Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Bead until you bleed, but do it the right way

It's been a while since I wanted to write an article about beading "safety". Because we need to take care of our bodies when beading, and not only our bodies. Most of you already know this, but still, sometimes one short video can make a huge difference, like Dr. Mandell's. If you are happy with your daily exercises, so may still like to read the part about needles and my mini-sponges at the end of this article.

Frequent issues

Just like knitters, we sit a lot, and our arms, hands, fingers, neck, back and eyes
are much solicited.

A pinched nerve in the neck can provoke numb fingers. Frequent, short repetitive movements often result in tendonitis or RSI, if not frozen shoulder(s). The carpal tunnel may suffer from extensive use of pliers and other tools. These affections can take many months to heal and sometimes even surgery is inevitable.

Prevention is definitely better!

Gentle exercises for the hands and fingers

On the Internet you can find a variety of tips and lists of things that are helpful. Personally, except for the first exercise, I really like this list of exercises for knitters.

Gentle exercises for the neck and shoulders

For the arms, neck and shoulders, I find this video by Paula Lay Yoga to be invaluable.

In this video, the quite awesome Dr. Mandell shows an amazing tip for a 30 second pain relief massage in the neck.

and here a few stretches that you can do anywhere, just sitting on a chair:

Don't sit many hours in a row

Perhaps a beeper ringing every 45 min. or 1 hour to remind you of standing up from your beading seat can help you.

You need to move your body for other reasons than to avoid pain and stiffness. Without entering into details, know that soliciting the muscles and the skeleton through physical activity stimulates the osteoblasts, hence bone remodeling, (which is a life-long process: your bones have to regenerate all the time). Also, your skin needs a bit of sun to fix vitamin D, an other element necessary to fix calcium. So make walks in the sun as often as you can. If you can't go out in the sun, consider asking your doctor for Calcium and vit. D supplementation.

Remember that regular movement is more important than occasional spectacular efforts which might harm. It doesn't need to be athletic. Gardening is a physical activity, as is walking to the nearby shop and dancing. I often do a bit of tap dancing in my corridor (no I will not show this in a video, lol).

Note that as with all tips on the internet, these recommendations do not replace the advice of medical professionals. Some exercises might not be the right ones for you. For example, in the video below you will see how to knot two yoga belts for neck and shoulder relief. It is some sort of posture brace. I found it helpful to better control my posture, to better keep my back straight. I used 2 scarfs. But it might not be good for you. Know your body, know your needs, and seek medical advice if you have pain or doubts.

Working place

If you bead a lot, make sure to have a comfy chair with arm rests at the right height for you. Braces can help if you bead in your lap or don't have adjustable arm rests. If you sit at a table make sure that your beading mat is at a comfortable height for your eyes and arms - some people like to raise their tray a bit. Sit straight. Use the right tools. Invest in good pliers if you use them often. Find grip tape for your fingers to have a better hold on your needle if necessary - especially when working with leather. It may also protect your digits from a sting of the back of the needle.

Spare your beautiful eyes. Have good (day-) light. Have your eyes checked by an optician - often it is a free service. Have good glasses and a magnifier for the very small details.

If you use metallic beads (gold and silver plated, etc.) I recommend to bead in a place near a window for good natural light, but out of the sun, and no extra (lamp or spot) light, because these beads will shine a gazillion little spots of light straight back in your eyes, which is very tiring but also potentially dangerous. Pauses are as important for the eyes as for the body. If you bead outside, don't forget that the sun might not be your best ally.


Needles are DANGEROUS. Be careful with them. Always. Be it for your own, your kid's or your pet's safety (believe me that if you don't find your needle back, your dog will!). If a needle disappears, everything has to stop, until it has been found, no matter how long it might take. I use only one needle per beading mat, so no more beading can be done if I don't find it back. I know people who still have a needle in a tight, impossible to remove, others who were lucky to not become disabled by a needle found back by their foot, which is atrociously painful. A telescopic magnet is a great tool. It has helped me find back needles, especially on my balcony.

Avoid infections

Now, if you sting your finger(s) with a beading needle, which is often very thin, it doesn't necessarily bleed, or only very little. This is not a good thing. To avoid a swollen finger or infection, encourage bleeding at the site of puncture. Do this immediately. Push the blood in the direction of the sting to "wash" it from the inside out, possibly under running cool water for several minutes. This way potential infectants are expelled from the wound and washed away, minimizing their entry into the bloodstream.

Gently cleanse the site with plenty of soap after you have bled it. This will help kill bacteria, removing sources of infection and reducing the chance of infection. Alcohol, which is what I use, is also a good option.
Do not suck the wound. Our mouth is full of bacteria of all sorts. 
Dry and cover the site with a plaster that will let your skin breathe. Depending on how badly you stung your finger and how fast you heal, the plaster doesn't need to be kept on for very long, but it will remind you of putting on gloves to wash the dishes so that it remains dry and heals faster.

Make your own mini-sponge!

A good knife cuts foam well
When you bead, of course you have clean hands - no sticky fingers on our beads or cabochons, sacrilège But when it comes to wet the tip of the thread to put a needle onto it more easily, how many have done this with their lip balm or saliva? I've learned the latter when I learned sewing! It was hard to unlearn, but out of respect for customers who certainly don't want to share my DNA and germs through the jewellery that I make, I used a very old little boxed sponge to wet my thread end. It is normally an old office supply thing meant for wetting fingers or stamps. Since stamps are nearly all self-adhesive and bank notes are counted by machines nowadays, I couldn't find new ones and it needed replacement. Also, because I wanted to show this solution to my workshop students, I decided to make my own.

Any container or foam should work for this. I had small hard plastic bead boxes from Preciosa, which appear to be really practical to take with me. I cut a sponge into little squares of the size of the little boxes and all that was left to do is add a bit of water. It is lightweight and doesn't take much space on a beading mat. Of course you need to let the sponge dry from time to time (but the lid is handy for transportation of a wet sponge).

I hope that you find this article helpful. Let me know your thoughts! 

And... should you need a new pair of earrings (ear huggers or dangles), maybe you will like to try my latest design, the Fandango Earrings.  

You will turn heads (I did!), but now at least you know Dr. Mandell's amazing tip for a 30 seconds pain relief massage! 😉



https://caththomasdesigns.indiemade.com/product/fandango-earrings-ear-huggers https://caththomasdesigns.indiemade.com/product/fandango-earrings-ear-huggers 

Happy, Safe Beading! 


  1. I bead for long periods, usually every day. One thing I was taught and do every day: we are looking at tiny beads closely. We need to exercise our eyes to help relieve tiredness.
    Put the needle and thread down, look into the distance....look into the middle distance...look close. Repeat this several times. With your head steady, let your eyes look up, up, up, then down, down, down, then side to side several times. finish with letting your eyes roll from top, right side, bottom, left side a few times. Stretch your arms overhead and be ready to bead some more!

    1. Thank you for adding this complement of information - I love this. I should have added it to the post. Thank you!!


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