Tips for Beaded Clasps
Beading Daily reader Penny S. wrote: "I have a problem with button and loop closures, particularly on bracelets. If the loop is large enough to go over the button, it slips off the button and the bracelet falls off. If it is tight enough to keep the bracelet from slipping, it's too small to go over the button."
Penny, I am currently feeling your pain! Just this weekend I designed a complicated bracelet inspired from a pattern in Diane Fitzgerald’s Zulu-Inspired Beadwork. My design includes a large bead (instead of a button) for the beaded clasp. I did a quick test run to make sure the seed bead loop fit snugly around the large bead so it wouldn't get loose. Eager to finish, I crazily reinforced the loop, secured the thread, and attempted to put the bracelet on. But alas! My crazy reinforcement made the loop become too tight for my bead. ARGH! How many years have I been beading? Cut, cut, cut. Cuss, cuss, cuss.
More measuring and re-measuring–keeping the "reinforcing factor" in mind–this go-around I added two seed beads from my previous count. The result is the most perfect beaded clasp I've ever made: the loop clicks onto the bead like a mechanical device!
I think beaded clasps are just like that. You need to finesse them into perfection. And, unlike me who can't sit still long enough to properly finish a project, it helps to take the time to test the connection several times before you crimp or knot it into place.
Making a Beaded Clasp
If you've never made a beaded clasp, it's easy to do. They are quite nice to use for off-loom designs, where a metal clasp might be a visual distraction. Beaded clasps are great-looking in a strung design, too, especially one that features a handmade or vintage button. They're also a thrifty alternative to commercial clasps—you can usually put one together with leftovers from your project.
1. Add the anchor: When you've finished a project, string a shank button at the end of your piece. If the shank is very wide, string some size 15 seed beads before you add the button so the thread won't abrade as easily. You can also use a large bead as an anchor—just string the bead, 1-3 seed beads, and pass back through the bead to make a short fringe. Repeat the thread path as many times as possible to reinforce, secure the thread, and trim.
2. Add the loop: Use the tail thread at the other end of your piece to string enough seed beads to fit snugly over the bead or button. As I mentioned above, the key here is to perfectly determine the number of seed beads in the loop, so temporarily secure the thread and test the loop until it's right. Generally, you should string enough beads so that they fit tightly around the thickest portion of the button’s profile, then add 2-3 beads for wiggle room. For a bead anchor, do that same—string enough seed beads to fit tightly around the anchor bead, then add a couple for wiggle room.
- Only use beaded clasps for jewelry that will lay tight against the skin, as with necklaces that have some weight to them. If you plan on using one for a bracelet, keep in mind that the bracelet's length needs to be more cuff-like than bangly for the mechanics of the thing to work.
- It's important to make the button lay flat, especially in a strung design. To do so, string enough seed beads to reach half the button's length before you actually string the button. This way, the button can tip over to one side, not impeded by larger beads.
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!