dual stringing holes and angular corners. These beads are much thinner so should be handled with care to avoid fractures.

Loom Weaving: Weaving seed beads on a strand using a loom and following a graph or charted pattern.

Off-Loom Weaving: Stitching seed beads with a needle and thread rather than using a loom to create patterns. You may use common stitching techniques to achieve different patterns.

Stitch: Different weaving patterns used with seed beads. Some more common stitches are Peyote stitch, Herringbone stitch and Square stitch.

Tools You will Need

Seed Beads—make sure to purchase quality beads because oftentimes large-chain craft stores will carry seed beads with uneven shapes and sizes, making your projects difficult to complete. Seed beads are measured like wire gauges: the higher the number, the smaller the size of the bead. For example, an 11/0 is smaller than an 8/0 size.

Beading thread—the most commonly used beading thread is Nymo waxed nylon thread or Silamide nylon thread. Either one is a great choice for beginners, and either one comes in a variety of different colors. You may want to first purchase a neutral color like white. Normal sewing thread will not work in seed bead work because it breaks too easily and discolors quickly.

Beading Needles—unlike sewing needles, these needles are specially made to make the eye of the needle as close to the width of the entire needle as possible. The size of a needle is similar to the way the beads are sized; the higher the number the thinner the needle. A good way to determine what size needle you will need is to use one size smaller than the size of the beads you’re using. For example, you should use a number 12 needle with 11/0 seed beads.

Bead Mat—this is handy if you lay your beads out to keep them from scattering across your work area and possibly breaking.

Seed Bead Books—some seed bead books are great to have available to find simple stitch techniques or patterns you want to try. These books also often provide project ideas to help spark inspiration or for practice.

Scissors—find a small pair for cutting close to your beadwork.

Some designers find inspiration for their creations from pieces they’ve seen before, so your best bet for getting started is to take a look at some of our free seed bead jewelry ideas to spark your inspiration. These ideas are all available at our Learning Center and include step-by-step instructions as well as a list of components used for each idea.

Take what you’ve learned today and venture on over to our seed bead page! It may seem like you’re still not sure where to go from here, but trust us—everyone has to start slow and practice many times. In no time you’ll be a seed bead expert!

Do you have the need…the need to seed bead?


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    • BarbL
    • October 12, 2011

    What a great idea!! I can do other jewelry making pretty well, but seed beads are intimidating.

    • October 12, 2011


      • Marissa
      • October 13, 2011

      Hi Linda!

      We have step-by-step instructions for our seed bead ideas in the Learning Center that you can follow, and we hope to have a handy video up soon that may help you more! Here’s the link to our free jewelry making instructions below:

    • Debbie
    • October 23, 2011

    Do you know where I can find instructions on how to follow a peyote stitch pattern? I’m new to seed beads and the pattern does not have written instructions only a graph and I don’t know where to start

    • sharon gies
    • October 23, 2011

    a good resource is “The New Beader’s Companion”, it contains instructions for various seed bead patterns. & not to take anything away from Artbeads, but, Auntie’s Beads also has videos you can follow. I, too, am a visual person so pictures work better for me than written instructions.

    • khostager
    • October 24, 2011

    Debbie, you can also go to this link if you want written instructions with pictures:

  1. Reply

    I love that you have your seed beads listed by color. One of the most difficult things I have had to do is find seed beads in the same color family and the same size of each color. Even if I am using contrasting and/or complementary colors it will be so much easier to get an order together now. Thanks a bunch!!

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