How to Make Bracelets That Fit

Jun 3, 2009

How to Make Bracelets That Fit

A few years ago I tried my hand at being a retail jewelry designer with my line consisting of mostly bracelets. I’ll admit, I really stunk at it. Not only were my designs a bit out of touch (too funky) for my mostly middle-aged Midwestern market, many of the bracelets were sized too small! I quickly discovered that not everyone has a 7½" wrist.

The upside is that I learned a lot about:
1. Myself—namely that I wasn’t cut out for the sales part of jewelry sales.
2. Fashion—realizing that designers really need to immerse themselves in fashion trends to create fashion trends.
3. Sizing—something any jewelry designer should know, even if you’re just making stuff for yourself.

It’s funny . . . since I’ve given up my sure-to-be illustrious retail jewelry design career, I realize I certainly haven’t given up making bracelets! I love making bracelets.  Not only do they work up quickly, they take up fewer materials than other projects and are just the right size for experimenting with new stitches, beads, and colorways. And if you’re like me and don’t spend a lot of time coordinating your daily ensemble, a bracelet is a great addition to any outfit, whether it’s a sweat suit or a ball gown. Want some bracelet inspiration? Check out the bracelets in the store. I’ve been particularly inspired by cuffs lately, especially since they don’t require sizing! The Autumn Pearl Cuff by Shaylalin Garcia, Merle Berelowitz’s Checkered Cuff, and the Drama Queen Cuff by my buddy Janet Kay Skeen are just three of the fantastic pieces you’ll find in the store.

Bracelet Sizing Tips

As I mentioned before, sizing your bracelets correctly is one of those tenets of good jewelry design. Here are some sizing notes I’ve picked up along the way:

  • Most people wear about a 7½" or 8" bracelet, but that size can vary widely! I know 5½"-ers and 10"-ers, so the best thing to do is measure the intended wrist first.
  • When creating bracelets for retail, it’s probably a good idea to make fewer styles with a couple different sizes of each rather than the opposite. Think about your clientele—are they teenagers or 50-year-olds? That will give you a sense of which sizes to make.
  • Keep in mind that you’ll need to check a chunky bracelet for fit around a bracelet mandrel or an actual wrist. Since this type of bracelet stands away from the wrist, a straight 8" length measurement can quickly turn into a bracelet that would only fit a 6" wrist once it’s wrapped in a circle—you just have to plan on losing mileage to the chunkiness.
  • There are standard sizing techniques to help you measure different types of bracelet lengths:

Bangles: Touch your thumb tip to your pinkie tip; measure around the widest part of your hand.



Cuffs:
Measure your wrist above the hand at the point where your ulna and radius meet your metacarpals.  In other words, the widest spot above your wrist where the sticky-outy bone protrudes. 

Charm bracelets: Most people like to wear these so they drape slightly across the top of the hand. Make the measurement for this type of bracelet about 1/2"-3/4" below the point where your wrist meets your hand. 

Do you have some bracelet sizing tips to share, especially for those Beading Daily readers who design for retail? Please list them on the website.


