Tips For Successful Bead Stringing Projects

Apr 4, 2014

Like a lot of bead-weaving enthusiasts and artists out there, I got started stringing beads before I picked up a needle and thread and started stitching. When I think back on how I got started with bead stringing, I go back and forth between cringing and laughing at myself -- I really had no idea what I was doing! With almost no beading tools and no jewelry-making findings like crimps or clasps other than the old spring rings (yikes!), my early bead stringing projects weren't exactly what you would call successful.

Two of my favorite successful "throw 'em together" bead stringing projects.

But even my earliest bead stringing projects had their good points. I loved to experiment with my beads, combining eclectic materials like glass and wood with sterling silver, and I had a strong color sense without really knowing what color theory was all about. And every now and then when I get the urge to do some bead stringing again, I remember those early beading projects and I think about just how far I've come since I started stringing beads on the living room coffee table! (Back then, my entire bead stash fit into one brown paper grocery bag. My, how times have changed!)

So as I sit here at my desk and look at all the beading projects I have lined up for the month of April, I'm reminded of three things that I've learned along the way for successful bead stringing projects:

1. Pay attention to the little things. When I first started stringing beads, I never really paid much attention to things like, oh, proper technique when I was making my beaded jewelry. Seriously -- I was the person who would tie knots in her beading wire and then add a drop of glue to the knots, thinking that would be secure. These days, I take a lot of care in every part of making strung beaded jewelry. I let myself splurge on good handmade clasps, high-quality findings like decorative head pins, and beautiful earring findings. Just like in other parts of my life, when I'm making beaded jewelry by stringing beads, I find that when I pay attention to the little things, the bigger things fall into place almost by themselves.

2. Have a plan -- or not. Sometimes, the best bead stringing projects come together when I just toss a whole bunch of beads on my bead mat and let them find their ways to each other. I used to subscribe to a few "beads in the mail" type of clubs, and each month, they would send a set of beads in all different shapes, colors, materials, and sizes, along with fun stuff like leather, suede, and chain. For me, the best part was dumping all of these beads out together in a big pile on my mat (yes, I'm one of those "messy beaders"), and trying to figure out how to make them all work together in one piece of beaded jewelry. It's a great exercise in letting go and allowing the beads to just do what they want to do by themselves!

Closeup of artisan clasp by Green Girl Studios
3. Don't be afraid to start over. I used to be one of those beaders who would never, ever, EVER cut apart a finished piece of beaded jewelry, even if it just didn't work at all. I used to revere that finished piece of beaded jewelry as something sacred and untouchable -- until the day when I saw this one tired necklace in my jewelry box for what seemed like the five millionth time. That day, something was different. I picked it up, gave it the once-over, and thought, to heck with it, it was time to cut it apart and start fresh. There's something that's very liberating about being able to let go of my attachments to my finished beaded jewelry, and now that I'm not afraid to cut something apart if it's just not working, and I think it's made me into a better designer of beaded jewelry.

If you're looking for year-round inspiration for your bead stringing projects, go no further than Jewelry Stringing magazine. No matter what your taste in bead stringing styles, Jewelry Stringing magazine has you covered! Each issue explores the latest trends in beading and bead stringing through dozens of beading projects. Subscribe to Jewelry Stringing magazine and get four issues full of the best bead stringing projects you'll find anywhere.

Do you ever look back at your first projects made by stringing beads and laugh? What did you  learn from those projects? Leave a comment here on the Beading Daily blog and share your bead stringing learning experiences with us!

Bead Happy,


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on Apr 4, 2014 9:12 AM

I learned that more expensive components make for a nicer finished project. And, I hardly ever do a bracelet on elastic stringing material any more.

on Apr 4, 2014 9:12 AM

I learned that more expensive components make for a nicer finished project. And, I hardly ever do a bracelet on elastic stringing material any more.

on Apr 4, 2014 10:32 AM

When I was 7, my Grandma boiled up chicken necks for soup - I thought the bones were perfectly wonderful beads when they dried. To humor me, she helped clean them up & even bleached them. I strung them, along with large wooden beads & thought I was so clever. Unfortunately, our Cocker Spaniel thought it was pretty tasty!

on Apr 4, 2014 11:32 AM

The first thing I learned when I decided I might want to sell something was that I didn't know what I had. Those stones are pretty, made a great necklace, but WHAT are they? In my early enthusiasim to organize, I threw away all the labels!  So, I had no way of knowing what it was I wanted to sell.  Now, I keep labels, make labels, label everything!  You can't sell it if you don't know what it is!  :-)

AdrieneB wrote
on Apr 7, 2014 11:41 AM

I used cotton quilting thread for most of my early bead-stringing, because I didn't trust nylon beading thread for some reason. Now all those strands need to be re-strung!

salla2 wrote
on Apr 9, 2014 11:41 AM

I actually started with beadweaving, as I was given a box of seed beads. So, for me, the switch to try stringing came later. The hardest thing for me was learning to leave space at the end. I wanted everything to be nice and tight and snug... then wondered why my necklace or bracelet wouldn't curve nicely and lay right. To this day, I still hate that little bit of space at the end of a strung piece... I leave it, but I don't like it.