Learn to Create Perfect Simple and Wrapped Loops

Apr 30, 2008

Wired on Wire

Remember your first simple loop? I remember mine. Santa Monica, 1990. It wasn't neat and it wasn't pretty, but it opened up a whole new wirey world to me. I guess you could call it an "entry" technique. Not far behind were wrapped loops, coils, and free-form wrapping. Next thing I knew I was pawning my wedding crystal for hand tools and bumming wire off my metalsmith buddies.

Since I was strictly a needle-and-thread beader up until then, working with wire was pretty exciting. Come to think of it, I felt a bit giddy to be working with tools for the first time. Things that were out of my reach beforehand were suddenly at my fingertips. I could crank out a charm to add to a stitched bracelet, whip up a quick pair of earrings, or create a custom clasp for a necklace--all were possible with just a few tools and some wire. It was quite staggering.

I’ve learned a lot about wire since that first simple loop in 1990. The most surprising lesson? There is no other handcraft I've ever learned that has taken as much practice. Really. Thousands of wrapped loops later, I'm still learning how to make them look cleaner and more even. I've also come to the conclusion that wirework is not an option--if you're a beader, you need to know how to do it.

So, what's the best way to get started? Here are a few tips.

Take a lesson from a real person. If you can swing it, take a beginner's wireworking class. Learning from a pro right off the bat will save you lots of time you might otherwise spend frustrated, not to mention the cost of yards of experimented-on wire. If there aren't classes offered in your area, see if you can find another beader who's good at wirework to show you firsthand. It really does help to learn this skill from another human.

Buy your own tools. If you take a wireworking class, there will most likely be tools for you to use, but you'll want to buy some for yourself nonetheless. These are specialty tools, so you'll be shopping for them at a bead shop or jeweler's supply, not at the hardware store. Buy the best kind you can afford. These tools will last for years so don't be chintzy! To get started, you just need 2 chain-nose pliers (the extra one is for opening jump rings), 1 round-nose pliers, and 1 pair of flush-cut wire cutters.

Use copper wire to practice. Copper is soft and cheap, so it's a great wire to practice with before you spend the extra money on sterling silver or gold-filled wire.

Design a charm bracelet. Make it so "fluffy" with beads and wire that you can't see the chain. Such a chunky design will ensure that you're not only proficient with wrapped loops by the time you've finished it, but also that any clunker loops you made will be hidden by all the beads.

Making the Perfect Bead Dangle - Check out this step-by-step guide with photos!


 

Congratulations to the Bead Star Early Bird Winner!   Sarah Sharp won the $250 gift card in the random Early Bird drawing for Bead Star.  She doesn't know yet exactly how she'll spend her windfall, though she's pretty sure that sterling silver wire and PMC will be on her shopping list.  When asked about her designs, Sarah said, "I love to combine natural stones with creative wirework and have been working on more elaborate designs in the past few months. While my work focuses mostly on necklaces, I have been making a lot of earrings lately as well. I find that earrings are good small projects for developing new techniques."  Bead Star is Sarah's first beading competition--what a great way to start!

The Early Bird deadline has passed, but there's still time to get your entry in for Bead Star!  The deadline is next Tuesday, May 6th.  Enter today.


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!


 


Related Posts
+ Add a comment

Comments

on May 16, 2008 2:34 PM

Comments

I saw today's post on wire wrwapping and couldn't believe my eyes! I'm very new to beading and I've just this week discovered that I wrap exactly as described! Yesterday I even made a freeform bead and wrapped wire pendent. Beading Daily has been an inspiration for ever since a friend sent me the site. Thanks Beth

Comment by: Beth M | April 30, 2008

I saw today's post on wire wrwapping and couldn't believe my eyes! I'm very new to beading and I've just this week discovered that I wrap exactly as described! Yesterday I even made a freeform bead and wrapped wire pendent. Beading Daily has been an inspiration for ever since a friend sent me the site. Thanks Beth

Comment by: Beth M | April 30, 2008

I learned from another beader that if you use the front end of your crimping pliers to "crimp" the whole wrap, it tucks the end in neatly. Just thought I'd share that tip as it sure helped me!

