The Beautiful Business of Bugles

This week we thought we’d look closer at those sometimes forgotten seed beads that tend to be hoarded by us crafty folk as they are so eye-catching but avoided because of not knowing what to use them for and their reputation of having a sharp temperament.

That’s right, we’re talking about bugle beads, and yes, they are usually classed as seed beads due to their small measurements - who knew!

Bugle beads are thin lengths of glass cane that have been drawn through a shaping tube and cut at a slower rate than a standard typical seed bead, resulting in the long, narrow bead shape.

These beads can have different hole shapes, such as round, square or hexagonal; and both the holes and the surface of the beads can also cylindrical or twisted - the greater the twist, the sparklier the overall appearance of the bead.

Bugle beads are available in different sizes (with the measurements relating to the length of the bead), typically from 1.5mm to 35mm, with a hole width of 1-2mm.

There are multiple manufacturers of Bugle beads - in Japan they are made by Matsuno, Toho and Miyuki, and in the Czech Republic they are made by Preciosa. The sizes can vary slightly so we would recommend that you use beads from the same manufacturer throughout your own project, or if you are following a designer’s project, the same manufacturer as they have suggested.

Take a look at the Preciosa range and ideas here

And similar to other seed beads, Bugle beads come in a range of colours and finishes such as transparent, silver-lined, rainbow, lustre, matte, opaque, satin and metallic.

Check out the range from Preciosa below:

It is thought that Bugle beads have been around since the 1860’s, and were mainly used for embellishing clothes, handbags and shoes - very fancy! They’ve also been extremely popular as decorative features in the bridal industry as the shape and facets of the beads are perfect for show-stopping sparkle and shine on dresses, tiaras and boleros to name a few!

We found this gorgeous geometric beaded handbag hereThis lovely vintage style 1920's fascinator is here

We found this chic beaded cocktail dress here

And they’ve never really been far from current jewellery design too, with their distinctive shape lending themselves for fringing on earring and pendants, art deco and geometric patterns on bead embroidery and as the main body of netted necklaces and bracelets.

And so onto the business of beading with Bugles. Some of you may shudder at the thought of using these delicate little wonders, having perhaps experienced that moment when your beautifully constructed design suddenly breaks for no apparent reason (but hopefully not)!

As you can imagine with these beads being made of glass, any cut edge has the possibility of being sharp and cutting through your thread. But fear not, as there are a few steps you can do to try and eliminate this happening.

The first thing to do is to take a little time to cull those beads that have damaged, nicked or angled ends, as they really will be sharp and increase the chance of slicing through your thread. But why not save these beads for a project where you can glue down beads instead of threading them? 

Secondly, you may want to use an emery board or fine sandpaper to file away the edges and remove any tiny sharp edges.

Thirdly, think about your tension when using Bugle beads - tight tension will put pressure on your thread as it is, and coupled with an unknown sharp edge, this could end in disaster.

Fourthly, consider your choice of beading thread. Fireline and Wildfire are good choices for use with Bugle beads as they are heavier and not as easy to cut through. If you don’t like those types of beading thread, then make sure you use a thread conditioner and if possible double up your thread to make it less easier to cut through.

Finally, the best suggestion we (any many others) can make is to use a seed bead or other smooth holed bead at both ends of your Bugle. This has a couple of good points - it means the thread will rest on a smooth hole and can also help your beadwork drape and flex more naturally.

So if we've piqued your interest in these versatile and often under-rated beads, check out our stock of Miyuki Bugle beads, in sizes 3mm, 6mm, and Twisted 12mm.

Shop our range here

However, if you need a certain size, shape, finish, colour or would like Preciosa Bugles, please let us know and we will do our best to source them for you.

Contact us to discuss your requirements here

With all this in mind, isn’t it about time you made Bugles your business?