Every Beader Should Know a Soil Scientist and a Bored Child
One look at my office (or my house, for that matter) will tell you that I am not a paragon of neatness. Predictably, my beading
workspace is a jumble of bead containers. Since I have the attention span of a gnat, I tend to flit from one color scheme to another, which only makes the jumble worse. But of greater consequence is that it contributes to that bane of beaders – bead soup.
While I do make some (OK, not very much) effort to corral beads into their containers as I finish with them, I inevitably allow a hodgepodge to accumulate around the edges of my beading tray. Every so often, I pour the buildup into a Ziploc bag. As the bag gets heavier, so does my guilt. Delicas aren't cheap, and bead soup seems like such a careless squandering of resources.
When I hefted my Ziploc bag of bead soup onto the postal scale at work, I was shocked. More than half a pound. That translates to almost 300 grams. Think of the per gram cost of Delicas. Yikes!
Of course, the bead soup wasn't all Delicas but rather a mix of sizes and types. It occurred to me that there had to be some way to run the soup through a sieve and at least separate out the sizes. But where to find such a thing? A kitchen strainer was too fine. A colander was too big. After doing a bit of poking around on the web, I discovered that sieves are A) quite
expensive and B) a tool commonly used by soil scientists.
Aha! My office suite mate is a soil scientist (whose wife is a beader – how fortuitous!). I told Nels my idea and he promptly trotted off to the soils lab and brought me a stack of eight nested sieves. “Just pour the beads in the top,” he said. I
did, and within a few seconds, I had the beads sorted into three batches, ranging from 6/0s and 8/0s down to the Delicas and 14/0s.
Of course, the colors were still mixed, but it was progress nonetheless. At that moment, another of my work colleagues (a biochemist) mentioned that she would have her seven-year-old daughter Alex with her at work for the next few days. “Do you have any little tasks that might occupy her?” Oh, boy, did I ever!
The next day, I set Alex up with a bead mat, scoop and tweezers. Her mom raided her lab for a bunch of “weigh boats,” which
are little square trays just perfect for beads, and Alex happily spent the day sorting. By the end of the day, she'd worked her way through about half of the bag of largest beads and had done an impressive job categorizing. (I do plan to pay her, by the way!)
The next time I'm confronted with a bag of bead soup, I may not have such excellent resources available to me. And we all know an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I'm curious about how other beaders deal with this. I hope there are some creative solutions out there that will work even for the organizationally-challenged.
Article by Frances of bebop beads.