The Beauty Of Beads & Baubles

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Years ago I stopped at a gift shop in the Village of Oak Creek and came across two fabulous necklaces made of Czech glass beads. They seemed to be very reasonably priced and the beads were dazzling -- not a lot of sparkle, but all kinds of colors and shapes.

I wore them so much that eventually both strands broke. I tried to salvage the necklaces by re-tying the string, but it never quite took. So, I unstrung the beads and saved them, planning to learn about beading to make use of them again.

It wasn't until a few years later that I went in search of materials to teach myself about beading. I picked up some of the beading magazines you can find in general distribution, and then went book shopping online. I found several different volumes at amazon.com and through a crafts book club I'd joined when I'd first started scrapbooking.

Next I started buying more beads and the tools recommended in the books.

I became busy with other things and packed it all away in a basket and stuck in on a shelf in the spare room (that I planned to make into an all-purpose workroom one day ... currently it is your basic junk room).

Anyway, I decided to pull out my supplies for this article. It is a little embarrassing to see all the materials I have collected and the scarcity of work I have actually done. I have one piece in progress, but it appears to have some potential.

Internet resources have expanded substantially since I took my first bat at beading and a simple Google search on "beading" yielded 5.25 million references. While not at the top of the list, the site, beadage.net appealed to me with the listing:

"Beadage -- Make Beaded Jewelry -- Free Beading Patterns ...

Learn to make handcrafted jewelry with simple, illustrated instructions. Free beading information, instructions, and projects."

The following is its article on making a necklace.

Beadage -- all about beading!

Make a Simple Bead Necklace

1. Materials and Tools

2. Making a Necklace

Materials and Tools

Tigertail and Soft-flex wire are strong, flexible, nylon-covered wires which are used for stringing necklaces. Tigertail is stiff so it does not require a needle and it holds its shape. Use with heavier beads and finish with crimp beads. Tigertail has a tendency to kink, which the new, more expensive Soft-flex wire has solved somewhat. Soft-flex incorporates more strands into its construction, and is therefore more flexible and less prone to kinking.

Crimp beads are soft metal beads that are flattened onto tigertail or soft-flex wire to finish strands or keep a bead in place. String a crimp bead onto tigertail and flatten it with pliers. Crimp beads often have a corrugated look.

Crimping Pliers: Specialized pliers for squishing crimp beads. I would recommend getting some if you plan to use crimp beads often, as they make the crimp bead look like less of a squished mess. They operate in the following manner: you squish the bead once into a U-shape, and then you squish it again so the U becomes a little ball. This looks much neater than using regular pliers.

You may also want to get a bead board to lay out your designs and wire cutters to snip the tigertail.

Making a Beaded Necklace

1. Plan the Design. Figure out what your necklace will look like. If you are repeating a pattern over and over, you can add the clasp first to one end and then string all the beads on and then add the other half of the clasp to the other end. This way is easy because you don't have to worry about beads falling off because you've already secured the end.

If you want your necklace to be symmetrical but are not sure how many beads to use, you will want to string the middle bead first and string outward on both ends to make sure each side is the same. It will be a little trickier because you'll have to watch out for the beads falling off, especially when you are adding the first half of the clasp. You may want to tape the other end of the wire. You also may want to add another few inches to the length of wire you cut to be on the safe side.

2. Cut the wire. Cut a piece of tigertail that is the length of the finished piece plus 5 inches (about 20 inches total for a short necklace).

3. Add Clasp. Slide a crimp bead and one part of the clasp onto the tigertail. Slide the tigertail back through the crimp bead, pull it tight, and then flatten the crimp bead so it stays. Trim the excess wire.

4. String the beads. String on the beads of the necklace or anklet.

5. Attach rest of clasp. Attach the second half of the clasp, or a jump ring if you've used a hook-style clasp. The process is the same as the first half; you'll just have to be careful to pull everything up snug so you don't have slack in the necklace. Voila!

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