How to Bead Your Own Jewelry Designs

Jan 22, 2012
The first set of beaded rings came out exactly as I had envisioned them!
The second set of beaded rings were destined for my UFO drawer. Oh, well!

I have a friend who, as part of her New Year's resolutions, wants to become a beader who "does things" instead of just "makes things". She's got plenty of ideas for beaded jewelry designs in her head and written down on paper, but she's feeling stuck and uncertain of how to bead these projects into reality.

Figuring out how to bead a design from a sketch into a finished piece of beaded jewelry isn't the easiest thing in the world. Even when I have a clear picture in my head of which beading stitch or jewelry-making technique I want to use, there are times when once I sit down to start the actual beadwork it becomes apparent that my original ideas are not going to work.

A perfect example of this was the series of Jewish wedding rings that I designed after being inspired by photographs of 13th and 14th century artifacts from a European museum. The original rings were topped with beautifully ornate structures meant to resemble Jewish synagogues, and I had plenty of ideas on how to recreate these using my favorite beadweaving stitches and size 15o seed beads.

But, you know what they say about the best laid plans. I created the first two rings with relative ease - they only included some fancy filigree around the center and on the edges of the wide bands. Inspired by those beaded rings, I thought I had figured out how to bead the more intricate rings, and discovered that my ideas just weren't going to work. After half a dozen broken needles and many more broken beads, I took the little parts of my would-be beaded components and stored them in my UFO drawer until such time as I can figure out how to make them work.

  • When writing down or sketching your ideas, include as much detail as possible, including colors. Since I frequently get inspired by pieces that I see in museums and art galleries, I carry a tiny portable set of colored pencils with me. The whole set isn't much larger than a credit card and includes eight colored pencils, a tiny eraser and a tiny pencil sharpener. It fits right into my pocket or handbag next to my sketchbook when I'm traveling.
  • Look for inspiration everywhere. You can find ideas for original beaded jewelry designs in places like your fish tank, your vegetable garden and even on your morning commute. Look at colors, shapes and people to see what kinds of ideas they can create in your sketchbook!
  • Not every single beaded design will be a winner, so don't expect it. Even the professionals have designs that just don't work out. Instead of stressing out over your "failures", chalk them up to experience and let yourself move on to the next design!
  • Make more than one version of your beaded jewelry design. If you think the piece looks great when it's been stitched up with cylinder beads, try using Czech seed beads next. Change up the colors and materials to see what else you can create from your original beaded jewelry design.

It might sound counter-intuitive, but stitching up the beaded jewelry designs of other beaders can be a great way to learn how to bead your own jewelry designs. Learning how one bead artist uses a particular beading stitch or jewelry-making technique can give you valuable insight into just how versatile these beading stitches can be.

One of my favorite resources for creative and innovative beading projects is, of course, Beadwork magazine. I spend hours looking through each issue to find out how today's best beading designers are using my favorite beading stitches. If you are missing a few issues of Beadwork magazine, now is the time to complete your collection during the Winter Wipeout sale. All back issues of Beadwork magazine (and your other favorite jewelry-making magazines) are on sale for a limited time, so stock up while you can!

Have you ever tried to bead your own jewelry designs? If not, what held you back? Have you resolved to try to do more of your own beading designs in 2012? Share your thoughts on the blog!

Bead Happy,


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TashaMc wrote
on Jan 23, 2012 3:10 AM

I had a great idea for a tubular peyote design recently, but when I came to stitch it, the darn thing just wouldn't come together. I finally gave in and tried cubic RAW, which worked beautifully. Shame it's my least favourite stitch!

LisaM@126 wrote
on Jan 23, 2012 3:30 PM

I think those rings turned out great.  I'm glad you took the time to share that story.  I love rings and have been playing around with ideas.  You have inspired me to just do it!

pammellam wrote
on Jan 23, 2012 4:15 PM

I know exactly what you mean about being a "doer" as opposed to a "maker". For a long time I have felt I am a "studier" as opposed to a "doer." Isn't it interesting. I also made a resolution this year that I would become a "doer". Although I didn't put it exactly in those terms! I would love to find a small set of colored pencils like you found. It sounds very useful. All of your tips are very important I think.

satura_dtani wrote
on Jan 23, 2012 4:16 PM

UFO drawer?  UnFinished Objects?

Brenda LA wrote
on Jan 23, 2012 5:50 PM

I ordered a subscription to your  Stringing magazine...back in Nov. 15, 2011. You charged my Visa fro $25.95 US. I called and left a message taht I haven't received any magazines phone call back...when can I expect some service????????? or my magazines???

Pamela Caton wrote
on Jan 23, 2012 5:56 PM

Thanks for sharing that story Jennifer; it makes me feel better. Right now I'm struggling with an idea I can't implement. I'm working on a necklace with a labradorite cabochon that I've made a beaded bezel around. What I wanted to do was use thin gauge wires with 15/0 seed beads strung on them and have the wires cascade over one side and part of the bottom of the bezel. I don't know how to attach them. I'm afraid that glue won't hold the wires in the beads for very long. Any ideas? I may have to give in and just use Fireline to attach them (which isn't the look I see in my head).

