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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Corsage Project: What Jewellery To Make

The Corsage Project - in case you haven't been paying attention - is a project to provide graduating high-school girls, who are unable to afford the expense, with prom attire and accoutrements so that they need not miss that special night.

Bennett McCardle - tireless volunteer from the Toronto Bead Society - crafted this excellent insight into what type of jewellery prom-going gals want.

I'm personally intrigued by the idea of making the purse fobs too. And knowing that really long, dangly earrings are hot, hot, hot! That's like waving a red flag to a bull! Charge!


Corsage Project – What Jewellery do we Need the Most?

By Bennett McCardle
Jewellery alterationist for the Corsage Project’s Boutique Ball
April 2010

Here’s a handy list of the jewellery the Corsage Project usually needs most.

The Project Committee is very good at getting donations of commercial jewellery from stores around Toronto, and used jewellery from individuals, but often don’t get enough really decorative prom jewellery, or a wide enough range of colours.

Toronto Bead Society member-made (and other hand-made) donations are very valuable. They’re almost always the first pieces to get fitted and taken away. The girls look special in them.

The list below is based on six years of experience (and hair-tearing at 2 pm the day of the event, when there are three hours to go and no more crystal bracelets or long, slinky, dangling earrings!)

It also answers the question: What colour should I make it? and What size should I make it?

Want to know more about the Corsage Project and what it does?
Go to both the Project's own website and the Children's Aid Foundation page on the project

First Priority
(Things all the girls need)

Necklaces – the most useful kinds are:

  • Simple single-strand necklace of pearls, crystals and/or good quality beads
    - Both delicate necklaces and ones with honking big pearls!
  • Multi-strand necklace (ditto)
  • Dressy pendant on gold or silver chain
    - anything from a large cab to a pair of small, attractive crystal or glass drops, or a single graceful lampwork bead with dressy bead cap
  • "Waterfall" necklace (a short 13 to 15” chain with a “bib” of chain-and-crystal/pearl dangles in graduated lengths hanging from it, longest in the centre).
  • Dressy beadwoven necklace (youthful style and colour)
    - Example: a choker in gold/silver seed beads and small crystals, backed with velvet or ultrasuede, tied with ribbon in back
Any decorative chain with clasp is welcome (we often need them for loose pendants).

  • Clasps must be secure.
  • Use good quality crimp beads, or multiple crimps for heavy necklaces, so it doesn’t come apart during a dance…
  • Prom dresses usually don’t hide the clasp, so it should be sightly.
  • Consider making clasps out of fancy ribbons, light chain, or even Velcro (for chokers).

Bracelets – the most useful kinds:
  • Simple one-strand bracelet of pearls and crystals, or crystals and neutral seed beads or gold/ silver spacers.
  • Multistrand crystal or pearl bracelet.
  • Simple chain bracelet with dangles - crystal or dressy bead dangles on headpins, or just one or two attractive dangles of crystals or fine glass, hanging from the clasp.
  • Cuff bracelet of woven crystals - dressy colours
  • Memory wire bracelet with dressy combination of metal and crystal beads
  • Wirework bangle or bracelet (bright silver or gold wire) with pearls, crystals, etc.

  • Avoid donating bracelets on elastic unless very light and very secure.
  • Heavy(ish) cuff bracelets are OK, but make sure heavy dangle/charm bracelets aren’t so cumbersome they interfere with dancing.

  • Long, dangly, dressy earrings – we never have enough.
    - Make them from two to 5 inches long – yes, many girls can wear them that long!
    - Not comfortable with long? OK, make them 2 ¼ inches long from bottom of earlobe.
    - All dressy colours welcome.
    - Want safe colours? When in doubt, use any combination of: clear crystal; cream or white pearl; bright silver; lavender; pink; black-with-silver or -crystal
    - We’re often short of unconventional colours (dressy gray, orange, yellow, clear dark blue, amethyst)
  • Medium-length fancy earrings of any type (at least 1 ½ inches) with bright crystals or a dressy cabochon, star or flower
  • Clip earrings of any dressy kind (we are usually short of these)

(Yes - we have these.)
23611072 Findings - Earring - Clip-on -  with Ring - Nickel (5 pairs)
Findings - Earring - Clip-on - with Ring - Nickel (5 pairs)

NOTE: Short and stud-type earrings are not needed (lots of them are donated and they are never all taken)

Make a set!
A matched set, or “parure” is the most useful thing you can give. It includes at least one each of:
  • a necklace,
  • a bracelet,
  • pair earrings,
  • and could have extras, like a brooch, ring or watch.

Second Priority
(Things some girls can wear -- always appreciated if you want to give it)

  • Hair decorations (hairbands, barrettes and hairsticks)
    - Very fashionable in 2010. Make them blingy!
  • Rings
    - Dressy rings of all kinds, decorated with beads or gemstones.
    - Base metal or wire band is fine as long as metal is attractive.
    - Bright silver is the most popular colour, but gold is also useful.
    - If making rings is what turns you on, do it!
    - Adjustable bands are ideal. If not possible, make it an average girl’s size (5 to 6).
    - Inexpensive adjustable ring findings with loops

26001014 Findings -  Loopy Finger Ring - Silvertone (1)
Findings - Loopy Finger Ring - Silvertone (1)

or sterling if you feel more generous

s14558 Sterling Findings - Size 6 Sterling Ring - Sized - w Inline Loops - Bright Sterling (1)
Sterling Findings - Size 6 Sterling Ring - Sized - w Inline Loops - Bright Sterling (1)

  • Watches:
If you have a working watch face (with battery) to donate, put a crystal strap and bracelet closure on it and give it to us! We’ll find a girl to look lovely in it.

