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June 05, 2023

About Bugle Beads in Jewelry Making

A variety of bugle bead sizes and brands
A variety of bugle bead sizes, types and brands

Bugle beads are long, narrow beads that are often used in bead weaving and other handmade jewelry projects. They can be made from a variety of materials, but most often they are made from glass, and sometimes metal. The beads are made from glass tubes or metal tubes that are cut to the desired size. They may have additional shaping to make them more interesting, such as twists or shaping that gives them facets that reflect light.

This article will look at the different types of bugle beads and how you can incorporate them into your jewelry designs, as well as some issues you may encounter using them.

Bugle Bead Shapes

Bugles are long, thin beads, but they still come in a variety of shapes. They can have smooth sides and be fully round, like long cylinder beads. There are also ones that are smooth and squared, with four corner ridges running lengthwise, like long cube beads. The squared variety also come twisted, with four ridges that spiral around each bead. Hex-cut bugles have 6 long facets and there is also a variety of twisted hex-cut bugles.

Bugles are available with either round or square holes. Square holes usually are larger than round holes, which means that you can pass a needle through them more times. Square holes also serve as internal facets, adding extra sparkle to transparent bugle beads.

Bugle Bead Manufacturer's and Sizes

Like quality seed beads, the highest quality bugle beads are manufactured in Japan by Miyuki and Toho, and in the Czech Republic by Preciosa. These bugle beads are higher quality because they are more consistent in size and shape and the edges are not as sharp. Each of the manufacturers make slightly different sizes and types of bugle beads.

Toho produces round bugle beads that are 2mm, 3mm, 4.5mm, 6mm, 9mm, 12mm, 15mm, 20mm, 25mm and 30mm long. Their hex, square hole and twisted bugles are produced in smaller range of sizes.

Miyuki produces bugles in 3mm, 6mm, and 12mm lengths. Miyuki also offers "long bugles," which are about 30mm long.

The most common sizes of Czech (Preciosa) bugle beads are #1 (about 2.3mm long), #3 (about 6.4mm long), #4 (about 10mm) and #5 (about 12.7mm long). They have a lot of other sizes though. Preciosa also manufactures "micro bugles," which are each about 2mm long, as well as extra-long bugles which range from about 20mm to 30mm long.

Dyna-Mites are made by Matsuno in Japan for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads in the United States. They are more affordable than bugles made by Miyuki, Toho, and Preciosa, but many beaders find them to be of somewhat lower quality.

 Using Bugle Beads in Jewelry

Bugle beads can be used in a variety of beadwork stitches and types of jewelry projects. Some of the most popular stitches to use bugle beads with are peyote stitch, brick stitch, ladder stitch, herringbone stitch and netting (which is an open weave variation of peyote).

Brick stitch fringe earrings made with short bugle beads
Brick stitch fringe earrings made with short bugle beads and cube crystals

Bugle beads  work particularly well as a base row of ladder stitch in triangle shaped brick stitch earrings with fringe. Their length stitches up to a larger base row that is easier to hold than one made of seed beads. They can also add sparkle to the design. Likewise, bugle beads add interest to fringe on brick stitch earrings, and can make the stitching quicker since they cover more area.

Bugle beads also stitch up more quickly than seed beads and can be used in place of multiple beads in a 2-drop or 3-drop peyote or brick stitch design.

Precautions using Bugle Beads

The biggest drawback of using bugle beads is their sharp edges. Many bugle beads have sharp edges that may fray or cut beading thread that wraps over them. It can help to use fishing line type of thread such as FireLine, PowerPro or Hercules with bugle beads since it is more durable and harder to cut than nylon threads. You are more likely to find sharp edges on Czech bugle beads versus Japanese bugle beads.

Bugle bead and seed bead chain necklace
Bugle bead and seed bead chain necklace

When you stitch with bugle beads, you can add round seed beads on either end to help prevent the sharp edges of the bugle from coming in contact with the thread.

Another drawback of bugle beads can be their inconsistent sizing. Some bugle beads that are labeled as being one size will actually vary in size within the package. This is most noticeable with longer bugle beads, such as 20mm and 30mm beads. For designs that need uniform bead sizes, be sure to check the actual length of each bead and separate them out before you start stitching them.

Other helpful articles for getting started with beading:

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