A little history of Caravan Beads

Caravan Beads began life in March 1991 on the sun porch of Barry and Jean Kahn’s house. Started by Jean Kahn and Carolyn Mitchell, the initial goal of the business was to enable its founders to buy beads and findings at wholesale prices while sharing their enjoyment of making beaded jewelry. The orginal ‘store’ was only open on Saturdays and the inventory lived in a couple of suitcases. Despite a total lack of advertising, Caravan Beads grew and by the end of summer had a new home in a second-floor office space. Following a successful first holiday season, the business relocated again in April of 1992.

In the summer of 1994, Caravan Beads of Chicago became our first licensee and we began to assist in opening new bead stores around the country. That year also marked our entry into mail-order wholesale. The web site went on-line in October, 1995. One month later we received our first shipment from Miyuki Co., Ltd. (developer of the incomparable Delica Beads®).

Early in 1999, it became clear that the mail order business was going to outgrow its quarters again. After a couple of months of searching, we purchased a suitable building. Remodeling the inside took another 2 1/2 months, but the wait was worth it and that warehouse served us well till 2002, when we again found ourselves with more beads than space to house them. After months of searching we found a new building, this one large enough to house both our retail store and the mail order business under one roof. After a lot of remodeling and a move which involved transporting about 50 tons of stuff, we were in our new home.

In October 2006 we again found ourselves needing more room. We thought about moving again but the prospect of transporting 70-80 tons of beads, equipment, shelving, etc. was really too horrible to imagine. Instead, after lengthy planning, lots of meetings with planners, our architect, approvals from the city, etc., and about eight months of construction, an additional 12,000 sq ft of new retail store and expanded warehouse space was wrapped around three sides of the original building. And it’s great! We’ve been gradually expanding into the new warehouse but there’s plenty of room left for more beads, so for now I am confident that we have enough empty space for many years of additional expansion.

Of course I thought that we were all set before, too…

Here are a couple of photos from early 2007 showing the old parking lot and the beginning of its transformation into our new retail store. I salute our faithful customers who kept coming in spite of every possible inconvenience including a period when our former parking lot was either filled with heavy machinery or torn apart. Undeterred, they parked on local side streets and walked to the store to get their beads.

Kiva Micro-Lending

Helping others: Kiva and micro-lending

In June 2006 I read an article in Business Week Magazine about Kiva, a non-profit set up to make it easy for people in the developed world to make micro loans to citizens in developing countries. As a former Peace Corps Volunteer (Senegal, 1970-73), I was impressed with what they were doing. My son, then 13, and I started making monthly loans. Here’s one of the groups we loaned to in Senegal:

Sobering to think that for the price of a digital camera or a couple of iPods, someone in another country can start a business which can support their whole family.

Here’s our lender page on the Kiva site.

Moroccan Tile Bracelet in Super Beadwork Magazine

Heather’s Moroccan Tile Bracelet made using Miyuki Tila Beads appears in the June/July issue of Super Beadwork Magazine.

Tila Bead Bracelet

We’ve had a lot of people ask which colors were used, so here is a list for each:

Green Bracelet

TL-2008 – Matte Met Patina Iris Miyuki Tila Bead
TL-468 – Met Malachite Green Iris Miyuki Tila Bead
DP28-2008 – Matte Met Patina Iris 2.8mm Miyuki Drop Bead
11-468 – 11/0 Met Malachite Green Iris Miyuki Seed Bead
15-1890 – 15/0 Emerald Gold Luster Miyuki Seed Bead

Gold Bracelet

TL-2006 – Matte Met Dk Bronze Miyuki Tila Bead
TL-457 – Met Dk Bronze Miyuki Tila Bead
DP28-4202 – Duracoat Galvanized Gold 2.8mm Miyuki Drop Bead
11-199 – 11/0 24kt Gold Iris Miyuki Seed Bead
15-199 – 15/0 24kt Gold Iris Miyuki Seed Bead

Black Bracelet

TL-401 – Black Miyuki Tila Bead
TL-401F – Matte Black Miyuki Tila Bead
DP28-401 – Black 2.8mm Miyuki Drop Bead
11-401 – 11/0 Black Miyuki Seed Bead
15-401 – 15/0 Black Miyuki Seed Bead

