Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Beading Basics - the Pros and Cons of Stretchy Bracelets

Stretchy bracelets - beads strung on a stretchy, elastic, often clear, beading cord that is knotted. Sounds simple eh? And it is - a quick and easy bracelet - gotta love 'em as a project for kids and tweens. Make 'em by the dozen. No need for fancy measuring - you just need to be more or less in the ballpark - if it's a little small, no worries, the beads just space out a little, and it has to be waaaay to large to fall off, in which case, you can just double it over and wear it as a wrist-strangling double-bracelet.

After making a bunch of these, you might notice you are having troubles with two things - beads with small holes, and the knot slipping. Both are easy to fix.

First, the knot. You might be used to using a regular knot - you know, the old, left-over-right, right-over-left knot. It's called a square knot, for those of you who skipped knot-tying class. It's a good basic knot, but it can be better. (The other knot you might be using is a granny knot, which is left-over-right, left-over-right (no alternating) - and it won't hold hot butter, so don't even go there!)

But, with a little modification, the square knot becomes a surgeon's knot, which is much better for tying off slippery stuff that tends to want to untie itself!

So, after doing the left-over-right part, go through the loop again, and then pull tight. This also works for tying ends together, despite the simplified diagram (which you can click on to see a larger version). And yes, you can do it again for extra safety. And even a third time if you like. Three knots piled on each other is fine, and if that doesn't hold your bracelet, then I respectfully suggest you are abusing it!

Some folks even like to put a little dab of glue on the knot, which is fine. I don't, as it makes a hard lump. I find that a nice little knot tends to pull inside one of the beads and disappears, and I like that a lot! Cut the ends short, but don't cut into the knot! Or the cord. Or yourself.

Now, onto the beads with holes too small - well - here's a suggestion. Pick beads with bigger holes or use a smaller cord. I know that sounds flip, but here's the thing - this is a very easy way to make bracelets, but in getting something easy, you have some limitations. There are multiple sizes of good quality stretchy cord, usually .5 or .7 mm, 1 mm and 2 mm, depending on the brand. And what makes a good quality cord? It stays clear and supple, and the low-grade one's go yellow, lose their stretchiness and snap. Our own selection of stretchy stuff is here.

So you want to pick beads with sizeable holes. Size 6/0 seed beads are great, size 8/0s are fine (I think?). Firepolish and pressed glass are good. Semi-precious stone beads are not - the holes are generally small, and the ends can be sharp enough to wear the stretchy cord and cause breakage. Pearls have way too small a hole.

You can, if you are struggling to get the stretchy thread through the holds, use a wire needle. These needles have a large eye (easy to thread), which squashes down the first time you go through the bead, and hangs onto the beading cord. You can generally re-use them for about 3 bracelets before the eye is so flat you can't use them again, so that's why they are in packs.

What about Crystal beads? How about Lampwork? Metal?

Well - metal you have to watch, if it has a sharp end - you don't want to cut or wear the cord. Lampwork, it's really heavy and can wear the cord - the holes shouldn't be sharp, but they can be rough inside. Crystal, like Swarovski crystal - I'm sorry - but it just looks tacky! I know there are folks out there making Swarovski crystal stretchy bracelets, but to me, a stretchy bracelet is an impermanent thing, a fun spash of colour. It's not an heirloom.

It's not that I don't use stretchy stuff - I do. Like my "Let's Get Daggerous" bracelet. BUT, there is a time and a place, and putting nice crystal, sterling beads and art beads on stretchy cord is just tacky, tacky, tacky!

Of course, that is just my opinion - I could be wrong. ;-)

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