Beading on Summer Getaways: Make Your Portable Bead Kit

Here's a typical question that might pop up on a long car trip this summer: If you were stranded on a desert island, what would you be glad you packed? Sandwiches, of course. Some colas. A Hollywood tell-all magazine, maybe? That would be for a short stay, I suppose. But what about a Gilligan's Island-style three-hour tour gone bad? Well, a lifetime supply of canned goods and a can opener might be good. But knowing myself, even though food might be at the top of the list, something to do with my hands would be a close second. I'm pretty sure weaving together banana leaves into rope and fashioning drinking goblets out of coconut shells would get old really fast. So yes, I'll admit: I'd be content to have my beads and beading kit along.

Your getaway beading kit

The wonderful thing about doing beadwork is that it doesn't take up a lot of room. In our desert-island scenario, for example, I could pop everything I need to bead into my purse and have something to do on the beach while I wait for the rescue boats to arrive. Because the tools and materials required are so few and so small, it's a great craft to take up if you live in a small apartment or R.V., for instance. (Our stashes are a different matter altogether, of course.)

So what basic supplies are in a beading kit? Here's my list of bare necessities:

Seed beads
I usually carry around a palette of size 15°s, 11°s, and 8°s, even if I'm not working on a particular project.

I try to keep my needles (my favorite is the shorter "sharps" style) in their original envelopes so that I can easily identify the size. I also like it that the envelopes are flat, taking up less room in my beading box than a chunky needle case.

I'm a braided beading thread (FireLine) addict and always carry both the crystal and smoke versions in 6-lb weight. I find that these spools-although smaller than the mega-spools I have in my studio-take up a lot of room in my box. To pack more lightly I put the line on bobbins using the bobbin winder on my sewing machine.
Since I primarily use braided beading thread, I keep a small utility scissors for cutting in my beading box. But if you use nylon thread, include a sharp, pointed pair. There are beautiful embroidery scissors you can buy, but for years (pre-FireLine) I used a pair of surgical scissors-the best beading scissors I've ever used.
I really can't bead without my bifocals. Even if you don't wear glasses, make sure to bring some kind of magnifier with you to the desert island. Seed beads are so tiny and eye strain is just no fun.
Beading surface
This is one of the most important elements in a beading kit, but often overlooked. You want to be sure to have something to work on where the beads will stay put. You don't want to be worrying about beads rolling into the sand, right? My favorite surface is Vellux (the fabric they use to make those cheap hotel blankets), but other people like felt or a swatch of leather.


I also like to carry at least one pattern in my bead box at a time. It's great to be able to whip out an in-process project and work on it. Looking for some great patterns? Check out the 12 gorgeous pieces in the new eBook Best of Beadwork: 12 Nature-Inspired Projects. It really is a stunning collection of beaded designs that are not only fun to make but great-looking to wear.


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