I've been doing a lot of wire jewelry making projects lately, thanks in no small part to my ever-improving wire jewelry making skills. I've discovered that just knowing how to make simple loops, wrapped loops, and jump rings can translate into a whole wire jewelry project!
So after seeing some absolutely beautiful wire and bead chain in bead shops and at shows, I committed that most grievous crime and actually said the words, "I can make that myself." But I knew I could put my money (and my beads) where my mouth is, so I set out to make a couple of beautiful wire and bead chains for my bead embroidery pendants.
The great thing about making these wire and bead chains is that they don't just work well as neck straps for my bead embroidery pendants — they also make fabulous (and easy) wire jewelry projects all on their own! If you can make wrapped loops and know how to open and close a jump ring, then you can make your own wire and bead chains for all your beading projects.
Tip #1: Start with this free tutorial from Jean Campbell. Yep, Jean Campbell is my go-to resource when I need information or a technique tutorial. And she's written a great wire and bead chain tutorial for Beading Daily with clear, step-by-step instructions for how to make a wire and bead chain. Check it out to find out her tips for making consistent, even wire loops, too!
Tip #2: Work from the spool of wire. Instead of pre-cutting pieces of wire, I found it to be much easier to string the beads for each wire and bead link onto my spool of wire first, make a loop, and then trim the wire, just as Jean illustrated in her step-by-step tutorial above. A word of caution, though: don't string the beads for more than one unit at a time. That loose end of wire will whip around and send your beads into all corners of the room.
Tip #3: For speedy beading, use combination pliers. It might take a little practice to get the hang of handling them, but using combination pliers means that you don't have to stop, put down, and pick up a new pair of pliers every ten seconds. Plus, with the combination pliers, being able to keep my grip on the loop as I wrap it means the difference between a good wrapped loop and a great wrapped loop!
Tip #4: Make wrapped loop links, and join them with jump rings. Because I'm the mother of a four year old, I'm always thinking about ways to kid-proof my jewelry. To prevent your wire and bead chains from pulling apart and losing the beads, make wrapped loops at either end of your links and then join them together with jump rings or split rings. That way, if little hands yank at the pretty chain around your neck or wrist, you only lose a jump ring or two and not all those beads!
Tip #5: Get creative with your beads! Sure, you can make a great wire and bead chain using tiny gemstone beads, but this is one time when it's fun to think outside the box. Why not use up some of
those leftover beads or bead soup that you have lying around? Vintage beads make great wire and bead chain, and so do crystal beads, ceramic beads, and other large beads. (When you're using delicate crystal beads or vintage glass beads, it's a good idea to buffer them with seed beads or metal spacer beads to prevent the edges from chipping if they come in contact with the jaws of the pliers.)
If you don't think you want to start by making an entire wire and bead chain necklace, start small. Practice making links and use them as earrings, bracelets, and even fringe for your bead-weaving! Best of all, you can use colored craft wire or copper wire instead of precious metal wire to save money.
Are you hooked on making wire and bead chains? Trust me, it's only the beginning! For more great wire jewelry making projects, you'll want to check out Step By Step Wire Jewelry magazine. You'll find lots of great wire jewelry projects that use beads and wire with the same great step-by-step instructions that you expect from a great beading magazine. And if you like to stay current with wire jewelry making trends, new tools, supplies, and techniques, then you won't want to miss a single issue. Subscribe to Step By Step Wire Jewelry today, but don't say that I didn't warn you: wire jewelry making can be addicting!
Have you found a great way to work some wire into your beading projects? I still love using wire and bead chains for my bead embroidery pendants, either as neck straps or as fringe. (And the extra wire and bead links make great matching earrings for customer appreciation gifts, too!) Share your tips for working wire into your beading projects here on the Beading Daily blog!