Create a Freeform Bracelet from Scraps


If you’re a girl like me, whose bun (not buns, mind you) is sometimes wound a bit too tight, you might lean toward the idea that free-form beadwork looks like something the cat dragged in. That said, I’ve also found that forcing my brain to make creative decisions about color and pattern placement, shaping, and stitching is a really good way to limber it up, and freeform beadwork is a fun way to do it.

Starting a new project that you know you won’t wear isn’t quite appealing, though, is it? So here’s a tricky way to get that creative brain toned without putting in much time or materials. I read about this technique years ago, but have only tried it recently in earnest. This bracelet only took about 1½ hours to make, and heck, I might even sport this one!

How to Create This Freeform Bracelet

1. When you’re making any beadwork project, keep all your false starts, mistakes, and general “dogs”. If possible, leave the tails long. I just throw mine in a plastic zip bag.

2. Sort the bits of beadwork into colorways. Experiment with alternate palettes. If it’s helpful, pull out a color wheel to get ideas.

3. Start arranging the pieces into a line that will fit your wrist. It’s helpful if the edges more or less match, but it’s not crucial. If you have a wide piece you want to incorporate but no pieces to fit it, try matching it with two smaller ones. This is the part of the process that takes the longest. It’s like putting together a puzzle.

4. Use the tail threads to stitch the pieces together. You don’t have to be perfect here—you just need to make tight, clean connections with little thread showing. If you don’t have enough tail thread to use, just start a new thread on one of the pieces as you would with any project.

5. Use the bits of beadwork to make a button/loop clasp or use “new” beads to make one.  

Jean Campbell writes about beading and life every Wednesday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Jean, please post them on the website. Thanks!

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Michelle M.

About Michelle M.

I was the founding editor of Beading Daily (2007-2009) and my now a freelance designer/writer/editor.  My designs have been published in Stringing, Step by Step Beads, Jewelry Gifts for the Holidays, Creative Jewelry, Beadwork, and other magazines. I enjoy stringing, bead embroidery, wirework, metal work, mixed media, beadweaving—pretty much anything that involves beads or jewelry.  I also enjoy exploring new crafts like pottery and felting.  I write a personal blog if you want to see more of my work. 16+ Free Beading Projects: A list of the free projects I created for Beading Daily. Contact Info If you have a question regarding Beading Daily, please contact customer service at or the current editor, Kristal Wick. If you'd like to contact me, you'll find my info on my website:  You can also follow me on Twitter at: Pictured here is a pair of earrings I made for the Spring 2010 issue of Stringing in an attempt to get over my fear of designing with the color orange!

21 thoughts on “Create a Freeform Bracelet from Scraps

  1. My kind of beading! I love “doodling” with beads. Starting out and seeing where the beads take me. Can it be I have difficulty following directions? Goodness no! I am a free spirit, that’s all! Thank you for this. Love it.

  2. Thanks bunches for this brilliant idea….I look through things I’ve started and feel guilty for not finishing them….this would be much more fun!

  3. Jean, this is brilliant. I have a little stash of these false starts and I hate to take them apart or see them unfinished, just lying there.

    Darlene Cuker

  4. My “bun being wound a little too tight” is SO me, right down to the long hair and wearing it twisted into a bun. I sort the beads that are out of place in bead shops, reshelve books in alphabetical order by author in book shops, and proofread compulsively, too.

    But this is *exactly* why I try to stick to freeform beading as much as possible! I will obsess over any tiny mistake I ever found, so I cling to freeform as the one thing that I can do without obsessing. I’ve also made WAY more jewelry that I don’t wear than vice versa, and I don’t even have pierced ears. Obviously my mileage not only varies, I think it may have gone metric as well…

    I like the idea of giving these little orphans homes, though – I’ve got a few projects that have gone astray even in the land of freeform!

  5. Jean, no matter what materials or design we use, if we remember that it has to FEEL comfortable when we wear it, it should work! If the material scratch or pull at things, we tend to put it aside. Pam Glendinning

  6. This idea is just brilliant! I’ve made keyrings and even earrings (for a funky friend with just one piercing) but really hadn’t thought of bracelets. Now I’ll feel less frustrated when I chuck a sample into my bits & bobs box as I’ll have a new future technique to try

  7. I so look forward to the Beading Daily e-mails. You are not only very creative but you also seem to have a light and airy sense of humor which always makes me smile. Thanks for doing such a great job!

