Here's a collection of helpful jewelry making basics and tips submitted by readers.
Beginner's Guide to Ideas and Materials for Beaded Jewelry
Making jewelry can be a lot of fun, and there are some great ways to get ideas and materials when you're starting out.
To get ideas, look at other handcrafted jewelry. See how it's put together, and how the pieces work with each other. Don't copy the designs (especially if you plan on selling them), but look for inspiration.
Once you know the basics of construction, you can go to your local department store, and get ideas from manufactured jewelry or even photos online.
When it comes to materials, you won't want to spend a fortune on fancy bits and baubles before you're really good at working with them. Try getting beads, string and wire at closeout stores or clearance sales.
A fun way to get materials is to go to yard sales and flea markets and look for jewelry you can dismantle. I've salvaged great beads from what looked like ugly pieces when I found them. Don't look at the item as a whole, look at the beads, links and findings individually, and think of what you can do with them.
You can also often get broken jewelry for almost nothing, and salvage the beads, charms and findings. Dismantling broken or ugly jewelry can also give you insight into the way items are constructed. So have fun learning to make beaded jewelry, and always keep your eyes open for reclaimable bits!
I have found that that the weekly pill holders that can be purchased at any pharmacy or department store are great for storing and organizing beads and are much cheaper than similar containers sold in the craft stores.
I prefer the rounded bottom type, opposed to the flat bottom, it is much easier to slide a bead out of the rounded type.
Another option is to get the type that have a secure closure, some even come with a child proof slider lock that will safeguard against spillage, I use the slide lock type to store my more expensive beads. These are available in a variety of sizes, with 7, 14 and 21 sections, they are usually square or rectangle shaped, but round ones with 7 sections are available.
I have many of these containers and I organize similar beads together, by size and type. I have separated my Swarovski Crystals by color family and size along with my pearls by color and size also. I find it is so much easier to be able to grab the one or two containers that I will need for project instead of having a huge container with beads not needed for that project in front of me.
I have tried almost every different storage container out there, like bags, stackable containers, and plastic food storage containers, none of these have worked for me because I am always mixing my beads and spend to much time having to sort them.
Always buy quality hemp to begin with. Use the right thickness for the right project. A simple design may work well with a very thick cord, but lacy designs will not look good with too big a cord.
You may want to run your hands along the cord before beginning to knot to check for excessive lumpy/knotty areas that will create problems later in the process. Some irregularities are part of the charm of course, but a big old lump never will tie off right.
If you are working with beads, do a trial run. Sometimes they look like a fit, but cords vary in thickness throughout their lengths so check the fattest part first.
For more involved designs, consider drawing a design on paper first. It's nice to have afterwards, too, to remind you of how you accomplished it. Hate to do something that worked well, sold, and then, darn it!, how did I do that again?
Avoid ceramic beads, that break easily and just don't hold up nearly as well as the macrame hemp cord itself. Stick with natural bone, shell or glass beads. Plastic is just too tacky, too.
There are many many books on beading and many beads to choose from, not to mention a few popular methods. One of the easy ways to make a bead bracelet is to use a elastic string to put larger beads on and forgo the use of needles and any kind of extra equipment. With no tools needed besides your fingers it is a easy way to get into crafting bead jewelry or just to have fun!
Elastic strings come in different types, stretch percentages and diameter sizes. Some of the strings will hold up better than others, but you will have to possibly find out by trial and error based on what is available at your local stores and add to that the confusion because some do not list percentage of stretch etc. The elastic with no cloth wrapping will not fray at the ends when it is knotted. The 1mm can be easier to work with, assuming the holes on your beads are large enough to move freely on this diameter elastic.
Beads are available in so many types and the way you are beading will be easier with the larger sizes as it is easier to thread and not lose them. You may want to try beads made of plastic and/or with more polished looking holes in them as it grabs less on the elastic and reduces the chances of breaking.
Well, the next step after purchasing materials is the fun part, make it. OK, maybe shopping is fun as well, but this is a little more fun!
1.Measure you wrist roughly by just wrapping some around your wrist of the lucky person receiving this creation. Add a little bit for the size of the beads and remember this stuff will stretch. Cut the length plus 2 inches to help with tying after it is done.
2.Just knot one end (in an easy to undo knot!) or hold one end in between spare fingers not used to place beads with.
3.Feed the beads on until you have almost the whole length done. You can make a pattern of colors, sizes and styles.
4.Check the size and if it is fine then tie the knot tight. Trim the loose ends a bit, if it will be stretching a bit then maybe leave a tad on the ends and you can tuck the string ends in some bead holes (if you have space) to make it tidy. Another option with ones that are stretching a lot is to wear it a while and then trim it.
Easy, affordable fun with no tools and only 2 materials and some time. Not to much to learn really, though you can get lost looking at beads for a hour or two!
Douglas, thanks for the helpful instructions on making beaded jewelry.
One tip I'd add, on step 2 where you suggest making a knot at the end of the elastic to hold the beads in place, you could also use a binder clip (those big clips you use in an office to hold a lot of papers together when a paper clip is too small) clipped on the end of the elastic to hold everything in place while you work.
Bead stores sell fancy clips for holding beads in place, but I don't see much point in buying them when most people can find a binder clip or two laying around the house.