Q: I've just recently started beading, and the biggest problem I am having is searching through my beads to find ones that are uniform in size. Even the ones that come in the same packages seem to vary in size just enough to make things look uneven. Does anyone have a technique they use, or any advice to help make this an easier task?

A: Although it may sound a little trite, you do get what you pay for. If you've been buying beads in little cellophane bags at the local craft/fabric store as opposed to spending a little more money for high quality Japanese seed and 'Delica' beads from a catalog or local bead store, that could be your problem. In my experience, the cheaper beads, usually made in China or Asia, aren't as consistent as the stuff coming out of the larger companies ('Miyuki', etc.). Even when a bead store sells pre-packaged stuff, I inquire as to its origin. Also, as you work with more and more beads, you can start spotting inconsistencies in a tube or hank of beads before you even take them home. Plenty. I like particularly: 'BeadCats' (http://www.beadcats.com/) 'The Wandering Bull' (http://www.wanderingbull.com/), 'Empyrean Beads' (http://www.empyreanbeads.com/), 'OCB Trading Post' (http://www.ocbtp.com/), and 'Morning Light Emporium' (http://www.www.wic.net/mle/mle.htm) and there are many other good sources. As a couple of other people have said already, you'll find that better beadmakers have fewer problems with uniformity, but there will still be a few strangers creeping into even the best. I have a seed bead tray with a little pouring spout that works to sort a few beads. They're about $7-10 at most well-stocked beading stores. However, they can be a pain to use for any quantity and the beads tend to jump out of the channels and mix together on the plastic surface, just when you've gotten them all sorted out. So I bought myself a couple of lengths of 'Pinwale' Corduroy (exactly how much depends on the size of your workspace, but I get about a yard) for sorting large quantities of beads. I lay it out on my desk so that the ridges are running horizontally (the 'selvedge' runs along the edge of the desk right in front of me), smooth it down so it's not being distorted, and tape it down. The ridges in the corduroy act as minichannels to hold smaller beads, and you can either line beads up end-to-end (with the holes facing vertically) or hole-to-hole. Since the ridges are straight, you can quickly tell which beads are misshapen, and discard them. I have an offwhite corduroy I use for darker beads and a deep burgundy that works with lighter beads; it just helps them stand out better. I suppose if you wanted to get fancy, you could permanently glue the cloth to a tray or jelly roll pan and just keep it as a sorting tray, but I'm not that industrious. ;-)