Claustrobeadia! Need Bead Storage Advice

by Joy.
(Atlanta, Georgia)

question-mark-green-on-lavendarI have finally bit the bullet and started the horrid job of sorting of my beads. So far I am bagging them by color, findings also by gold or silver.

Now, here is the big question, does anyone prefer to string and hang their beads?

I ask this because I am already not liking the bucket, plastic shoebox look. Yes! It does work but I have a small area and feeling claustrophobic.

Of course if I choose to hang, now I will have tons of ziploc bags from ULine to get rid of 🙁 . Please help.

JT’s Jewelry Design

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  • Bunie says:

    I hang some of my beads, but I don’t string them. I put them in a zip bag and use a hole punch to punch a small hole in the top of the bag, above the zip. Then I hang the bag.
    For findings, I use compartmentalized plastic boxes. One box for silver and one for gold. For me, the boxes work better than hanging would.

  • Joy says:

    Thanks for the hanging suggestion because it never came to mind. And of course that may work because I would use closet space (outta sight outta mind…).

  • I feel your pain and just spent hours over the last few days cleaning and reorganizing my small workspace! After years of using small jewelry storage compartments that I would lay on my workspace, often spill (!!!) and never had any particular order to them, I decided to buy a wall unit with small compartments from Harbor Freight. It was only $14 on sale and completely freed up my workspace and helped me to declutter. I sorted all of my beads by type or color and put them in the storage drawers. Now when I am working on a piece, I simply slide the drawer out – select my bead and put it back in the compartment. So far so good. I do tend to get really messy when creating and often the mess inspires something new, but I am loving the organization for now. Good luck!

  • Kim says:

    I have organized and reorganized my beads many, many times over the years. As soon as I outgrow the last organization method, I have to try another. I don’t have much wall space in my studio and I travel a lot so I have to have a way of easily taking supplies with me. I have found those wall units with the little drawers works really good. Since I don’t have the wall space, they are sitting on the top of my work surfaces easily within reach. I also have larger plastic drawers that I can put supplies other than beads in. When I travel I just take a larger plastic container to put everything in and go through all my drawers and take what I want. I have found the drawers work best because it’s easy for me to take what I use and put back instead of having everything laying all over.

  • Lynn Moore says:

    Hi Joy, I have been creating jewelry for many years now and constantly re-organize my beads, gemstones, wire, etc. but I recently saw a very creative – and eye catching – way to corral pre-strung beads. Hang a curtain rod on the wall, using mollys for support, hang the strings on the rod. All beads are visible so inventory is a snap and creativity is helped by the visual display. When you need a few of the beads clip the line remove the needed beads and re-tie onto the curtain rod.

  • Caron Lambert says:

    Lynn, I like your idea with the curtain rod. Do you use curtain hooks to hang the strands on the rod? I just bought some shower curtain hooks with two hangers (one for the outside curtain and one for the liner)…I wonder if those would work. You could have two rows of hanging beads in the same amount of space. I wonder if anyone will miss the shower curtain…… 🙂

  • Lynn Moore says:

    Hi Caron, thanks for catching the shower curtain hook that I left out. Very important detail as the metal clips open and close making it easy to remove a strand of beads and replace. Several strands of like colors but different sizes could be hung on these hooks. The plastic open clips will only hold a strand or two but the inexpensive metal clips will hold 10 or more strands easily. I can imagine several folks might be wondering what happened to the shower curtain tomorrow! 🙂

  • Lynn Edwards says:

    Hi Joy,
    I used to keep all my beads in a big plastic storage container but found I spent way too much time pawing through the contents to find just the right beads. Recently I bought a rolling multi-drawer cart at Michaels which I keep right next to my work table. The drawers are different colors, so I’m able to roughly correspond the bead colors to the drawer colors. I assign each set of beads to its own plastic bag on which I note in magic marker their source, the price per bead, and the stock number if applicable. Then I group the bags by color and put them into the appropriate drawers. I have a drawer for yellow beads, one for orange, one for red, a drawer just for seed beads of all colors, a drawer for blue-green beads, a drawer for blue, a drawer for green, one for purple and one for “neutrals” — white, black, brown, grey and tan. The drawers are removable, but usually I just pull out whatever bags of beads I want to use. My findings are stored in one of those desktop 3-drawer Sterilite units, which sits on top of the rolling cart. Like the beads, each group of components is bagged, tagged and stored by color: a drawer for gold, one for silver and one for copper. This “system” might not work for everyone but it sure has made jewelry making much more enjoyable for me!

