Keeping a Sketchbook for Your Beaded Jewelry Designs

I use many different types of journals as sketchbooks to keep track of my jewelry designs.

Probably one of the most important supplies I keep around for my beaded jewelry-making projects is my sketchbook. Through the years, I've had several different types of sketchbook, all of which I quickly fill with my ideas and notes for beaded jewelry-making projects and designs.

For a while, I was really into making my own handmade papers and journals. I had stacks of my handmade books sitting around, just waiting for me to fill them up. So when I started designing my own beaded jewelry-making projects, it was only natural that I start using them to keep track of my ideas and notes for each new project.

Keep as much detailed information about your jewelry designs as you can in your sketchbook for future reference.

What kind of information should you write down in your sketchbook for your beaded jewelry-making projects? Here are just a few suggestions:

  • A basic sketch of the design. This should include the basic shape of the finished piece and include any patterns or motifs that you want to include in the design.
  • A color palette. Use your favorite colored pencils or markers to add a splash of color to your design. You can buy tiny portable colored pencil sets, or at the very least, make a list of colors next to your design and you can fill in the colors on the sketch itself later.
  • A list of beads. What kinds of beads did you have in mind for this project? A particular gemstone? Maybe the design will incorporate Tila beads or Twin seed beads? Write down any ideas for which specific beads you will use for the design so that when the time comes to start beading your project, you'll know what supplies to pull.

Other things that I keep in my sketchbook are:

  • Swatches of fabrics and scrapbooking papers that inspire me with their colors, patterns and textures
  • Scraps of yarn, fibers and ribbon that I use for ideas for beaded chains and straps
  • Pictures of places and people that inspire me
  • Snippets of poems, stories or song lyrics that give me ideas for beaded jewelry
  • Little sketches and vignettes that I create with my pastels when I'm feeling inspired to make art, but not jewelry

Want to see what other top jewelry designers are doing these days? Subscribe to Stringing magazine and stay on top of the latest trends and styles in jewelry design! Four times a year, you'll see the hottest new beads, findings and jewelry designs from some of the best and most creative designers around. Each issue also includes great resource lists for the findings, beads and other materials that are used in each jewelry design, so you can find just the right supplies for your beaded jewelry designs!

Do you keep a sketchbook for your beaded jewelry-making designs? What kind of information to you put into it?

Bead Happy,



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Beading Daily Blog
Jennifer VanBenschoten

About Jennifer VanBenschoten

Born in New Jersey in 1974, I escaped to the Adirondacks for the first time in 1995, making it my permanent home in 2000.  I have been interested in beads, buttons and making jewelry as long as I can remember.  It's probably my mother's fault - she was a fiber artist and crochet historian, and whenever she ordered supplies from one mail order source, she would order a huge bag of assorted buttons and beads for me and my sister!    

14 thoughts on “Keeping a Sketchbook for Your Beaded Jewelry Designs

  1. I keep a 3.5 x 5.5 sketch book in my purse, maybe the only reason I break down and carry one. The tiny sketch book works great while waiting for dentist and medical appointments etc.

  2. i have been keeping a sketch book of ideas for some time now. i am no artist, but needed a way to save “finds” of designs that I had seen or inspirations for new designs.

    most of my sketches have evolved from jewelry I’ve seen on tv shows. at the very moment i see a piece that has captured my attention, i make a rough sketch, on cocktail napkin, paper towel, or the grocery list from my handbag.. I also immediately jot down any pertinent notes of color, texture, drape, size.. then as soon as i can i transfer it to my sketch book, along with those notes.. i also take note of where the inspiration originated, the name of the tv show/ or the person’s name if not a name where i had seen the piece, or store front… etc. , along with a date.

    It’s been a lot of fun developing my collection, excites me when i’ve seem to run dry. It is also a great way to firm a design in your mind… seeing it down on paper, and making necessary adjustments.

    Also, encourage employing those colored pencils your kids never seem to use.. it makes everything pop.

  3. The smaller note pads are easier to carry, and can be taped to a standard piece of paper along with other ideas/notes and organized into my 3-ring binder.
    Making jewelry is more than stringing beads. A string of beads may be bought anywhere. If one wants to create wearable art, then your magazine and the myriad of other resources available thru Beading Daily is a DEFINITE must to the jeweler.

  4. My sketchbook for my beaded jewelry design is my faithful companion: it goes with me everywhere.
    New ideas come to my mind at the most unusual times and places, something strucks my eye and turns me into creative mode.
    It is also useful to track down supplies and new display or shows ideas.


