Daily Wire Tip Nov. 30: Storing Jewelry Supplies

By on November 29, 2010
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip for
November 30, 2010


What suggestions do you have for storing supplies? I have small bin compartments that I keep my beads in, but it is very hard to see what is in each bin unless I open them. Thanks for your help.

-Lori in Hiawatha, Iowa


Hi Lori, we had a great discussion about How to Organize Supplies a while ago, accented by lots of readers suggestions. Sherrie Lingerfelt also did a video tip on Storing Small Supplies for Travel, and in the article Setting Up Your Jewelry Making Work Space, Mary Bailey talks about more options and shares some photos.

Myself, I tried labeling the drawers in my hardware cabinets, but they came off, so I have my beads arranged in a rainbow spectrum order, keeping crystals separate from stone beads, etc. My findings and metal beads are separated by metal and then by size, smaller in the top drawers, largest in the bottom. After a while, you will remember where to reach for those items most used.

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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  1. avatar


    November 30, 2010 at 9:41 am

    the hardware store has great nail and small tool bins with clear drawers for about 12$ some are free standing with tons of small slide out drawers, others can be mounted on walls or set on shelves. i have a few and label them with small round stickers. this way i can slide out what i will be using, and when done, just slide them back in great for beads and findings.you can see everything at a glance and know when you are running low. I also keep a small plastic container on workstation for the bits i pick up, to be sorted later into their bins.

  2. avatar

    Pam Glendinning

    November 30, 2010 at 9:53 am

    You could store your wire in large plastic bags and place these in labeled file folders (write on the bags with a black sharpie or label them). Use a large plastic file box with a lid on top (the kind you get at an office supply store). This has helped me keep the wire clean and I can find it very fast.

  3. avatar

    Kathy Bloom

    November 30, 2010 at 10:35 am

    I found small parts organizers at Harbor Freight. I must have about 20 of them now. They are little stackable boxes with dividers inside that you can change the size of to suit whatever you are putting in them. I have mine seperated by bugle beads, 8/0,11/0, silver, gold etc. What I like about them is that they are portable so when I am working on a piece, I just select the beads I want and carry the box to whereever I am working. Also, I put the information for the particular bead in the bottom of the space the bead is in and put the beads on top of them so that when they are running low I know what to reorder.

  4. avatar


    November 30, 2010 at 10:58 am

    I have a paper sorter from an office supply store with 16 compartments in which I store my plastic compartmentalized boxes (cheapest at Walmart of at Michael’s with a coupon). Each box is separate by color groups of gemstones, glass, crystals, ss, gf, bronze/copper, pearls, etc. Each box has a label on the side facing out and on top. I use a hardware store nail & screw drawer unit for my caboshons, separated alphabetically. Ditto on file drawer with wire in plastic bags, labeled by guage and sometimes type HH or DS.

  5. avatar

    Suzanne Grabber

    November 30, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I use some of the hardware bins with the drawers and tape one of whatever is in the drawer, say a jump ring, or coral bead to the inside of the drawer so I know what is in the drawer. Someone also gave me one of those spice racks with clear jars that are on a turntable and I store a lot of beads in those too. I usually keep those beads in little bags so I can keep more than one kind per jar. It seems I have a few of many different beads rather than a lot of one kind of bead…..leftovers???

  6. avatar

    Paula Mion

    November 30, 2010 at 11:07 am

    I have the plastic boxes I picked up at my local mega store with lids that are actually clipped on. These all stack together and are varying sizes. I sort by color, so I then write the color on two sides of the box so I don’t have to watch which direction they go back. All my beads in the box are say blue, then when I want to work with that color it’s easy to find. I love being able to pull all the beads out of a color to mix and then when I want a coordinating color, easy to find too. Even my metal ones are stored that way too. I separate all the beads inside the box with zip lock bags so that way all of a particular one stays together. I then store all these boxes on a metal shelf. There are some colors where I have more than one box for it too. I do all kinds of art work, and for my beads this seems to work best for me. In my art studio, I have different stations for the different work as well.

  7. avatar


    November 30, 2010 at 11:21 am

    I found an answer that I am in love with that works very well for storage of findings and small components. It is called an “EZ” view bead storage system. The ones I have contain 24 screw lid plastic round containers that hold findings, smaller beads, and components and are completely see through. I have more than a dozen of these with my small components in them. I get mine at Wal-Mart and they are about 6 dollars per tray (24 containers per tray). This is not a “wire” storage solution. My wire I keep in plastic bags that are in an open top box so I can see down into it for which plastic bag I want for the project. The wire is organized “per bag” into the type of project I use it for. I finally found the EZ view containers online. There is one that has 30 jars in it and is about the same price as the ones I have. I found it by going to BING and doing a search for “Bead Storage Containers” one of the choices will be “shop for bead storage containers” and the EZ view is pictured in “both” the size I have and the larger size. Click on the picture and you will be taken to the site where you can get these. Since I found these I use them almost exclusively for smaller items. You could say I love them!!

