Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Beads for Embroidery: Packaging is (Almost) Everything!


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Have you ever had repeated frustrating experiences with the same needlework-related product and told yourself, I will never use this again?

I have!

Every time I work with these particular things that I’m going to talk about today, I say to myself, Never again!

And then, next thing I know, I’m using them again, because, strangely enough, I do like them!

Let me explain, by way of a very rare rant…

Mill Hill Beads: Packaging Frustrations

I like Mill Hill beads. They’re good quality beads. They come in a beautiful array of colors and in a decent array of sizes and types for embroidery. And – one of their strong selling points for me, anyway – they are widely available here in the States and also abroad.

Mill Hill beads have a lot going for them: quality, color range, sizes, availability, and moderate affordability (which we’ll discuss below).

Mill Hill Beads: Packaging Frustrations

One of the most amazing things to me about Mill Hill beads, though, is the warning they put on their packaging.

“Please open carefully.”

Now, why do you imagine they have to put this warning on their packages? Could it be that people have difficulty opening the packages without spilling the contents?

Obviously, they know this. Otherwise, why the warning?

Or, more the point: Obviously, they know this. So why the packaging??

Mill Hill Beads: Packaging Frustrations

Mill Hill beads come in these little plastic containers that fold on themselves to form a lid over the recess in the base that holds the beads and snaps into it. To open the package, you have to pry the thin top plastic layer up, so that it unsnaps from the recess that holds the beads.

The packages are small. When the folded top finally unsnaps from the base, it does so with a pop.

And if you don’t have a really good hold on that little plastic box, that pop is going to reverberate through the whole tiny container and send all those tiny beads flying upwards.

So, to open a package of Mill Hill beads, I have a method. I call it the Whole Body Hug.

How to Successfully Open a Package of Mill Hill Beads

The following steps will help you successfully open a package of Mill Hill beads with as little bead-loss as possible.

1. Remove all upholstered furniture from the room.

2. If you’re wearing a V-neck, plunging neckline, low-cut or open-neckline shirt, change your clothes. Although this type of garb can facilitate bead containment should the beads fly, it can be awkward to retrieve the loose beads from nether regions. Ask me how I know this.

3. Spread a full-sized tarp wall-to-wall on the floor – because when these things fly, they really fly! You can use the tarp to gather up the spilled beads.

4. Situate yourself in a simple chair, like a kitchen chair or a folding chair, in the middle of the room. Unconstrained beads love to hide in upholstered furniture.

5. Slice through the paper label on the edge of the package, so that the top and base of the package can be easily separated.

6. Gripping the package by its sides in your non-dominant hand, hug the tiny thing right up next to your tummy while hunching over it. Carefully, with your dominant hand, work the edges of the top lid-flap-thingy loose. But don’t open it yet!

7. Now, close your mouth, hold your breath, and, if you don’t habitually wear glasses or safety goggles, consider squinting strenuously.

8. Increase your Whole Body Hug intensity, and carefully – and I mean carefully – pull the top of the package away from the base. Work this part slowly, increasing your grip and your huggy efforts to buffer any chance of a POP! from the container.

Eventually, you should be able to pry the whole top flap from the base, without disturbing the entire contents of the package.

However, should the package POP! – and it may very well do so, because the Whole Body Hug doesn’t guarantee it won’t – be warned. If you ignored step 7, you may end up with a face and mouth full of beads.

Ask me how I know this.

Working from the Package

Imagine sitting at your work table or in your favorite chair with your supplies situated on a table next to you.

You’re at the point of adding some beads to your embroidery. And so you Whole-Body-Hugged your Mill Hill beads open, and then you set that little open container – with it’s flap bent somewhere between open and closed – onto your work table.

No, no! This is a recipe for disaster!

The completely unstable package, with very little excuse (be it a graze from your hand when you reach for your scissors, a breeze from the open window nearby, your cat brushing against the leg of the table, or the puff generated from a closing book) will either bounce or tip, depending on the disturbance. And the beads will go everywhere.

Mill Hill Beads: Packaging Frustrations

Instead of working from the Mill Hill package, consider repackaging your beads into a container that makes sense, or dumping them out onto a bead mat and working from the bead mat. This is the portable bead mat contraption I put together to work with beads.

After you’ve dumped out the beads onto the mat, make sure you close the package. But remember: if you don’t dump out enough beads to begin with, you’ll have to open the package again!

If you follow all the tips outlined above, you should be able to handle a package of Mill Hill beads just fine.

Alternative Packaging & Organization for Beads

The first thing I do whenever I get a new package of Mill Hill beads is repackage them. True, I repackage all my beads. But Mill Hill beads are the only ones I repackage out of Dire Necessity.

Mill Hill Beads: Packaging Frustrations

I like to have my beads in compact storage, organized so that I can see, at a glance, what colors or sizes I have. I use this bead storage system that I wrote about a while ago, and it works great for me. I love it!

Mill Hill Beads: Packaging Frustrations

Full Disclosure

In the interest of full disclosure, when I open a package of Mill Hill beads, I don’t actually go through all the steps above. Though slightly exaggerating the whole approach to opening a package of the beads, these are the points I really want to make:

1. The packaging for Mill Hill beads is supremely annoying.

2. Despite the foreknowledge of the packaging flaws and the care I take in opening them, I still lose Mill Hill beads to poorly conceived packaging.

3. If a company has to warn us about opening their packages with care, this could be a clue that they should reconsider their packaging method. (Although I wonder if the packaging is part of their marketing plan? More spilled beads…more purchases?)

4. You can avoid the whole packaging headache of Mill Hill beads by shopping for other Japanese beads to use on your embroidery projects. You’ll get more beads for your money, too. See below!

Price & Quantity Comparisons on Beads

I’ve used opaque black beads for the price comparisons below. Keep in mind that some Japanese beads will differ in price, depending on their color.

A Mill Hill package of 11/0 glass round seed beads (approximately 4.5 grams) includes approximately 450/500 beads and costs $1.20-$1.70, depending on where you buy them.

An 8-gram package of TOHO 11/0 glass round seed beads (with approximately 850 beads per bag) costs around $1.00 – $1.10 depending on the color and where you buy them. You can often find different colors on sale in different places online for as little as $.50 a package, depending again on color.

An 8-gram package of Miyuki 11/0 glass round seed beads (with approximately 880 beads per bag) costs about $.85 – $1.10 depending on color and where you order them.

So if the packaging of Mill Hill beads drives you as batty as it drives me, there are definitely several viable options out there for good beads at more affordable prices!

Does this mean I will never use Mill Hill beads? Not at all! They’re good quality beads, they’re widely available, and there are some colors in their collection that I really love.

But I’d definitely use them more enthusiastically if they would change their riffemrackemfrickemfrackem packaging!

The End.

(I’m not really as grumpy as I sound! You’re welcome to join in the conversation below if you have any comments, questions, suggestions or interesting bead-package experiences you’d like to share!)

Bead Sources

Since I’m not a die-hard Bead Person, I’m not super-familiar with all the sources for beads out there. I generally order Miyuki or TOHO beads online from two places: Artbeads and Fire Mountain Gems, depending on what I’m looking for. Artbeads has a better selection of smaller, more affordable quantities that work well with embroidery projects (where you might not need huge quantities), and Fire Mountain Gems has a nice selection of all kinds of interesting other gems and so forth, especially if you’re looking for specific stones.

