The Hardest Part of Necklace Making

Sep 21, 2012

Last weekend, I started a new necklace making project using a huge crystal stone and an antique Chinese carving I bought from the FamilyonBikes Etsy shop. Designing the focal point of the necklace was structurally challenging, but I had a clear vision in my mind of how I wanted it to look. Making the necklace straps, however, was a whole other problem.

At first, I thought about making a single strap on either side using herringbone stitch. But I couldn't figure out how to attach them securely. Then I thought about making one long herringbone rope, but again, the weight of the pendant pulled on it too much for me to feel comfortable wearing it. Finally, I went through my sketchbooks from last year and found a drawing I did of a three-strand beaded rope necklace that I wanted to create. The three herringbone ropes will be the perfect combination of structure and shape to both support and complement the focal point.

But not every necklace making project that I design works out so easily -- or so quickly. It's easy for me to come up with ideas for the focal points and pendants, but when it comes to adding the straps, I struggle. I feel like I'm really just not that good at designing flat beadwork for necklace straps, but I don't want to just use jewelry stringing every time I need a strap for a necklace making project. If you're like me and you get stuck when it comes to making the necklace straps of your necklace designs, here are a few ideas to get you thinking a little more creatively:


Ribbon, satin, or leather cord. Sometimes, a simple necklace strap is all that you need to complement a stunning focal piece. When I created this piece of bead embroidery using a carved bone Ganesha cabochon, I agonized over what kind of strap I should use to complete it. Instead of continuing with an intricately beaded strap, I added a couple of seed bead loops to the pendant and used a simple wire-wrapped piece of leather. Since I was anxious to be able to wear this one right away, it was a bonus that it only took me about an hour to create the necklace!

I also like to use a length of satin cord, doubled on each end to form a loop, and then held in place with a peyote-stitched slide. The colors of the satin cord complement or contrast with the colors of your beaded pendant or focal piece.

Chain. When I needed a way to quickly create bead embroidered pendants and necklaces for my summer farmer's markets and craft shows, I found that adding a length of chain to a finished beaded pendant was a fast and professional-looking way to add a strap to any necklace making project. Sometimes I'll mix it with a strand of strung beads or a piece of silk ribbon for a double-strand necklace strap with a little bit of mixed media jewelry appeal.

Of course, now that I'm learning to love wire jewelry making, I can also make customized bead and wire chains for my necklaces. These work great with beaded beads or larger tubes of bead-weaving that you can embellish with fringe.

Flexible plastic tubing. My local hardware store has loads of great jewelry making goodies, but the clear plastic tubing is one of my favorites by far. It really doesn't take long to stitch some simple right-angle weave around a piece of flexible plastic tubing. Leave it plain, or add embellishments like crystals, pearls, or swags of seed beads. Use it plain or with a lovely beaded pendant hanging from the center!

You can also use herringbone stitch or peyote stitch around the outside of your flexible plastic tubing to create a sturdy necklace strap that has a hefty form for supporting a larger pendant.

Of course, it always helps to keep a sketchbook handy full of ideas for finishing your necklace making projects. I also include pictures that I cut out from fashion magazines or print out from websites that have gorgeous beaded necklaces that I want to translate into bead-weaving projects.

Are you bored with the same old ideas for neck straps? Take a look at The Art of Forgotten Things. You'll find dozens of ideas for using things like ribbon, chain, bead-weaving, and bead embroidery to create fantastic, artistic neck straps for all of your necklace making projects. Dabble in a little bit of mixed media jewelry making with techniques for using found objects, ribbons and fibers. You'll be inspired to use your favorite bead-weaving stitches with all sorts of new materials to create unforgettable beaded necklaces.

Get your copy of The Art of Forgotten Things and infuse your necklace making projects with delightful new ideas. Or, if you ready to get started now, you can also instantly download The Art of Forgotten Things as an eBook and be reading and beading in just minutes!

What's the hardest part of necklace making for you? Is it designing the focal point or the pendants? The finishing touches like adding a clasp? Or are you like me, and you freeze up when it's time to add a strap to your latest beaded necklace design? Leave a comment here on the Beading Daily blog and share your necklace making challenges with us!

Bead Happy,


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Lou Ma wrote
on Sep 21, 2012 4:05 AM

I deplore finishing off my jewelry pieces, ie: clasps, ear hooks,bails.  I currently have about 20 projects waiting for the "night fairies"  to finish them.  Is there any hope and/or help for me short of therapy?  lol

BarbaraD@77 wrote
on Sep 21, 2012 7:49 AM

crimps and crimp covers--I usually break several crimps in the process of finishing, then the crimp cover wind up looking like a bird's beak.

sandnseas wrote
on Sep 21, 2012 8:12 AM

Gosh!  I'm so glad to read that someone else has probs with "straps" for necklaces!  The bane of my existence!  Can stop you dead in your tracks sometimes .. the wrong straps can ruin a beautiful focal design .. thanx for bringing this up and giving us some ideas.  

Kat West wrote
on Sep 21, 2012 10:36 AM

Hmmmm.............THE hardest part?Making it all work.

The first time that I took a class with Diane Fitzgerald, she remarked, " I design a piece, go get all of the components, and make it." (Okay, she owns a bead store, and she is a Master Designer). I have since made several attempts to design a piece, and just make it. It has never happened. The beads always tell me to something different.

And who am I to argue with the beads?

PatriciaW@45 wrote
on Sep 21, 2012 9:11 PM

I do okay on the designing part, and the actual making the piece of jewelry.  The hardest part to me, and the part I dislike the most, is finishing the clasp or closure.  I had a friend tell me that I loved the creative part of it but disliked the "work" part.  I have about five necklaces laying around that need clasps or finishing off.  Patricia W., Lenoir, NC

ScottishSue wrote
on Sep 21, 2012 9:29 PM


Would you elaborate sometime on how to make the PEYOTE SLIDE you talked about and how it works???  Sound like a good solution.  


ctutt wrote
on Sep 22, 2012 10:44 AM

AMEN! Have agonized, taken apart, and despaired over closures and clasps. Over time my solutions have included: hanging the focal piece on strings of beads and using bead caps [backward] as clasps with the hook hidden inside;  using antique buttons and crocheted loops; incorporating fabric into the necklace and using buttons, frog closures  or hook/eye closures; using a slide-technique with a bead or button small enough to hold the necklace cord firmly; using small satin rope for the necklace part, so it is tied in a square knot in the back... every problem presents a new solution!

MarilynP@25 wrote
on Sep 25, 2012 6:45 PM

I have done this twice now and it works every time ~ make two bracelets using different techniques - I did tubular so it rolls as it needs to.  Then I make 8 beaded beads using the colors of the beadwork.  Wirewrap each beaded bead between 6-8 links of chain. I use the same toggle on each bracelet, and on the chain, and sew the 4th set onto the beadwork.  This way, you can use the chain attached to the focal piece and wear the bracelets - or - attach one bracelet to each side of the focal piece.  You can also wear the beaded bead chain necklace just with the earrings. Of course, I also make earrings to work with.

marilyn peters

on Sep 26, 2012 8:44 PM

I redid a necklace four times before I was satisfied with the way the focal hung on the beaded chain of the necklace. It was a large one-of-a-kind drop bead that deserved to be done up right. It looks good now!