Make a Necklace with Leftover Chain

Using Leftovers 

I've been thinking a lot about leftovers lately–and not the fuzzy kind in my refrigerator!  I'm talking beads.  My bead stash has grown conisderably in the last year and with each new project I complete, I have a new challenge–what should I do with the leftovers?  Part of my problem is of my own making–like many of you, I buy at least a few extra beads for projects because I am afraid of running out.  Plus, I tend to buy beads without a specific project in mind–a guarantee that some beads might sit around for awhile.  Some leftovers end up as earrings and others have helped fill out dangly bracelets like Gone Fishin' with Miro (pictured at right).   But there are still many beads left.

Sometimes I think that part of the problem is that after I've used beads for a project, it's hard for me to see them fresh again.  There's been some discussion on the Beading Daily forums about donating leftover beads to groups like senior citizen centers.  This is a great idea.  There are many deserving groups that might be able to bring new life to your old beads.

How do you use your leftovers?  Anyone else getting pangs of guilt when you look at all the friendly beads waiting for their moment on stage? 

New Free Project
Solstice by the Sea
Andrew Thornton

Andrew Thornton is a talented designer whose inspiring pieces regularly grace the pages of Stringing magazine. Andrew's "Solstice by the Sea" presents two ideas for using leftovers:

  • Mix and match.  Save all those short bits of chain from your other projects and connect them together with simple beaded wrapped loops.  You can either use chain that is all the same color (like the silver shown) or you can mix metals for a fresh look. 
  • Feature a single lampwork rondelle.  This relatively small (18x15mm) lampwork bead is often sold in sets, but just because you buy beads as a set doesn't mean you need to use them that way!  Follow Andrew's lead and feature any type of bead you love in a necklace, even if it isn't labeled as a "pendant" or "focal" bead.  Smaller beads are typically less expensive and by featuring just one in a necklace, you'll be able to make additional pieces (matching earrings? more necklaces?) with the remaining beads in the set.

Download Solstice by the Sea

Power of Beading Contest:  Tell us how beading has helped you through a challenging time and you could win a beaded ribbon pin created and donated by designer Kerrie Slade.  Contest ends September 12.  Details

Charity Fundraiser:  You can also buy a copy of the pin instructions and make your own pin.  All the money raised from the sale of the instructions through September 30th will go to charity.  Details

Michelle Mach shares free projects every Friday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Michelle, please post them on the website.

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Beading Daily Blog
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!

13 thoughts on “Make a Necklace with Leftover Chain

  1. Necklace made with leftovers — I used an 18″ length of chain with fairly large loops, attached leftover beads and charms in a gradated pattern starting with the largest in the middle of the chain and going smaller to the end. I used a total of 19 pieces and have had nothing but positive comments on it whenever I wear it.

  2. I hoard all my leftovers and fully intend to use them – sometimes it’s years before I come back to them, but I never like to say that I’ll definitely never need a particular sort of bead again!
    I like freeform pieces for using up seed bead leftovers, I just mix them together until the colour looks sort of right, then dive in and stitch away with no particular plan in mind until whatever-it-is looks sort of finished. I hadn’t thought of treating all my leftover odd findings and bits of chain in the same way, but will be off to have a rummage in the findings box and do some experimenting if I get any free time this weekend!
    Some beadmakers sell their ‘orphan’ lampwork beads singly or in mixed batches – these are the beads that for one reason or another don’t have a matching set, maybe they were surplus to requirements or didn’t match the others perfectly enough – orphans are often cheaper than full sets and I’ve acquired lots of lovely beads in this way. ‘Odd’ lampies come in handy for clasps, embellishments, or that perfect highlight like the one in your featured project.

  3. I love leftovers!! I am a pendant making machine with those singles and bits of chain. Over the weekend, I picked up some vintage pins and bits of chain. I mixed them up with some newer bits and came up with something completely awesome… is my blog if you want to have a laugh and check them out. Thanks for the motivation!!!!!

  4. I use my leftover bits of chain several useful ways:
    First, if the loops are large enough, one can be stitched or crimped onto the end of a bracelet or necklace as an extender chain–very secure as there are no open loops. If you can bear to waste a link, you can cut off a whole link for a “soldered” ring and stitch or crimp it onto to a piece for a secure closure. If I have a bunch of longish and shortish bits of finer chain, I attach them with small jumprings to a choker-length chain to achieve a tassel of chain dangling down, and I add a few small crystals to the tassel for a modern looking pendant necklace. This looks very pretty if the chains are different from one another as this gives the tassel texture.

    With my leftover pearls, I make mixed pearl bracelets, which people love. I make a lot of “station” necklaces using fewer than 20 pearls space out with coordinating delicas, also popular. Once I had saved leftover pearls in a bag for some years and had enough to make a glorious mixed pearl torsade with about 8 strands. Gorgeous!
    –Kelli P. Sept. 5, 2008

  5. I’ve been running the children’s Make It Take It table at our yearly Bead Society bead event for several years. The proceeds go to charity. So my orphan, left-over, and “what was I thinking?!” beads get donated to two great causes: children’s creativity and charity. I also remind our members periodically to do the same.

    Also, our bead society organizes a yearly garage sale, which allows everyone to pass off or sell their extra beads to other who might appreciate them.

    Check with your local bead society or beading group, I bet they can help you find homes for those “left-over” and unloved beads.

    But this article was great because I never thought about using chain odds and ends for anything but earrings.

  6. I often use leftover beads to make bookmarks. You can buy the forms at many bead shops. They make great gifts and, for those who sell their jewelry, attract those who want just a “little something” at a craft fair or some such.

  7. I hate the eating kind of leftovers but I adore the beading kind of leftovers! I do bookmarks as well and another of my favorite leftover projects for crystals and the single ‘special’ spacers I end up with is a twisted wire cuff style of freeform bracelet – forming the heavier wire and then wrapping and coiling finer wire here and there and picking up those extra coordinating leftovers throughout the piece. I took a class years ago from the imensely talented Tannis Johnson and it has inspired me to do them in silver, copper and even brass – depending on the colors of the leftover beads! It’s super fun too and totally liberating because there’s no pattern.

  8. I am saving all my beads I don’t use (they are never considered leftovers) to give to my grandchildren someday. They are my legacy to them. Hope one of them will appreciate them. That reasoning lets me buy with abandon, at least till I’m broke!

  9. “Waste not – want not.”

    I’ve noticed that over the years, my leftover beads have increased quite a bit. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s a good indicator of my personal style and aesthetic, and clearly lays out the cuts and colors that I’m naturally drawn to. Individually they might seem disconnected, but together, I think, there’s a nice string of who I am as a designer. It’s fun to see your personal color palettes and even those odd “what was I thinking” beads making sense.

    I never throw away the cut links of chain or scrap bits of wire. We cast, so silver can be re-melted down. But I also save it to include in little reliquary bottles or mixed media collage beads. The tangle of different sized links is pretty darn cool.

  10. I love using little bits and pieces of chain for various projects as in most of the above examples. I’m such a packrat, I have to make myself throw things away even if I know it’s relatively usless (ie broken). I’ve been stringing a bunch of necklaces recently, and can’t bear to part with all the little 1-2″ bits of beading wire-there must be something I can make with it!

  11. I love this idea for using leftover chain and beads. I have a ton of chain bits and pieces I’ve recycled from old necklaces and new pieces. I have a collection of odd/unique beads and I think this would be a good way to use them.