Stringing beads on beading wire is one of the most popular methods for making beaded jewelry. It's also one of the simplest -- which makes it a great technique for beginners. The beading wire is secured to the clasp using crimp beads and a crimp tool. Once you get the hang of bead stringing, the creative possibilities for making beading necklaces, bracelets, and anklets are nearly endless.
Read on if you're ready to give it a try.
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Planning your Bead Stringing Design
Begin by gathering your beads and planning out your design. In this project, we will use the same type and size of beads for the entire strand, taking the guesswork out of the design.
When you use a variety of different types, colors, or sizes of beads, it's a good idea to use a bead board to plan out your pattern. By rearranging beads on the board, you can try different color combinations and motifs before you start stringing, saving you a lot of time removing beads from the beading wire... over and over again.
You can string just about any bead on beading cable: large or small, glass or gemstone, round or shaped. However, it's best to avoid extremely heavy beads or beads with jagged edges, both of which may wear down your cable and cause it to break prematurely.
For my project, I am using 94 4mm round Czech fire polished glass beads in Raspberry Mint Ice Cream Hurricane.
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Bead Stringing Materials and Tools
In addition to beads, you'll need the following supplies:
- Beading wire in an appropriate size for your beads (the example uses 0.015", 19-strand Beadalon in "bright")
- Two crimp beads or crimp tubes in an appropriate size for your beading wire (the example uses 2x2mm sterling silver crimp tubes)
- Crimping pliers - the easiest are the Om Tara crimp pliers
- Two pairs of chain nose pliers (or one pair of chain nose and one pair of flat nose pliers)
- Round nose pliers
- Wire cutters
- A ruler or... yardstick
- End findings and a clasp of your choice (the example uses a 10mm sterling silver lobster clasp and two 6mm, 16-gauge sterling silver jump rings)
- Optional: A pendant or other adornment of your choice (the example uses a silver clay pendant)
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Calculate How Much Beading Wire You Need
Pull a length of beading wire from the spool, measure it out to your desired length, and trim it with the wire cutters. To determine the proper length, add about 10 inches to the total desired length of your necklace or bracelet, not including the clasp.
In the example, I'm stringing a necklace that will be about 16 inches long. I estimate that my clasp will take up about 3/4 inch (0.75 inches) of the necklace. To calculate how much beading wire to pull and cut, I did the following:
16 minus... 0.75 = 15.25 inches (this will be the length of the beaded strand)
15.25 + 10 = 25.25 inches of beading wire
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String On the First Crimp
Pass one end of the beading wire up through one of the crimps, positioning the crimp about three inches from the end of the wire. Then pass back down through the crimp, pulling the short wire tail until a small loop forms. Be sure to make this loop large enough to accommodate the jump rings that you plan to attach later.
You could also add the jump ring before putting the wire tail back through the crimp to be sure it will fit.Continue to 5 of 19 below.
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Getting to Know Your Crimp Tool
Notice that the crimping pliers have two pairs of indentations: one is round on both jaws, and the other is round on one jaw and notched (or serrated) on the other jaw (this usually is the pair of indentations closest to the handles).
Very gently grasp the crimp using the notched/round indentations, but do not squeeze down the pliers just yet.
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Properly Position the Beading Wire Inside of the Crimp
While still holding the crimp with the crimping pliers, use the fingers of your other hand to separate the wire strands so that both strands (actually, the same strand folded over) run parallel to one another inside of the crimp. Hold the wires apart to keep them from crossing.
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Squeeze Down the Crimping Pliers
Now squeeze the crimping pliers firmly to make the first indentation in the crimp.
The crimp should now have two channels (or little pipes), one on each side. One strand of wire should be inside each channel.
Tip: If you're using an extra-long crimp tube, such as a 3mm or 4mm tube, you may need to squeeze the tube more than once to make the initial indentation. Reposition the pliers as needed to indent the entire length of the tube.
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Reposition the Crimp in the Jaws of the Pliers
Grasp the crimp with the pliers again, this time using the other pair of indentations (the double-round indentations). Turn the crimp 90 degrees from its original angle: the wire strands should be stacked on top of each other.Continue to 9 of 19 below.
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Squeeze Down the Crimping Pliers Again
Firmly squeeze the handles of the crimping pliers again. Your goal is to fold the crimp in half lengthwise, with one channel (and one strand of wire) enclosed in each half.
The crimp is now secured.
Tip: Make sure that the crimp does not open up during this step, rather than folding over. If you notice it starting to open, go back to Step 7 and squeeze down the first indentation again, this time using more pressure.
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Trim Excess Beading Wire From the Wire Tail
At this point, you can use wire cutters to trim the beading wire tail. How short you trim it is a matter of preference. Theoretically, if you use a proper size of crimp and close it securely with the pliers, you safely can trim the wire tail up against the crimp. This should not make the crimp more prone to slipping.
However, many beaders prefer to leave an inch or so of wire tail and hide that tail within their beads. This gives the crimp a little extra room to slip if it becomes loose, without... falling off the strand entirely.
In the example, I decided to trim the wire tail all the way up against the crimp.
Many people find these crimp steps tedious and difficult. There are newer crimp tools like the Om Tara that make these multiple steps unnecessary.
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String Your Beads
You can now string on all of your beads. If you used a bead board, be sure to string them in the same order in which they're laid out.
For the example necklace, I knew that I wanted to string a pendant along with my beads -- and my pendant bail will not fit over the beads. To make sure the pendant was centered, I estimated the center point of my necklace ahead of time.
First, I divided my total strand length of 15.25 inches (see Step 3) by two, to arrive at a little over seven and a half... inches. After stringing on seven and a half inches of beads, I strung on the pendant. Then, I counted the number of beads that were already strung (47 beads) and strung on another set of the exact same number.
If you're using the same size beads, you can estimate how many beads you'll need to string by referencing a beads-per-inch chart. You can then divide that number by two to find your center point.
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String on the Second Crimp
String on the second crimp, and slide it down against the beads.Continue to 13 of 19 below.
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Create the Second Loop
To create the second loop, hold the crimp with the fingers of one hand, and use your other hand to pass the wire tail back down through the crimp. Holding the top of the new loop, pull the thread tail to make the loop smaller.
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Tighten the Second Loop
When the loop is as small as you can reasonably make it using your fingers, you should grasp the crimp with chain nose pliers instead. Using your other hand, continue pulling the wire tail until the loop is the correct size.
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Adjust the Second Loop
Now grasp one side of the loop with round nose pliers. To make sure you grab the correct side of the loop, pull the beading wire tail. If the loop shrinks down, you have grasped the correct side; if it does not, switch to the other side of the loop.
Use your fingernail to scoot the crimp down to about one millimeter away from the last bead. This extra space helps to make your jewelry flexible, and it reduces strain on the crimps. Then, pull the wire tail (as needed) to bring the loop back down to... its correct size.
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Close the Second Crimp
Close the second crimp using the same two-part technique you used to close the first crimp.Continue to 17 of 19 below.
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Trim the Second Wire Tail
Use wire cutters to trim the second wire tail. In the example, I trimmed my wire tail close to the crimp tube. If you decide to leave the tail longer, you'll need to thread it back through some of the beads. Narrow-tipped chain nose pliers can be helpful for pushing the wire through the beads.
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Attach the Jump Rings and Clasp
Use two pairs of chain nose pliers (or one pair of chain nose and one pair of flat nose pliers) to attach the clasp findings to the beading wire loops with jump rings.
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Enjoy Your New Beaded Jewelry
Your beaded necklace, bracelet, or anklet is now complete.