One of the questions I am asked frequently is about Bead Spinners. Specifically, which ones are the best and what I recommend, so I figured I should just go ahead and do a full blog post on the subject.
If by chance you don't know what a bead spinner is, then my friend you need to find one and get acquainted because they are amazing. Basically, a bead spinner (aka bead stringing tool or bead loader) is a tool used to help string beads onto thread or wire.
How to Use a Bead Spinner
Bead spinners generally come with two parts: a base, and a bowl. The bowl will have a spindle at the top and a hole in the bottom. The base will have a shaft of some type that is inserted into the hole in the base of the bowl.
1. Fill the bowl with your beads, 1/2 to 2/3 full is optimal.
2. Curl your wire into a hook. Make sure the end of your wire is flat, not with any awkward cuts, which will make it harder for the beads to get onto the wire.
3. Hold the hook over the beads with the tip just skimming the top of the beads (not touching the bottom of the bowl).
4. Spin your bowl using the spindle and the beads will jump right onto the wire. My wire tip is pointing right, so the bowl needs to be spun to the left. If you are left-handed you may need to do the opposite with your wire on the opposite side of the bowl.
You might have to play a little with the shape of your hook and the angle of the wire in the bowl, but with a little practice you'll get the hang of it.
I've even gotten my spinner to work with just a curve shaped wire skimming the very top of the beads. Find a way that works best for you.
Over the last year I have been collecting and testing bead spinners from several different brands and makers so I could compare them, and also because they are fascinating little tools and I have hoarder tendencies.
So, let's take a look at my arsenal of spinners and let's talk about what works, what doesn't work, and the pros and cons for each type. I am not sure of the availability of some of these models outside of the USA. And there may be other models available overseas that are not available in the US.
1. Micro Spin-and-String:
First up is the Micro Spin-and-String (by Beadsmith). I found mine on Amazon, though I'm sure it could be found elsewhere. It is plastic and really cheap, so I figured I might as well give it a whirl. I can't find many pros for this one unfortunately.
Lots of cons though, so it doesn't get a solid recommendation from me. Firstly, the "nub" in the base that holds the spinner on is really short, and if you don't spin slowly and carefully the bowl wobbles and stops. I feel like the whole design would be better if only the nub were longer (and the hole in the middle of the bowl shaft longer to fit the longer shaft, of course). The opening of the bowl is small too, so it's harder to get wire into the bowl without bumping into the edges and slowing it down even further. It also doesn't hold many beads, because it is tiny, but if you're just working on a small project that probably doesn't matter much. It does work, though, if you're careful... It's not the greatest spinner, but it will do in a pinch. I kept it mostly as a novelty.
2. Battery-Operated Spinner
For those of you who have trouble spinning traditional spinners, or if you just don't want to have to spin yours manually, Darice makes an electric bead spinner that runs on batteries.
Pros - It comes with three interchangeable bowls - WITH LIDS. The bowls can stack on top of each other. The bowls are slightly smaller than the bowls on a standard sized wooden spinner (discussed below), but they hold a decent amount of beads. Also, it allows you to rotate clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on which hand you use to hold your wire.
Now for the cons, it uses batteries... which cost money. Get some rechargeable ones. Also, because it has a motor, it is not quiet. There is a constant churning/grinding mechanical noise. I have a hard time with constant noises and I sometimes bead while "watching" tv, so the noise was an annoyance. It's also a little bit slower than I like to spin my manual spinners.
Bottom line, I don't use mine anymore due to the noise and speed. However, most people who have one love it, so I do consider it to be a good option.
You can find it on Amazon, in craft stores (I bought mine at Joann's), and many other places. I'm not sure if this one is available in all countries.
3. Mini Wooden Spinners
Mini spinners are smaller than the standard sized bead spinner (which is discussed below) and therefore holds less beads. But that's not a real problem. Because bead spinners work best when they are more full, a small sized spinner is ideal if you work with small sized beads or small amounts of beads.