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Comments

on Jun 3, 2009 5:44 AM
I like the tip this morning. I fit people for bracelets by using string and then measure that or use as a guide for laying out the bracelet. You do have to remember to add a little on each side when beading so you have a little more length for crimping or to tie the bracelet :)
BeckyP@19 wrote
on Jun 3, 2009 5:48 AM
Years ago, I saw the neatest tip in one of the beading magazines on always getting the right size of bracelet for me. 'Take a bracelet that fits me, turn a styrofoam cup upside down and place the bracelet over the cup. Draw a line above and below the bracelet. Now whenever I need to measure a bracelet, I just slip it over the cup and if it fits in the lines, it will fit me. It automatically compensates for the inside diameter of the bracelet.'
yellorose wrote
on Jun 3, 2009 6:17 AM
I find that it is very easy to make my bracelets fit by measuring them on a paper or styrofoam cup. First measure a bracelet that fits the way you like and then put it over an inverted cup. Draw a ring around the place where the bracelet rests and there you have it! Use that cup with the marker to determine the approprite size for future projects.
on Jun 3, 2009 6:31 AM
It's so funny that you wrote this article. I just remade a bracelet for a customer that initially told me her wrist was 6.25" but the bracelet made to just under 6.75" was still too small. I remade at almost 7.5". She suggested I put a measuring tape on my site that customers could print out and measure. I love the styrofoam cup idea, but what about mail order customers (I have an Etsy site)? I don't think the measuring tape idea is practical. What do you all think? Moonstone Jewelry & Design, Sarasota FL
robbsl wrote
on Jun 3, 2009 6:40 AM
Thank you for the measuring tips! This is not a tip for measuring, but on sizing. Something I have observed on myself, is that one wrist is ever so slighly bigger than the other, and both have gotten slightly bigger as I have gained weight in the past couple of years. My favorite chainmaille bracelet used to fit on the left wrist comfortably, but now fits on the right comfortably. I had thought of adding an extra jump ring or two, but switching wrists has solved the problem for now. I better not go and gain any more weight though! Another tip is that if you have already cut and crimped your ends when stringing beads, and find it too short, just add an extra link or detail to make it look as if it were intentional.
PeggyN@6 wrote
on Jun 3, 2009 6:59 AM
Thank you so much for this article. I recently started making bracelets. One of the first things I noticed was that the inner and outer circumference of the bracelet are totally different so that makes it really difficult to zip through creating a final product. I suppose that's why they made the bracelet mandrel; I'm now carefully sizing each one on it. I was thinking I was going crazy when things weren't fitting right; I glad others have had the same problem. Have a good day.
Joboy wrote
on Jun 3, 2009 7:13 AM
I sell at shows and never know what sizes I will "run into"! I learned years ago to make the bracelet on the smaller siide, perhaps 6 1/2" to 7", and add an inch or so in beautiful chain to each one. I used to try and re-size the bracelet while they went about the fair, and returned later on, but often it got to be too much for me to handle, with my sales to complete, and conversations about my jewelry with my other customers. At the end of the chain piece, I add a matching or co-ordinating dangle with a little "spirit", to make the idea of the chain more appealing. ( Aflowered bracelet will get a little bird hanging at the extension's end, for example.) Its worth the extra cost, for a little nice chain and dangle, to have your bracelets fit almost every customer you have at a show! In my online studio, at Artfire, I always offer to re- string a bracelet to fit perfectly. Do you know, I have very seldom, in many years, had a customer, at a show or fair say to me, "This bracelet doesn't fit me!"? Try it- you will be able to enjoy the show, and your customers a little more. Joanne/ Jewelry By Joanne
on Jun 3, 2009 7:14 AM
I like the stryofoam cup idea for matching one bracelet to another. Since if you use chunkier beads on one it needs to actually be longer to wear at the same length, so if it lines up with the mark then it should wear the same. For making bracelets for general sale, and for determining their length so the customers know what they're looking at, I use a tool I got at a local bead shop. It's called the EZBracelet (www.ezbracelet.com - no affiliation, just happy with it), and there's a necklace one too which I also bought. It's basically a thin sheet of plastic with lines drawn on it, and you roll it into a cone and I think a strip of double-stick tape then holds it that way. You simply drop the bracelet (or necklace) down on the cone & the line it "lands" at is what the real length of the chain is. If you made it 7" long, but with big chunky beads, it might rest at the 6" line, so you can tell people it's a 7" bracelet, but it wears as a 6". And if you know someone wears a simple chain bracelet perfectly at 7" then when you're making your chunky design for them you can test it out on the cone to see how long it "actually" is and how long you need to make it have it fit like a 7" one. Same with the necklace one, particularly with chokers where the length particularly matters. As for what to do when customers order off your website, a though for how to get a good measurement... Don't ask them the measurement of their wrist. Ask if they have a simple chain bracelet (no beads, or at least only very small beads) that fits the way they like, and ask them how long that bracelet is. If they don't, perhaps they can have someone tie a string around their wrist in such a way that it's not having to be held in place, but the knot is adjustable, so it can be adjusted to be what size they like, and then measured.
Tephra wrote
on Jun 3, 2009 7:31 AM
I have to disagree about cuffs not needing to be sized. As I person with an eight inch wrist I can tell you that most standard sizes cuffs will not fit me. In fact the only cuffs I have are one that was intended as an armband (!!) and a cast pewter piece that was marked down severely because it wouldn't fit a smaller wrist (and that one was obviously a prototype because there was no way it was going to stay on without being tied down, the gap was too wide and off center!).
Marjorie@5 wrote
on Jun 3, 2009 7:34 AM
Also, remember, if you're making your bracelet using thread (sliamide, nymo, yarn, embroidery threads, etc.), it will stretch. My bracelets are normally gifts and I place them on an upside-down cup to just hang around for a while to stretch a bit before giving them.
CarolynW@20 wrote
on Jun 3, 2009 8:12 AM
When I was working with Whippoorwill Nest, we discovered that if you add the diameter of the biggest bead on the bracelet to the overall length of the bracelet it will generally fit. This is my rule of thumb and it works.. For example, if you want a 7" bracelet and you are using 10mm beads, add 10mm to the 7".