If I need Mill Hill beads, I order them from Nordic Needle, and I’ve also ordered them from 123Stitch. If you have a Local Needlework Shop that focuses on counted cross stitch, chances are, they carry a selection of Mill Hill beads, so you can always check there if you’re lucky enough to have a shop nearby!


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(179) Comments

  1. πŸ™‚ What a cute posting. Though I’ve not used Mill Hill beads, yet, I will be extremely careful when opening thanks to your warning. BTW, have you gone online and tried to send an email to the company and making your suggestion to change the packaging? I agree that they know the problem and should have made the change anyway, but …who knows…they might start to listen if they get enough bad reviews and you tell them you’re changing brands.

  2. Hi Mary,

    I use the most microscopic pearls in my work that you can imagine. They come on strings. But when preparing to use I pull some off on to a piece of packing tape. Then I use the needle to pick one up from the tape. Sometimes I end up flicking one off never to be found again but they are too small to pick up and if they are on the tape and I knock it on the floor they are not scattered in hundreds of directions.

  3. I agree completely with you regarding Mill Hill Beads, I love them but grrr. As I have rheumatoid arthritis which is worse in my hands I can honestly say that if there was a competition for the “farthest strewn beads” I’d give everyone a run for their money. I have found a little trick it involves a tea towel and a bowl.

    I get a ‘noodle bowl’, fold a tea towel in half putting one half on the bottom of the bowl, then I place the pack of beads in the bowl and cover my hands with the other half of the towel. I open it “under cover” so when it ‘pops’ it is all contained in the bowl and tea towel.

  4. When my twin sons were about 3 years old they had a friend come over for a play date. During this time they somehow found my stash of Mill Hill seed beads ! AAAARGH

  5. An excellent description of the occupational hazards of working with Mill Hill beads. Like you I’ve had them fly electrostatically all over the room, me and furniture inclusive. So the packaging is effective for display, but not for functionality; surely they could manage both?

  6. Outstanding post and spot on! Mary, thanks for the laugh with your instructions because I’ve been there and done that.

  7. I have never laughed so hard over your description of the fly away beads, once they all flew into my tea sitting on the counter.
    Too funny

  8. You started my day out with a laugh! I’ve been there, done that and was wearing them in every crease and pocket of my shirt.

  9. Yeah i dislike the packaging as well. By the way did you know that Mill Hill beads are actually TOHO and Miyuki beads repackaged πŸ™‚ There are conversion charts online if you want to know exactly which bead Mill Hill’s number matches to. I don’t buy Mill Hill beads anymore since I discovered this.

    1. Yes, I kind of figured that! They’re pretty much the same, and mostly, with Mill Hill, you’re pretty much paying for wide availability…certainly NOT for good packaging! πŸ™‚

  10. I had a very frustrating experience with Mill Hill Beads a few years ago. I was using a pink frosted bead on a project and realized I would need more. Went back to the small needlework/quilt store where I had purchased them. She only had one box in stock and I needed two so she ordered more. When they came in the beads in the box with the same color number were not the same, plain not frosted. She refunded my money, contacted her wholesaler who insisted they were correct. After a couple of back and forths with the wholesaler she contacted Mill Hill. Same response, that’s what the beads in that numbered box look like. I was so irritated I wrote to Mill Hill telling them what I thought of their apparent changing of their numbering system. They replied they had a supply problem and sent me free two packages of beads BUT they never apologized or refunded money to the retailer who had gone to a lot of effort trying to get me my beads. She stopped carrying Mill Hill and I don’t buy them any more. They aren’t expensive so she didn’t lose a lot of money but it was not a good experience.

  11. I needed a good laugh this morning. And I am laughing…………..still…………..still……….

  12. Thanks for the posting on beads. Wondering if you have a supply for rhinestones that are sew on. The kind with the metal attached to sew thru, not holes. I have looked for some large rhinestones to put on a stocking and have not had any luck. I like to use jewels and beads on stockings for added interest.

  13. You are absolutely right about Mill Hill’s packaging. I very rarely buy them. Hope the company reads your posting.

  14. You r hysterical!
    As soon as I get beads I have little zip-top plastic bags that I use or Altos tins or my favorite is tic tac boxes

  15. I open the mill hill beads inside a small freezer bag – so if things spill, the loose beads are contained

  16. I agree! I was recently using some beads from my stash and almost chose not to because they are such a pain to use. I do think that Mill Hill’s continued use of such absurd packaging shows a lack of concern for their customer. I know packaging is not cheap and sometimes costs more than its contents but still, we are talking only pennies difference at the volume that Mill Hill uses. I would gladly pay that additional cost for a package that makes sense. Thank you for the comparison to other brands of beads. I will definitely look for them.

    1. The problem is that a change in packaging means a change in the machines that do the packing, and they are not cheap so that lowers the chances of it getting changed.

  17. Hahaha. I have nothing constructive to say, other than, thanks for the laugh! This made me chortle out loud. You really are a super writer. Thanks Mary!

  18. You can take a gallon size freezer bag, put the bead package in and open the package inside the bag. Check your hands for beads before removing them from the bag. You can undo your neatness by trying to dump them out of the bag so I use an ice tea spoon to scoop them out. Works well for me.

  19. I love starting my day off reading your blog Mary. Your wonderful instructions for opening a package of Millhouse Beads reminded me of the time I was traveling with a friend who brought a beading project along to work on during the evening hours. She accidentally flipped her container of beads onto the shag carpet of the apartment we had rented. Shag carpet! Got the picture? All ended well as we found the vacuum, placed a knee high stocking over the end of the vacuum hose and sucked them out of the carpet. We still laugh when we remember that incident. You might want to add a vacuum cleaner and a pair on knee highs to your list of necessities when opening a package of beads!

  20. Yup! I’ve been using them for years and as a designer, I want to scream every time I use them! I’ve always repackaged immediately but you still have that initial package contortion experiment, the first time. Absolutely loved and felt your rant! Thanks for sharing, Mary Corbet!

  21. Mwahahaha!! Hope someone from Mill Hill reads this!

    So, I wonder if it’s possible to do the final opening bit while holding the package inside a large ziploc bag. That would at least contain the chaos a bit.

    1. Yes, in fact, in the photo above of pouring the beads into the new container, I was pouring them from a plastic bag I had opened the container in. This poses its own little sticky problem, though, called Static! So you end up having to scrape out the bag. It beats retrieving them from the floor, though!

  22. You know… you *could* skip the horrors of Mill Hill bead packaging and just go for TOHO beads as Mill hill beads are just repackaged TOHO beads but then a smaller range. I have to say that I could imagine you doing exactly what you said in the instructions on how to open a Mill Hill box – I can’t open one without accidents no matter how careful I am, so the few Mill Hill boxes I had have been repackaged.

    My favourite bead shop (http://wirwarkralen.nl – not affiliated yadda yadda) sells TOHO beads in 10 gram packages – put into little baggies, which I dislike but I know many people who LOVE the baggies. I buy fliptop boxes for my beads and use a tiny teabag saucer to put them in while I’m using them – stable and deep enough not to loose any except if I send the saucer flying.

  23. What a laugh I got reading this…how true! Learned years ago to be super wary of Mill Hill bead packages. They would sneak up and “pop” open and then out even at the times when I think I have taken my time! Thanks for this post…needed some smiles!

