Cleaning Your Art Medium

One of the most important tasks the bead artist does is to make sure beads are clean before using them.

I was preparing to create a new item the other day.  I gathered all of my strung peridot chips and started to take them off the strings to place them in a bowl.  By the time I was done, my fingers were grey and those bead chips needed cleaning!

The easiest method for me was to put them in a small jar, add a tiny drop of mild dish soap, add some water, tighten the lid, and shake, shake, shake. 

They then went into a mesh strainer and under running water to be rinsed well.

Placing the bead chips on a paper towel is the best way to lay them out to dry.

Leaving them to dry overnight ensures that all the moisture evaporates.

Now they are bone dry and ready to use — squeaky clean!  This cleaning method works well with all types of beads; just remember some only may need a damp rag wiped across them, some need deeper cleaning, and use your best judgement in getting the grime off.

(c)Miss Poppy’s Boutique and all works within.


Bead Counters

Most needlework-type art requires counting of some sort. It may be stitches, rows, rounds, beads, threads. loops, et cetera. The trick, sometimes, is correctly keeping track of the patterns.

When I crochet and knit, I keep a piece of paper and a pen at my side and tally off the number of rounds or rows. When I cross-stitch off of a printed design, I use a highlighter to delineate stitches I completed. When I bead, I use beads.

Beads? Yes. Beads, to count beads.

I have a small handful of defective two-hold squares that are fused together and  cannot be taken apart. That happens from time to time, and it’s just a circumstance of the manufacturing process. Now, I’m not one to mindlessly toss out anything that just night have a useful second life.


I use these beads to keep track of my beaded stitches. I’ll count how many stitches I will be doing ahead of time, place them in a pile on my beading board, and then start my work. As I finish each row or round, I’ll toss one bead on a small plate. When all the beads are on the plate, then I know my rows or rounds are done, and I’m ready for the next steps.

It’s a tried and true method for me. Some of my students do the same, and some are able to keep track in their heads.

How do you keep track of your stitches?

©Susan Marie Molloy, Designs by Susan Marie Molloy, Miss Poppy’s Boutique, and all works within.

Tip: Doing Test Runs with Thread

I believe that all of us who are beaders have had short pieces of thread that wound up being too short for any project, yet too long for our sensibilities to allow us to throw them out. So there they sit, in little piles on our studio tables or stuffed in a drawer like abandoned birds’ nests.

We had that happen to Gene and me. Although Gene may have a tendency to eventually throw out an odd length, I, on the other hand, will hang on to pieces seemingly forever, so there are always snippets available around the studio.

A couple of weeks ago, Gene came across a pattern for a necklace that he wanted to make. He chose his initial colors and placed them on the bead mat. After moving little piles of Super Duos and seed beads around, then replacing and rethinking colorways, he believed he finally had a good esthetic combination.

But why take a fresh length of thread and potentially ruin it if the colorway really doesn’t look good and the piece needs to be dismantled?

Gene took a leftover piece of beading thread and stitched a few inches. Well, the colorway wasn’t right – the seed beads looked washed out against the darker Super Duos. He dismantled the sample.1

On his next try, and using the same scrap thread, the colorway proved just what he wanted. It was a go, and he cut a fresh length off the spool. The project turned out well.2

This tip to use scraps of beading thread will also work if you want to practice a stitch before beginning your project. In the past, I ruined many feet of thread because I didn’t have the foresight to do a little practice work on a scrap.

It’s well worth it.

Do you save scraps of beading thread? If so, how do you re-use it? We’d like to read your ideas.

©2016 Susan Marie Molloy, Designs by Susan Marie Molloy, Miss Poppy’s Boutique, and all works within.