A very lovely lady purchased some beads from me last week and asked my advice about how to make your own jewellery. What do I need to start ? What basic tools do I need ? Should I put something in between each bead? Well, this post is just for you!
The photographs above and below show you some examples of the kind of jewellery that I make using floral beads. I usually like to place a sterling silver saucer bead either side of the floral bead to bring out the sparkle within the glass. I also use smaller plain beads to bring out one of the colours used in the flower petals. But, equally a contrasting colour can enhance the colours used within the bead to produce a very striking piece of jewellery. In these examples though, I have used turquoise swarovski crystals to being out the subtle blue petals and combined this with sterling silver saucer beads.
Now, you can make jewellery without using any tools by careful threading and knotting but I will save that for another blog post because if you want to take up jewellery making as a hobby then it is worth purchasing some tools. You will use them! Sometimes, you can pick up the tools fairly cheap as a free givaway on a craft magazine but it is worth investing in a good set of tools, reading reviews and having a good google.
Side Cutters - very useful for cutting all your threads. These are great (much better than scissors) because you can get very close to the edge of whatever you are cutting and achieve a good clean cut.
These are the tools, I use all the time. Round nose pliers - these are very useful for any wire work, making earrings, creating loops in wire etc. .. Snipe/Chain nose pliers - I use mostly for closing crimp beads, chain work and grabbing hold of tricky threads. I use my bent nose pliers again for chain work and grabbing wire and threads. The bent nose can be very useful. I should also mention that all of my tools have spring handles which save your hands a lot of work and helps to avoid hand fatigue.
There are lots of different threads out there from suede, velvet, ribbon, elastic .... the list is endless. To make the Periwinkle bracelet, I used Tigertail beading wire. It is very strong and comes in lots of very pretty colours. I shop around on the internet for my materials to ensure a good price so it definitely worth a google.
I was making a necklace earlier and decided to photograph a few of the steps. This is not a proper tutorial but will give you an idea how to use the tools and put the beads together to make an item of jewellery. The steps can be applied to making a bracelet as well. I will write another post about making earrings later.
Ok, so before I start working on any piece of jewellery, I lay all the materials out in front of me. I then re-arrange all the beads, add/take beads away, add charms .... until I have a layout that I am happy with. You can purchase a bead mat to lay all the beads on whilst you choose your design. They are good, stop your beads rolling off the table and are not too expensive. I don't use one myself but I wouldn't say no to one either ...
When I am happy with my design I start threading my beads onto my tigertail. I keep one end of the tigertail attached to the coil to prevent all my beads rolling away .... shouldn't admit it but I learnt the hard way ..... I am using tiny green seed beads to separate the larger pink beads and to add a contrast in colour. I particularly like this colour combination especially for the spring. Light, bright colours, lovely! Keep threading the beads onto the tigertail until you have the necklace at the length you require.
Ok, we are now ready to finish the necklace. We will need some 2mm soft crimp beads and some 5mm open jump rings. Sometimes you may need to use larger jump rings depending on the clasp you are using and you can also purchase closed jump rings. For this necklace, I am using open jump rings and you can see from the photograph that one of the jump rings is already open. I will talk more about this in a moment.
Add a crimp bead and an open jump ring onto the end of your tigertail. Then bend the tigertail around the jump ring back into the crimp bead (as shown in the photograph below).
Pull the tigertail through the crimp bead until you have a fairly small loop around the jump ring. Then take your chain nose pliers and squeeze the crimp bead until it is completely flat.
It should look something like this .......
Repeat the above steps with the other end of the necklace. So you should have a jump ring on each end. There are lots of different clasp available and it really comes down to personal preference. There are a range of beautiful toggle clasp out there that enchance a jewellery design or you can use simple blot rings or trigger clasps. I am using a trigger clasp for this example and I am going to show you how to attach it to your jump ring.
There is a knack for opening jump rings. I have tried to show it in the photgraph below ... but probably not very well ... You don't want to pull them open because you will distort the ring and it won't close properly after. What you need to do using your pliers is to slide the ring open (one plier moving forward and one plier moving backwards). I hope this makes sense?
Once the jump ring is open, you can slide the loop of the trigger clasp onto the ring and then slide the jump ring closed. The ends of your necklace should now look like this ....
..... and you have finished! There is a lot more to making jewellery than I shown here in my blog but what I am trying to show is a simple method of how to get started. There are lots of jewellery making books out there and it is probably better to read all the reviews on Amazon to find the most suitable book for your level. I have always found Beading Magazines to be very useful sources of information about jewellery making. I have written for Beads and Beyond Magazine and Bead Magazine so naturally I am going to promote these ... Very lovely people!
I have written another tutorial on my blog - A Completed Necklace! This tutorial shows another method of finishing a necklace using flat leather crimps. These are used for thicker material like suede.
I thought I had written more tutorials than this and probably have the photos lurking somewhere on my computer. But the questions did make me think that as a bead maker I should really be providing tutorials on how to string my beads and whether this should be a regular feature of my blog?