Using Venetian Glass Beads and Seed Beads in Bead Work

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Originally Venetian glass beads were made by hand. A piece of molten glass, while still hot, was pierced, and two boys, holding each an end of the soft but stiffening mass with pincers, ran as fast as possible in opposite directions. The glass, thus drawn to a surprising thinness, still kept its tube-like form: the hole in the middle never closed. It was then cut into tiny lengths as nearly alike as possible. In order to smooth the rough surface of the beads, quantities of them were put into a drum with ashes and turned rapidly for some time.

Many of the large beads used for strung chains are made in this country. They come in soft, pale colors of opaque glass and in the same colors in pearly finish. The imitations of baroque pearl can hardly be distinguished from the genuine. In the most perfect of these beads seven coats of pigment are used, and they are filled with a special kind of wax, to give them weight and strength. Other large beads which are used in strung chains are highly colored and flecked or ornamented with gold or silver. All the colors and combinations we are accustomed to see in Venetian glass are found in these beads.

Then there are the seed beads. As one looks at a display of these, the masses of shimmering color make one long for an artist’s ability to combine them in things of beauty and use. With the larger, or E beads, one can fashion candle-shades or strung chains. The smaller seed beads range in size from o or i (as they are called by some dealers), which are the coarsest, to 5-0. The very tiniest beads sold in this country are 5-0 beads, with one side cut, which some dealers call 6-0. They come in small skeins, while the others are generally sold in bunches of eight skeins each. These are the beads for weaving, sewing, knitting, and crocheting.

For stringing bead chains dental floss has been found most satisfactory. It may be used with a No. 8 needle. Some persons like the French lace threads for the woof strands in bead-weaving, but an authority on weaving, Miss Eppendorff, prefers the numbered linen thread or Kerr’s cotton No. 000, as the French threads are not entirely reliable as to size. Two spools of the same number will be apt to vary in coarseness. The warp thread should be one-half again as coarse as the woof — No. 60, for example, for warp and No. 90 for woof, with a No. 11 needle when the beads are 4-0. No. 11 needles are also used when No. 000 cotton is chosen for the woof.

Often, when the background is to be of another colour than white, it may be advisable to use silk threads — letter D in buttonhole twist for the warp and letter A sewing-silk for the woof, with a No. 12 needle. These may be used with as fine beads as 5-0. In weaving with silk it will be wise to wax both warp and woof threads. In fact, some bead workers consider this essential with cotton and linen as well.

Reference Used: Copyright 1904 by Doubleday, Page and Company Published May 1904 (in public domain due to expiration of copyright)

White, Mary. How to Do Beadwork Complete with 100 Illustrations (Kindle Location 38). . Kindle Edition.

Re-Written by: Connie Limon, Bead Jewelry Artisan. Purchase handmade bead jewelry at Carmilita Earrings,