Here is how it came about:
I was introduced to Mr. Harada, owner of Tulip Co., a needle manufacturing company in Hiroshima, when I taught for the first time in Japan (2008). He later sponsored the book I wrote about feltmaking for the Japanese craft market published by Patchwork Tsushin Ltd. (Tulip also manufactures felt needles and distributes wool and felting kits.) When the book was published, translated into Japanese by Motoko Natsubori, Tulip Co invited me to sign books and demonstrate needle felting in their booth at the Great International Quilt Show the next January (2009). Then in June, fresh from the Bead & Button Show, I joined Mr. Harada and Hyomin Kang (for lack of knowing true title, let me call her the Tulip ambassador who travels the world on Tulip's behalf), Naomi Mori (who handles purchases and orders), Kazue Ohara (HyoMin's protege and designer of bead crochet hooks), Mayumi Kunishio (designed needle packaging and works in product development) for their first exhibit at TNNA in Columbus Ohio, to meet potential U.S.A. distributors.
Tulip is known and respected for their fine quality quilt needles. When Tulip's executive women mentioned above, (I love that women hold key roles in Tulip Co.) and I became friendly, we discussed their beading needles. They asked for input from me and a couple of Japanese beading teachers (Emi Yamada who I know from my teaching in Japan and get to see each year at Bead and Button Show, was one.)
Long story short... Uh, too late????... what I told Tulip is, that we want flexible needles that will bend into and through tight spaces and beads that are spaced so perfectly close to each other. Needles that are flexible and springy. This means that they would not become S-shaped with use, they would return to straight.
In December 2010 they sent me the first needles produced in response to these specs. They are indeed flexible and springy. The eye is easy to thread. The tip is rounded slightly to slide easily into beads while preventing splitting the thread. In January 2011 I once again demonstrated and signed books at the Tulip booth at the International Great Quilt Show in Tokyo. Accustomed to using mostly size 11, these were what I bought up a suitcase of, before flying home to share them with U.S. Beaders. They are a comfortable length. They fit readily into size 15 seed beads. In just a couple months of offering them to my students and on my website, at $5 per package of 4, I went through the supply in short order.
And so I decided to become the U.S.A. distributor of these fine quality beading needles. In addition to the size 11, I distribute their sizes 10 long and sharp (short) and the precious size 13, as well as tapestry needles (set of 3) and loom beading needles and twisted needles for stringing beads. Also, bead crochet hooks in sizes 0,2,4,6 and 8, packaged individually or as a set in a delightful zippered case.
Every week I receive phone calls or email testimonials. Beaders report longevity with a single needle; that their needle remains quite straight, unlike their experiences of curved needles with other brands; that the needle threads easily; that they experience less hand fatigue; that the beading experience is smoother. It gives me goosebumps to read the glowing assessment of Tulip beading needles.
The size 13 is precious and most amazing. The eye will accomodate up to 10# fireline AND passes through a size 15 Japanese seed bead up to 5 times. (Yes, this sounds like a lie, although I did this several times when showing them to beaders at the Great International Quilt Show.
Did I mention their awl? If you can't tease a knot open with this then put your beads away! And for strategically placed knots between beads, it is peerless. Easily gets rid of errant beads that show up in the work too.
Oh, and lest I forget, their felting needles? Nickel plated, smooth and downright luxurious.