Thursday, 3 April 2014

Seed bead mixes -- buy or make?




Here's a different design problem I'm pondering at the moment: I'm going to do a couple of pieces using mixed seed beads, but can't decide whether to look for readymade bead mixes or make my own bead soups.

The reason for going with store-bought mixes is really just that you get a mix of colours without having to buy a whole tube/bag of each colour which can be a good thing if you don't need a big amount of beads. They also come in already carefully (more or less) chosen colour combinations. And you can always add some beads to the stash to make it last longer or to add a nuance you think is missing. There are different mixes for different projects, e.g. 11/0 seeds only or mixes sizes/shapes. And, best of all, you can start the project the minute you have the beads in your hands.

If it's a colour mix you wouldn't have chosen yourself, it can be a fun challenge to go a bit outside the comfort zone. Not choosing beads or colours all by your self isn't just about making things simple, it can also be about pushing the creativity.

The reason to not got with the available mixes are many, though. First of all, making a bead mix from scratch means you get to choose exactly what beads you want in the mix (I have been known to cull seed bead mixes to remove sizes or shapes that doesn't work with my projects), making mixes that are uniquely yours -- and thus not letting someone else set the tone for the project when it comes to the colours. You can also use unusual and/or expensive colours not found in the pre-made mixes. Plus, you can make a batch that's more or less exactly the amount needed for a project, not too much and not too little.

But one thing holds me back: mixing colours with big beads or online using colour tools is one thing: I dread sitting there with a mix, adding half a tube of 11/0 delicas only to see that the colour doesn't work -- and I have to remove every little grain of sand again! (Remember that colours that look good together when holding up the tubes/bags next to each other doesn't always work when mixed as the colours "wash out" or there can be another colour in the mix that clash with one colour but not the other.)

The most important thing of all, money, is something I haven't even looked into yet. What will give you the most beads for your buck? Readymade mixes with various bead colours and finishes or homemade soups? I know some soups that are "hand blended" can be a tad pricey compared to making it yourself, but what about mixes offered e.g. by the bead manufacturers themselves?




PS! I have another bead related problem too: I just shopped at two (ok, three) places -- and now I found something I'd love to buy in a shop where I have a huge wishlist. It's on sale, which is what made me want to shop NOW, even though the previous shopping rounds pretty much ate the current bead budget... Oh, so many beads, so little money! I'm such an addict, I never get enough...

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting in English! I've always said there are two types of beaders: soup beaders and pile beaders. I am a pile beader, and as such I never buy mixed beads. I much prefer working from separated piles of beads, even when I am selecting at random. It's probably not as fast, but it satisfies my pile sensibility. I look at mixes when shopping, evaluating which combinations appeal to me and why. Almost all mixes have beads in them that I'd never use. I tend to prefer matte and opaque beads, using the silver-lined or more bling beads only for accents. Most mixes are largely bling. Thanks for writing about the pros and cons of mixes... it was fun to think about it.

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    1. I think you've broached something I didn't realise myself there: maybe I've been too focused on bead mixes just for the sake of it (because I like to "bead doodle" without any plans or thoughts and using bead mixes means one less thing to think about). After all, I am a person who have bought mixed beads and then spent time sorting them and bagged each colour separatly. For inspiration, I wen back to one of my two favourite freeform projects in Beadwork magazine and there the designer did like you did, "pile beaded". It looked great.

      Now I'm thinking of doing something in between, inspired by some bead mixes found on Etsy. Perhaps mix a few different shapes and sizes of one or very similar shades and then make piles of different colours that way. Mixing varying textures, but keeping colours apart.

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  2. Gah! I have had the same problem with seed bead mixes. I'm not a bead weaver, so I would mostly use them in stringing or kumihimo. But the mixes are never in the colors I want so I've never bought one. I think to get a decent warm toned mix I'll just have to bite the bullet and create my own mix. Perhaps for making sure the colors are right, start out with only a few beads? Maybe string some together first?

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    1. Thanks for your comment! Yeah... the more one thinks about it, the more it seems like biting the bullet is the way. It might be one of those moments where you just need to have some faith in one's own ability, close your eye and just jump right into in. No excuses. Start simple, like you say, with just a few colours and then just add a little at the time.

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  3. I bought mixes when I was new to beading. With names that appealed to me. Then I realized that I never used the mixes. I sorted the beads into piles and put them in separate containers. I love to make my own mixes for the projects. And I like to give my mixes names! Milks

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    1. Ah, the allure of names (I know I'm not the only one being attracted to seed bead colour names and sometimes even buy because it sounds delicious)... To be honest I think I've done that too -- there must be one or two bead mixes I've had since my first bead purchases without ever touching. Though, to be fair, I've also bought mixes I've used after that.

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