  5. You know, this makes a perfect New Year resolution, too: Make more effort to carry notebook around, and make a better habit of using it.

    I tend to get so busy that I let my notebook sit idle way too often. Thanks for the motivation, Jen! 🙂

  6. I have always kept a sketchbook handy for both my jewelry designs and general artwork. It’s indispensable! For jewelry, I doodle with designs and let them evolve. When I decide on a design, I draw it as meticulously as possible. I also draw the steps involved and some possible variations. The designs all have tiny labels identifying the different beads, etc. I go through many sketch pads this way.


  7. I don’t keep a formal folder or sketch book, but when ever I see something that inspires me, I job it down on whatever is at hand, such as my pocket calendar, a napkin, etc. At a recent exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum on Impressionist on Paper, I found patterns on the very old carved frames, that would work for my bead embroidery projects. My eyes are constantly looking at patterns. I think that the most important thing any one should do is improve their prowers of observations.

  8. I have a large D=ring binder. I keep dividers in it, and also some pocket 3 ring pages for clippings. I paste some things to inexpensive paper, and then I bought loose leaf square grid paper to sketch my designs to a scale. I then keep another large album with removable pages with photos of finished items in it. If it relates to the idea binder, I make a note so they can be compared,
    I also believe it is very wrong to make it exactly like the picture I see – I always change it so that it is not copied.
    Finally I am getting organized.

    ps at this time of year beg for empty divided cocolate boxes – great for sorting, or crystals by colours

  9. I keep a sketchbook and carry it with me all the time. I never know when inspiration will strike! I usually make a sketch of the design with notes about colors, metals, beads, etc.
    I also put pictures, quotes, poems, fabric scraps, pictures from magazines, thoughts, doodles, sketches from odd bits of paper when I did not have the book right in front me…. really whatever catches my eye and spirit!!


  10. I keep a sketchbook and carry it with me all the time. I never know when inspiration will strike! I usually make a sketch of the design with notes about colors, metals, beads, etc.
    I also put pictures, quotes, poems, fabric scraps, pictures from magazines, thoughts, doodles, sketches from odd bits of paper when I did not have the book right in front me…. really whatever catches my eye and spirit!!


  11. I only keep a sketchbook for my maddest ideas and for commissioned work. My maddest ideas come few and far between as I am still not trained as an independent thinker. I do mostly loom work, so very organized and linear. But I am working on having “moments” and this is by learning all the stitches I could at my LBS. Helps a lot.
    For commissions though, I must remember what is wanted. I do sketches, pull colors of beads in tubes and send these off to the buyer. Once given the go ahead, I do add the color numbers of the beads to the sketchbook page. On my first project I didn’t do that and spend a heck of a long time trying to find “that” color in my delica stash, which is all the colors, but not all the finishes in each. I truly admire some of the ladies and their sketchbook habits, I do carry a smaller book in my purse, and have a full sized spiral book at home right on my bead desk………close at hand. Donna

  12. I end up sketching on envelopes or whathaveyou whenever I have an inspired thought. These get transfered to a divided binder (rings, bracelets, ect.), colored with pencil crayons, drawn to scale, extra ideas jotted down. Pictures from magazines, catalogues and the like go in there too. Some times it is just a color combination that is unusual and I want to replicate it in stones. I do some beaded (seed bead) jewelry but also wire wrapping, stringing and silversmithing.
    When I can’t go to sleep I imagine intricate pieces of jewelry and if they don’t get recorded by morning they vanish like the wind.
    On the front page is my motto?/mission statement which a quote that I saw somewhere and I am unsure of the author. This inspires me, makes me look back at how much I have learned and how much more I want to learn.
    “She wasn’t where she was going, and she wasn’t where she had been,
    But she was on her way”

  13. I have two sketchbooks! My first one is for very rough sketches of jewelry designs that I might have when something interesting catches my eye. I always make sure to include color, beads, length, and where I saw it (so I can reference back to it if possible). My second sketchbook is for the actual finished piece. In this one, I make sure to do draw it as neat as possible, as well as, including all the pertinent information needed for anyone to make it on their own. Just like in the books and magazines!

  14. I collect sketchbooks almost as avidly as I collect beads, and tend to have several sketchbooks going at any one time. But one of my favorites is a slim, pocket-sized moleskin notebook with blank pages. With the sketchbook, I carry several different pens and a watercolor box I put together in an Altoids tin, with 24 half-pan watercolors. It’s all incredibly compact and ready for inspiration to strike!

    My set up is featured in this post: