How to Attach Metal Clasps to Beadwork

Sep 2, 2009

Attaching Metal Clasps to Beadwork

Between working more than a full-time job, slinging hash several times a day for the family, and geez, just simple personal hygiene, I have a hard time keeping up with what’s going on in the outside world. I usually get to the newspaper a day late and don’t think I’ve watched television for months. So it’s no wonder why I don’t know who Jon and Kate are and why they’re breaking up.

I’m usually pretty good at keeping up on what’s going on in the beading world, though, so I was a bit embarrassed to realize I didn’t know who Rachel Nelson-Smith was until I was asked to edit her new book, Seed Bead Fusion. Since then I’ve discovered that Rachel has been teaching for several years, is published extensively, and has displayed her work at galleries and museums across the country. She’s incredibly talented—a master at manipulating seed beads into sculptural shapes. This book really shows off her talents. It’s not too often I gush about a book, but the projects in this one are definitely jaw-dropping. And it’s the first seed bead book I’ve worked on that includes not only words and illustrations to help you learn, but hundreds of photos as well. The projects are fun, very contemporary, and most are deceivingly straightforward to make.

French (wire) Connection
One thing that struck me while editing was how Rachel transitions from needle-and-thread beadwork to metal clasps. She does it many different ways, like incorporating liquid silver beads into her beadwork to create a connection point. Brilliant. I’ve come across this challenge in my beadwork, too, especially because I like to use metal clasps for their durability and ease. Problem is, the thread that connects them to the beadwork can easily fray and break.

There are several different options to strengthen the beadwork-to-metal clap connection, but I use French wire (aka bullion or gimp) time and again. It’s fairly inexpensive, strong, can be cut with kitchen scissors, and the wire (which is actually a very fine coil) comes in a few different thicknesses.

Here’s how I do it:

1. Weave through the beads on your piece to exit the point at which you want the clasp to go. Double your thread if you can.

2. Cut a 3/8" (9mm) to 1/2" (12mm) segment of French wire. Use the needle and thread to string the segment and the clasp half.



3. Pass through the beadwork close to where you last exited.

4. Pull tight, forming a loop in the French wire. There’s no need to pass through the wire again—the connection should be strong enough. Plus, once you turn it into a loop, it’s just about impossible to make another clean pass-through without distorting the coil.

How do you connect metal clasps to your beadwork? Any special findings or techniques? Who ARE Jon and Kate and why are they breaking up? Please share your ideas on the website