  24. I love Mill Hill beads but hate that packaging too. However, once open I decant to an egg cup. My problem though is when I go to put a bead on the needle it pops off to the netherworld lucky to be found again. Perhaps the bead has the same DNA as the packaging does

  25. I have had exactly the same thoughts about those beads. One tip a teacher gave me once and that works well for any beads (once you get the *$&#&%! package open) is to put a piece of double sided tape on your non-dominant hand right below your thumb. Dip that in the beads to pick some up and then just pick them off the tape with your needle as you need them.

  26. I have also had a very hard time with opening the Mill Hill beads! You have described the procedure perfectly!! Short of moving all the furniture, locking up the pets and making sure there is not an airflow anywhere in the house (yes, that tiny breeze will also make them fly into another room) I cover my hands with a small pillowcase before attempting to open said package. At least the tiny little things won’t fly beyond the seams and clean up is a lot easier! Sometimes, I have found myself needing one last bead and have searched the seams.
    Thank you for the laugh this morning! The visual was priceless!

  27. Oh, hilarious!! Love the steps to open the beads, Mary. I could tell your tongue was firmly in your cheek as you wrote them out.
    Tell us — that picture of all the different beads in all the different containers, stacked in rows and columns: is that your stash? Because — DROOL. Wow.

    1. Yes, I’m ashamed to admit it….that is one of three bead trays I’ve somehow managed to fill up. All in the interest of keeping you informed, of course!

  28. Fantastic article! You always are so insightful and knowledgeable. I laughed out loud and also wished I had read step #7 in earlier projects…..
    Thank you again for all you do!

  29. Oh, Mary! I certainly enjoyed reading your post. I pictured myself opening those beads and got quite a laugh. I have had some wild experiences opening those packages too.!

  30. Mary that was just what the doctor ordered this morning in your account of opening the bead container. I was laughing as I read. After such a another report of a shooting,, this time at a baseball field in Virginia aimed at Rep. Congressmen, comic relief was needed
    I really do not like those containers in general whether they are for beads or food. They are to open and for beads a disaster. I too put beads in other types of containers. I love the the little cabinet you use.
    Thanks for the amusing story this morning.

    1. I meant to say the containers are Hard to open. Should have proofread first.
      Also for my beads I use a cabinet with little drawers from Hardware store , meant for screws and bolts.

  31. Mary
    I am still laughing about your method of opening their packaging! Thanks for exaggerated technique to a problem that plaques all of us! Hope everyone gets the humor of your article. Thanks for brightening my day!

  32. I have done battle with Mill Hill Bead packaging too. I tolerate it only for those particular colors they have that I really like. I bought a gross (or greater) of small zip lock type bags from Fire Mountain once upon a time. I transfer small embellishments into them.

  33. I have simpler way of dealing with Mills Hill beads. I open them very carefully on a tray, pressing down to hold the base steady, but if the pop does spill some they don’t go very far and are within the tray. I then pour some into a “tacky bob” case and they don’t go anywhere and the case can be shut with the beads inside ready for the next sewing session. It is a little more work putting spare ones back in the packaging but less than picking stray beads from around the room.

  34. Really got a chuckle out of your post today. It was deja vu for me as I had a similar conversation with my hubby this week because I was trying to get beads out of a Mill Hill package designed by the devil. And one more comment, there appears to be a top and a bottom to the package which I get wrong 50% of the time so the beads are no longer in the “tray.” I really enjoy your posts (I know they take a lot of time away from your stitching so thank you). And more importantly, I learn a lot which should give you some satisfaction for all your hard work.

  35. I haven’t laughed so much for ages. Well written I understand completely. Once you have a sea of beads around you and have to retrieve them you sure are careful next time.
    I’ve used Mill Hill beads and loved the effects they created. The colours are great for such little beads. Good depth of colour. I carefully hold the plastic container of unopened beads in my hand in the base of a larger container with one hand steadying the pull and dominant hand pulling. It sure can be tricky. Then if they pop out they are in a receptacle and not everywhere. I tip out a few at a time onto suede and they almost grip on it making them easy to pick up with your needle.
    I loved your article.

  36. Oh yes! You are so right on with your comments. I’ll add one more note: it seems lately when I buy my Mill Hill beads and manage to get them open, when it comes time to close the package again, there are just too many beads in there to make the two halves of the package close. That is, I try to pinch the one half into the other and the beads get in the way, get tucked into the little grooves in the plastic. Then I tip and shake and tap trying to move the beads out of the way. Oh dear. Not a project to do when children are near by.

    I’ve found it easier to cut only one side of the paper wrapper, gently pry open that side just enough that I can shake out some beads into a tiny dish. It’s easier to tap out just what I need and there are no explosions of beads into my recliner.

  37. You’re hysterical!! I’m a newbie so haven’t yet used beads on my embroidery. Is there a difference between jewelry making beads and embroidery beads?
    Thank you!!

    1. Hi, Kathy – You can use any kind of beads for decorative, fun embroidery. But usually, when you’re talking about “embroidery with beads,” you’ll see seed beads, bugle beads, and the like.

  38. Slit paper label on Mill Hill bead package. Place entire package in sandwich-sized, Ziplock-type bag. Zip closed – important point. Hold package through bag. Open carefully. Try not to let too many beads “escape” into bag as they will cling to bag. (Ask me how I know.) Leave in bag until needed or carefully transfer to alternate container, cursing those beads that escape your efforts to remove from their death grip on inside of bag. Sigh heavily, multiple times, attempting to avoid cursing as grandchildren are in room. (Ask me how I know).

  39. Oh, yes, the seed bead juggling. I have the same problem with the tubes of beads. I repackage them into little ziplock baggies as soon as I can.

  40. I put the container in a sandwich baggie before I pry the lid open, then pour the contents into the bead holder…

  41. Been there done that!! Laughed right out loud, over seeing “the technique” in print. Thanks for my morning laugh and all of your information. I like adding beads, etc. as most of my embroidery these days is done on Crazy Quilts, I use a lot of them. Thank you for all of your information, sharing etc. I love

    Needle n Thread

  42. Mill Hill beads are simply *repackaged* beads from Japanese suppliers (Toho and Miyuki, if I recall correctly.) Why pay more for fewer beads? Places like Lima Beads and Fusion beads always seem to have their seed beads on sale. For example, Fusion has their size 15 seed beads (equivalent to Mill Hill’s petite beads) starting at $1.85 for a 10 gram bag–and there’s a 20% off coupon today. AND there are 571 different combinations of color and finish. Okay, some of the wilder finishes are more expensive, but always less than Mill Hill. You can even find conversion charts that will help you convert Miyuki colors to DMC.

    My favorite bead storage containers are rubber-stoppered test tubes. I can pour to and from a flexible little dish (repurposed gelato cup!), they close securely, and it’s easy to see what I have.

    1. That’s right, Monique – something I’ve always suspected, but you can’t find definite source information on that. For example, I’ve not been able to find a statement from Mill Hill that says their beads are the same beads as TOHO or Miyuki. But I’m sure they are. I’ve got a few colors and sizes that are identical across the brands. I think the only thing really going for the Mill Hill beads is availability. You can find them in shops and see them in person, rather than ordering online in the hopes of getting the right color, shape, size, etc. for your project. And of course, the Mill Hill / DMC conversion charts are rather ubiquitous, so folks who are familiar with DMC can easily find a coordinating Mill Hill color. But I definitely find them expensive for what you get in the package. On the other hand, if you’re only using a “touch” of beads on a project and you don’t want to build a bead stash (say you don’t have room for yet one more stash to build up at home, or perhaps you just don’t plan on ever using beads again), you might appreciate the smaller package size.

