If you haven't met a bead fanatic yet, you likely soon will, because beading is a pastime/avocation/addiction that's sweeping America like t'ai chi did in the 1990s. These aficionados eschew the jewelry and handbags offered by chain outlets and now fashion their own originals. Many of the young women who've taken up beading -- and Best Beads offers an array of classes -- contend it's a type of craftwork they were never exposed to while growing up because their working mothers had neither the time for it nor interest in it. It's also a sign of the times, judging by the explosive growth of Bead Need, which claims to possess the largest inventory of bugle, stone, pony, seed, and crystal beads in South Florida. After the September 11 attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., droves of newbies began showing up at the store to buy red, white, and blue beads to fashion American-flag brooches and pins. Many became devotees.

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