Monday, January 24, 2011

So you want to make Jewelry? Stringing a Basic Bracelet

So - you want to make jewelry? Welcome to our world, little frog - it's a big, wonderful place, full of colour and passion and choices. Many, many choices.

First, we are going to talk about "stringing." It is probably easy for you to guess that by this, we mean threading beads through their holes onto some sort of long, thing stringy stuff and tying a knot. Yes indeedy. That's it. You now know how to make jewelry. Go away now, and let the master rest.

What - you don't think that is the all and the whole of it? Very wise little frog you are.

Hmmmm. I will tell you a story.

Once upon a time, many, many grandmothers ago, someone found a shell on the beach. And the wind and the water and the rubbing of the sand had made a hole in it. And someone picked it up and said, "Whoa man, is this ever cool!" And then, someone else said, "Hey, I found one too, and mine is cooler than yours," and the next thing you know, everyone is down on the beach looking for cool shells with holes. Because even though all those people owned was a fire-hardened stick and the latest in genuine leather clothing, they knew the value of a cool shell when they saw it.

And when they had their hands full of shells, and couldn't figure out how to carry any more of them, their mother stopped mending their ripped leather leggings and took a piece of leather, cut very thin to make a cord, and put all the shells on it, and tied a knot, and hung it around their necks.

And the shells made a pleasant sound as the rubbed together when they ran. And at night, they sat around the fire and the shiny surfaces glinted in the firelight and looked magical. And they made up stories about the shells, and the people who wore them. And it was good.

Fast forward to today - we are still putting shiny stuff on string and hanging it on our bodies. I'm pretty sure it's now hardwired into our genes. But we've come up with a few more choices than shells with holes and leather cord.

Many, many choices. But I am not going to overwhelm you with them today.

25001002 Softflex (tm) Beading Wire - 30 ft .019 (Medium) - Silver Grey (Spool)You are going to start with this: Softflex (tm) Beading Wire - 30 ft .019 (Medium) - Silver Grey (Spool)

This is an excellent beginner's choice, as it is not too thick, not too thin, strong, won't change colour, resists wear, doesn't kink (unless you really work at it), and is a neutral color. It's is, in the words of the immortal philosopher, Gholdi Lahks, "Just Right."

You are going to make a bracelet. The standard size for a bracelet is 7 inches, end to end. Here is a secret. You are making it. It doesn't have to be standard.

If you are a tiny little slip of a thing with delicate wrists - 6 inches or 6.5 might fit better. If you are a woman of substance that would have made Rubens reach for his paintbrushes - you might prefer an 8 inch bracelet. If you are a dude, and are looking for something showy for the next gala opening - 9 inches might suit better. 7 inches is an AVERAGE.

And, just to complicate things - if you pick out thick beads - you need to make the bracelet longer, because when you curve it around your wrist, the thickness of the beads will take up space and make it shorter.

Now, you need some beads. Hoo boy. Not even I can make this easy.

Here's the store - go pick something out.

Here are some projects from our inspirations pages that are simple, stringing projects.


Cubic Bling Bling (pictured)

Hong Kong Nights

In a Mood

Hearts Afire

Copper Cafe

Stardust Mocca

Heaven and Earth


Simply Elegant

Butterfly Garden

Stormy Weather

Midnight Toast (pictured) (yes, really - same technique!)

Happy New Year

A Splash of Seafoam

OK - got some ideas now?

If I am making a design that I have made before, or it is a simple design and I don't have to worry about whether it will "work" or not, like the "Midnight Toast" bracelet above, I will simply unspool (but not cut) about 10 inches of the beading cable, string the beads on the cable, attach one half of the clasp, and then cut the wire, and attach the rest of the clasp to the other end.

If I am playing with the design, however, or not sure what order the beads or the colours should go in, then I cut the piece of beading wire, and start my design from the middle - adding beads on both sides to keep the design balanced, once I have figured out what order they should go in. This often involves trying a few beads together, maybe changing the order and trying again, taking some off and changing them around, until I get something that "feels right." "Would I wear that," I think? If the answer is "No," I try again.

Be generous when you cut the wire. If you are making a 7 inch bracelet, don't cut 8 inches of wire. Leave at least 4 inches on each end, sometimes more. (I can hear the horrified gasps from here.) This is because bending the beading wire around and stuffing it back into the crimp bead (more on that in a bit) to attach the clasp can be fiddly work, and it is waaaay easier if you have lots of cable to grab. Life is short - don't make it hard for yourself.

96002401 Sterling Crimps - 2 x 2 mm Crimp Tube - Sterling (50)
After the beads, you will need crimps, which are the do-hickeys we use instead of knots to fasten the beading wire, and a clasp.

23401006 Findings - Clasps - Toggle - 12 mm Classic Stationed - Pewter (1)There are lots of choices in crimps, but this is a good starting point.
Sterling Crimps - 2 x 2 mm Crimp Tube - Sterling (50)

For that matter, there are lots of choices in clasps. (We have, at this moment, 653 different clasps.) This one is inexpensive, durable and a classic design.

Findings - Clasps - Toggle - 12 mm Classic Stationed - Pewter (1)

As to getting the crimp on, and the clasp - I could blather on about that - or you can watch the video here, because seeing is much easier than reading a description.

And that - fundamentally - is it. A necklace is just a longer bracelet. Oh, sure, there are different styles of clasps. You can do multiple strands. There is an incalculable number of ways to combine the various beads. But that, little frog, is stringing in a nutshell.

Go forth and create jewelry. Next week - I will talk about the types of clasps.

Here are some links to useful tips we have published. We keep this list up-to-date here.


Questions? Leave a comment!

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