Even if you have 100,000 beads, they will do very little good without trays, aka peg boards. Beads are placed on peg boards to keep them in place as you make your sprite. Perler offers a variety of sizes and shapes of peg boards, most of which are useless. Really all you need are the large square pegboards that are interlocking, thus allowing you the freedom to make sprites of any size. We have about 24 of them, all clear plastic, but you can probably start with 4 and be content for a while. Each one is 29x29 pegs and 5.7 inches square. My favorite way to buy these is to hunt them down at Joann or Michael's and (you guessed it) use a 40% off coupon, dropping the price from $9.99 to $6. Much better than paying full price.
|Trays come in 2 packs and 4 packs. 2 packs have blue & green packaging while 4 packs have yellow & green packaging.|
It is worth noting that Perler also offers small round peg boards that occasionally come in handy (say, if you want to make something that is circular), as well as hexagonal ones (good for making things that are triangles, like, say, a Triforce). While I don't use these very often, it is nice to have them available. For example, I used the round one when I made my Companion Cube. These pegboards can be found on Perler's official site as well as in craft stores. Perler also offers an extra large peg board, which I have not purchased. It's apparently good for mid-size projects but it does not interlock with other pegboards.
Ironing paper is the paper you put on top of your assembled sprite when you are ready to iron it. It prevents the iron from sticking to the beads as you melt them with the iron. After you finish ironing your sprite, the ironing paper easily comes off of the sprite and can be reused until it begins to look burnt, or until you spill something gross and sticky on it or tear a hole in it. (Yes, all of these things have happened to me.)
Perler sells packs of ironing paper. While you are welcome to buy it if you want, I wouldn't bother. Instead, I encourage you to buy a large roll of parchment paper (normally used for baking) and use that instead. I go for this one on Amazon, which is Costco's 205 square foot roll. It's available seasonally at Costco (I believe during the winter holidays) but I've always been able to find it on Amazon if it's not at Costco. If you find a better deal on parchment paper please let me know, but this is as cheap as I have found it so far. The benefit of using parchment paper over Perler's ironing paper is 1) you can cut the pieces to as large as you need (rather than using lots of precut small squares) and 2) you can also use it for other things, like lining the cookie sheet when you are baking cookies.
Basically, any iron that heats pretty evenly can be used to iron bead sprites. I got a T Fal Ultraglide EasyCord iron (similar to the one pictured above) for my wedding that I use, but really, brand doesn't matter. It doesn't need any fancy features, it just has to heat up pretty evenly and you're good to go. I set mine high - in the cotton zone just below linen - though there's some debate over what temperature is ideal for ironing. That's what works well for me with my iron. You may have to do some experimenting to see what works best for you.
|Oh man. Storage. This is where things get crazy... er, crazier.|
So here's the thing. If you get lots of colors of beads, you will need to figure out how to store them without them getting mixed up (unless you like hunting for the right color every time you make a sprite). Personally, I use pint size mason jars (and some half pint size ones). That is definitely not the cheapest option for most people, but I happened to have some lying around that weren't being used, so it ended up not costing me too much initially. Of course, I didn't anticipate having 70+ colors when I went with this method...
There are tons of ideas for storage options out there. I've seen people use empty water bottles, small plastic jars, Ziploc bags, cleaned out sour cream containers, food storage containers, and fishing tackle boxes, any number of compartmentalized plastic cases from craft stores, and storage boxes like these (which I understand can be found at hardware stores or on Amazon). The sky is the limit. I used Ziploc bags initially, until I accidentally melted holes in a few while I was ironing sprites and they were too close. The storage boxes seem to be very popular among the beadspriting community, but I've also seen several pictures of the chaos that ensues if they get knocked over... If I were doing it over again, I would probably go for food storage containers like these (except I would try to find them for a lot less than that; maybe something similar from the dollar store). Glass jars have not given me any trouble so far, but I shudder to think of the mess if any of them broke.
And thus concludes part II of this blog series. Next time we'll talk about choosing colors for reals!