  • Joan Carter-Holmes says:

    I use compartmentalized plastic storage containers. Using a label machine, I label each box with the color of the gems ( clear/white, pink, red, blue, etc.) on the front left side and then make a label listing the gemstones contained in that particular box and place it on the front right side. These containers are then placed in large, rectangular rattan baskets with the labeled front side facing up. The boxes are like file folders in a drawer. I do the same for sterling silver, 14K, 14K GF and copper beads/findings. I never have a problem finding beads, pearls or findings. I store Swarovski crystals in small, clear plastic compartmentalized containers sorted by size, shape and color and store those containers in small, rectangular rattan baskets. Also, in each compartment I label the type of gem or bead, the size, and cost per bead or finding. All of my beads and findings are then stored in base cabinets in my study/workspace.
    My storage method makes it easy to find the beads I plan to use and also makes for easy cleanup. I store coiled wire in plastic page protectors that are placed in binders. I use Post-It notes to label the type of wire (e.g., Sterling, 16 g, square, cost per inch) and then put the Post-It inside the sheet protector. I store all coiled wire, suede, leather, etc. in this manner. It makes it easy to locate the item I need.
    I hope this helps you.

  • Cheryl Feyen says:

    I’ve been making jewelry for over 20 years and my current organizational method is the one I like best and have used for many years. I use the compartmentalized plastic boxes (floss or tackle boxes). I sort the beads into the boxes by color with some specialized boxes like for sw cyrstals and findings. I really like the tackle boxes from Bass Pro Shops. I get the ones that are about 10″ x 8″. They have many sizes of bags especially made for these boxes so they are easy to load and go. I regularly travel with my beads and I have 3 of what they call boat bags that hold 18 boxes each.

    I have a paper grid that I paste into the the lid of each box and use 1/2 of an address label in each one to identify the beads and the prices (since I sell the beads straight from my boxes, I mark the price at 3 times my cost so I can sell from the boxes but still know my cost when I am making a piece to sell.)

  • Joy says:

    WOW! You guys are all so awesome. I loved every one of your suggestions and ideas even though a few may not work because I have space issues by living in a small condo. Lynn, I love your curtain rod idea and may test it out. Of course, I can already see the excitement on the faces of my 2 y/o grandson when his mind starts twinkling on how to get his little hands on all those pretty beads (LOL). Thanks again to all and please keep the suggestions coming because I am a hoarder and have tons of beans to organize! But I love this madness!

  • Linda says:

    I have been beading for 16 years and have also tried many ideas for storage. My most recent storage system didn’t cost alot and I can add to it whenever I want without too much outlay.
    I bought some large 24 compartment lidded trays from Walmart ($6.95CDN) a few smaller deeper ones for bigger beads ($2.47) and four wooden shoe racks – stacked to make a shelving unit ($7.00 each) I have them next to my work station with 3 trays on each shelf. They are all placed in colour sequence and so when I want say a blue bead I can pick the blue box off the shelf and have up to 28 different beads to choose from. When I buy my beads, I place the label from the bag it came in with the name and order number, at the back of the tray space that particular bead will be stored in and add the price it cost to buy. That way when I run out of that bead or need to know how much it cost it is easy to see.
    I am also just about to buy a pegboard carousel from a second hand store fixture shop ($50) and that will be to display the beads I am selling in bags. It is 5′ tall but narrow and rotates, so if I need a particular bead for myself I can easily find that too,
    My tools sit on a carousel unit from Michaels on my work space ($25) and the ones I use most are on an old chopping board right beside where I work.
    I also thought of making a more mobile shelf unit by adding castors to the bottom.
    I don’t use bags, I don’t have to re-tie strings of beads or try to feed them back on if I take too many off, and because the trays are semi transparent I can see what I want at a glance without any labelling or any extra work.
    I hope you find what suits you, your space and your ‘collection’. Happy beading.

  • dawn says:

    Because I am a visual person, I use the hanging bags that are used for jewelry when traveling. I have broken them out by crystals, Vintaj pieces, sterling beads, Via Murano pure gold and pure silver, et al. I can then look ‘at a glance’ to get my inspiration. Also, this allows me to grab the bags and go when my husband and I travel (I work on jewelry in the car).

  • Nallery says:

    What do you think about compartmentalizing beads into cupcake on the go trays when traveling with your stash?

  • Linda C says:

    Harbor Freight carries a most wonderful plastic box with 24 individual snap shut individual boxes (1-3/4 x 1-1/2 x 7/8″) inside for $4.99. I keep my beads by color and sometimes by type. Example: I keep all of the more expensive crystals in several boxes Swarovski), (natural gemstones)in larger boxes in which I have placed the small snap boxes and it is okay if the colors are mixed because they are expensive however the large box is identified with a label.

    The hanks of seed beads are broken down and usually it takes 2 little snap boxes to store each color. The seed beads are all kept by a color tones in the larger boxes

    The metals are kept by types: copper, silver, fine silver, brass etc in the individual snap boxes (copper jump rings, copper crimps, lobster claws,etc) and all copper is in the copper box etc

    I love collecting metal buckets in copper or painted design from Ross. Use those to keep wires, i.e. Copper or brass or silver or whatever in and make it a pretty design element in my living room. One bucket is full of types of chaining use in necklaces.

  • Jean BH says:

    WOW! I am a newbie (less than a year) to jewelry making and I am in the process of establishing a work station/storage space for my supplies. Right now my mind is on overload reading all of the ideas above. I live in a small two bedroom. One room is for the queen size bed and the other is a self made closet. That is how small the rooms are. I have an area in the front of the apartment that I think will hold a small desk and storage area. The good news is I have all of the great suggestions above and just need to pick one or a combination of several that will work best for me. This topic came right in time for me. Thanks for all the wonderful ideas.