Comment by: Sharon C | April 30, 2008

Have you heard of Magic Beads? They are metal beads with rubber inside so that they won't slide on a wire. Someone told me about them and I can't find them. Maybe a topic to include in a New Products column. Jean, your column is really fun and informative! Thank you! JoAnn

Comment by: JoAnn H | April 30, 2008

To Joann H: I have purchased these magic beads and I love them. I have purchased sterling silver ones at one of the following websites: (Can't remember exactly which one) Fusionbeads.com or artbeads.com. They both offer free shipping and no minimum purchase. Good luck! I too, remember my first dangle. I took a wire wrapping class on my vacation and was so excited with what I created, earrings and a necklace with dangles. I rushed home to teach my 13-year-old niece what I learned so I would not forget. She is now the queen of dangles and is better at it than I am. There are markes on her pliers from making dangles and they sure are perfect!

Comment by: Noreen N | April 30, 2008

Katie Hacker solved my loop problem when she said she just pretends she is making a wrapped loop and then cuts off the extra wire...easier than trying to cut the wire to the right length and then turning the loop.

Comment by: Sally S | April 30, 2008

I use a crimping pliers to "tuck" the cut end of the wire wrap. My wraps are totally smooth and don't catch on fabric.

Comment by: Bonnie C | April 30, 2008

I think it is important too, especially for those new to the techniques of wire wrapping, that it takes practice. Don't expect to be perfect the first few wraps. And, actually, we are humans, not robots, so perfection is a little subjective there too.

Comment by: Tammy P | April 30, 2008

I just purchased and have not yet used the Smart Bead from Artbeads.com. Stock number 1143082 for 3mm sterling. I'm excited to try them and am sure these are the same as your magic beads!

Comment by: Sandra D | April 30, 2008

Your suggestions on wire wrap are right on target!

Comment by: | April 30, 2008

On page 1188 in the firemountain catalog (C) necklace has a knot and I want to learn how to tie that knot. Does anyone know how jreinecke@vcn.com

Comment by: Jean R | May 1, 2008

I love wire wrapping. I agree it is a good idea to start with a less expensive wire like copper. That said, let me caution newbies to use a small gauge between 22-32 to learn wire wrapping. I made the mistake of starting with 18-20 gauge copper wire to learn wire wrapping. Being a newbie myself not that long ago, I also tended to have the grip of death on my wire. Consequently, I'm still recovering from a lifted thumbnail from its nail bed. It takes months to grow nails back. The combination of large gauge, hard copper wire, and the grip or death on that wire can be dangerous. Start with a smaller gauge, and lighten your grip if possible and spare yourself some agony. Happy wire wrapping!

Comment by: Rita M | May 1, 2008

At least once a day, someone comes into my store and says, "Can you show me how to make earrings? I can't make that loop right!" I demonstrate with 22 ga wire, and let them practice once or twice and then tell them to practice at home with cheap wire to practice the motions before they graduate to headpins or "real" wire. Copper is okay, but twist ties from bread wrappers or garbage bags are nice and flexible and free! Don't we all have a jillion of them lurking in a "junk drawer" in the kitchen?

Something that I've done when making a wrapped loop for a pendant is to leave the wire long and make a little spiral to hang over and decorate the front of the pendant. I did one like that for a friend and now she thinks I'm the craftiest person since Martha Stewart!

Comment by: Deb W | May 1, 2008

A while back you asked about "must have" tools. I'd like to add my frequent tool: a very small hook steel crochet hook. It's great for fishing "tails" for knotting in tight areas, not to mention crocheting actual small gage wire. Recently I made the spakliest necklace by stringing AB glass mellons on thin cable, sort of loosely. Then crocheting copper wire around each bead, well, snaking up one side and coming back in a figure-8 pattern. I'm wearing this necklace myself and making others to sell.

Comment by: kim m | May 2, 2008

I recently saw a cube bead made with peyote stitch and seed beads. I can do peyote stitch, but cannot figure out how to make the cube!!! Can anyone steer me in the direction of how? I think it is a beaded bead....

Comment by: Marilyn P | May 7, 2008

I am sorry I posted on the wrong page.......

Comment by: Marilyn P | May 7, 2008