Long Magatama Spiral Stitch Bracelet


Large Magatama Spiral Stitch Bracelet

Large Magatama Spiral Stitch Bracelet

materials –

Japanese beading needles or Big Eye Needles
1 spool CLMC-OL – C-lon Micro Cord Olive
2 tubes LMA-2008 – 4.7mm Matte Met Patina Iris Long Magatama
1 tube 8-217 – 8/0 Forest Green Lined Crystal Miyuki Seed Beads
1 tube 11-2013 – 11/0 Matte Met Dk Olive Iris Miyuki Seed Beads
1 clasp

alternate colors:

CLMC-WN – C-lon Micro Cord Wine
LMA-142fr - 4.7mm Matte Tr Smoky Amethyst AB Long Magatama
8-410fr – 8/0 Matte Op Mauve AB Miyuki Seed Beads
11-360 – 11/0 Lined Lt Amethyst AB Miyuki Seed Beads

Large Magatama Spiral Stitch Bracelet Detail

Step 1 – Add four 8/0 seed beads to your thread. They will become the inner core of your spiral stitch. Then add a group of three – one 11/0, one long magatama, one 11/0.

Step 2 – Sew back up through the four 8/0s to create the first loop of your spiral. Each time you add a new loop, you will want to rotate the work in the same direction, so that each new loop is added to the left of the previous loop.

Step 3 – Add one 8/0 seed bead, and a group of three – one 11/0, one long magatama, one 11/0. This is the same grouping that you will repeat from now on. Sew back up through the top three 8/0s in your core and then up through the new 8/0 that you just added. This leaves only the group of three loop on the exterior of your spiral.

Step 4 – Repeat step three until you have reached your desired length. Remember that you will need additional length because the design is somewhat wide in circumference.


Large Magatama Spiral Stitch Bracelet in Purple

Large Magatama Spiral Stitch Bracelet in Purple

Be whimsical and creative with your colors and clasp choices. Send us a picture of your version of this bracelet and we’ll post it on the blog for everyone to admire!

Contests at Caravan Beads

Our first contest was titled The First International Miyuki Delica Challenge. The contest theme was the sea. At that time we’d been importing and distributing Delicas for about four years. After the judging, we spent several months creating and publishing a book, The Sea, to share the best contest entries. It’s still in print and available on our shopping cart.

In 2000 we offered another Delica challenge competition with a theme of myths and folktales. The best of these entries were published in a second book titled Myths and Folktales. Because of the large number of outstanding entries, we decided to publish the artist statements online.

More recently we’ve offered some smaller contests. (Publishing books, by the way, while really interesting, is also a tremendous amount of work. I had no idea.) We recently judged the third of these contests; you can see the winners below.

In our third contest, we invited entrants to create a beaded creature. It could be real (a snake, water buffalo, jellyfish, etc.), imaginary (griffin, dragon, etc.) or extinct (T-Rex, triceratops, etc.). We chose two winning entries which are shown below:

1st Place: Tropical Delight, a beaded macaw by Paula K. Singer

Beaded Macaw by Paula K. Singer

Tropical Delight is made of Miyuki Delica Beads plus an 11/0 and a couple of 15/0s. (Paula lives in Rhode Island, whereas Macaws come in many varieties but prefer warmer climes. Who can blame them? I’m guessing hers is the blue-and-yellow variety.)

Beaded Macaw detail by Paula K. Singer

Honorable Mention: Coral Snake by Juanita Finger

Beaded Coral Snake by Juanita Finger

This venomous serpent is made of Miyuki Delica Beads. (Juanita lives in Texas where coral snakes live and slither happily.)

Artist’s notes: This lifesize snake is 24 inches long and 3/4 inch diameter. The snake is done in tubular peyote stitch over a form. It is flexible and can be coiled like a real snake. The tail is without a form inside so it too acts like a real tail. I have received comments that he is scary and almost too lifelike.

