The Challenges of Bracelet Making: How to Make Great Beaded Bracelets That Fit!

Nov 13, 2011

bracelet-making
I love making beaded bracelets, but bracelet making presents its own unique set of jewelry-making challenges!

"Kissing your hand may make you feel very good, but a diamond and sapphire bracelet lasts forever." - Anita Loos

I think Ms. Loos was onto something there, don't you? I love bracelet making, and beaded bracelet patterns are hot these days - just look through the pages of Stringing or Beadwork magazine and you can see an amazing variety of beaded bracelets! Bracelet making is a fun way to try out new beadweaving and jewelry-making techniques without the effort that might be required to make a larger piece of beaded jewelry. Beaded bracelets are also fun to wear because you can look at them again and again throughout your day and enjoy them - try that with a necklace or a pair of earrings!

But bracelet making offers a few challenges that making other types of beaded jewelry don't. Making a bracelet that fits properly can be a little tricky, and since bracelets get a lot more wear and tear than other types of beaded jewelry, it pays to take steps to make sure that you (or your customers) get the most out of their beaded bracelets.

Measure, Measure, Measure!

Getting the correct fit for your beaded bracelet requires a lot of planning. Bracelets are harder to size than necklaces because it seems like no two wrists are alike! If you sell your finished jewelry, don't try to make a bracelet that will fit every single wrist out there. Instead, try making a range of sizes and remind your customers that larger bracelets can always be made smaller.

bracelet-making
Making a bracelet with lots of large components can require a longer finished length, like the Motion Ocean Bracelet by Yvonne Irvin.

  • To ensure the correct fit for your bracelet, you first need to measure your wrist (or the wrist of the person who will be wearing the bracelet). If you don't have a tape measure (easily purchased at your local craft or fabric store for around a dollar), you can take a piece of beading wire or string and wrap that around your wrist to the desired length. Trim and measure with a flat ruler. This measurement isn't necessarily the length of your finished bracelet, however - it is only the inner diameter of your finished bracelet, and will be the part that fits around the wrist.
  • You also need to take into account the size of your clasp when figuring the length of your finished bracelet. Measure the length of the clasp when it is closed and subtract that from the length you want to make your finished bracelet.
  • Also remember that if you are using larger, chunky beads, chain and jewelry-making components in your bracelet, you will need to make that bracelet longer than you think you need. You want to make sure that the measurement of the inside of the bracelet is the measurement that you got with the string or beading wire. So instead of measuring the total length of the finished bracelet, close the bracelet with the clasp and see if your beading wire or string fits in the center of the bracelet.
  • Because you don't want to have to tear apart a finished bracelet when you discover that it is too small (or too large), use Bead Stoppers or adhesive tape to hold your beads in place on your beading wire before you attach the clasp.

The Well-Made Bracelet.

Plus De Rouge by Merle Berelowitz is the perfect example of how a bracelet can be visually striking yet comfortable to wear.
We are constantly doing things with our hands all day long, so a bracelet sees a lot more movement than a necklace or a pair of earrings. If your beaded bracelet design uses a lot of bugle beads, crystals or metal beads with sharp edges, it's a good idea to make sure that you prevent wear and tear on your stringing material or beading thread.

  • For crystals and bugle beads, you can always add a seed bead "buffer" before and after each bead. Using a quality beading wire or beading thread like Fireline or Wildfire can also help prevent breakage from rough bead edges. If the bracelet is made using off-loom beadweaving stitches, you want to either use a double thread or reinforce the beadwork as much as you can without breaking any beads. (Don't force your needle through a tight space!)
  • Double check your knots and crimps to make sure that they are securely fastened. Use a tiny drop of glue to secure knots that are tied in ribbon or fibers. There's nothing worse than seeing a beautiful beaded bracelet come apart with a flick of the wrist!
  • When choosing your clasps and closures for beaded bracelets, think about how easy they are to do with one hand and how comfortable they are to wear around your wrist all day. Well-made magnetic clasps and toggle clasps are always good choices for beaded bracelets because they can be worked with one hand. Lobster claw or trigger clasps can be a little harder to close but are a good choice for a lighter bracelet made with chain. Ribbon ties look great, but are also somewhat difficult to manage with just one hand.

Are you ready to get more great inspiration and ideas to make bracelets? Subscribe to Stringing magazine and keep up with the hottest trends in bracelet making techniques and components. You'll find dozens of great bracelet making ideas from some of today's most talented beaded jewelry designers!

