There are several types of seed bead used for jewellery making, two types are Czech and Japanese. It is generally agreed that Japanese are better in terms of quality and precision (they are also more expensive). Czech and Japanese seed beads can be found in most online bead shops, though some brands are rarer than others. There are three popular brands of Japanese seed bead; Toho, Miyuki and Matsuno. I have never used Matsuno beads so I can't really comment on them. Toho and Miyuki also make cylinder beads, which are similar to seed beads and can be used in the same way. The main difference between cylinder beads and normal seed beads is that cylinder beads have straight edges (which make them look like little cylinders) whereas seed beads have rounded edges (which make them look a bit like tiny donuts). Also size 11/0 cylinder beads tend to be smaller than size 11/0 seed beads. Cylinder beads are often found under the heading of seed beads. Toho and Miyuki make both cylinder beads and rounded seed beads.
Cylinder bead brands; Delicas by Miyuki, Treasures by Toho and Magnifica by Mill Hill (American company, though the Magnifica beads are made by Toho). These beads tend to be more uniform in size than rounded seed beads. They are better for flat beadwork and projects where uniformity is important. There is another type of cylinder bead make by Toho, which is even more precise, called Aiko. However, these are generally three times more expensive than the other cylinder beads.
The type of seed bead you use depends on what your making and your own preferences. Some people do not like the uniformity of cylinder beads and vice versa. An item made with rounded seed beads can look very different to an item made with cylinder beads, even if the same pattern was used. My own preference at the moment is for Miyuki delicas because I like the neatness and because it seems like more shops stock them.
Nymo is a well-liked brand of beading thread with size D being quite popular. C-Lon and the newer KO thread are also good. You may want to try out different types of thread to see which one you like the best. Beading thread is available from most bead shops.
You can get Czech seed beads from most online bead shops (including eBay). Japanese seed beads are a bit harder to find. The prices for these beads don't vary very much from shop to shop and it won't make a huge difference (pricewise) where you buy them from unless you are going to buy a huge quantity. Some shops send out the beads in little plastic boxes, some in tubes and some in plastic bags. Here are a list of online bead shops which stock Japanese seed and cylinder beads (g stands for grams);
- www.beadsdirect.co.uk - Toho Aiko beads from £4.50 for 5g. Miyuki Delicas from £1.25 for 5g and £8.99 for 50g (comes in tubes). They also sell bead mats, which are excellent in stopping tiny beads bouncing all over the place.
- www.les-beads.co.uk/shop - Delicas from £1.25 for 5g. Size 11/0 Matsuno from 70p for 10g and Toho seed beads from 85p for 10g.
- www.robins-beads.co.uk - a large amount of seed beads. Toho Treasures are from £1.40 for 6g (comes in a little flip top box). You can also get Miyuki seed bead mixes and Toho seed bead mixes, which are great for freeform beadwork projects.
- www.beadcellar.co.uk - Toho Aikos from £3 for 5g (cheapest price for Aikos I have come across so far). Toho Treasures from £1.05 for 5g. Also a large selection of other Toho beads. Postage costs £1 for order values up to £10, £2.05 for orders between £10.01 and £30, £3.05 for orders between £30.01 and £100.
- www.stitchncraft.co.uk - Delicas from £1.50 per tube (2" tubes, I think there are more than 5g per tube (6g?), though not sure), also available are other Miyuki beads.
- www.mailorder-beads.co.uk - Delicas from £1.35 for 5g, also 5 for the price of 4 offer, which makes this one of the cheapest places to buy Delicas if you plan on buying a lot.
- www.thebeadtrail.co.uk - cheapish Delicas from £1.20 for 5g. However, the website states that the Delicas are sold in bags and not tiny boxes or tubes. Though if you already have some empty boxes and tubes this isn't a problem.
- www.homebeads.com - size 11/0 Toho seed beads from 60p for 10g, also available are 6/0 Miyuki seeds, triangles and magatama drops. No Delicas at time of writing, although they are available at their bricks and mortar shop.
If you do a search on Google or another search engine, you can easily find beading patterns. However, there are quite a lot out there and it can be a pain looking through them all to find the great ones, so here is a list of websites with great beading patterns;
- www.beadpatterncentral.com - a large variety of fabulous bead patterns for sale, including some from Laura McCabe. They have patterns sorted by subject, technique and designer. The patterns can be downloaded straight after payment (credit card or Paypal). There are also free tutorials available, includes beading techniques; peyote, brick stitch, bead crochet, cabochon surround, Russian spiral weave and more.
- www.beadinfinitum.com - some nice free patterns (beaded bead, beaded bangle). Other bead patterns available for sale (beaded beads, rings etc.). I enjoyed browsing through the guest gallery pages.
- www.justletmebead.com - Laura McCabe's website. Some free patterns available.