Bubblheads wrote
on Jun 3, 2009 8:13 AM
If you're making a beaded, use a lobster clasp on one end and add a few complementary beads at the other end, connecting them with simple or wrapped wire loops. The clasp closes around the loops between the beads and allows for substantial size adjustment.
Kcrystina2 wrote
on Jun 3, 2009 8:27 AM
This article couldn't have come at a better time! *smiles* I just finished up a bracelet for a young gal and was given the measurement of her wrist. I made the bracelet a little bit bigger than the measurement I was given, but still wasn't sure. Thanks to some of the comments I now have an idea of how to make sure it does fit her! Thanks!
on Jun 3, 2009 9:38 AM
This is actually a very important topic! I also use the EZ Bracelet Sizer, which I wrote about some time ago: http://www.beadjewelry.net/imported-data/2008/3/15/easy-bracelet-sizer.html That said, if I'm selling at a show, I try to offer bracelets with that extra length of chain for adjustable sizing. You can also do that on Etsy; otherwise you just have to do the best you can to explain sizing (using something like the Bracelet Sizer really helps). I personally don't re-string designs anymore to change their sizes, but instead only offer different sizes when I have the materials to make a new copy of the design. I discovered the hard way that the time it took me to restring things just wasn't fitting into my business model. One last word: Interestingly when I was running my own website using Yahoo Stores (I recently moved to Etsy), one of the most popular search phrases from people finding me on Google was "bracelets for smaller wrists." (!) So there are people out there looking for smaller-size bracelets. I have very small wrists myself and I can relate - pretty much any bracelet that is not handmade is guaranteed to be too large. (Yet another reason to buy handmade.) :)
Ann bS wrote
on Jun 3, 2009 10:45 AM
all great hints; thank you!! love the styrofoam cup idea. i don't sell my stuff, but make lots of gifts. i've had great success recently following my own rule for flat woven (peyote, herringbone) bracelets less than an inch wide & made w/delicas or #11's) : add 1/2" to person's wrist measurement. this worked great for friends with smaller wrists than me, for myself, and for my husband with larger wrist than me. i asked the nonlocal friends to measure their own wrists 'firmly but not totally tight' around wherever they wanted the bracelet to sit. they all made the same comment about the fit: perfect! btw: any bracelet stretching, whether made w/thread or w/fireline, has not caused any ill-fitting so far.
CarolynF@28 wrote
on Jun 3, 2009 11:25 AM
This is a great article and I printed it to put in a notebook I keep just for instructions such as these. It would be very helpful , when you have instructional articles such as this, if you would put a "print copy" option on them for people who want to keep a hard copy close to their jewelry table.
MonicaS@32 wrote
on Jun 3, 2009 12:54 PM
I have a 5i/2 inch wrist and have never found a bracelet to fit. That's how I became involved in making jewelry. I just finished an African Helix made on a RV trip. It is too big so will end up as a gift. Anyone ideas on how to finish off for a small wrist. How do you size the closures? So far I have several necklaces made from bracelet that ended up too big. I discovered long ago unpicking was a waste of time except if I needed the beads.
on Jun 3, 2009 1:00 PM
This is one of the most helpful articles. Thanks so much Jean and all of the folks who have contributed so far!
Glassbead wrote
on Jun 3, 2009 1:26 PM
Wow, what a great bunch of info! I recently had to make a bracelet fit through the mail- here’s what I asked her to do: Try on a bracelet that you like the fit of and measure the length just between the clasps. Then measure your wrist just above that little bone that sticks out, wrapping the tape measure firmly around. From those two measurements I should be able to get a pretty good fit. The wrist measurement turned out to be 6 inches and the bracelet measurement was 6 ¼ inches. I knew that, with my larger lampwork beads, this wouldn’t work, so I made it 6 ¾ inches between the clasps, and it was just right. Usually I’d say about ¾ inches larger then the wrist measurement works for the flat or lentil style lampwork beads, which is what I make. That is for the ‘charm bracelet’ type of fit. I always ask for two different types of measurements just for comparison’s sake- in case something is measured really wrong. If they are at my table and are special ordering, the best way is to have them try on the available bracelets to see the fit they like. I've also been investigating the idea of making my own clasps so that there would be room for adjustment.
Janz Joolz wrote
on Jun 3, 2009 3:39 PM
Great tip article, great comments. Making bracelets for potential customers of all wrist sizes is one of the biggest challenges I found. Adding a decorative chain for adjusting works pretty well, unless the bracelet is too big in the first place. My daughter's 5-1/2" wrist, for example, is frustrating design-wise! I teased her to please gain ten pounds so I can look forward to using more than 3 beads on the bracelets I make for her!
Gwen@4 wrote
on Jun 3, 2009 4:00 PM
Thank you so much. I have been wanting to make a couple of bangle for myself, and was puzzling how to make sure they were neither too large nor too small. Now I know how.
Lou Ma wrote
on Jun 3, 2009 8:26 PM
Wow, what a great group of savvy beaders! The only thing I can add is this: I make bracelets for sizes 5" to 8" on a regular basis. I have learned that it is worth my time to make an "adjustment tab" on the end of woven bracelets and add chain or beads to stringing projects. My "adjustment tab" is usually about 3/4 inches of square stitch done at the end of the regular design in the base color. I put a loop on the other end of the bracelet. When the bracelet is chosen by one of my regulars I add a button to the appropriate spot on the tab and they are good to go. This might not work at a show, I don't know, but it works great in my shop. Happy beading!
Beads14 wrote
on Jun 3, 2009 10:08 PM
If making bracelets with larger beads then a 7" measurement of a wrist wouldn't translate to the 7" on the tape, it would have to be longer. I invented a tool that is like a stiff measuring tape that can be opened and closed and adjusted. It can be used for beads, wire and polymer clay. I've got it in my etsy under Tutorials and Kits....called the Bam Bam Tool. http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=21826527
Calico3 wrote
on Jun 4, 2009 2:06 AM
When I sell at shows, I carry a few short pieces of chain, some jump rings and mini pliers so I can add a bit of length to most of my beaded bracelets if needed. It only takes a couple minutes. I like the idea someone mentioned above about adding a dangle to the end. I may make up a few of those with some of the orphan beads and charms I have.
myst21 wrote
on Mar 19, 2011 5:20 PM