  8. Perfect timing….I was just about to go into a deep depression over all those mistakes and half -finished projects in my beading drawer.
    It’s good to know that there are lots of beaders & professional beaders who share the same idiosyncrasies. (Misery loves company.)
    On a higher note, I end my day reading the Beading Daily e-mails…happy to know there are solutions to annoying problems.

  9. Hi Jean…I am a beginner at working with seed beads..slowly learning different stitches and some wire wrap and stringing making is a passion for me and look forward every week to your articles and learn valuable tips and techniques everytime…do love your humor most tho…I love love love that false starts bracelet…it is gorgeous and if I had it in my collection, it would be my most worn piece!!!!! how genius and creative you are!!! thank you so much for the idea…some day I will have a false starts collection and of now, I just cut the beads apart and start over…am disabled and lowest of low cannot waste one bead…please keep all this info coming especially for us new beaders!!!

  10. As a beginner, and low income, Jean, I sell some of my pieces in a friend’s hair salon and reinvest that and more into tools and supplies..otherwise I couldn’t afford to do this…she is generous enough not to take any percentage for herself…however, on thie seed bead jewelry, which sometimes takes me days, i don’t know how to charge for it…I maybe get ten cents and hour!!! Have done the Indian fringe bead sister in law, a full blooded American Native, charges $18 for hers..yet online I have seen them for as low as $2 ir $3 dollars…how do we price these and any other seed bead pieces, especially when we are slow and awkward in the beginning as it takes longer?… would be great to see some samples of your pieces and see what you get for them…sometimes I feel like I’m selling too cheaply, then too much…so confused!!! help!!! thanks again for your devotion to this craft and these articles…loved seeing pictures of you and your son!!!

  11. Hi Karen,
    I know how tough it is when you are starting out and don’t know what to price. I still don’t charge as much as I probably should for some of my seed beaded pieces, mainly because I don’t have that type of market just now.
    A good rule of thumb that I still use is figure out the price using whatever formula works for you (ie materials x3, materials +houly fee, etc) and see what the price comes out to. Then ask yourself “would I buy it for that price?” Even better, if you have a friend, family member or acquaintance who would give you solid feedback, ask them if they would pay for it.
    I don’t sell a huge amount, but I’m getting better as I go, and eventually you’ll learn what items sell for what amount, and you’ll get faster too. If people are snapping things up at a low price, gradually increase it, and if it’s collecting dust, you might ask your friend if people are commenting on it.
    I’d still be interested in hearing Jean’s answer, but I try to be helpful if I can. Good luck!
    To stay on topic, I think this is a great idea as well. I’m in the habit of cutting apart things that didn’t work and re-using the beads, but I do have some partly finished projects that may have a new life yet. I’m not much of a freeform gal myself, but a mishmash could be fun.

  12. I loved this post, Jean – I save all my odd bits and false starts and last year I stitched a load of them together into a patchwork cuff – I don’t know whether this link will work here:
    This came about because I was short of beading time and needed a workshop project – but then I took it with me to a craft fair to publicise the workshop and ended up selling it to someone who just fell in love with it, wacky though it was, so I had to go home and stitch some more bits anyway!
    As far as pricing is concerned, Karen, your time is always going to be the biggest component in the price of any seed bead piece, so you have to figure out what your time is worth, set a price and stick to it. If your market won’t bear that price – consider changing your market and selling your work somewhere else. Maybe you are a better ‘fit’ in an upmarket gallery than in a hair salon…
    Good luck, anyway!

  13. I have what I call my INCUBATION BOX for every little bit of beading I do, cut off, snarl or otherwise don’t use right away. At the very least, there’s always a few extra beads of something when I run a few beads short in the future, but mostly it’s all about saving little sparks of ideas, the way writers save cocktail napkins with their next great screenplay.

    Leslie from Step by Step Beads

  14. Wonderful ! Now instead of cutting the threads and re-sorting beads (to return to their tubes) I can “save” the pieces for another burst of creativity.

  15. What a fantastic idea. I have several “I will not be finishing for one reason or another” projects and they are just sitting in a jar doing nothing and waitin gfor me to cut them apart and sort the bead, which I really do not want to do. Now I don’t have to. Thanks Loads…VictoryArts