I used the following beads: 5,128 beads of Matte OP Red Luster delicas(DB 0362), 7,366 beads of gunmetal delicas(DB 0001), 2,238 beads of Lined Pale Yellow delicas(DB0053), and 2 gold rice beads for the eyes.

Beaded Coral Snake Detail by Juanita Finger

Berry Beads

Miyuki’s new bead shape – called the Berry Bead – is like two drops combined together, or a peanut with a hole across the center. The first batch will measure 2.5 x 4.5mm and will be followed by a larger 3.5 x 5.5mm size.

There will be about 6,500 beads in a 1/4 kilo bag. The first group of colors will be mostly pastels, clears and galvanized gold and silver. Expect to see these beads later this summer!

Juanita Finger

My current fascination with beading began quite accidentally in 1991 after breaking a pair of beaded earrings. My humble initial efforts at jewelry repair have evolved. After attending a bead show that featured almost no jewelry, I recognized a void and became interested in creating Indian style jewelry, beaded sculptures, and tapestries. This has led me to my love of beading as an art form.

My initial interest was in the study of beaded jewelry. As my knowledge improved, I began to translate different techniques of beads and knots into three dimensional sculptures and tapestries. Inspiration comes from the world around me. Creatures of nature, landscapes, painted ceiling of churches are all ideas waiting for the translation into a beaded piece. My mother taught me that colors have relationships and to inspire emotion with color. For me, color is an important and fun aspect of my creations.

Inspiration also comes with the involvement with other artists of all Medias. Since my recent retirement, I have led a weekly group of artists getting together to share encouragement, thoughts and knowledge of different medias. The involvement with other artists is an important element, encouraging each other to a higher level. I welcome the opportunity to show my beadwork as an Art form. It can be fun, intricate and interesting. And I hope, it will ignite others to express their creativity.

You can see more of Juanita’s work on her site www.beadedfinger.com and her flikr site www.flickr.com/photos/tokay-beaded-art.

Bead Embroidery Belt

My next bead embroidery project was a great first effort in combining my beadwork with Jeff’s leatherwork. I really like the organic feeling that the bead embroidery produces, and I’m a big fan of The Art of Bead Embroidery for its simple how-to instructions and beautiful pictures. I used a Japanese crest pattern as the basis for the design, and then embroidered it using lots of old African brass beads with pearls, shells and Japanese seed beads.

Keep an eye out for more combination bead and leather projects on our site Chrononaut Mercantile.

Bead Crazy

Bead Crazy is the only full-service bead store in northern Vermont. Customer service is their priority, and their motto is “Instruction is Always Available”. They have tables for customers to use when they are working on projects and learning new techniques. In the store there are strands of Semi-Precious stones, Czech glass, freshwater pearls, glass pearls and Swarovski crystals, as well as tons of tubes of Miyuki seed beads, and even a few Toho seed beads.

There are also plenty of individual boxes of Beads: Czech glass, freshwater and Swarovski crystal pearls, shells, Chinese Cloisonné, ceramic, crystal, wood, seeds, Pandora-like, semi-precious stones, lampwork and art glass. Their findings selection includes silver and gold plate, copper, brass, gunmetal, Sterling Silver, Hill Tribe Silver, Bali Silver, Gold filled, gold vermeil, and 14K gold.

They also carry many kinds of stringing materials – C-Flex and Softflex beading wire; orthodontist elastic ; Power Pro, Fireline, C-Lon and Silamide threads; Gauged Sterling, gold-filled and plated wire; Griffin Silk; Guterman Thread for Bead Crochet. You can also purchase from their full line of Beading tools; Soldering and Metal Stamping tools and supplies, including sheet metal.

Beading and Metalwork Classes, Children’s Parties, Bridal Parties and Girls Night Out Parties – full details available on the website – www.beadcrazyvt.com.

The helpful staff are also available for stringing, knotting and beading repairs, and on the first Monday of every month (7:00-9:00pm) is Bead Therapy –“A Quilting Bee for Beaders.”

Bead Crazy
21 Tafts Corners Shopping Center
Williston, VT 05495

Take Exit 12 of I89, at the intersection of US Routes 2 and 2A.