8 Beading Projects to Love — Without Shaped Beads!
Shaped Beads vs. Seed Beads: The Debate Continues
Beaders seem to either love or hate shaped beads. Based on our magazine submissions, we know that many of our readers like them. But based on some of the comments we’ve seen, we also know that many people aren’t big fans.
We were recently alerted to a lively Facebook thread about seed bead vs. shaped bead projects in beading magazines. By the time I was able to join the Facebook group and add to the discussion, the thread had almost 200 comments!
Here are some of the main comments from this discussion:
- There are too many shaped bead projects in the beading magazines.
- There are too many shaped beads in general!
- Shaped beads are expensive.
- Some of the shaped beads are just passing fads.
Too Many Shaped Bead Projects
It’s definitely true that beading magazines are publishing a lot of shaped bead projects. In our case, this is because we receive many more submissions with shaped beads than without. I’d estimate that the ratio is about 2:1.
Since Beadwork doesn’t have themed issues, we tend to rely on our contributors to guide the content. If readers are submitting so many projects with shaped beads, it must be because that’s what they like, right? However, we’d love to publish more projects that use only seed beads! So, please send us your seed bead-only submissions! (Email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Too Many Shaped Beads
The first time we wrote a feature on shaped beads was in the December 2012/January 2013 issue. In Stitch Pro, Jean Campbell discussed 5 types of shaped beads: peanut beads, 2-hole seed beads (SuperDuos and Twins), 2-hole tiles, long magatamas, and spikes.
Our most recent feature on shaped beads appeared in the June/July 2017 issue. In the “Expanded Guide to Shaped Beads,” we highlighted 46 different shaped beads! Overwhelming, to say the least!
For better or for worse, the market has exploded in the past few years. Even we have a hard time keeping up with all the new shapes, never mind keeping our readers informed about what’s available. (But with all those shapes, just imagine all the design possibilities!)
Cost of Shaped Beads
Unless you’re talking about gold-plated seed beads, shaped beads do tend to cost more than traditional seed beads. This is likely because the manufacturing process is more involved. In addition, packages of shaped beads contain fewer pieces per gram.
However, remember that shaped beads are larger than seed beads and therefore take up more space in a design. So shaped bead designs don’t necessarily cost more overall than designs made strictly with seed beads.
A Passing Fad?
Some beaders are afraid that shaped beads will just be a flash in the pan. They worry about buying beads that won’t be available again if they need more. And they fear that once shaped beads lose popularity, it will be impossible to find new patterns that use them.
No one wants to be stuck with a large cache of materials they can’t use. But many of the “new” bead shapes seem to be here to stay. In fact, in the Facebook thread about shaped beads, most commenters said they like and use SuperDuos.
8 Beaded Projects Without Shaped Beads
Our latest eBook is a collection of projects from former Beadwork Editor Melinda Barta. And almost none of the projects use shaped beads! Check out the following projects from 8 Beaded Projects by Melinda Barta.
5 Beaded Bracelets
Melinda’s Sawtooth Cuff features a zig-zag design that resembles a jagged mountain range. Size 11 seed beads are peyote-stitched into reversible layers, with metallic pressed-glass rounds running down the center.
This & That is a sweetly simple bracelet that uses only size 11 and 8 seed beads. It features tiny seed bead blossoms.
The Antique Connections Cuff shows off brass bead caps and connectors with an assortment of lustrous seed beads and pearls. A custom clasp completes the seamless look of the bracelet.
Melinda’s Ruffled Tapestry Cuff uses mostly cylinder and seed beads, with a handful of cubes and rounded triangles thrown in. (Do those count as shaped beads? I guess so . . . but they sure look a lot like seed beads!)
The Tambourine Bangles combine size 11 seed beads with colorful Indonesian glass discs. (However, you could easily substitute similar glass beads of the same size.)
3 Beaded Necklaces
Spring Blossoms uses seed beads and potato pearls to create little blossoms. Melinda alternates these blooms with curved floral brass connectors. But you could skip the connectors and use the beaded blossoms however you like.
Melinda’s Edelweiss Necklace is a gorgeous combination of pearl and seed bead flowers assembled on a string of pearls and a herringbone-stitched rope. No shaped beads in sight!Flirty Framboise is another project that uses mostly seed beads and pearls. Consider substituting the half-drilled pointed ovals with similar beads in the same general shape and size, for a completely different look.
Let us know your thoughts on shaped beads. We’d love to hear from you!
Managing Editor, Beadwork magazine
Find Melinda’s new eBook and her kits in the Interweave Store!