  43. Dear Mary

    I really liked steps 1-8, a great post which made me laugh. I dropped a box of small pearl beads last week and it took ages to pick them up of the carpeted floor at my stitching and knitting group, the other women were wondering what I was doing, so frustrating. I can’t believe your fantastic trays of beads, you must have every colour/size available, oh if only (sigh). I must remember TOHO and Miyuki beads they seem much better then Mill Hill. Thanks for sharing the Mill Hill bead experience with us and for the tips on how to open a box of beads, so funny.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  44. I love your package opening instructions… I always appreciate a good laugh to start my day!! I’ve not used Mill Hill beads, but if I did I think I would try enclosing the package inside a large Ziploc bag. Close the bag completely and then open the bead package inside the bag. You should be able to grasp the sides and top of the package through the plastic bag provided it’s large enough.
    Thank you for all your very useful information and instructional videos. I appreciate the time I’m sure it takes you to keep up this wonderful website!

  45. Oops! I guess if I had read further down before posting my last comment I would have seen that others have already tried the Ziploc bag approach. I noticed a comment about static in the bag….. it might be useful to try spraying the inside of the plastic bag with Static Guard prior to opening the bead package inside it.

  46. Thanks for the morning laugh! I have had “fun” with the Mill Hill packaging. If I’m not doing an ” heirloom” project ,I resort to a craft store mix…I have enough for a few lifetimes out of a couple of mixed bags. I lined a small tin with felt to sort and pick from..with a magnet on the inside lid to hold the beading needles. A bit of a nuisance sorting out the colours and size, but mail order gets too costly.

  47. I LOVE Toho beads because their holes are larger so I don’t need to use a special beading needle. For years I’ve struggled with Mill Hill beads packaging so your post gave me a hearty laugh. I no longer buy Mill Hill beads because of their packaging and pricing. There are so many options for those who like to embroider with beads.

  48. Mary, you made my day! I had a good chuckle over your Mill Hill bead story on Wednesday. Been there, done that myself many times. Thanks for your wonderful articles. I look forward to them every time I open my email each day. Barbara

  49. That was a very deep laugh, thank you.

    Some of those ‘frustration’ packaging items can be opened with a hand held can opener (swing-a-way type). I have succeeded in opening small ones, (like the ones toothbrushes come in) this might be too small.


  50. Mary,

    I couldn’t agree more. I hope you don’t mind but I have suggested to Hamex (the UK distributor for Mill Hill Beads) that they view your post

    Best regards, Liz

  51. Mary – Great truthful read

    I’m sitting in the hospital itchy to get out. The Mill Hill rant was my first laugh in 3 days. You got it perfect! And you are not really exaggerating believe me. I have been through at least half of the highjinx you described. The last time you introduced us to alternative beads storage my husband surprised me at Christmas. I’m a happy Mill Hill user again. I would surmise the cheap single molded plastic container contributes to its low product cost.

    Thanks for the laugh and comedic description-just what the Dr. ordered.

  52. I really enjoyed your description of opening a package of Mill Hill beads. It made me laugh out loud. An alternate method, though one must still be very careful, is to cut an X in the top of the package with an exacto knife and bend back one of the corners of the X to pour out the beads. I then place them in another container that I like, though you can bend the corner back and cover with masking tape. If you do that then form a tab with the tape over one edge by folding it onto itself. The tab makes it easier to open again and access the X. Mostly though, I purchase other beads.

  53. I had to sit outside a classified meeting for days monitoring who went in and out of the room. So, to occupy my time, I was working on Nora Corbet’s reindeer with lots of Mill Hill beads. I had my table all set up with the various Mill Hill bead packages open. Lots of people stopped to see what I was doing. No problem until one guy came by with a water bottle. He asked, What is all this? While swiping his bottle across the table. Let’s just say he is lucky to be alive and I still had my job. Actually, although it appeared beads went everywhere, I lost very few.

    On a side note, we were working with Koreans at the time. Each one would comment, “Rudolph.” I would say there are eight reindeer besides Rudolph and show them the names on the patterns. They were so excited to learn about all the reindeer. Their secretary was confused by all the requests to print out the names. They wanted to teach their families about the other reindeer.

  54. I’m going to try cutting open my Mill House bead box inside of a jumbo ziplock baggie! THEN transfer the beads to a new container! Hey, Mary, I LOVE the bead tray. Will re-visit this posting to connect the link to purchase. I will be needing several of these trays in 1 or 2 months. BTW what are you making with these beads?

    1. I’m using the beads as accents on some embroidery projects. The most recent is that “Party in Provence” kaleidoscope design that I sneak-peeked a few weeks a go. I’m almost finished with, and the beads have worked out well! I’ve got a couple other projects I’m starting on soonish, that I plan to incorporate beads with, too. And a project that I’ve already done that I’m re-doing with beads as a fun alternative.

  55. I so enjoyed the thread of this posting as I have had that experience with trying to open the packages. I found myself giggling like a fool because I remembered thinking I needed to do something very similar.

  56. I laughed! I first encountered Mill Hill beads in Japan (Japanese beads, packaged in the US, shipped back to Japan for me to buy? Globalisation is *weird*) and they have some really nice ones, but you are SO right about the packaging! Through use (and yes, probably spillage as well) I’ve nearly finished my pack of Mill Hill 15/0 gold seed beads and I’m sad to see the end of them – not least because their shiny coating actually seems quite durable. I hate it when the shiny rubs off my beads before I’ve even finished crafting with them. I have a few other colours, but I’m gonna miss those glittery lil babies. But NOT their packaging! It’s also a jolly game when your seed beads get stuck in the crevices and crannies of all those folds of plastic – I *don’t* think!

  57. Mary, I so agree with you about the packaging of Mill Hills beads. Your article made me laugh when you gave instruction on what to do before opening them, loved it. The place I order beads from is Fusion Beads http://www.fusionbeads.com/ they have a wonderful selection of seed beads, crystals, and a lot more for very reasonable prices and great customer service.

  58. I am a smocker and also do embroidery. I don’t use beads often, but I sometimes incorporate them into the smocking for a dress. I have my small stash of beads in recycled containers. I put a post it note up to the container, transferring beads to the sticky part of the “note.” This holds the beads still when trying to put a bead onto the needle.

    LOVED this article!!

  59. LOL, Mary! Your step-by-step “tutorial” has kept me laughing for a good five minutes.

    I open up a zip-top freezer bag, stick my hands and the bead container thingy inside, and open the bead container thingy that way. The beads get caught inside the zip bag.
    Then just pour the beads into the little jars I keep my beads in.

    Husband says it looks like I’m handling hazardous bio-waste, lol.

  60. You are funny. You really gave me a laugh. Ask me why. I have had the same experience. Beads all over the floor, beads in the love seat, beads gone forever. Mill Hill are you paying attention?

  61. I share your Mill Hill packaging pain. And like you, love the Tiny Container Bead Storage trays. Love that I can see all the colors.

