How to Bead Comfortably

It's not often that I get a long stretch of hours to sit and bead lately, but when I do, I take full advantage of it. Most of the time, I only get a few minutes here and there to sit down and bead, so when an opportunity for a marathon beading session presents itself, I take advantage of it! The trick to getting the most out of the time spend beading is knowing how to bead comfortably.

When I first started learning how to bead, I'd plop myself down on the bedroom floor, cross-legged in front of the television, with my beads spread around me. While it wasn't the best setup, it worked for me for a few years, until I started getting serious about beading and found myself spending more and more time in front of my beads. After I injured my back doing something completely unrelated to beading, I discovered that knowing how to bead comfortably for long periods of time was more important than I had previously thought.

Do you find yourself suffering from an aching back and tired eyes when you spend long hours with your beads? Here are a couple of ideas to help you learn how to bead comfortably!

Setting Up a Place to Bead

Before sitting down to bead, do what the great chefs do and make sure that all of your tools and materials are easily accessible!

There are three basic things you need in order to set up a comfortable place to bead: a sturdy table or work surface for beading, a comfortable chair that provides plenty of support to your lower back, and proper lighting and magnification if needed.

  1. A sturdy table or work surface. My bead surface of choice lately is one of my favorite Bead On It Boards. These nifty bead boards are perfect for setting in your lap or on a table. The high, rolled edges mean that beads can run down to the sides of your work area, but they won't disappear off the edge of your board. And, yes, when you give it a gently shake, all those seed beads really do land with the holes up for easy beading!
  2. A comfortable chair. Your chair should be your best friend when you're beading. Make sure that your feet touch the floor, and if you need to, don't be afraid to sit on a low pillow to provide extra support for your back.
  3. Proper lighting and magnification if needed. If you have to squint to see your beads, then chances are, you need to improve your lighting or magnification when you sit down to bead. For over ten years, I've used the same trusty Ott-Lite task lamp when I sit down to bead. It's portable and light, so I take it with me on the road, too, when I'm traveling to classes or workshops. And since last summer, I've found that using my CraftOptics telescopes are indispensable for my bead embroidery projects or any beading project where I'm using size 15o seed beads!

My favorite place to bead lately is at my computer desk. Since I have a laptop and don't use the keyboard tray, I keep my bead tray there so I can just roll it away under the desk when I'm finished! (But don't be fooled — I'm also just as comfortable setting up my bead tray on the couch or outside on the back porch when the weather is nice!)

Another great tip for setting up a comfortable place to bead comes from one of my favorite bead artists, Carol Cypher. She recommends that beaders imitate what great chefs do, and set up their work areas in a "mise en place". This means that you have all of your tools and supplies set up where you can easily reach them.

Ergonomic Beading Tips

They might look funny, but my CraftOptics are a very important part of staying comfortable when I'm beading!

Once you're set up in a comfortable spot for beading, it's important to pay attention to your body while you're working. I know it's all too easy to get lost in the meditation of bead-weaving, but sitting in one spot without moving for hours and hours will leave me with an aching back, tired eyes, aching wrists, and even a headache.

There are lots of beading tools that you can use to help you be more comfortable when you bead, including ergonomic gloves and easy-to-handle jewelry pliers. More tips for learning how to bead comfortably:

  1. Take a stretching break. This one is the hardest for me, but it definitely makes a difference. Set a timer, watch a movie, or do something to remind yourself to get up out of your chair about once an hour to walk around, stretch your legs, and stretch your arms. You don't have to do a lot of stretching, either — just a lap around the house or raising your arms above your head and taking a few deep breaths will help you stay limber and comfortable.
  2. Try an exercise band. Some beaders keep an exercise band handy while they're working to use throughout the day. Just a couple of easy pulls can help keep your arms, shoulders, neck, and upper back happy for long periods of time!
  3. Don't forget about your lower back. Speaking as someone who has dealt with low back pain, you can never be too kind to your back! If you're feeling achy or sore at all in your lower back, make sure you have a comfortable pillow or cushion to provide support while you work. A couple of years ago after a particularly bad episode of low back pain, I invested in a special chair that's actually an exercise ball set in a frame. When I'm not 100% comfortable in my office chair, I can easily switch over to the ball chair for some relief!

The best part of learning how to bead comfortably? You'll find that you can get more beading done! More beading means more beautiful beaded jewelry for gifts or for yourself, right?

Now that you're ready to sit and bead in comfort, check out 8 Favorite Beaded Bezel Projects. Taken straight from the pages of Beadwork magazine, these eight beading projects will teach you everything you need to know about creating beautiful (and secure) beaded bezels. Learn how to capture your favorite gemstones, donuts, and crystal stones with these eight fabulous beaded bezel projects! Download your copy of 8 Favorite Beaded Bezel Projects and test out some new ways to help yourself bead comfortably.

What's your best tip for helping yourself stay comfortable when you get the chance to bead for hours at a time? Leave a comment here on the Beading Daily blog and share your advice and tips with us!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer

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