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Bead Knowledge Center - Storage

Seed beads come in a variety of packages and bundles such as tubes of various sizes, hanks and plastic bags. Certainly one can keep their seed beads in the original packaging or, for hanks, once cut, in a new package of any type. However, seed beads are so small that, if you do off-loom bead weaving or bead embroidery as a major technique, the vast number of containers to hold your "stash" can be quite unorganized without a system. Here is one system to help you "clean up your clutter".

This system also helps organize crystals, small stone beads, small pearls and findings. Actually, it works for all small objects.

Problems you might be encountering

Some people like to keep their seed beads in small thick mil plastic bags because they like to "touch" their beads while selecting their colors. Others keep their beads in the original tubes, which they store in plastic tackle boxes or plastic bags. Others put their beads into multi-section type storage containers (either stackable or side by side). Whatever works for you is great. But if you have problems: you can't see all of the same color at one time, you can't get the beads easily out of the containers, your system is not compact and takes up too much room, your system is not easy to rearrange to a different configuration, you cannot easily get a project of beads together separate from the rest of your storage, it's hard to travel with your beads, or one bead in your case can't be taken with you unless you take the entire container, then do I have a system for you...

The System

Box StorageI recommend rectangular flip top tubes for storage that come in 5 sizes and fit into a 4" x 6" box in various configurations. For example, 12 of the extra-large tubes fit into one box; 24 medium tubes fit into a box; 12 extra-large and 12 medium tubes fit into a box; etc. These can be used to store your beads by color (all green beads together) or by type (all square beads together) or by whatever configuration that works for you.

This system is flexible so if you start to store one way and decide you'd prefer another, it's easy to rearrange your boxes. And, because you can take out any individual tubes you'd like, you can "make your own box" of tubes for a project when traveling. I learned this first hand as I orignally stored my beads by type (all square beads together) and then found that I wanted these by color. It was very easy to rearrange. LOL after arranging by color, I am moving to having boxes of specialty shapes like Super-Duos - this is because some patterns use the specialty shapes and it helps to see what colors you have of these all in one place.

The tubes hold approximately the following amount of 11° beads:

  • Extra-Small - 1" tall - 5 grams or 100 4mm round beads (same as one 16" strand of stone beads)
  • Small - 1 1/2" tall - 10 grams
  • Medium - 1 7/8" tall - 15 grams
  • Large - 3" tall - 26.6 grams
  • Extra-Large - 3 3/4" tall - 30 grams

In general, the most common size is the Medium. and Extra-small. I don't usually use the Large or Small, but I do have some. I used to use whatever would hold my purchased, but I have moved to using all Medium size tubes because... say you use the Large becuase you bought a 6" tube of a color. After using these beads, you evenually will have enough to go to a Medium, and the Large is taking up too much space. So what I do now is use the Medium and mark it as "more" in some what and put the extra away. Thus when I start running out of that color and see my "more" marker, I go find my extra and fill the container.

These tubes can be gotten at various on-line bead shops. Compare prices. And note that not all rectangular tubes are the same - the ones from WalMart are not "squared" but taper and the ones from Joanne's have tops that don't alway stay on. Find a supplier and try to stick with them. To find them, try googling "Rectangular Flip Top Tubes for Beads".


So, now you've moved all your seed beads into rectangular tubes. But you end up with too many tubes to fit into one box. And you want to remember which bead is in a particular tube because they are so beautiful that you want to get them again when you run out. And some tubes contain 15°s and some 8°, etc. How can these be organized? This is one system for organizing by color (just adjust if you organize by another method). You will need small rectangular labels and multi-color dot labels, both of which can be purchased at stationery supply stores.

Caution: all label's glue eventually dried out (maybe after a few years) and thus the label will fall off. When this happens, I move the label to inside the box or put on a new one. Because of this, I have stopped using the small colored dots and have put the size ont he size of the container with the small rectanuglar label (ex: 11-1938). These, too, fall off evenually. Any suggests? Please let me know. But this system still works for me.

  • Box LabelTo remember the bead identification number: on one side of the tube, use a small rectangular label and write on it the place of purchased and the bead number. For example: Bonita Bead #1938. Be consistent on which side you put this label so you always know where to look. You might want to put the manufacturer like Miyuki, too.
  • Caution: try not to buy beads from a store that doesn't give you the "correct number" becuase if you do, you may not be able to find them again. I try not to buy from these stores as their change of number is self-serving. And if they stop caryring that bead, you cannot find it again.
  • To organize the size: Color code the sizes. But because you have so many 11°s, don't use a label for them. Use the small colored dots and write the size on them. For example: blue - 15°; red - 8°; green - 6°. Now, put these labels on the edge of the tube, under the flip tab so that they will show when the tube is in the box.

size Labels

  • End of BoxTo organize the beads within the boxes: Eventually you will have more than one box per color. Put all labeled beads (with the dots as shown above) in box 1 (and then grow to 2) of the color. In this way you will know which box has your non-11°s in them. Use the small rectangular labels to mark the outside of the box as Green 1, Green 2, etc. or you might use Green 1/3, Green 2/3, Green 3/3. Now, put a label on each end of the box so you don't have to care in which direction you have put the box away. But watch out - you will have more boxes per color than you thought - I currently have 8 boxes of both blues and purples!
  • Storing hanks and larger number of beads: If you buy beads in a hank, a full hank will take up more space than the extra-large tube. You can store the extra in a plastic bag in your "other beads" area. But you will need to remember that these exist. So... use another colored dot, above the bead number label to say "more" or write an "m" on the label with the color number. Then when you run out of the beads in this tube (or are getting low), you will remember to look for the additional beads. Remember to remove the "more" dot when you move all the extra beads into the tube.
  • What about those other shapes? You can use the small dot labels to show if a bead is a bugle, hex, triangle, square, rectangle, dagger, drop, etc. You can store these by color or put all of the same type into one box.

That's it - you should now be organized! Remember - how you configure your beads is personal to you. Try one configuration and if you don't like it, change it - it's easy with the rectangular flip-tubes.

I know this method is on the expensive side, but try to find a place that gives a discount for quantity.

Want to know more about Seed Beads?

Check out our All About Seed Beads page and our Seed Bead Finishes page.

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