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Using a Bead Spinner

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Use a Bead Spinner to String Beads Quickly
Stringing beads with a bead spinner

Stringing beads with a bead spinner and a collapsible eye needle. I'm right-handed and the needle is straight, so I'm turning the spinner clockwise.

© Chris Franchetti Michaels

A bead spinner is a device that helps you string numerous beads quickly. It's useful when you need to string a series of beads that are all the same color and size, or a pre-made mix of beads that you'd like to string randomly. (It does not work when you want to string beads in a pattern.) Beader spinners are popular for making stretch bracelets, bead crochet, kumihimo, and French and Victorian wire flower making.

How to Choose a Bead Spinner

There are many brands, styles, and sizes of bead spinners to choose from. The spinner shown in the photo above is a Bead-N-Spin Junior by Beadalon (compare prices). It's made of solid wood and its bowl has an outside diameter of about 3.5 inches. Whichever brand you choose, I recommend that you select a model that is no smaller than this, and one that is made of wood rather than plastic. (My previous spinner was all plastic, and I found it much more difficult to use.)

Note: Some bead spinners are motorized and battery operated, but I always find a manual model to be sufficient.

How to Choose Stringing Material

The stringing material you use depends (of course) on your project and the size of your beads. The best materials to use with a bead spinner are fine cords such as woven nylon, silk thread, and stretch cord. You can also use beading thread or bead stringing wire, but those can be a little trickier to work with. To make wire flowers, your stringing material will be the metal wire itself.

How to Choose a Needle

Unless you're stringing beads onto metal wire, you must use a needle with your bead spinner. For cord, you can use either a curved big-eye ("J") needle or a collapsible-eye needle (also called a twisted wire needle). If you buy silk cord on a card, it typically has a collapsible-eye needle built in.

If you use beading thread, you can use the same kind of straight beading needle that you use for beadweaving, such as a Tulip needle. If you use very fine bead stringing wire, you can use a curved big-eye needle or a collapsible-eye needle only if the doubled-over wire fits through the holes in your beads. If the holes are too small, you'll need to use a needle specially designed for your wire, such a Speeder Beader (compare prices).

Setting Up Your Bead Spinner

Once you have your spinner, simply place the bowl onto the spindle on the base. Then pour in your beads. It's easier to string the beads if you keep the bowl at least half full. It's fine to pour in more beads than you think you'll end up using.

Note: Optionally, you can sand the inside of your spinner bowl smooth before use, to minimize needle snagging. You can also optionally use beeswax to lubricate the spindle. With my spinner and spinning style, I haven't found these steps necessary.

Stringing With a Curved Needle (Curved Big-Eye)

Slide the end of your stringing material through the eye of the needle and fold over a tail a few inches long. Depending on the requirements of your project, you may also want to secure the other end of your stringing material with a bead stopper (or bead bug) or a stop bead.

Tip: If you're using cord and would like to use clam shell bead tips, you can begin by attaching the first bead tip to the loose end of the of cord.

Hold the needle with the fingers of your dominant hand and submerge the very tip of the curved portion of the needle in the beads. Position the needle at no more than about a 45-degree angle from the surface of the beads; the needle should be relatively close to parallel with the surface of the beads for best results.

Use your non-dominant hand to slowly turn the bead spinner bowl by its handle. If you're right handed, turn the bowl counter-clockwise; if you're left-handed, turn it clock-wise.

Keep the needle stationary with only the very tip submerged, and allow it to skim beads off of the surface. Very gradually speed up the rotation of the bowl until several beads at a time start jumping up onto the needle. Be patient with this and practice with different speeds and needle angles. Before long, you should develop a technique that works best for you. Just be careful not to spin the bowl too fast, which can cause beads to fly out.

When the needle fills up with a line of beads, stop and push them down onto your stringing material. Repeat the above process to string as many beads as you need.

Stringing With a Straight Needle or Metal Wire

Follow the same steps as for a curved needle, but spin the spinner clockwise if you're right handed and counter-clockwise if you're left handed. Experiment to discover which needle angle and spin speed works best for you. You should get to the point where bunches of beads skim up onto the needle in groups.

With straight needles, I usually find it easiest to hold the needle about 3/4 inch up from its sharp end. This limits the number of beads that your needle can hold, but it makes picking up the beads easier. With practice, you may be able to hold your needle closer to the eye.

Finishing Up

If possible, add more beads to your spinner if the level falls much lower than the bowl's half-way point. When you finish stringing, you can pour the unused beads into a large bead scoop to transfer them back into their original container. Alternatively, you can use a small funnel.

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