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Comments

Cydne wrote
on Sep 2, 2009 6:33 AM
I just use 6 to 10 #15 roccailles, depending on how large a connecting loop I want. I tend to go for the more "beefy" 6# or 8# Fireline thread but I am still able to pass thru twice. Seems to make a pretty sturdy connection. Jon and Kate? Well, darling, they are a symbol of disconnection. I'm sure that when the movie "The Truman Show" was made a few years back, the writers never imagined that people would be tuning in to watch parents raise children. What ever happened to "Father Knows Best", or "The Brady Bunch". You know, life as it should be, something to aspire to. Maybe I should just calm down. Yes, that's the ticket, beads and thread!
Phyllis N wrote
on Sep 2, 2009 6:42 AM
I started making my own beaded fasteners just so I wouldn't have to deal with this issue. I wasn't always happy with the way the french wire connection looked. Then Beadalon came out with a great little gadget called a wire guardian. Have a look at: http://www.beadalon.com/SterlingSilverWireGuardianFinding.asp It's so much easier and you can sew through it multiple times. Phyllis
Judy J@2 wrote
on Sep 2, 2009 7:06 AM
In England the thread/wire protectors (which sound the same as those recommended by PhyllisN) can be purchased from www.madcowbeads.com . Excellent product sold in packs of 144. Judy
MaryP@99 wrote
on Sep 2, 2009 7:26 AM
I also agree with PhyllisN. I've used French boullion and at first liked the look. Over time, it would start to fray and irritate my neck. Ya know, life has enough irritations without any coming from jewelry which is supposed to make us feel better! i switched to that little gadget also called wire thimble or wire protector and love them! i restrung several necklaces with them.
Radiance@3 wrote
on Sep 2, 2009 8:20 AM
On beadwoven pieces with sufficient stiffness, I've started attaching the two parts of my clasp (usually a toggle) a little bit back from the end of the work. When the clasp is fastened, the two ends of the piece meet and conceal the metal. And after years of being intimidated, I recently made my first all-bead toggle, and it was surprisingly easy! Now I can't stop making them! As for Jon and Kate, and Brad and Jen and Angelina and the rest... I refuse to waste precious brain cells on keeping up with their love lives. Hmph! :-)
BeadRock wrote
on Sep 2, 2009 10:30 AM
I agree that wire guardians are the best way to go. In addition to irritation, the frayed french bullion can cut into the thread it's meant to protect. I use Accuguard from Accuflex, available at firemountaingems.com.
DorrieS wrote
on Sep 2, 2009 11:06 AM
I love the wire guardians also. I find I use them a lot. They are easy to use, you can go through them at least 2-3 times dependent on what size needle and thread you use. However, I haven't found them in gold as yet. Maybe I just didn't look hard enough.... Jon and Kate....????? Not missing anything....Nothing like using your children to make money. Personally I always called the show "Kate and Kate plus Kate....She annoyed me with her obsessive compulsive cleanliness, her fear of a bit of dirt and the way she treated Jon like a child. Her children have turned into brats and treat their father badly. Example: Jon tries to talk to one of his kids and the kid says "Shut up, Daddy, I'm doing an interview." I'm sorry, but I would never have allowed my children to talk to anyone like that.....
Susan Fried wrote
on Sep 2, 2009 11:07 AM
When I began beading, I somehow found out about french bullion, and used it with all my metal clasps. It presented a finished look rather than just the bare threat. I've always used metal clasps on my pieces; my thought is that if you've put in so many hours doing elaborate beadwork or something you feel is very special, it's almost a "crime" to not use a metal clasp and make your piece look less than elegant. Until recently I had no idea who Jon and Kate were, and it's hard to care because of everything important that's going on in the country now.
on Sep 2, 2009 11:49 AM
Thanks for the heads up on Jon and Kate, Dorrie! I guess those shows are on tv so we fairly bland parents feel a little better about our relatively well-behaved kids, but I guess even my kids would lose it around the edges with a camera stuck up their noses all day! All the notes about wire guardians are great--I've just started using those, too. What a clever design! Got tons of French wire, though, so will continue to use it--never have had any problem with fraying/uncoiling...not yet, at least?
on Sep 2, 2009 1:15 PM
Dear Jean, old fut checkin. I love gimp(sensing a pun here?) but maybe that's because all my work goes to someone else. With a little care and protection from kinking, it works as design element as well I THINK gimp was originally for use in thread embroidery; military gold braid? and I have used it on beaded hand bags as glitzie plant stems. Just recently got some darling knot covers with the loop that attachs to the clasp loop. I got stars, turtles, lady bugs, shells..... every design on offer! Quckly found a jump ring or 2 was needed for extra floppiness uh flexibility or the cover loop would twist open and ... necklace in your bra time! Congrats on new photo. Youlook great Janet
CherylD@26 wrote
on Sep 2, 2009 2:22 PM
I have a question about French wire. I have found it in a variety of wall thicknesses as well as diameters. Can some one tell me what is best for attaching to a metal clasp? I am guess the thinner the wall thickness, the more pliable it will be. Thanks, Cheryl
mweitsen wrote
on Sep 2, 2009 8:30 PM
If you must use the french wire, I would suggest that you run your thread through the french wire and through your beading and leave it in a loose loop. Then run through all a second time. After that you can tease the wire through to make it tight and you have secured your french wire loop in a sturdier manner. Juging from the comments, lots of folks seem to have a problem with using it and it would certainly be annoying to have it start 'pokin' at ya, pokin' at ya'. Just my 2 cents - thanks for you column!
on Jun 10, 2011 9:05 PM

Thanks much!!! Nothing like affirmation when you're sittin ' lookin' through the catalog wondering how to string the metal clasp to the beaded neckalce and the light goes on!!!  Both the french wire and the other metal protector look like they will do nicely.