  62. Oh my gosh. I made the mistake of reading this in the office, and 2 things happened: 1) I nearly passed my coffee through my nose onto my new laptop, and 2) the ensuing snort and outright burst of laughter cause half the floor to swivel and look at the crazy lady having an apparent fit. Not really a big deal, as my co-workers are used to some silliness from me, but still.

    I agree about the packaging. My Mill Hills are embedded into my bedroom carpet. I open them in a plastic bag now (think of the CDC working in a bunny suit, with their hands in gloves that reach inside a sealed box – something like that.
    If you live in a humid climate, these little lovelies can stick in places you never imagined – and don’t wear anything with pockets either!

    Other packaging is equally frustrating, especially as I grow older and fight arthritis in my hands. I know that the exercise of doing handwork keeps my joints lubricated, but Oh! the frustration of opening some of the supplies up!

    Thank you Mary, for a wonderful post!

  63. Haven’t giggled this much for a long time. Thank you. I can relate and will take your suggestions on board for the next packet of beads I have to purchase. Love your storage solution as well. Will be looking for something similar, if not the exact thing, that is available in Australia.

  64. Oh, Mary, you nearly made me wet my pants! I hate these little containers as much as you do and I am very glad that I learned about the Elizabeth Ward bead storage system from you. That’s a genius system! Although I have students who have difficulties opening those containers…

  65. Loved your description of dealing with Mill Hill.
    I almost never use Mill Hill. The packaging is very annoying and the amounts are much too small since I’m usually kitting up to teach.
    When I do succumb and buy one of those little devils, I open it with my hands, a kitchen shears and the whole package completely inside a zip lock gallon bag resting in a big bowl. I viciously cut off a corner of the Mill Hill plastic ‘bottom’. No matter how the %#%^* thing pops, everything is contained and ready to pour into a real storage container.

  66. So funny! I hate those little packages. I discovered when stitching a Christmas stocking that called for 3-4 packages of antique cranberry seed beads that Mill Hill also sells them in larger quantities for a much better price. I ordered a package of 10,000 beads through an LNS for about $6. Fortunately they came in a big ziplock bag, so I didn’t have to open all the silly packs.

    I have accumulated most of my Mill Hill collection by saving the beads leftover from their kits. I use a variety of storage methods depending on the amount of beads. Mostly I use the tic tac type boxes for storage, and then I move the beads for a project into Lo Ran strips with 6 or 12 containers in a row (with easily removable lids – like pharmacy caps before they switched to child-proof). The overflow are in tiny ziplock bags. I intend to look into your system, since it looks very nice.

    Thank you for all the wonderful articles.

  67. Amen, sister! Many designers use Mill Hill bead numbers for their charts, etc. The internet can translate those mystery numbers into names and pictures . PS. Closing the little container is just as easy as opening it!

  68. if you end up repackaging them anyway, why not just clip a corner of the box with scissors and dump them into the new container. would be a lot less problematic than faffing about with attempting to open the box without the beads flying all over the shop. i have to admit though, the “rant” as you called it, was proper amusing. so thanks for the laugh love. cheers!

  69. Haha…now that I’m finished laughing, I will comment. I agree about the packaging of Mill Hill beads – the other thing I find is that they seem to have static inside the package, so when you open the package the beads seem like they are electrified. πŸ™‚
    I’m impressed with your bead containers – I have mine in small clear plastic bottles (almost like a pill bottle) and that seems useful because I can dispense a small number of beads into the lid of the container.

  70. Loved your eight steps in opening a package of beads. I was laughing so much I could not even drink my coffee. I kept thinking, “She must have been in the room with me when I opened my package and described the process I went through”. Love your storage unit too. I don’t have as large of a stash as you do, but I keep my 40 different colors and sizes in clear mint boxes. I came across a box full these little boxes at a yardsale – around $.10 each. Once I cleaned them up, they fit perfectly in a wooden crate I happen to have. I type up a small label and we are set to go.

  71. I share your frustration with Mill Hill packaging! I have learned a few tricks to make it better. First, I take a paring knife and slice through the label along the split between the base and the lid. Then I lower my hands into a deep mixing bowl for the very careful pull-back-the-lid part. Then I pour the beads into something easier and less risky to work out of. I like something deep (1″-2″). I have a small chip ‘n dip bowl that works great, it is easy to pick up a bead on the curved edge. Another choice when I am working with many colors at once are shot glasses. The beads don’t jump out of the container as easily when you are trying to spear one. :>)
    As far as storage goes, I have completely given up any form of marketed ‘system’ or saved ‘cute little containers’. All of my beads are in appropriately sized jeweler’s bags which are then in slightly larger bags by bead size/ type. And those are in pretty cookie or candy tins. My issue with systems is that no matter what, you are storing air space. If you could fill the space think how many more beads that would hold or, to go another direction, how much less room does it take to store them with the air space gone? By the way, I store my buttons in jewel bags too.

  72. Mary can I tell you something……..you are very very funny. I was laughing so hard at your description of the full body hug for opening the beads. Really good stuff. And yes I do identify. Thank you for all the laughs and for all the wonderful things you write and teach

  73. Another great blog posting. I am laughing heartily – how did you get ‘riffemrackemfrickemfrackem’ past spell check?

    1. LOL! Admittedly, I use “riffemrackemfrickemfrackem” all the time when I type. So it comes up automatically on my devices when I type, and on my computer, I used the “learn spelling” option to remove the red underline! πŸ™‚

  74. This is just a thought Mary; I’ve never tried it but I think it might work. Try turning the Mill Hill bead container lid side down on a non slippery surface (maybe an old clean wash cloth folded in quarters) so that you won’t gouge the surface below) then take a utility knife with a fresh sharp blade and simply cut a hole in the container (probably on the rounded corner) large enough to simply pour the beads into the organization container. Hope it works for you.

    Happy stitching, Babette

  75. As a long time user of Mill Hill Beads I understood immediately what you were going to write. However your humor added so much to your message, I laughed out loud! I also transfer them to another container. It helps my insanity. ( yes, I did use that word purposely).

    Thanks for a good laugh. You made my day!

  76. Great post. As a beader and an embroiderer (that’s a word, right?) I always rely on my local bead store (LBS) for the best selection of beads. It’s like supporting your local yarn, thread, quilting stores rather than buying online. They aren’t Mill Hill, but they are Miyuki and Toho (and Czech too, but they very random in their shapes and sizes, but have smaller holes). They’re typically are sold in hanks (a lot for embroidery) or in clear plastic tubes. These are easy to open, store, categorize by how ever you choose to categorize them. They take up very little horizontal space too. Just like with thread or yarn, the dye lots can be different for the same color. I try to err on the side of too many so I don’t run into that problem.

  77. I hate mill hill packaging too! I always lose some of the beads due to the spring loaded box! I’m off to look at the alternatives!

  78. Many years ago I worked in a fabric & craft store and we carried Mill Hill beads. Back then they were in small tubes with a loop on the lid for hanging on display. But they were enticing for kids, those little sparkly colorful beads, so we would sometimes find a lid separated from the tube and a spray of beads on every surrounding surface. Maybe those lids were a little too easy to remove and resulted in the new packaging which has the opposite problem?

  79. I can totally relate – great post. I loved your comment about the packaging being a “marketing strategy” by Mill Hill…..