There are two brands that offer these mini spinners, Beadsmith's Mini Spin-and-String and Beadalon Spin-n-Bead Jr. However, I'm about 90% convinced that it is the same spinner that they buy from the same manufacturer and slap their own name on it. The one I purchased was sold under the Beadalon name. Unlike the itty bitty micro spinner, these are made of wood. Some pictures show them with a round base, and some show them with a hex-shaped base. You may, like I did, buy a listing that shows a round base and get one that has a hex base, just so you know. I think the round base was the older design and they changed the spinners without changing the picture on the box. Or something. Bottom line is, I love my mini spinner. The only thing that irritates me about it is that the central "shaft" in the center of the base keeps slipping down to protrude out of the bottom, so I have to keep pushing it up. Not a deal breaker.
This little one is a very good option if you only want to buy one bead spinner. You can use it with a small amount of beads, or just refill if you're using more. Plus... Beadalon recently came out with a new product called Spin-N-Bead Quick Change Trays. These are thin plastic trays that fit perfectly over their Jr sized spinners. They come in a pack of 2 or 4, depending on where you get them. It's a great way to switch out bead colors without having to dump your beads every time. It came in handy while I was working on my recent Moth Orchid with small amounts of 8 shades of blue seed beads.
My trays came a little crinkled, though, due to poor packaging. It doesn't affect the way they function, just aesthetics. There is also a little bit of static cling that makes some beads stick to the sides, but you just swipe them off while you're removing your beads and it's not a big deal. Over time, the static disappears completely. Depending on how full your trays are, you can even stack more than one at a time on the spinner.
You may also come across these spinners with longer spindles, though I don't think they are as common, since I had to search far and wide for them. One was sold under the Beadsmith name, and the other under a company called Beadery. They are very similar with the only minute difference being in the spindle hardware, so it's possible that these are also the same spinner design, just in different production lots. I consider them a mini size because the bowls don't hold many beads - maybe a full hank, but again if that's all you're working with then it's no problem. And you can just add more beads later. I both like and dislike the tall spindle on these. On one hand, it keeps my spinning hand away from the bowl, so it feels less crowded, but on the other hand, I knock these over easier because I keep bumping the spindles while I move around.
4. Standard Wooden Spinners
The most commonly found bead spinners are these larger sized wooden bowls, and I love them.
There are two basic styles: ones with a knob at the top of the spindle, and ones without a knob at the top. What I found in my search and testing, is that the brand doesn't really matter. Just make sure to test the one you do buy to make sure it isn't a dud. Spinners should spin for a while before slowing down and stopping, but sometimes, as you often find in many mass-produced goods, you get one that doesn't spin nicely, grinds, or only spins for a few seconds before stopping. I have gotten a dud from both Beadalon and Beadsmith brands. But I own multiple spinners from each brand, and most are perfect. Just note that a little wobble isn't a deal breaker. As far as I can tell, that's fairly normal. It's only problematic if it's so bad that the bowl grinds to a halt. So, buy from a reputable dealer who allows returns, just in case.
What's great about these spinners is that you can control the speed. If you like to go slow, you can go slow. If you like to go faster, you can do that too. Just don't go too fast or beads will fly everywhere. You can spin either direction. These spinners fit around 2-3 hanks of size 11/0 seed beads (70-120 grams) in the bowl. I have several spinners in this size.
First let's look at the spinners with knobs at the top. I've found this exact same spinner under many names - Beadsmith Spin and String, Speedy Spinner (from Fire Mountain Gems), and even Euro Tool. (though it's possible this last seller just didn't send me the right spinner...). All three of these are shown below. Just like the Mini Spinners, I'm pretty sure that they are all actually the same spinner... just with different names slapped on the box, and sometimes a different colored wood, but that just tends to happen with wood I think. What I like about the ones with the knobs at the top is that they are easier to grip and spin than spinners without the knobs.
The spinners without knobs are sold under the Beadalon name. The only difference is the absence of the knob. I personally have a harder time gripping these, but I still like them because you can fit the Beadalon Quick-Change trays over the shaft. The bowls of the trays are smaller, but it still works.
5. Artisan Made Spinners
I also have a few bead spinners that were handmade by real actual people. These ones are my favorites. They don't work better, but there's a nicer feeling to them simply because of the time put into them by other people like us who like to make things with their hands (or tools).