If you don’t have time to make the strap, just give us the face (as long as it works) and we’ll run up a strap ourselves.

Handbag Fobs:
We always need these to dress up plain evening bags donated by others. They attach to the handle or zipper tag.

To make one:
  • Get an oversize lobster clasp (1” long) in silver or gold, or a smaller lobster clasp and a chain with links big enough for it to hook into.
  • Attach to the clasp a 2” length of decorative chain with links big enough to take dangles.
  • Hang three to eight blingy dangles from different links of the chain (made from light beads or recycled pendants on headpins – if too heavy, will overbalance purse).
  • Total length should be three to five inches.
22402000  Findings - 1 inch Swivel Flip Clip - Nickel (1)Do you have a single rhinestone earring without a mate? Give it to us! We can glue it to a dull handbag (or stab the post right into the bag and bend post to anchor it) and make a bright accessory!

Findings - 1 inch Swivel Flip Clip - Nickel (1)

As many girls get corsages, brooches are most useful if on the small side (suitable for cleavage position or middle of back of dress).

  • Make it blingy. Rhinestones or dressy cabs are ideal.
    - Lighter weights are best.

What colour should I make it?

The girls are young teenagers of all sizes and skin colours, and the dresses are in a huge range of colours. So don’t confine yourself to “conventional” girl palettes (white, pink, baby blue, pastels) or delicate “girly” pieces -- unless you want to. We can use ANY colours that are partyish and happy together. Here are some suggestions:

  • Silver: when in doubt, use bright silver (not nickel or dull silver).
  • Pair antiqued silver with bright colours -- e.g. amethyst, pink, leaf green.
  • Gold: light gold is most useful, but darker gold with bright, lush colours works too.
  • Bronze: pair this with bright, fresh colours, or very glittery black.
  • Gunmetal/black: looks great with dove grey, lilac, light amethyst and rich reds.
  • Avoid nickel beads and findings (dull-coloured and allergenic).

Some good palettes -- combinations we can use easily:
  • Party-style neutrals:
    • clear or AB crystals;
    • black (faceted or glossy) with silver and/or pearl;
    • pearls of any colour;
    • champagne (light to dark beige, pink-toned) accented with gold or silver
    • dressy pearl grey offset with bright silver, gunmetal or bronze;
    • opal, iridescent, translucent or satin white paired with bright silver or pastels.
  • Reds – strong red crystals with bright gold
  • Pinks (any kind from pale rose to strong pink, fuchsia and magenta) with pearls and/or bright silver
  • Yellows -- soft satins, rose, topaz or Imperial yellow with silver or light gold
  • Orange – rich glassy flame or light orange with bright silver OR light gold OR gunmetal
  • Browns –rich, crystalline dark brown, or amber, with gold
  • Greens – youthful leaf or spring green with silver, light gold, or pastels
  • Purples – lavender, lilac or amethyst with bright silver
  • Blues – youthful light blue or rich dark glassy blue (e.g. Swarovski Montana crystals with lots of silver)
  • Turquoise with copper (blingy, not earthy, finish)
  • Spring flower mixture (soft or strong pastels, e.g. a multicoloured flowery necklace)

NOTE FOR FREE SPIRITS: Are you a funky designer? Like extravagant palettes? Hate little crystals and “tasteful” white pearls? Feel free to make and donate: there are always some grrrrls who like out-of-sight pieces, as long as they’re good quality and can be worn with a satin dress!

Avoid: wood, dull stone and plastic (unless dressy, e.g. Moonglow beads); matronly or excessively folksy combinations; any finish that will run if wet; any insecure findings; charms or pendants with writing on them; sharp edges on pieces worn next the skin.

What size should I make it?

  • Bracelets: Both delicate and heavy bracelets are needed.
    - When in doubt, make it 6” around.
    - Make it extendable if possible (with a chain or clasp allowing more than one length).
    - Make delicate bracelets shorter (5” to 6” wrists)
    - Make heavier bracelets for wrists up to 8 ½”
    - For a length chart, see here.

  • Necklaces: We need everything from collars/chokers (12” to 14” diameter) to full length ropes and opera chains (24” to way longer)
    - When in doubt, make it 14” around (delicate pieces) or 16” (heavier ones), and …
    - … include an extension (chain or clasp allowing more than one length) if you can
    - Dresses are mostly low-necked, so most necklaces are worn above, or dropping just below, the cleavage.
    - Here's a visual guide to necklace lengths. More suggestions here. And here. And a good piece at, when the site is up. Shows celebrity jewelry to illustrate styles and lengths.
So there you have it - every thing you wanted to know about Prom jewelry, but had no one to ask. Don't forget, we have a Corsage Project Play Day on Thursday April 22. 6:30 - 8:30 pm - hosted by the Dixon Chick.

Deadline to get stuff to us is April 29!


Cynthia of Cynful Creations said...

What is the deadline for handing in jewellery donations, please?

dragonjools said...

April 29 - by closing (it's a Thursday, so 8 pm.) So that gives you a little over a week!

Cynthia of Cynful Creations said...

Great, thanks!