  • Jean BH, that’s lovely to hear! We’d love to see how your work / storage area looks when you get it all worked out! 🙂

  • Barbara Smith says:

    Just sharing a few of the ways I am conducting my always-in-process organization of my beads, findings, etc. Seed bead tubes are in cups by size. I can easily grab the color I need. I got two Iris photo keepers, each of which contains six approximately 4×6 cases. I use these to keep the materials for my beaded bracelets together. When I get a new string of beads or components, they go directly into little plastic bags. I keep my silver spacers, components, etc. all in one plastic box, with another for gold, one for copper/brass/gunmetal, etc. All of my chains and memory wire are in a box together. Additional findings are in two large compartmentalized cases. Earring findings are in pill bottles. I have another compartmentalized box for wooden beads. Again, this is a work in progress!

  • Barbara, thanks so much for sharing your great storage ideas! 🙂

  • Helen Coe says:

    I use all of the above ideas in one way or another. I got large cork boards that I use to hang the beads I love the most. I use dressmakers pins to hold them. I can switch them around to mix or match color pallets as I get inspiration. Small amounts of beads I put in snack bags and pin them to the board with beads that I think will work together.
    I have a large assortment of Bali sterling beads that I keep in compartment boxes with anti tarnish strips.
    I also use the snap shut photo boxes for specific items and mark them “sterling clasps”, etc.
    I’m a paranoid recycler so before I put anything in the recycle bin I always try to figure out what I might use the item for. The nice thing is if it doesn’t work out it has not cost me anything. I use plastic salad containers for glue, tools, stringing materials, and baby food jars for odds and ends.

  • Claudia Kellenberger says:

    I use mostly the plastic storage boxes that you can get at the local craft stores. I ALWAYS clip out the coupons ! When my beads are getting cluttered with new beads, I just grab a new coupon, and stop at Michael’s, or A.C. Moore on the way to my Mom’s house for a visit. I work with a very small space, too. I string my beads at my dining room table, and when I am finished, I clean everything up again. My gold and silver findings are stored in small, plastic zip lock bags. All gold goes into a larger, thicker zip quart size hefty bag. All silver goes into another quart size sandwich bag. So I have lots of smaller zip bags, within the bigger bag. Sometimes the dollar stores also have some good, plastic storage containers with lids. I have been in business 27 years.

  • Claudia, thanks for sharing these helpful tips! 🙂

  • Paulette says:

    Hi, I have been beading for about seven years and love all of the ideas. My work area is a small space in the laundry room. It’s great because now I can leave things out and close the door. For storage of wire, glues, seed beads, large beads, etc. I use the 8-drawer rolling cart, and some smaller pull out plastic drawers. In the rolling cart and drawers I use kitchen utensil trays for the wire and bags of beads. I use the kitchen utensil trays all over the house to keep things from rolling about in the drawers, I get them at yard sales for 50 cents. I also sort findings and my beads by colors and keep them in the plastic storage boxes and keep those right in front of me on legal size letter trays, so that I can pull out one box without moving the others. I also got most of the letter trays at yard sales. When I go to a craft show/sale I use a nice lampshade (also found at a yard sale) and the ear wires just go right through and are easy for people to choose from. I have an Easter egg tree that I hang necklaces and bracelets on. Oh, and I keep my tools in a large pencil carousel. The zippered and hanging jewelry bags are very handy. I find a lot of storage pieces, etc. at yard sales. It keeps it from filling up the landfills.

  • Paulette, thank you so much for sharing these great tips! 🙂 I especially like the lampshade idea.

  • Valerie says:

    I an new to making jewelry, but I have loved “bling” all my life. I promised myself that I would do this before fingers wouldn’t cooperate.
    In beginning this new adventure I have found compartmentalized plastic boxes at Home Depot & Ross’s. These flat boxes also lock together in front to open up and on sides to lovk with othet boxes so as to make a solid tower if you like. You can lock whichever ones to take with you. You can use a labelmaker tag to a card, laminate it and lock the ID card to the handle. I have not been as organized as some of you. I just put items in boxes by general categories….
    pearls, crystals, beads blue & green, red & orange & yellow, beige, brown, black & white, sea glass, silver or plated charms, one for findings silver, another for gold plated (earrings, wire w/ or w/o head ball, beads spacers, etc. One box for exceptional SPECIALS I call them; mabe or black pearls, mother of pearl pieces, jade, amethyst, lapis, etc. I used to use the mailing bags from the vendor cause it was bubble wrapped inside. Only thing when I got enough supplies I didn’t know what I had and what I was running out of. Oh,
    I use a tackle box for my solder and soldering stuff and wires. I use another tackle box for my dremel attachments & bits, and another for seed beads. Hope this helps someone. I am truly your work in progress jewelrymate! 🌹

  • Valerie, thank you for sharing your storage system! I love hearing how other jewelry artists organize their stash! 🙂

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