hi my name is Daniela from Vic my tip is for stretch bracelets and chain i found a cut out with measurements you tube search that i printed and seems to be usefull it's a bracelet sizer  www.how-to-make-jewelry.com/how-to-size-a-bracelet.html this is a youtube video happy beading!!

on Jul 4, 2012 10:06 AM

I ran across this older discussion and it still seems relevant.  I have made 3 sizes of the peyote stitch using stainless steel hex nuts. I made a small, medium, and large by adding just one row (of 5) for each size increase. Then I took it to our weekly beading group and had the ladies try them on.  I was amazed at the very slight difference in measurement of wrists that made all the difference in fit of the bracelets.

Mary Phillips, Moonstone Jewelry & Design, Sarasota FL

shelly1978 wrote
on Jan 8, 2013 8:45 PM

I agree with the adding a chain as an extender that way it can be adjusted in case the person may gain weight or their size may change for whatever reason then they can still wear the bracelet.

shelly1978 wrote
on Jan 8, 2013 8:45 PM

I agree with the adding a chain as an extender that way it can be adjusted in case the person may gain weight or their size may change for whatever reason then they can still wear the bracelet.

lsmoore wrote
on Apr 29, 2013 7:02 AM

Thanks Jean, those are extremely helpful tips!

ginnybl wrote
on Apr 3, 2014 5:32 PM

I have beaded a beautiful bead weave bracelet and measured it and everything but by the time I got it all finished it seems like it streached about an inch. I don't want to take it apart I just need to know how I can make it a inch shorter.