10 Tips on How to Design with Big Beads


How to make your bigger beading better–
With our first Bead Fest in Texas coming this October, my thoughts turned to making bigger pieces. After all, Texas is known for its grand scale in everything, so why not jewelry?

I mentioned this topic to my mom, who used to think she couldn’t wear big beads because she’s petite. She knows better, now. You do not need to be of a particular physical stature to wear bigger beads. What you do need is the right attitude and a smile, because people will turn to admire the eye-catcher you show off.

10 tips for big, bigger, biggest beads
Making designs with big beads takes a sense of balance and proportion so the big piece doesn’t stray from the OK Corral into Honkytonk Town. Here are ten tips for making a statement piece using larger-than-life beads:

1: Keep it simple
Choose one large focal bead surrounded by other medium-sized beads, and limit your palette.

Rain Forest by Erin Strother
Complementary colors and materials (jade, copper, porcelain, and wood) give the large elements in this necklace a harmonious and serene presence


2: Choose accent beads that support the scale of the largest beads
String your large beads with other beads of similar and complementary substance. Here wooden discs are used to add a nicely proportioned element between the large wooden beads. Try graduating the sizes up to the largest beads. The largest bead here is 2" in diameter.

Wood Disk collar by Leslie Rogalski

3: Use multiples of small components
Single strands of seed beads look spindly between big beads. String large beads with many strands of small beads, so the ropes of tiny beads make up in multitude for the size of the beads themselves.

Ancient Amber by Ania Kyte
Seed beads may be small, but by stringing up a bunch of them, you can create rich, dramatic straps to surround an extraordinary focal piece.

4: Choose the proper length for your stature
In this case, your size should be considered as a component of your overall design. A really long necklace on me would look, well, see for yourself. Like my mom, shorter necklaces of big beads work better for me. On the other hand, with my long neck and short hair, I wear long earrings to fill in the void between my ears and shoulders.

These clay Buddha beads were on display in Tucson, thanks to Hands of the Hills. Perhaps some beads really are too big!

5: Choose the right clasp
It pains me to see a great piece with the wrong clasp. For large beads, you must have a clasp that looks strong as well as attractive. In fact, really large beads may scream for a focal clasp up front in your design.
Summer necklace by Fernando DaSilva
The sterling flower clasp is a perfect finishing touch for this strand of faceted pink Peruvian opal nuggets, balancing the scale and complementing the angles of the facets in its shape.
6: Wear clear or translucent beads
The clarity of some stones, glass, and crystals gives them visual lightness. Even larger scale designs will appear to float.

Hollywood Chandeliers by Bonnie Clewans use graduated sizes of crystals from 3mm to 10mm. The transparency of faceted glass or crystal beads adds sparkle not heft to these 2" long earrings.

7: Use spacers between large beads
The detail of spacers helps break up the visual weight of a string of solid surfaces. Try beaded beads or spacers for a change. Notice how the translucent resin works to keep this example looking lightweight, too.

Jane and Wilma’s necklace by Tina Koyama
Peyote-stitched seed-bead spacers perfectly complement large resin beads in this fun, simply strung necklace.

8: Brooches are a great place to go big
Heavier weight fabrics on clothing such as sweaters and jacket lapels provide a perfect showcase for a big piece of jewelry art.

Basketweave pin by Nancy Zellers
This is a fun and easy peyote-stitched pin. The beaded strips are woven into a basketweave pattern and secured with glue. This could become a very impressive sculptural piece of jewelry

9: Fill in the gaps
Fill in the visual spaces between large components for a larger coverage of artwork. Use chain or strands of fiber or ribbon strung with accent beads to harmonize with the scale of larger focal beads.

Love Me Tendril by Christi Friesen
Use swags of ribbon in varied thicknesses to add interesting space-filler between larger components such as these polymer leaves and buds.

10: Fill the space with lace
Keep it delicate but make it lush. Fill in lots of space around long earrings with a light and airy lace of filigree and crystals, for instance. Earrings can be bold shoulder-brushers and look feminine as well as dramatic.

Flamenco Filigree Earrings by Lindsay Burke. Make an entrance with these dramatic but airy-looking earrings made from Swarovski crystal rhinestone filigrees.

Bring your best big beads to our Bead Fest Texas in October to show off your designs. We’re rootin’ for you!

Happy beading!

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About Leslie

Leslie Rogalski, born and bred in Philadelphia, holds a degree in illustration and design from the University of the Arts, and has been “making stuff” since childhood. She was editor in chief of Step by Step Beads before becoming editor of Beading Daily in 2009, and is currently busy making her own designs, teaching, making videos, and writing. She's contributed original designs to Step by Step Beads, Beadwork, Creative Jewelry, and many Interweave books including 101 Wire Earrings and Chain Style. A teacher at many Bead Fest shows, she's a featured presenter on the PBS TV series Beads, Baubles and Jewels. Her lessons, called DoodleBeads©, were first created as videos for Beading Daily, and are a method of drawing thread paths that makes learning beadstitching easy. DoodleBeads is available on DVD. Leslie is known for playing with different materials, though seed beads remain top of her list. Prior to all this Leslie was a freelance writer, illustrator, and sold her original art clothing at national craft shows. She loves all things beady, making iMovies, tap dancing, her wonderful husband, illustrator, book designer, and owner of Eyewash Design, Mike Rogalski, and especiallybeing a stage mother to her Broadway-bound daughter.

6 thoughts on “10 Tips on How to Design with Big Beads

  1. One of the best ways to frame large beads is to use knotted satin, and leather
    as design elements.
    Leslie, I love the seed bead pin in this article- but I would not suggest that it is an example of using large beads in a pin. Lots of seed beads do not a large bead make.

  2. Macrame joins big beads beautifully. The hole just has to be large enough for the four threads to fit.

    I tend to agree with Jill S. with respect to the seed beads, as well as with her materials for large beads. Often, the challenge with large beads is a large hole, which the beader must fill with knots, spacers, or something to keep the beads from abrading against the stringing material.

    Tierra Cast makes nice spacers for large-hole beads. Any ideas for other companies? Thanks!

  3. Great article on BIG Beads…..
    Have to string a large bead necklace for a young girl and it really goes against the grain. The beads are all large and all the same size and she wants all of them in her necklace. Having the necklace look portioned correctly is going to require some added spacers to graduate to a focal point in the design. Not only that the young girl is 9 years old. GASP !!!!!! I make a lot of jewelry for my grandchild who is 7 and all of the designs are geared to a small petite child. Thank you for your article on BIG Beads it has given me some great ideas.