  8. avatar


    November 30, 2010 at 11:36 am

    I have been making jewelry for about 17 years. I had about 9 of the rolling storage carts filled to capacity with beads. I also had the containers with all the little drawers; beads in bags, boxes and other “storage” places. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually “know” what beads I had and so when I go to bead shows I found myself buying beads that I already had. To solve this problem, I had my brother put up peg boards. I have them going down the steps, on my work room walls and in my bedroom (I got a lot of beads!!). The peg boards allow me to see exactly what beads I have and I don’t find myself buying the same beads over and over again, lol! I keep my sterling silver wire and my sterling and fine silver beads and findings in separate containers with antitarnish strips in them. I still use my rolling carts to hold polymer clay, PMC tools, resin tools, molds, etc. paint and other tools and supplies. Getting organized is the best way to be productive. Although I must say, I can still make a huge mess!!!

  9. avatar


    November 30, 2010 at 11:38 am

    My favorite storage solution is a fishing tackle case. It is a large padded nylon case with 5 large plastic boxes with adjustable compartments. The plastic boxes stand on end and I have labeled them according to category on the side of the box. There are also tons of side pockets that I store sales ticket books, a ring mandrell, ring sizer, mm gauge, earring backs, etc. This bag stays beside my desk while I am working and goes with me to my shows. While is does not contain all my inventory of beads & findings it does have the most critical items that I might need in case someone wants a minor adjustment to a finished product. It also allows me to show possibilities for a custom order. I got this idea from my fisherman husband and it works great!

  10. avatar

    Lori Crawford

    November 30, 2010 at 11:46 am

    I store mine in the hardware cabinets too! They work great for beads and findings. I find mine pretty cheap at flea markets and yard sales. You can stack them on top of each other pretty easy and you can see through drawers too. Also I keep my wire in big zip-lock bags with labels on them. That also work great. You can put leftover pieces in the bags to for wraps.

  11. avatar


    November 30, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    After trying several options this what I have found to work best for me. For my wire I use an according style photo organizer for 4 x 6 pictures, it has tabs to write your wire sizes on and a handle great for travel. For my beads I buy jewelry tray inserts, you can order them with different size compartments for your different size beads, for example the trays are 8 1/2 x 11 with 32, 24, 18, 16, 12 compartments about. I also like to see everything at a glance, when at home I put the trays in a roll around cabinet, the draws are large but not deep, 4 of these trays fits in each drawer. When I want to take them with I just put the inserts into the jewelry trays that fit a canvas tote that is made for them about $18.00.

  12. avatar

    Casey Willson

    November 30, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Awesome Idea Pam. Gonna do that today!!
    Always looking for ideas here. I actually have so many supplies (had a small store and when I closed it just could NOT let go of the supplies!) that I often spend longer looking for things than creating.
    I think a combination of all these ideas will work as soon as I get my new room built on so there is space for adequate containers!
    For larger beads I use the multi compartment bigger boxes with labels on the ends and stack them on shelves. Not optimum but better than anything else I’ve tried. And my friend and I bought a case of the small 7 compartment clear boxes and use old cassette carousels to store them.

  13. avatar


    November 30, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    As Dody has stated, alot of the hardware or home improvement stores carry a large selection of different cabinets with pull out drawers. Over the years, I have amassed a large hoard of beads and crystals and stones in all colors of the rainbow. Dale can attest to that fact…LOL. So I have gone thru a variety of options for storage. I have the cabinets that I keep stocked with findings in sterling, gold-filled and copper items on one of my work tables. I keep my crystals in smaller storage cases, assorted by color then size so I can grab a case as needed in whatever color is my main feature. My gemstone beads are also sorted mostly by color in clear shoe boxes in a bookcase. Sometimes I break this down further by shape because I get in a mind set that this week I am into coin shapes or ovals, etc.
    You have to decide what works for you the most effectively in your work area and go from there. Hmm, one thought though, unpack those bags of stuff you bought as soon as you can or they will get lost somewhere in your work area and surprise you a year later when you stumble on them…ROFL

  14. avatar


    November 30, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Home Depot sells some small parts organizers that are 4 plastic boxes that slide neatly in and out of a container with a folding handle. My whole organizing system is based on stacks of these in inexpensive bookshelves. Beads are organized by color. Wire is harder but I have a metal shelving unit with plastic pullout bins for that.

