It sounds as if I’m going to write about profound, thoughty subjects.
I’be been weighing things in my mind.
And I have been weighing things.
I’ve been weighing tiny things! Beads, as a matter of fact.
Have you ever thought about the embroidery kits that we use and enjoy, and what it takes to put them together? I think about it every time I encounter a new kit. The packaging, the arrangement of supplies, the amount of thread, the extra touches. The box or bag. The labeling. I notice it all, and I think about it.
Let’s talk about beads in embroidery kits, for example…
When I come across an embroidery kit that includes beads, I’m always and forever curious about how they’re packaged, and about how the designer (or kit packager or manufacturer) decided on that specific quantity of beads.
After all, when you purchase an embroidery kit – especially one that’s a little pricy – it’s rather annoying to run short on any of the supplies in the kits. I’ve had this happen with beads and with threads. This is why I pretty much always try to use whole skeins or spools of thread in my kits, even if you only need a portion of the skein or spool. Not only does it guarantee that you don’t run out of thread, but it also gives you extra thread to play with later, or it gives you room to make corrections without stressing over your supply levels.
Beads are funny, though. They are such tiny things.
And imagine you only really need 10 or so for a given design.
So what does one do, when preparing kits that have beads in them, for designs that don’t require a lot of any given color or type of bead?
Do you count out a specific number of beads? Do you guesstimate, visually, the approximate number?
The former would be tedious, it would take so long for kitter, and it would really limit the stitcher to all kinds of stressful scenarios: What if I lose one? What if one is broken? (It does happen.) What if I spill them all!? What if my stitch tension is slightly different, and I need 12 instead of 10?
The latter is tricky. What if the kitter errs on the visual estimation and shorts the kit a bead or so? How does the kitter ensure consistency between the kits, so that costs can be calculated and supply levels maintained?
In the same way that I prefer to use whole skeins or spools of threads when making my own kits – and in the same way that I prefer purchasing kits that incorporate whole skeins and spools of threads – I like kits that have more beads than possibly necessary for the project in the kit.
This ensures that the stitcher doesn’t stress over possibly running out. It also ensures that the stitcher has a surplus to play with or to make up for any corrections.
It ensures that I (as the kitter) know exactly how much is going into each kit, exactly how much that amount costs, exactly how much I have in inventory, and so forth. And the cost difference, really, in comparison to the whole kit, ends up being almost negligible.
If I’m preparing a kit, for example, that has 15 threads in it (which would be the bulk of the cost of the kit) and 10 different types of beads, I can spend significantly more time counting out individual beads and charge, say, $0.20 for the quantity of beads in the kit (beads plus slower labor). Or I can provide more beads than necessary, package them more quickly, and charge $0.50 for those beads.
In the overall scheme of the kit cost for the consumer, that $0.30 difference is not going to be monumental. And even if it seems like it could be (the difference between $2 worth of beads in the whole kit, versus $5 worth of beads), the cost difference is made up for by providing peace of mind, because the stitcher has plenty of the supplies necessary for completing the kit.
So I weigh my beads.
And weighing beads is a strange and wonderful experience.
First of all, you can’t just weigh beads on any old scale. You have to have a micro scale that weighs in milligrams (like a jeweler’s scale or a chemist’s scale). The scale has to be consistent. It has to have the option to tare (or zero out the scale), so that the receptacle for the beads isn’t figured in the weight. You should be able to calibrate the scale if necessary.
Fortunately, affordable and accurate micro scales are available fairly widely these days. They’re used for all kinds of things, but I only use them for beads. I have two, so that two of us can weigh beads at the same time.
Secondly, you have to work in miniature. The beads are small, the bags are small, the scale is small, the little pan and the little scoop are small – everything is very small. I love moving into that small world of work when I’m weighing beads!
Thirdly, you can’t have a lot of movement in the place you’re working – no fans on, no big vibrations. Even your own movements end up being slow, delicate, light. You don’t want to sneeze, breathe heavily, sigh deeply, and so forth.
And fourthly – and perhaps this is particular just to me – silence seems to work best when I’m trying to work efficiently at the bead scale. Too much noise, and I find myself having to measure twice or more times per tiny batch! Quiet and calm keep me accurate and quick.
One thing I’ve noticed when working with beads in this capacity is that, in my mind, the lone, individual bead suddenly becomes a real, measurable, and precious little commodity. I take care not to have too many strays!
The difficulty is that you can go nuts chasing down one bead now and then. It’s not worth the time! But it’s expedient to work with extra care, so you aren’t chasing beads or losing too many along the way.
Beads can be ornery, by the way. The tiniest bit of static (don’t work on a plastic table without some kind of mat on it!) will cause them to repel each other and literally fly off the table.
Beads can be so simple on the one hand, and so spectacular on the other.
Or they can be a combination of both.
They are little, but mighty.
I love ’em!
Over the years, I find myself incorporating beads more frequently into certain types of embroidery projects. They add texture and sparkle and interest to a project, in a way that most thread can’t.
The variety of types, finishes, sizes, and colors of beads make them a fascinating addition to my studio supplies, too. I don’t want to go overboard with beads – and I don’t really want a huge stash of them! – but I find that I’m wildly attracted to the little things.
I’m pretty sure there’s a crow inside me somewhere.
So that’s a little bit about beads, just for your interest. If you ever purchase a kit that has beads in it, keep in mind that somewhere, somehow, those tiny things that can make such a difference in the finish of a wowser project were weighed or counted out just for you, for your stitching pleasure!
Happy Monday, my friends!