Seed Bead Sizes

Ever wonder about the size numbers on the beads you buy?  What is size 11/0 or 11s, 13/0 or 13s, or tiny 15s? Who created this byzantine code?

seed beads in tubes and hanks

Some people tell me it’s the number of beads per inch, but this does not always hold true. Others suggest that bead sizing has to do with the original glass rods used to make the beads. This holds more promise but still is not entirely clear. Compound this with the fact that most manufacturers now use a size system unique to their own company. It can be downright scary to try to figure out how many beads you will need for a specific project.

Let’s look at the numbers. The higher the number, the smaller the bead. The most common seed bead is size 11 or 11/0 or 11 aught. Size 11 Czech beads run about 15 to 17 beads per inch. The number is an approximation, because Czech seed beads are sometimes uneven and can vary in width. The older Italian seed beads are slightly smaller and run 16 to 19 beads per inch, but I am not sure if they are still being made in Italy. The Czech and Italian beads are generally sold in hanks of about twelve strands that are usually sixteen inches long.

The Japanese also make seed beads. Their approach is a little different. The beads use the same size designations, but the actual measurements are slightly different. The beads are more consistent in size and are measured in millimeters. The big three Japanese bead manufacturers are Matsuno, Miyuki and Toho, and each has its own standard size under the “Size 11” designation. A Matsuno Size 11 beads is 2.1 millimeters; a Miyuki Size 11 is 2.0 millimeters; and a Toho size 11 is 2.2 millimeters. This is good to know when you are working on a project that requires precision beading, where the beads have to fit just so.

To figure out sizing for your next seed bead project, refer to our bead conversion tables in our bead library on the Harlequin website.

by Beverly

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