Easy And Creative Beading Projects For Fun And Profit

Learn how to bead your own necklaces at home using simple tools.

Beading is not just for little girls anymore

Beaded necklaces and other jewelry is a popular item at many farmer's markets, craft shows, bazaars, fundraising sales, and curio booths at shopping malls. Selling beaded items can have a low start-up cost and a potential for high profit. Beading supplies are inexpensive (you can find standard beading tools for under twenty dollars at most hardware stores), and they are also compact and easy to carry with you if you want to take your craft on the road.

Bead stores are not a common commodity in every city, but you can find the bulk of the same supplies in general craft stores. Among the things that you are better off purchasing at Kmart's hardware section instead of where you purchase beads is needle-nosed pliers and wire cutters. Kmart will often sell both tools as part of a larger kit of tools, or together in one package without any other tools. You can purchase a wire cutter and pliers set for around five dollars at Kmart. You want tools that are not too stiff when you flex the handle, with handles covered in smooth yet durable rubber. You also want pliers that fit easily in your palm for working with fine wires and findings.

Stringing You Along

The days of using kite string or elastic thread for beading necklaces went goodbye with the old Girls Scouts uniform. At craft stores and bead stores, you can purchase tiger tail wire, a thread-fine, flexible and strong clear wire that you can thread through your beads of varying gauges. This is especially important if you are using this as an activity to keep a child busy. String with a wide diameter or that unravels easily is frustrating and will not go through beads with narrow holes. Commercial beads used in fashion jewelry usually have holes as narrow as a pinpoint, especially if you are using three-to-five millimeter beads. Drilling larger holes in some beads made from natural substances may cause them to shatter (i.e., horn, bone, shell, glass, glass, igneous rock, and crystal). Therefore, you will need a narrow wire that will travel straight through that small hole without bending itself out of shape. You can purchase tiger tail by the foot for smaller projects, by the yard if you bead frequently, in precut lengths in packets that already have beading findings included, or by the large spool.

Once you are ready to begin stringing your beads, you can fold a piece of Scotch tape around one end to close off the end, so the beads will not fall off. This tape is easy to remove from the tiger tail wire once you have finished stringing on the beads that you want for your project.

Finding Your Findings

Findings are small fasteners, clasps, hooks, or jump rings that you use to tie off your string of beads or attach the beads to a cord made of more decorative substances, like ribbon, leather thong, or waxed linen. A lobster claw clasp, a typical fastener for bracelets, actually resembles its name, and has a lever on top of it that opens easily when you insert it into a hook or jump ring. A jump ring is similar to what you find on a key ring; it is a split ring that you can use as an anchor for your clasp or fastener. Pony beads are tiny, collapsible beads that you use to tie off the ends of your tiger tail wire to prevent the beads from sliding off. Crimps are small metal coils with a small loop on the end that you use to clamp off decorative cord when you are attaching it to a string of beads that you have strung with tiger tail wire.

Making a Cost Effective Necklace or Bracelet

Your necklace does not have to have beads along its entire length. Making a bracelet or necklace of leather thong or waxed linen that just has a pendant or cluster of beads dangling from the center is very affordable, because purchasing enough beads to cover a length of tiger tail wire (consider that the average human neck is fourteen inches) can equal a lot of beads. Leather thong and waxed linen costs less than a dollar per yard, and in most instances, you won't need a full yard. Since the beads in the center of your project are the only ones that anyone will pay attention to, it is better not to waste expensive beads on the ends of your strand if thong will suffice.

Another useful aspect of thong is the ability to make slip knots with it. Slipknots in the thong will allow you to lengthen and shorten the necklace, so that the wearer can "custom fit" it to their neck. Use crimps to tie off your tiger tail wire once you have strung your beads by threading the end of your wire through the loop on the crimp. Then slide the wire through a pony bead, and loop back around through the crimp. Pull the wire taut, closing up excess length of wire. Crimp the pony bead shut with your pliers. Trim off the excess. To make your string of beads more sturdy, thread the wire back through a few of your beads on the end before you pull it taut and trim it. Once you have closed off your string of beads with crimps, you will clamp these onto the ends of your piece of leather thong using your pliers. To do this, fold one end of your leather thong, and gently push that folded end into the opening of the coil. Them clamp the crimp tightly around the thong. Do this for both ends of the thong. Then, cut the thong through the center, tie the ends into single knots, and then single knot those ends around each opposite strand of thong. By pulling the knots toward the center of the necklace, you will shorten the length. To lengthen it, pull the knots together. Slipknots are best for long necklaces, i.e., one that comes as low as your chest. Define a "choker" as a necklace that hangs above your collarbone.

Other Pearls (and Beads) of Wisdom

At your local bead store, you may ask the staff about the values and properties of many different beads that are made of natural substances. Semi-precious stones are exactly what they sound like, and they will cost more per bead or per strand (You can buy them prestrung and then just transfer them to a stronger piece of tiger tail wire and add a clasp and findings.). For more opulent stones like Austrian crystals, you may be able to purchase those at a specialty store that has a jeweler on staff, or you can purchase them at estate sales or online auctions. Ebay and Yahoo! Auctions are great locations to buy loose stones for beading. For people who enjoy the folkloric aspect of beads, a beading consultant may also be able to tell you about legends associated with each type of stone. For example, hematite, a shiny, charcoal-gray stone, is rumored to symbolize good luck in small quantities. However, it can also cause allergies and skin rash in more sensitive wearers. Points like these are good to consider when selecting beads for your project.

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