  80. Dear Mary, You have read my mind! Mill Hill beads drive me absolutely nuts, I end up a raving lunatic when trying to open the packets. I hope Mill Hill hear out plea and do something about it

  81. LMAO!!! I have recently ordered my beads from http://www.beadsdirect.co.uk and they clearly state that their beads are from Toho & Miuyuki. They sell in 100g bags and 10g bags. LOTS of colours. All different shapes and styles. An on-line candy store of beads. Received my order really fast and will definitely use them again.

    Heather M.

  82. Ha ha, Mary you have made me laugh. I too have had Mill Hill beads popping everywhere so now I put the bead pack into a much larger container before I open them,to hopefully contain any that try and escape. I then decant them into a DIY clear plastic container that has small compartments, meant for screws and nails it is ideal for beads.


  83. I bead. While Fire Mountain Gems and ArtBeads are good, I usually end up at Caravan Beads (www.caravanbeads.com) for my seed beads. They are in Maine. They carry predominantly Miyuki; all listed with the manufacturer numbers on them and easy to view by color. They have a tool to cross reference a color across all of the sizes/types of bead. (in case you want same color in smaller or larger size) Prices are really good and packaging is in tubes or ziploc bags πŸ™‚ I do use Artbeads for TOHO. TOHO does have some colors that Miyuki doesn’t. FYI, TOHO beads are slightly larger than Miyuki beads of the same size.

  84. Tip: open the package in a jar or bag that fits your hand, then pour from jar/bag into preferred storage solution. Works every time!

  85. Hi Mary,
    I, too, like to use Mill Hill beads and I’ve had the same experiences you have opening the packages. I always place the package in a quart bowl before I open it verrrry slowly. I find that way that most of them land in the bowl.

  86. Oh Mary – I feel your pain! Although I have not had to rescue those tiny beads from my bra, I can see how it would happen. All your other examples I have experienced first hand. I love Mill Hill beads, so do still buy them. I have had one very disappointing experience however. Some years ago, I made myself a needle roll. I embroidered a lovely Jacobean design on it embellished with gold Mill Hill beads. Only now they are white Mill Hill beads. ALL the gold has come off.
    Maybe after your review, Mill Hill will get the hint and do something to improve their packaging.

    1. Hi, Erica – I’ve found that metallic coated beads generally don’t hold up to the test of time. Granted, I haven’t tried that many different types – I’d love to get feedback from the community about metallic coated beads that DO withstand the test of time. I’m pretty sure that there are metal beads out there, that aren’t just coated. That would probably be the answer! I can imagine how disappointing that is now, with your needle book!!

    2. Pretty sure Mill Hill doesn’t manufacture their beads, I believe they re-package and re-sell Toho and Miyuki beads (maybe they import?).

      Anyway, metallics are difficult. They’ve come out with different finishes like galvanized or PF (permanent finish) or ‘Duracoat’, but they are all coatings so I still have my doubts about longevity. Here’s a youtube video from my favorite bead lady talking about these finishes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpbAY2FG7zE
      (also includes a nice comparison between Miyuki and Toho sizing – very slightly different!)

      You do sometimes find seed-bead-sized metal beads, but they are more rare and expensive.

  87. I don’t really use beads, but I have seen the kind of package you are talking about.

    Since you are not going to keep the beads in the package anyway, why not open the package using a small knife? (I use Olfa Touch Knives for things like this – small knife, small retractable blade, and sharp enough to cut through all sorts of plastic clam shell packaging that husband swears at as he cannot get them open.)

    You can cut an opening in one side of the package by cutting a large X and pulling the cut sections back, or cutting a squared off U and doing the same, or even cutting a hole in the package. I am thinking of this as cutting a large opening, but a small opening – particularly with cutting the small hole in the package – will make a pouring hole.

    If a large hole is cut, then I would invert the package over something, like a bowl, which is larger than the package. With a smaller hole a smaller bowl like item can be used to empty the beads into.

  88. If you’re looking for another bead shopping site, I cannot recommend Beadaholique.com highly enough. Shipping costs are reasonable (and free at $25), there’s almost always a sale of some sort going on, and it also has the best prices I’ve found for extras — wire, charms for embellishments, lucite flatbacks in plenty of sizes, tools (… I may have recently added an adorable set of 5 types of pliers in a zippered case to my stumpwork supplies), and bezels and such if you want to finish something as jewelry. They also have a reward program that takes zero effort to use.

    And I can confirm that even the less expensive (but also less consistently sized) Czech glass beads come threaded on a string and inside a ziploc bag! (The Czech Tri-Cut Seed Beads in gold are gorgeous and suuuuper sparkly in person.)

    Not A Commercial, btw, just a happy (and probably excessively thrifty) customer.

    1. Beadaholique also have a BUNCH of tutorials and new product intros on Youtube. I have some video production criticism, but overall good info and a plus from a customer service standpoint.

  89. I LOVE your recommendations ! Even if I don’t use beads, I’ve read you all along, just because I like the way you treat the subject.
    Diane from MontrΓ©al in QuΓ©bec

  90. Uggggh!!!! Couldn’t agree more Mary. Mill Hill need to do a lot more work on their packaging for me to buy them again after having lost whole packets trying to”carefully” open them.
    Yes, the colours and range are wonderful but do they really expect us to enjoy walking over dropped beads for the rest of our lives as they are too small to even pick up in tn vacuum cleaner and many get missed?
    Surely the company can get its act together and look into making it simple and effective to open their ridiculous containers? Why not have a simple tube with a flip top opening which controls a small amount to be sprinkled out at a time?
    C’mon Mill Hill get your act together pleeeeeeese!

  91. Oh, I have struggled with this type of bead packaging for YEARS. So much fun to read your humorous set of bead unpackaging rules. I repackage into those little round aluminum containers with glass tops so you can see inside. I don’t think mine are as certain to stay shut as yours. That means tape when traveling.

    Enjoy reading and learning from you A LOT!

  92. Ha! I love your description of the process of trying to open those packages. I too, really like that company as they are good quality beads and have colors that aren’t so readily available from others. But I will admit to using every bad word my three sons have taught me while trying to pry those bloody little packages open. Hopefully, the company will reconsider their packaging!

  93. I use beads from Susan Johnson (SJ Designs), and they come in containers with lids that screw on. Love these!

  94. I enjoyed your rant on Mill Hill beads! It definitely is annoying getting into those crazy little packages. I also agree that they are more costly than buying beads like Toho and Miyuki. Also I too repackage the beads. I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one that can appreciate the humor in trying to open these beads!

  95. Right before step 6 — put the package inside a baggie and open it there. You may not lose as many beads. You will still lose some, I can’t find any method that will prevent this. Dang little packages

  96. Mary, I feel your pain. After one bad experience I discovered that disposable frosting bags are a godsend. You can open the package deep inside the bag and it catches all your escapees. Then snip a small hole in the bottom of the bag and let all the beads fall back into the original package. You can reuse the bag many times by putting a peg or even a hair grip across the open point.

  97. Yes, Mill Hill Bead packaging has to be the worst bead packaging I’ve come across. Opening a package is a high stress task. So far I’ve had minimal spillage (phew!) and I always repackage as soon as I open a pack.