First up is a mini sized spinner made by wood turner Jerry Ritter. I purchased mine from Amazon, though he also has a Facebook page. This little sucker spins like a dream. It's as smooth as butter. And he uses different, more exotic looking wood. I also love the heavier and wider base. He even signed the base of the bowl. His spinners are a bit pricey though, which is why I only have one, and it was a gift. His spinners are smaller than the Beadalon mini spinners, so perhaps it should be considered a micro?
Another wood turner in Russia, named Nerovny Dimitry, makes bead spinners as well (he also makes kumihimo tools). He offers both a large and mini size, and I have both. They are both wonderful. His larger sized bowl has a wider base than the factory-made bowls of the same size, which I love. He even handmade the little knobs at the top of the spindles. His mini sized spinner is similar in size to Jerry Ritter's mini. And his current prices put them in the same expense category as the larger sized wooden bowls. You can find his spinners in his Etsy Shop.
This next spinner is my absolute favorite of all my spinners - because my daddy made it just for me. He designed it with his fancy engineer computer software and carved it out of aluminum with his lathe. Mine is the only one in the whole world. It kind of feels like a trophy - probably because it's so shiny. With a bowl measuring 6 inches wide, it fits around 400-500 grams of beads. And while it is heavier, it spins more smoothly than any other spinner I have, even when fully laden with a freaking half kilo of beads. No wobble, no noise whatsoever. It's also too wide and heavy to tip over. You can see it below beside a standard wooden spinner for scale. I have named it "Beast". I might see if he would be willing to make me a matching mini or standard sized one without a spindle (since I spin it from the side anyways).
I almost feel bad displaying this one here, since it's not available to purchase anywhere. But I felt it deserved a mention just because it's special and cool.
DIY Bead Spinners
While bead spinners are very useful, they are still an expense. If you'd rather save your money for beads, you can make your own. It's not even hard.
Here's what you need:
- Small plastic bowl
- Empty bead tube (or other tube-shaped object to act as a spindle)
- flat-backed marble (some are weirdly shaped, so pick one that is nicely round)
- Plastic lid (not pictured, but something similar to a Pringles can lid)
- Hot glue gun
Pictures in the slideshow below!
1. Glue the bead tube to the center of the bowl. Make sure it's nicely centered.
2. Glue the marble to the underside of the bowl, again nicely centered. The flat side of the marble should be against the bottom of the bowl. (This marble is optional, it does work without the marble, but not as easily.)
3. Turn the lid upside down and set the spinner on top. This lid just helps keep the spinner contained in one spot so it doesn't spin around the table. You may not need it if you aren't using a marble.
Ta-da! Bead spinner!
I might spray paint mine, just for kicks. While it's not the best bead spinner, and it take a little more practice to get the hang of it, it does work. Definitely better than the Micro spin-n-bead or stringing by hand. :)
In other news... I was going to record a video this week. I have all my pieces made, my PDF companion guide made... and I was getting myself pumped up to do a video. But then my husband finally told me that my in-laws are visiting from California this week. So now we are going up the mountain to their cabin so our kids can play with their cousins. I can't exactly record video with 6 kids running around.
So I'll be working on pieces for the other master class that I'm doing this month. This one won't have a video, just a PDF, and it will be available in my shop at the end of the month. I have a lot of patterns that I'm trying to get through, and the list keeps growing. But I whittled my list down to two flowers that I wanted to make, and then let my Facebook and Instagram followers vote. The fancy gigantic Split-Tip Dahlia was the winner, so that's the pattern I will be working on! I will be formatting it similar to my recent Moth Orchid pattern. This shading is very tricky, and I don't want to overwhelm any newer french beaders (or those who don't like doing lots of shading) who want to give the design a try, so I will be making an easier coloring pattern of the petals for the main part of the pattern. Then I will have close-up pictures in the back of sample petals, along with the bead colors I used from this dahlia for those who do want the advanced shading option.
I will be publishing the rose pattern in September, though it won't look exactly like this one. I want to make some adjustments, additions, and test out another idea to add to it, which is why this one made it into my final two.
Also, just a little reminder that my website is changing. I will be under a new name with a brand new website beginning October 1st this year. More details coming later on that "fun" adventure.