Radiance@3 wrote
on Jan 23, 2012 9:26 PM

Jennifer, I can certainly relate -- so often I've envisioned some brilliant, innovative design, only to find it just can't be made to work.  Or worse yet, failed to make a sketch and forgotten my idea altogether.  Can you find us a source for a little pencil kit like yours?  It's a great idea!

on Jan 24, 2012 2:02 AM

I like all of your ideas. There was only one thing missing from your ideas about takeing a pencil set and copying ideas from "art galleries" and similar places. PLEASE  when you make a suggestion like this - think about copyright issues. I am a designer (Is that a "doer"?) and I have had  my designs stolen several times and it is crushing to see your work - from your artitist mind - with someone elses name on it.

Example - Augutst 2004 issue of Bead and Button with Dori Jamison's name on my work. It will float around forever, especially now that publishers are offering old issues. That is my work. A tiny space was givien in the following issue stating that Dori did indeed steal my design and then sent it in as her own. I have asked them to stop selling the OLD issue since they now know it contains a "stolen" piece of my artwork - detail for detail - but they said nope - because they know I don't have the money for an attorney. The attorney I talked to said my case against them would be solid - but he does not work for free. Being "inspired" by someone elses work is one thing - but copying is against the law and a very painful and long lasting slap in the face to the original "true" artist. - Thank you! Aurora Mathews.

P.S. - It is legal (NOT liable or slander) to name names as long as what you are saying is the truth and provable. Everything I just described is printed in the August and following issues of B and B in that year. She also won the 2002 3rd place award in "non-wearables" of the Bead Dreamz competition using my instructions to make her "stacked" baskets and used my design to make a basket that is in the Lark Book "500 Beaded Pieces" - How do you suppose that makes me feel?.

DO NOT "COPY" another artists design. Please be clear when you are suggesting to people to take a drawing pad to copy details and/or take photos (although most galleries do not allow photos for that reason).

on Jan 24, 2012 2:39 AM

Great ideas - except! Taking a pad and pencil into an art gallery, jewelry store or museum is not always a good idea unless you plan to use the piece you are copying as only "inspiration". It is against copyright laws to "copy" any other artists work without their written permission. This is one of the reasons many of these places do not allow cameras or photos taken. The same goes for artitst designs printed in magazines or on line. I've had my work stolen and it's still out there with another persons name on it. As an artist and designer that respects others copyrighted work (once printed or photographed it is automatcially copyrighted - a formal copyright is best - but does not make the artwork any less owned by the artist - it just helps when you hit the courthouse), it hurts to the bone to see someone else getting credit for my work.

Aurora Mathews -

(former editor of "The BeadAholic Quarterly" 1995 - 2000)

lippyowner wrote
on Jan 24, 2012 7:17 AM

I'm still at the learning stage. I lost my daughter suddenly this last summer and she was a jewelry maker. In her belongings were boxes and boxes of jewelry making materials. One box must have been her "fancy" beads. Lots of crystals, lampwork, ceramic beads along with a bunch of antique handblown glass beads. I wanted to "do something" with all this stuff, but didn't know how.

After picking up several different "styles" of books, my daughter made and sold chailmaille items, I found a kind of inner peace and enjoyment with seed beads and weaving.

I'd love to eventually be good enough to make my own designs, but right now I'm learning all the different stitches. The advice of using patterns from on-line and magazines is right. How else can us newbies learn and practice?

I know this thread has been somewhat highjacked into a copywrite issue, but it's a concern I've had. I've already been asked to enter our local craft show (I'm in a very small rural area). Because my pieces are not of my design, I've already started putting small lables on each with the designers name. Locally it doesn't mean much, just me wanting to give credit where credit is due.

This brings up the question - don't the designers that have made their designs very public by not just placing them in magazine, but publishing patterns/directions along with them, kind of expect their designs to be "out there"? I know the case from the above poster is quite a bit different. It didn't sound like her work was published as a pattern. It was from pictures (from what I understood) In Jennifer's defence, she said she gets INSPIRATION from other pieces, not that she COPIES them.

jifrubens wrote
on Jan 24, 2012 11:34 AM

Maybe your friend really meant she was going to stop copying and start inventing?  The word ‘do’ simply implies carrying out a function, but the word ‘make’ means to bring into being.  What's cooler than bringing something into being?  There’s a huge international community of low-tech and high-tech artists, craftsmen, inventors, and innovators who call themselves Makers—including jewelry artists—who would be kind of insulted by the implication that they don't do anything.  They spend their time making life better, smarter, easier, prettier, more entertaining and greener by making clever use of limited resources, available tools, and pure ingenuity.  

Check out,, and particularly

You will be amazed, delighted, and inspired by the creativity of people who “just make things.”