  15. avatar


    November 30, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    I put my beads, crystals and findings in small plastic zip lock bags and push pin them to a cork board. This way I can see at a glance what I have and organize according to type, color, etc. Tools I keep in a heavy cup, one handle in so they are easy to see and reach.

  16. avatar


    November 30, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Having spent the long holiday weekend reorganizing my stones, cabs, etc., this is what I finally did.

    For my cabochons and large beads (I bought these to wrap as cabs) I decided to arrange them by color. I have LOTS of plastic boxes with about 12 or more compartments that I bought at the local craft store. I bought a label maker from Wal-Mart that works great, is easy to read, and keeps the boxes neater as they are on a bookshelf in full view. I labeled these boxes by color and in several cases Light, Medium and Dark color (when I had too many of one color for just one box). If I had several pieces for a particular future project I put them together in one of these labeled boxes. If there was room left in the big boxes, I put in small beads but if I had lots of small beads of a particular color but different shapes, I put them in a small clear box with lots of compartments (these also came from the craft store) and again labeled them by color.

    My gem stones I put in the small boxes labeled by stone type, as I did my crystals, etc.. Some things went into specially labeled boxes such as earring pairs, crystal specimens, carved bone, etc. regardless of color or material. Silver beads are in these same small boxes and labeled by type ie. spacers, caps, etc..I have all of my plain silver beads in one box with the sizes marked in each slot. All of my Bali, etc. beads are in these same boxes with generic labeling, but because the boxes are clear I can see quickly what is inside.

    For my wire I have 2 boxes for files. One is for silver and one for gold filled. I have hanging file folders labeled by gauge with all square wire labels on the left, half round in the middle and round on the right. They start with the smallest gauge in the front and get larger towards the back. This is for all HALF HARD wire. At the back I have the same setup but for all the gauges of SOFT wire. I have highlighted the labels for the soft wire (both on the packages and the file tabs as a quick reference). This is really helpful when it is time to reorder as you simply have to flip through the files to view quanties. There is plenty of room for patterned wire and sheet goods as well.

    Hope this isn’t too confusing! Good Luck

    • avatar


      November 30, 2010 at 4:57 pm

      Congrats Mint!! What a job – we all need to go to Mary’s now . . . .

  17. avatar


    November 30, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    I am still working on how to store my supplies in the house. I recently obtained a dedicated space (yeah!), our former dining room. It is open to the rest of the house, and I have a 3 year old and a 9 month old. Right now, money is limited, so I only have open shelving. Suggestions would definitely be appreciated as to how I can keep little fingers out of stuff!

    I have found a wonderful solution for carrying my beads, wire, etc. around. Now granted, I cannot carry my whole collection around with me, but it works great for the current phase of whatever bead-related frenzy I’m on. A Mary Kay bag! It is meant to allow the consultant to carry around the sample sizes of all the products needed to do consultations, It has 2 large compartments on the inside. One is divided into 2 spaces with a velcro’d divider (i.e. it can be one big spot). The other interior pocket has 8 clear, zippered, removable (by velcro) pockets. The top flap has 3 see-through mesh velcro pockets where I keep my tape measure, scissors, etc. And there’s a slim zippered pocket on the back of the bag that you can put your current favorite magazine in (a book might be a stretch, but you could put that inside). It has a padded shoulder strap for carrying, and a hand-carry handle if you don’t put lots of heavy things in it like I do.

    If you’re looking for them at a yard sale or such, the 2 colors I’ve found them in have been black and dark gray. They look like a soft briefcase, and the MK logo is embossed on the front flap. Oh, and I almost forgot, the pocket with the individual zippered bags can be zipped completely open down both sides so it will lay open and you can see what’s in each bag at a glance. It’s also made of vinyl, so if it ever gets dirty, just wipe it down.

    Right now, I have my entire collection of glass and seed beads in there, materials for beadweaving, a bead mat (not folded or rolled), a plastic pencil case with my essential (i.e. all I could possibly fit) pliers, a spool of wire, a square-headed hammer, and a car dolly. Which is kind of like an anvil, with one flat surface and one curved, but it fits in your hand. Oh, and a couple of beading magazines.

  18. avatar


    November 30, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    If you have a hobby/craft store near you, they have great 16-sectioned clear boxes that are on sale every month. These are great because you can stack them & see what you have in them through the sides. I use little labels with info for each section:where I bought the beads, what I paid, the cost each bead, when I bought it, the size, etc. This helps me price the jewelry & if I run out, where/if I can restock it. I then add a label on each box so I can see at a glance what’s in them & or the color (pearls, stones, clasps, spacers, glass, purple, red, etc.) I have about 60 of these & they are great for organizing everything!