In my last post I shared pictures of a custom Orchid plant that I made and mentioned that I was going to be publishing the pattern soon. I finally got it up! It took longer than I anticipated. It's 22 pages long and has 96 pictures. That's a lot of pictures and pages for a single pattern. In fact, my book, Christmas Collection, was 111 pages and had somewhere around 450 pictures. So, this one pattern is close to 1/5th of my book in length. But it also took longer because I had to remake one of the larger petals for better close-up pictures... and there are eight colors you guys. That's not easy to do. And I was already "done". You know that feeling? When you finish something, and you're done and you close this box in your brain where that project was, but then you have to reopen it and make it again... it's not my favorite thing. So I had to kind of pump myself up for it.
Okay, details. The flowers are around 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) wide. The plant itself is approximately 18 inches (45.7 cm) tall - not including the pot. The pattern is set up so the blue shading in the example is optional. That type of shading in the blue one is very complex. I wish I could give exact bead counts, but there's too many variables that will change how many beads you use that it's just not possible to do that and get good results. For one, beads aren't always the same size. Even if they are all 11/0, beads made by different manufacturers, and even different lots from the same manufacturer, may be slightly different in size. Secondly, French Beading isn't like bead weaving, where if you do the stitch correctly it will look exactly like the pattern. Each artist has their own "technique", or uses a different tension on the wire that can affect the size, shape, and look of the finished pieces. It also affects how many beads and how much wire is used. This is why I always recommend that you purchase extra materials for your project. It's also why you should cut extra wire. If a pattern tells you to cut a 12" length of wire... well you might use 14 inches, or 11 inches... French Beading is not an exact art form. So unfortunately, giving exact bead counts just won't work well and will cause more frustration. However, in the back of the pattern I have a special section with what I hope will be helpful notes about how I accomplished that type of shading. There are close up pictures of the petals, as well as pictures of the beads I used.
You'll also find that each petal in the pattern is made in pure white. I've done this to help you plan your own shading patterns. Caren Cohen taught me a wonderful way to plan shading patterns. Make the petal once in a single color, then scan it on your copier, print it out and color it. Now, this also won't give you exact bead counts for your second petal, but it can help you get a good idea, and help you decide if you actually like your shading pattern before you make it out of beads. So, you can print those pages from the pattern and color them.
So, for anyone wanting a copy of this pattern, it is available in my Pattern Shop!
Alrighty, so, I did something else this week that was completely unplanned. While I was pumping myself up to remake a petal for pictures, I decided to go ahead and make a completely different tutorial. This is a free one, because it's just a simple variation of Continuous Loops that I used to make a French Beaded Bezel around a stone that didn't have a hole so I could use it for a flower center. This is an idea that sprouted in my brain several years ago, and thanks to my One-A-Day project, I finally had a chance to test it.
I did put the tutorial in PDF format, though, because I find that all the pictures from my blog get lifted and posted elsewhere.
Download your free copy here. The PDF just teaches the flower center, not the full flower. It's intended more to teach an idea that you can alter as needed for whatever type of stone you're bezeling, though it will teach you exactly how to make a beaded bezel around a 12mm Swarovski Rivoli. :) Enjoy!
Okay, I realized after typing the above paragraph that I haven't updated here about my One-A-Day project since... February... (yikes!) so here's a picture dump to get me caught up!
And now I am on to pink flowers for July! After that I will still have 5 months worth of work to do... so I'm going back around the colors to make leaves and whatever else I need to fill in areas and whatnot. It's already around 18 inches wide, so I imagine it will get a little bit bigger. It's just going to be a huge color wheel wreath, that's for sure.
So I've been doing lots of fun stuff for this project, so I will be pulling some of these flowers out to show you some weird ways to use or embellish French Beading techniques. But that will be in other blog posts because this one is already way too long.
As for what I'm doing next... well I'm doing secret Spring Collection work... and I'm doing more work for my relaunch (on my new website) that will hopefully be happening in a few months. I've got a really great "something" that I'm working on for that and I can't wait to show you!
Happy Beading everyone!
Hello everyone! I am Lauren Harpster, the designer behind Lauren's Creations. I am a 28 year old wife, and a mother to three adorable little kids. I've been making French Beaded Flowers for six years now, and teaching French Beading through my website for about four years. I hope you'll join me on my blog so you, too, can Learn the Art of French Beading.
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