    For Miyuki Beads Fox Den in the US are really good (https://www.foxdenbeads.com). She deals directly with the importer (Caravan Beads) and has loads of different styles and sizes. (I’m not affiliated, yada, yada…)

    1. Thank you for the link to foxdenbeads. I hadn’t heard about this shop. What a great selection.

  98. Your items 6, 7 and 8 are all but identical to my method, plus repackaging. Thank you for confirmation of my solution to a difficult task. However, I still like Mill Hill beads because I can usually get them in store.
    I enjoy your articles and find them a good source of information. Thank you.

  99. How about sticking the container inside a zip lock sandwich bag? Would be fully contained if/when it pops.

  100. Thank you Mary for a wonderfully accurate and extremely humorous description of Mill Hill beads. I always repackage mine also. Have a wonderful week and thanks again for your newsletters. Joy

  101. lol!! that was SOOO true! you missed part 2: closing the beads. There’s a number of bead that will find themselves in the hinge area, making the package impossible to close. Trying to remove said beads will result in spilling the package (again, no doubt)

  102. I think I’d use a slightly less elaborate version of your tarp-the-living-room:
    Get a gallon- or bread-loaf-size plastic bag without folded box corners (a flat sandwich-style bag), put the box of beads, a pair of heavy scissors or craft-knife, and one hand inside. Gather bag so it’s more or less standing upright around your arm. Insert other hand; cut bead box open. This will remove the sudden jerk-and-recoil when opening the box.
    Stand plastic bag up in a bowl; remove hands, scissors, and beadbox. Pour beads into alternative container.
    Altho your scenario was much more entertaining.

  103. Did you know that somewhere in the far distant past, Mill Hill beads were sold in skinny glass tubes? I still have some of them. Some were closed with small corks (not a good idea down the road as corks become less pliable. Later they switched to small plastic cork shaped closures. Don’t know why they switched to such a difficult container – like they have now. I guess glass cost more or customers broke the glass containers easier. I use lots of beads and find the little baggies easy to use and convenient for storage.

  104. I’m of the impression that Mill Hill is a re-seller of Toho and Miyuki beads, so while they may be more convenient you’re probably paying more for a smaller package. (Though if you need fewer beads…tradeoff.) I have to buy online regardless, so might as well go to the source. I will say, when I have bought them in the past the package had a little nub in one corner where you could shake out a couple of beads at a time. Maybe that’s old packaging, this thing here seems like a nightmare. And I’m a beader, prone to losing a lot of beads into the carpet as it is.

    I almost exclusively use Toho seed beads, and I buy from Bobby Bead in Minneapolis. You can buy retail or wholesale from them. And no annoying packaging – they come in nice tubes or flip-top (tic-tac style) boxes. I store them in an inexpensive metal pencil box. http://www.bobbybead.com/

    Also, for a bead mat I use a small rotary cutting mat, about 12″ wide. The kind used for quilting and scrapbooking. Nice neutral gray color to see the beads, marked with ruler and guides for quickly measuring thread, more cushioned than a hard desktop but not sticky/grabby or plush so it’s easy to scoop beads back up from.

  105. Hi Mary,
    Enjoyed your article, and I completely agree about the packaging. Just wanted to let you know about another bead source. They are called Fusion Beads. Lots of colors to choose from.

  106. That is a hoot! Thanks for the good laugh. Mary, you could be a writer in your spare time.

    I have never worked with beads, and now I never will.

  107. Thank you for the laugh. This is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time. I may try Janet G.’s “towel in a bowl” method–not write as much work as yours.

  108. I’m afraid this is exactly why I don’t buy Mill Hill Beads.
    For awhile when I was doing a lot of beading I simply searched ebay for bulk beads, you can get great prices. If you don’t want bulk lots leave out the “bulk” in the search.

    Cheers Judy
    S E Queensland

  109. I read your frustrations with bead packaging and thought “thank goodness it is not just me!” I too like Mill Hill beads but the packaging is like those wretched wee milk pottles on aeroplanes which splurt the milk all over your blouse when you eventually get the top off. I find having a blade helps in opening the bead pack, but yes I do so carefully over a prepared area. I love the tacky tin tip, thank you for that.

    I was surprised to see your storage system up close. I had decided to buy a similar system from Amazon, when you wrote about them, only to discover Amazon don’t deliver to New Zealand. I bought elsewhere of course and the system is exactly the same but does not carry the brand.

    I have completed a rather beautiful Russian icon of the BVM in beadwork and currently working on another icon. The beads are Czech I believe and I am enjoying the project very much.

    1. I would love to see that icon when you are done. I bet it is just beautiful. I am planning on stitching an icon of St. Irene of Chrysovalantou, but it is still in the planning stages.

    2. Sherry G…..I don’t think one can post pictures here but I am on Facebook if you care to find me. I am Melanie Todd of Wanganui, NZ.

  110. Oh my gosh! I nearly choked on my coffee. The hunching over the package got me! That is exactly how I open my Mill Hill beads…and yes, I’ve had beads go in my mouth, in my eyes and inside my clothing! I absolutely love adding a little sparkle to my stitching, but the recipients of my “masterpieces” have no idea what contortions I’ve gone through to give them a little pizzazz! Maybe you should forward a link to this blog to the Mill Hill marketing department. I think every package should come with your step by step instructions!

  111. I use round aluminum watchmaker containers that I buy from Lee Valley tools. They have various sizes all with glass tops and the containers come packaged in an aluminum storage box in the sizes I buy. They’re super convenient, IMO. I cut the bead number out of each package and drop it in the container as a label for what beads are in it.. Then I label each storage box to identify what brand of beads are in it. (Mill hill, swarotzki, too, etc.) I use the 33mm containers which will hold about 2 containers of mill hill beads each and buy the 20 container sets for a little over $8.

  112. Dear Mary I can honestly say I have never identified with an issue so much. I live in the UK and have bought a lot of Mill Hill Beads because they are excellent and really are quite beautiful. My routine when I get them home is to get a small plastic pot ready. I punch out a white card circle and write on the number and colour and place it in the pot. With trepidation I get my small penknife and slice up either side of the package label. I prise the packaging apart with extreme care and try to angle it, again with care as the rectangular shape is clumsy, to decant it into my circular pot. One or two beads tend to cling with static and I have to use a fine paintbrush to finally tease them into the pot. Dear Mill Hill – we love you but had you any idea of the lengths we go to for the love of your product?

  113. I admit, I actually don’t mind the Mill Hill packages. They snap tight shut, they don’t take up a lot of space, and I (so far) haven’t had them explode on me. Obviously, everyone’s mileage will vary πŸ˜€

    My biggest pain with beads is, I prefer the prestrung (as I use beads for crochet and beaded flowers as well). There was the most wonderful shop in Woodstock NY where I got them as a kid, just picked them out by color. It’s almost impossible to find a physical store that stocks them now, and I miss getting to “window shop”.

  114. Maybe if you got out a zip lock bag, put your hands with the package inside and open it. The beads would fly out into the ziplock bag, then you zip the top, get the new container, clip the corner of the bag and pour the beads into it from the ziplock bag. Eh???

  115. And just to add insult to injury, Mill Hill bead packages USED to open the opposite way! instead of opening from the back, they opened from the front. I used to mark top and bottom on the packages.

  116. Amen, to your descriptive on how to open these packages. I am still picking up stray beads from a previous encounter.
    Thank you, KarenW

  117. Wonderful post, thank you Mary. I will have no problems with the Mill Hill beads as I can’t buy them in Germany. But the hints are terribly good and valuable also for other brands. I love “recipe for disaster” haha!

