5 Essential Findings for Your Bead Stash

Aug 27, 2008

Some of you were lured into beading like I was—with seed beads and a needle and thread. Beadweaving techniques really appealed to the mathematical side of my brain . . . like Sudoku for artists, you know? 

I had all the on- and off-loom techniques down pat before I discovered that bead stringing can be an equally refreshing and creative mind teaser. As a technique for making jewelry, stringing is definitely easier than bead weaving, but once you delve into it deeper, you find there’s a nice design challenge there, too.  

When I started stringing, I had every shade of green size 11° seed bead, but didn’t have a clue about what kind of findings I’d need to supplement a stringing stash. I sure would have liked a hand-holder back then, someone to tell me what to buy, what to skip. . . . So, for those of you first-time findings buyers out there, here’s a helping hand. 

Your First Findings  

First off, always buy high-quality findings made of sterling silver, gold, brass, or copper. Just spend the extra money—it’s definitely worth it in the long run. To start a findings stash, you’ll achieve just about all you need with these 5 items:

Head pins: These thin wires with a stopper at the end help you create the dangles you might find on an earring design. If you’re going to buy one type, go for a package of the 2" variety with the flat disk or round heads. They are the most versatile. You might not be able to resist the gorgeous fancy head pins, though—pick up a couple of those, too, and you’re already halfway done with a great pair of earrings.

Jump rings: Jump rings are open circles of wire used to link one component to another. A bunch of 6mm round jump rings is a good start for a bare-bones findings stash. If you want to plump your findings stash, also purchase some big and chunky, twisted, or oval ones.

Crimp tubes: These little cylinders are the key component in attaching beading wire to a clasp. A crimping pliers is key to getting a professional look. A bag of 2x2mm crimp tubes are probably the best to start with. If you want to expand from there, explore different sizes as well as tornado crimps, crimp ends, and crimp clasps.

Ear wires: These shaped wires are what you need to hang a dangle from your ear. The most common is a French ear wire, shaped like a fish hook, but there is a wide variety, so explore to find your favorite. If a dangly look isn’t for you, try ear posts or studs. Non-pierced earring findings are available, too, so keep your eyes open.

Clasps: Clasps are the closures that keep the ends of a necklace or bracelet together. There are dozens of types, so explore your store to find the type you think you’d like best. To plump your stash, choose a variety of clasps that will enhance your designs with their own beauty. Keep in mind that multistrand clasps are also available  

If you’re just starting to string beads—or just starting to bead, for that matter—check out the article “Your First Stash” that I wrote for Step by Step Beads. It gives an overview of all the tools and materials you’ll need while you’re Getting Started Stringing Beads (which, I’ll have to spout, is a pretty helpful beginning stringing book to pick up while you’re at it!). 

Do you have suggestions for first-time stringers? Share them on the website!


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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Comments

TessieQ wrote
on Aug 27, 2008 9:31 AM

I love your term "plump your stash" but I must admit that my beading stash has gone far beyond plump straight into morbidly obese!  Like my sewing and quilting hobbies before it, I simply am unable to settle for just a few essentials, instead buying as many "pretties" as my budget will allow.  Oh...who am I kidding?  My budget seldom "allows" it but I still buy stuff!  Not that I USE it all...I have this...um...problem...of accumulating treasures and then just occasionally admiring them instead of making things.  Sheesh!  Is there a Crafters Anonymous chapter in my city?

Kelli@23 wrote
on Aug 27, 2008 9:44 AM

When I started stringing, it was easier for me to visualize, measure, and balance a necklace or bracelet if I started at the center point (the point at the center of your neck) and work back up each side. As I gained experience in how different necklace lengths looked, placement of beads on string became second nature and I could start at the clasp end and work toward the other end. Also, I learned from making a large number of mistakes not to crimp or knot the ends until I'd held the finished strand up to myself in the mirror. You catch a lot of mistakes that way.

--Kelli P., Pure Bliss Jewelry, Aug. 27, 2008

MarieL@28 wrote
on Aug 27, 2008 10:43 AM

If you are going to start stringing, make sure your first purchase is crimping pliers!  They make such a difference to the finished product.  I didn't know this and now have the job of breaking up all my original work with all those jaggy crimps so that I can make them again with neat rounded crimps!  But it does give me a chance to do some redesign too!

Marie, Edinburgh, Scotland

SuzanR2 wrote
on Aug 27, 2008 11:32 AM

I am still looking for the download of the article "Your First Stash." I clicked on it and found myself at the Beads Baubles and Jewels website. I assume it is there....., but where?

Suzan

Allpatches wrote
on Aug 27, 2008 1:17 PM

My suggestion is, read the instructions even if you think you know how to do something.  This is something I'm finally learning after many years of opps I shouldn't have done it that way.

on Aug 27, 2008 2:51 PM

Hi Suzan-

I'd try to click on the link at the end of this blog again...I just did so and the article popped up with no prob. Hope it's helpful!

Jean

TheresaM@25 wrote
on Aug 27, 2008 6:17 PM

I think the organization from the beginning is a big thing to think about.  I hated trying to find something I knew I purchased but couldn't find so I had to buy more to finish a project.  I also purchase everything for a project and put them in a little baggie and staple it to the instructions or the idea.  This way you have everything right there when you need it and no more double purchases.

Terry

MonicaC@20 wrote
on Aug 27, 2008 7:17 PM

I highly agree about using quality findings.  I used to be a findings "snob" and would only buy sterling silver and gold filled items.  However, I found these GREAT clasps by Mobile Boutique that my customers LOVE!!  They are base metal but are awesome because they are fold over magnetic clasps that my customers find extremely easy to use and very secure.  Many people tell me ease of use is more important to them than what the clasp is made of.