Do you have any tips or techniques for bracelet making? How do you make sure that your bracelets are properly sized? What are your favorite clasps and closures for beaded bracelets? Leave a comment and share your expertise here on the blog!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer


Featured Products

Motion Ocean Bracelet

Availability: In Stock
Price: $4.00

eProject

A blue and bubbly bracelet.

More

Plus De Rouge

Availability: In Stock
Price: $4.00

eProject

Bracelet blooming with color and texture.

More

Related Posts
+ Add a comment

Comments

Sea Lily wrote
on Nov 14, 2011 6:56 AM

For bracelets, I use a small, heavy duty cardboard cone I bought at Christmas time.  It came in a set of three,   It measures 6-3/4 inches tall with a base diameter of 3 inches.

With a ballpoint pen, I mark the place where the bracelet should fit around the cone, which would be the inner diameter of the bracelet..  I also mark other lines, in a lighter color or pencil, with measurements of my family or friends.  This gives a variety of sizes to work with.  Fastened, the bracelet should not drop below this line.  Dangles would drop, of course.  It's not a panacea, but it's a good guide.  It's easy to adjust for looser/tighter styles, or you can add lines for those.  If you wanted to support the bracelet while working on it, to keep it on the line, you could  wrap something around it or stick some pins into the cardboard at the line.  :)  Enjoy.  Sea Lily.

on Nov 14, 2011 8:24 AM

I use the handy bracelet sizer  found here: www.how-to-make-jewelry.com/how-to-size-a-bracelet.html  there is a PDF file that you print off and then glue the paper to posterboard, cut it out, glue it in a cone and you can drop the fastened bracelet on the cone to see the exact size.

Lana@39 wrote
on Nov 14, 2011 9:40 AM

I never attach the beading wire directly to the clasp...i always attach the beading wire to a closed jumpring...then to a good solid open jump ring at least 18g...then to the clasp...this offers much better movement of your bracelet..also if the bracelet is too short for a customer it is easy to add another open jump ring to add length...i also use the ends of the crimp tool to give and extra squeeze on the crimp tube to ensure a good solid closure.

Capemaynuts wrote
on Nov 14, 2011 11:13 AM

Magnetic clasps are easy to use, but be warned. My poor mother tends to find herself stuck to her office filing cabinet or finding her bracelet hanging off the fridge. Plus she couldn't understand why her laptop was freaking out. The magnet was just strong enough to mess with the computer chips.

I find that a simple hook and eye works fine for me. I just make sure that the weight of the bracelet is on the opposite side from the clasp.

on Nov 14, 2011 5:39 PM

Something I learned the hard way. "Gravity happens." When it comes to showing off the good stuff, bracelets are the opposite of necklaces.

E.g., if you want to hide the clasp, on a necklace, the weight should be greatest in center front, but on a bracelet, the weight should be next to the clasp.

In use, gravity will drag the heavy part down, leaving the pretty part in view of one's admiring public (and hand kissers).

Also, a general tip learned the hard way. The split in a jump ring can be a point of failure if the beading wire pops through the gap or wears on the edge.

Simple solution: Use oval rings.

D.M.Z wrote
on Nov 15, 2011 2:35 PM

Like Chrissy, I am very aware of the weight distribution of bracelets. Many a time I've looked at a bracelet in a magazine or pattern for sale and realized that the main feature of the bracelet was going to be on the bottom and subject to wear and abuse. If I really want to make it, I have to re-engineer it ahead of time. I made a "famous artist" bracelet, one of my first beading classes, paid for it all including the kit from the artist...............the darn thing was ALWAYS showing it's crappy little lobster claw fastener (boring!!! and ugly too) until I added some of the leftover beads along with two cube beads in coordinating colors to each side of the clasp, now the lovely dangles and flowers show all the time. Donna in WestOR

on Nov 19, 2011 10:12 PM

This is a tip that doesn't just apply to bracelets, but I thought I'd share it here.  Some beads (particularly ceramic beads) have rather large, irregular holes. In order to get them to hang properly centered on beading wire, I use nippers to trim two clear plastic earnuts (the kind that have corrugated edges) until they fit snugly into the holes, then thread the stringing wire through the center holes of the earnuts. Only takes a minute or so, and works beautifully.

aaren wrote
on Nov 21, 2011 3:35 AM

I have not made any bracelets so far, but I love to wear unique and trendy <a href="www.zjoosh.com.au/.../a>, this blog is so nice to read and got more ideas on making a bracelets. Thanks for the share! Keep posting!!