  118. Bead embroidery: I’ve been working on a crazy patch quilt for my daughter, made out of her old blue jeans and T-shirts. It’s a little atypical from standard crazy quilts and standard T-shirt quilts. I’ve done a lot of embroidery and embellishing. I’ve often gotten stuck on getting the right bead size, needle size and the number of strands of floss. I’ve muddled my way through OK. But, I don’t have these kinds of particulars down to a science, like you do! Is there a formula? Sometimes I’ve just done the embroidery and then gone back and added the beads afterwards, but that’s not really what I want to do. What’s your advice? Also … following the lead of a beader I took a class with one time, I have a plate onto which is glued a piece of suede. You can spill out a portion of beads to use and easily pick them up one by one your needle, without them sliding around all over the place. Works really well. I’d attach a picture, or two, here, if I could!

  119. Hi Mary,
    how about putting the little resistant container of MillHill into a little, translucent plastic bag (maybe this ones used for freezing selfmade food?). And then close this bag with a food sealing clip. Now you can open the bead-container, and if some beads are spilled, they will remain in the sealed plastic bag.
    I suppose this little bead-container is a good physical protection while filling, stacking, packaging and transporting all the little containers with beads. Other manufacturers use tiny plastic bags with a cardboard labeling. If they are not treated well, these bags get perforated or the lable is lost. And if they are packed in large staples, the high pressure on the beads laying right down on the bottom could be damaged.

    Best greetings from over the ocean, where a little thunderstorm tries to spoil my sitting-outside-in-the-sun-and-drink-tea-realaxation.

  120. YES! I truly began laughing out loud relating to your frustration! I come across these bead packages in mixed craft supply & jewelry lots from thrift stores & estate sales… They’re so frustrating, at some point I had begun tossing them all into a ‘deal with this later box’ of oddities that tends to get ignored for years, without even realizing I was doing it! Every time I have to open one of these, I find myself “working up to the task” and finding (or creating) an empty container like a plastic bin, generous piece of fabric or freezer bag to hold the package in, securely surrounded while opening! Other wise, that one time you don’t, EVERYWHERE!!!

  121. Love this post. Yup. Beads in places that can be a bit embarrassing. I actually use a ziplock bag, put the container in the ziplock, then open it. I then can either use them out of that, or put then in another, easier to open, container.

  122. LOL Mary. I feel the same way about Mill Hill’s packaging. It’s been the same for as long as I can remember.

  123. Mary, if you plan on repackaging the beads, why not just use a sharp knife to cut the corner off the bubble pack? Then you could pour them out of the hole.

  124. I love reading all your posts. But this one shows beautifully what an engaging writer you are! Of course there’s shared experience and all that. Thanks for today’s laugh!

  125. The weenie teeny tear your hair out tinies. I use these for tiny fill ins on embroidery. I like to make the tails on an embroidery piece. Curlicues. I like the look as it makes it a more finer trailing away effect. On lace that is beaded but needs a bit more shine. I find bought lace to have the beads a tad wider spread. BEST of all it is better for faces. I like to see a little glint in eyes and silk doesn’t always do it for me. Tiny flowers. In women’s hair. Flapper hats and dressers.
    Tambour work on net, was difficult as the little beggars would pop through the net, I sorted that but had no worry on woven fabric.
    Arthritis is upon me and age keeps giving me a reminder. So tiny beads are out. Still we can dream.

    Cheers all.

  126. I, personally, do not buy Mill Hill beads any longer because of their absurd packaging. The local needlework shop in San Mateo, CA, Luv2Stitch has a remarkable Bead Bar where u can weigh out your bead selections and package them in clear tubes, at a better cost than Mill Hill. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a lovely shop, online purveyors Fusion, Art Beads, Firemountain, eBeads, Bello Modo are all great shops w Miyuki and Toho beads.

  127. My goodness, Mary. I’m sure the 140 bead users out there who have all suffered alone and in silence before your post this morning must be just the tip of the iceberg. I wonder whether we all thought it was only happening to us. Loved your description of the body hug around the tiny bead container and can relate to the maneuver well. I remember I held my breath too every time I tried to gently prise another one of those ‘trick lids’ off.

  128. Thanks for the laugh, Mary! I really needed one this morning. And thanks to your commenters on ways to deal with opening Mill Hill beads. I’m not so sure I should thank your commenters for all the new-to-me bead source temptations though. Just kidding! πŸ™‚

  129. I always enjoy reading your posts, but for this one I had to laugh out loud! Your description of opening the Mill Hill package is sooooo perfect! I suspect there are still some loose beads hiding in my work area that will only surface when the room is emptied after I’m gone. I don’t buy Mill Hill much any more because I can get larger quantities from Fire Mountain – and one can never have too many beads!

  130. I love your rant. I so agree with it. I like the Mill Hill beads but the packaging is really terrible. I have resorted to opening a package inside a resealable bag. It is a pain but works well to contain the flying missles. I then repackage them.

    Thanks for your rant it cheered up my day.

  131. A really, really great place to get Miyuki beads is Caravan beads. Their beads come in bigger weights, but really handy, easy to use tubes and they stock the ENTIRE Miyuki range, all shapes, all sizes. To solve the beads flying all over the place problem, a sticky bead mat solves that problem.

  132. Definitely been there myself with Mill Hill beads…but they are goid for embroidering with once you get them out of the seemingly spring loaded package.

  133. Mary, I think you should send a copy of the column and all the comments that agree with it to Mill Hill. Maybe that would have some impact on them.

  134. Hi Mary, I loved your instructions for opening Mill Hill beads! True, you exaggerated but you got the message across and only having spilled them and shot them all over the room, can one understand.
    Love your work and many thanks for the useful tips.
    South Africa

  135. If you need a LOT of Mill Hill beads, use millhillbeads – instead of the retail packaging, their “wholesale” (I’ve ordered personally) site sells in 7g and 100g packages. The 7g packages are rectangular tubes that are 1000000 times easier to deal with than those teensy clamshells. For me it was easier than trying to find a conversion chart (this was several years ago) and more economical, plus they carry everything. Lots of smaller retailers don’t have the full selection in stock. If you try to convert to a different brand even with a conversion chart the beads aren’t always close enough to call a good match. Plus sometimes I just want to be lazy and not have to convert!

    I also had a good experience at JaValle Beads – they sell Miyuki’s by the gram and are a great option when you just need a few beads in many colors. I bought several individual grams and they came packaged in tiny ziploc bags, clearly labeled, that are also 10000000 times better than those Mill Hill clamshells. Their site tells you approx how many beads come in a gram so you can estimate easily (varies by size). Right now their 11/0 black Miyuki’s are $0.12/g.

    Not affiliated with any of these, just thought I’d share good experiences.

  136. That was funny and can relate to the same thing. Can you buy Mill Hill Beads from China or Japan. I am doing the Siren and the Shipwreck, Mirabilia. Nearly finished but the cost of the beads is ridiculous everywhere even here in Australia. $60.00 Australian. Love reading what you do.

  137. Your description of the whole body hug method of bead retrieval was so hilarious I had to read it to my husband β€” who appreciated it greatly, having encountered the same packaging among his own hobby supplies.

    Thanks so much for this invaluable site, by the way. Your writing is wonderful, your embroidery is inspiring, and your stitch videos are the best I have ever seen β€” clear and concise.

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