By Christina VanGinkel
If you use one type of bead specifically, such as Delicas, you can purchase pre made bead charts to help you identify the colors and sizes you want from just about any bead source that you purchase from. These can be great inspiration and I highly recommend them for both the beginner and experienced beader. However, I also recommend making your own inventory chart. By creating your own, you will have a running inventory of all the beads in your collection. This can be a huge bonus when designing, shopping, or choosing beads for a project in the works.
Materials required are simple and will include:
Thin cardboard or heavy cardstock in a neutral color, cut down to a size that will comfortably fit into your binder (cardboard created for paper crafting projects works well because while it is sturdy, it is also thin and pliable, making it easy to use the three-hole punch with it, and to string the beads onto it)
Needle and sturdy beading thread
Graphics program with access to printer, preferably photo quality
Photo safe marker
And of course, beads!
Note: Cardboard should be altered with the three-hole punch before having beads applied so that you will not have issues with hole placement. Contact sheets created with the graphics program and printer can be punched as you create them.
A bead inventory chart is exactly what it sounds like. Each time you purchase beads, whether seed beads or larger, slip off one or a few, depending on the size, and string them onto a board. I use a thin craft cardboard, which is sturdy enough to keep the beads orderly, yet thin enough that slipping a needle and thread through it to keep the beads in place is not difficult to do. One girl I know had the habit of gluing her beads onto a sheet of cardboard for a similar chart, but I would dissuade you from doing this. While you might likely never need to use the beads that you put into your chart, if they are strung, they at least remain useable for that rare instance when you might. Glue can also alter the color or finish of some beads after time.
Beads should be strung with room on the board to make note of the correct color, size, and type, to help make reordering them a breeze. Beads should be numbered or coded, especially if you also keep a log with it, so cross-referencing the two will be easy. With the chart itself, keep a log (a simple notebook works well) chronicling information such as where you purchased the beads from, pricing, and projects that you used the beads in. This can be a great tool to reference for future projects.
If you have larger beads, specialty beads, or beads that you bought individually, instead of stringing the actual beads onto the chart, which in some circumstances is just not going to be possible, snap a photograph of the bead or beads. Using a graphics program on your computer, crop and convert the pictures to create a contact sheet to store with your bead chart pages that hold actual beads. A digital camera works well for this, and even an inexpensive, basic camera will work. A contact sheet, (which can be created with ease in the free program Picasa 2 and numerous other graphics programs) will allow room to make notes about the beads right on the picture itself. More than one bead picture can be included in each contact sheet, just make sure that you have enough room for any note making you want to include. A marker that is safe for writing on photos is a necessary tool if you do print these on photo paper.
As you create each page of your bead chart, place it in your binder for safekeeping and easy access. By placing each page within a sheet protector, you will also avoid losing any beads and keeping any contact sheets that you create, smudge, and dirt free. You can take a binder with you shopping to help match or choose beads, use it at home or in the studio for all sorts of planning, and never again will you wonder just what you have in inventory when it comes to your beads!