  19. avatar

    Pat Viera

    December 2, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    I have a LOT of beads. I order these clam-shell containers and have a labeller so I can label material and cost per bead, which is very helpful if you are amking jewelry to sell. I went to Hobby Lobby and purchased a scrapbook rolling organizer that has 6 large slide in containers and as mention before I organize my gemstone by colors and other crystal, copper etc. I put in one drawer. These sell for $60. but if you go on their website you can pull up and print a 20% off coupon. My sterling beads I keep in anti-tarnish bead trays and sort of organize them by size and findings. LOL I have ADD and know that I have to be organized or I will spend all my time looking for things.

  20. avatar


    December 2, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    I purchased 3-60 drawer parts cabinets. These are metal frames with semi clear drawers and have added more as I needed them. I have all my beads sorted by color and dividers in the drawers (up to 3 dependent on the number of the beads). I then took Clear full-sheet labels and printed the drawer colors
    as well as the individual types of beads & cut them out and stuck the names on the dividers and the colors on the front of the drawers. I separated beads, swarovski crystals & findings in the same way

  21. avatar


    December 3, 2010 at 12:56 am

    I am going to try really hard to keep this post short(ish), but I tend to over type, so I apologize if I go on. I’m in the middle of a total redo of my bead supplies, partly out of necessity and partly because I am just starting to work with gemstone beads, where before I was only using crystal and glass. I also recently stumbled onto the EZ view system that Karen mentions with the 24 jars in one case (this is the 3rd or 4th system I’ve went through) and found that I am loving them. I had the usual box of forgottens-beads I had bought and left in packages because I couldn’t easily put them into my previous system and because I didn’t have an easy way to get the crucial info per bead without getting on the computer. The nice thing about the jars is you can usually fit a package of small beads in one, sometimes 2 jars, and since they are completely individual, you can empty all your packages, put em in a tray “for now” and then just move the jar to different trays as you get around to organizing. The nicer thing about this system is that thanks to my Cricut, I can cut a ton of circles from scrap paper that fit perfectly in the bottom of the jars and write down the needed info right away, in front of the tv or wherever seems convenient. My trays are organized by color (1 for each color, except for my blues, purples, and greens since I have so many). Another nice thing is that I know when I have too many of one color, so it challenges me to try and find beads to fill up those other trays that are half empty, in turn challenging me to mix up my designs more by bringing in more variety to my “safe” and fave color schemes.
    I was also able to breath new life into my previous system, which was the Craftmate containers that have 14 compartments, 7 to each side, that have individual closing lids. The problems with these were 1. they’re not crystal clear, so it’s a little harder to see exactly what you have, 2. they’re bulky and take up way more room, and 3. when I had new beads to add, I had to keep shifting the beads to new compartments, because I tend to be a little OCD about organizing by color. They are, however, perfect for my gemstone beads. I figure I don’t need to see all of them as easily, since I know if I decide I want hematite, I don’t need to see a bunch of colors at once, just the few different shapes and sizes I have. If I know I want to make something with purple, I know to grab the amethyst container, etc. I’m also making squares to put in the bottom of each section for pricing and manu. info. For my gemstone chips, I find they are usually easier to work with pre-hung for measurement purposes, so they stay on the fish line or string I buy them on, and are wound into spice jars of an old spice rack that I found at a garage sale. They look pretty hanging in the rack from my pegboard.
    I plan on putting my chain on cute cardstock “bobbins” that I’ll be cutting with my cricut, and those will be hung on a book binder ring so they’re all together. I also plan to put my wire in same sized zip top bags, hole punch those, and put them on a book binder ring, probably by gauge.
    Sorry for the super long post, hope the info inspires someone though :)

    • avatar


      December 3, 2010 at 4:33 pm

      Wow Christine, thanks for taking the time to share your new bead sorting system – sounds great!

  22. avatar

    Mary Phillips

    December 5, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Tic Tac boxes rock for beads. I bought a boatload for my seed beads and also have my crystals in them (Joanne Fabrics sells a clear box w tic tac boxes inside that is wonderful for crystals). I use my TWO hardware cabinets for more metals, propping labels made out of trimmed down card stock (old business cards) held in place by the contents themselves. But I have the majority of my beads in clear acrylic trays (made for silverware etc) in drawers of my bead desk. We need regular organizing blogging going on – thanks Dale!

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