How does everyone feel about pewter clasps?  I picked some up at the Philly Bead Fest b/c I saw a bunch of people going crazy over them but I don't normally use pewter.  Any comments??

Thanks,

Monica

MarissaM wrote
on Aug 28, 2008 5:55 AM

Hi Monica,

I was (and still am) a bit of a findings snob, but sometimes, for those fun little bracelets, pewter is the way to go. I just get so sick of having to polish up the Sterling if I don't wear it often enough and I have too much jewelry to store it all "properly". :) Plus there are a ton of fun toggles in pewter!

Also, one thing I wish someone had told me? Don't buy barrel/screw clasps! You can't use them on bracelets because you can't use 2 hands to screw them together and on your neck they either roll around and fall off or roll all your hair into them. Steer clear!

Thanks for a great site!

CharmaineD wrote
on Aug 28, 2008 12:35 PM

Another type of clasp to avoid, for bracelets in particular, is the lobster claw!  Too, too often I need someone else to fasten items with them - very frustrating!

KarenL@77 wrote
on Aug 28, 2008 3:01 PM

Hi Jean! I really enjoy reading your thoughts, I can hear your voice as I do so. I feel that there is another essential to add to the stringers stash, they are "Wire Guards". FOr those of you who do not know what those are; they protect the wire from wear as well as complete the finished look of your design. It's a never version of french wire or boullion as it used to be called to cover the threads as it fed through the clasp. These are especially helpful when using magnetic clasps.

Peace~ Klew in Tehachapi

Jaelle2 wrote
on Aug 28, 2008 10:25 PM

My suggestion for first time stringers is to find a good bead shop, if possible.  I define a good shop as one with a reasonably wide selection, helpful and knowledgeable staff, and reasonable prices.  My favorite bead store, Beads by Blanche in Bergenfield NJ, has all that!

Keep in mind that these are independently owned shops and the best will still have prices somewhat higher than big box craft stores or some on-line catalogue sites.  But the assistance they can provide is worth it.  The wonderful folks at Beads by Blanche (Hi Blanche and Wendy!) create a truly artist friendly, nurturing atmosphere and have even saved me time finding the right seed beads from their stash of 1000s (yes, you read that right) to match my projects.  New bead stringers, if you are lucky, you will find a bead shop like this within traveling distance.  They will give you guidance as you branch out in beading.

Mystery Beader in NY

Jsmaz wrote
on Aug 28, 2008 11:38 PM

Jean, you sound like me-I had to "graduate" to making jewelry from beadweaving.  I always thought stringing a necklace was too easy to bother with-until I tried it!  Now I do a lot of stringing, mostly because I don't have as much time to work on the more intensive weaving projects I really love.  Stringing at least gives me a sense of accomplishing something.

Tess, I share your collecting obsession.  I don't NEED everything I buy-sometimes you just gotta have it though.  But I can stop any time I want to-yeah, sure I can...

Nemeton wrote
on Aug 30, 2008 1:38 AM

I am a dyed-in-the-wool beadweaver and struggle with stringing - it takes me forever to make all the decisions, and I am very bad at picturing what the beads will look like strung. My most useful tool is a bead design board so I can lay out the beads and tinker with the sequence without having to string and unstring them so many times.  My other essentials are crimping pliers (I have the 'magic' ones that make a 2x2 sterling tube into a little round bead) and after many years of using bits of masking tape and old paperclips to stop beads falling off un-crimped wires,  I have finally been converted to BeadStoppers!

CindyC@53 wrote
on Sep 2, 2008 10:07 PM

I agree with KarenL.  Wire guards are wonderful and give a professional look to the piece.  I love the tiny, extremely strong little magnet clasps that my local bead shop carries.  They come in silver, copper and a gun metal color.  They are only about 1/4" big but they hold even heavy bracelets.  They're easy for people to fasten and to get them off you have to stick your nail between the 2 ends then push them apart, they're that strong.  But at least you can do it one-handed unlike many other clasps.  Customers love that.  There are wire guards in those colors too.

Another nice finding to have are cones -  if you do multiple strings it's nice to bring them together under a cone to hide all those ends. The ones I use are pewter and they look nice and more affordable than sterling and require less polishing.

CindyC

on Apr 7, 2009 8:07 AM
I am brand new at beading. I want to do bracelets, earrings and pendants mostly. Thank you all so much for this thread!! I know now some more stuff i need to get. Happy beading! Also if anyone could tell me what type of wire to get for beading what i want to bead that would be great.
naufrage wrote
on Apr 10, 2009 4:08 AM
I find that those plastic utility containers (the rectangular ones with the snap-down or fold-down tops) are indispensable for keeping organized. I keep all my 15/0 beeds in one box, 11/0's in another, delicas in another, findings in another and so on and so on. At the end of the day, they stack neatly in the corner of my stash room. Smaller plastic boxes are good for organizing projects; as you are planning a project, gather all the beads & other items into one box along with the instructions. When you are ready to start, everything is together and at the end of the day, there is a tidy place to keep all the pieces together ready for the next day's beading. The boxes go on sale at hardware/household stores and craft stores like JoAnn's from time to time. Watch for those sales and stock up.
Carla@54 wrote
on Sep 18, 2009 2:33 PM
Who knew? In the middle of redoing my home office, I discover beading! It is like waking up and realizing what I've been missing. However, I'm finding myself having a few problems. I want to try everything at once and can't decide what sizes of beads and colors look good together and other options I have.. I find that as i start, I don't like how it's looking so I'll take it apart and try something different. I'm reading and buying books and trying, but I'm wondering what it is that makes a piece look elegant, and "rich"? What kind of stringing material do you like the best - when using the small seed beads? I'm really enjoying all of the articles, advice, and tips. Thanks