Posted by: Michelle Mitton | July 8, 2008

Making Necklaces and Earrings with Bead Simple

Making Necklaces and Earrings with Bead SimpleSeveral months ago I received a copy of Bead Simple by Susan Beal to review and I’ve sat on this post for months because I’ve been having too much fun with projects the book has inspired.

Things have been busy–or maybe I’ve just been lazy, sometimes the two problems can overlap and the boundaries between the two can be fuzzy–but I’ve finally got around to photographing and writing about some of my creations.

I suppose it started when my sister Melissa (and I normally wouldn’t point out that she’s younger but it does relate) showed up wearing some rather hip and lovely necklaces and I had the brutal realization that I not only did I not wear much jewelry but I wouldn’t have the least idea of how to do it in a suitably hip fashion even if I did have some cool necklaces of my own. I decided to update my look and try to keep up with my kid sister’s chic but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money doing it.

Making Necklaces and Earrings with Bead SimpleThat’s when I figured that with the help of Ms. Beal’s book I might be able to come up with some of my own necklaces and since you’ll probably guess that this story ends happily I’ll just say that “Project Old Lady Update” was a success. I’ve made some really pretty necklaces and I had no idea that just a simple accessory could zip up a plain old white blouse or t-shirt like that.

Besides the long necklace you see at the top, if you remember my spending spree at Shabby Apple, there was a beautiful black onyx necklace similar to what you see at the left here that I desperately wanted for one of the dresses I bought but at $58 the necklace was more than the dress it was to accompany. I ended up making this knock-off myself for about $15 (though of course mine is fake onyx).

Making Necklaces and Earrings with Bead SimpleSo with the money I saved I got more beads and made more necklaces then branched out into earrings as well (is money actually saved if it gets spent on something else just as frivolous?)

Long chains are so fashionable right now I’ve made several of these in various neutral colors and they’re so easy to make that with the right supplies and a pair of needle-nosed pliers you could put one together for yourself in the time it takes to watch in episode of Oprah–all for about $10-15 depending on the value of the beads you choose.

To make a 33-inch beaded chain necklace such as you see pictured at the top or just above here you’ll need:

  1. A pair of needle-nosed pliers.
  2. About 2 feet of gold or silver chain–a package with enough for at least two necklaces runs about $3.79.
  3. 11 large beads, 11 small beads and 22 tiny beads of contrasting textures but matching color (such as the brown necklace you see directly above where I used brown wooden beads, amber freshwater pearls and gray-brown crystals).
    20 medium beads plus 40 small beads to contrast (such as the silver necklace you see in the top picture where I used square and circular beads of turquoise with small silver cube beads).
  4. 22 looped posts in matching silver or gold (depending on what color the chain is). If you want to save some money you can just buy the wire, cut the lengths of wire and make the loops yourself, otherwise a package of these guys runs $1.79-$3.79 depending on the material.

Making Necklaces and Earrings with Bead SimpleI’ve got two separate necklaces pictured here, the brown necklace above uses gold chain and alternates one large three-bead segment with a smaller single-bead segment. Simple, elegant, works.

The second necklace at the top has the same three-bead segment in circles and squares repeated 20 times all the way around with blue and silver beads. You can easily make your own necklace either way, I’ve got the materials listed separately depending on which way you’d like to go with it.

Whatever you decide the technique is the same and is pictured at the left: you take one looped post, insert it into the bead or beads then close off the open end of the wire by making a tiny little loop in the wire with your pliers. It’s not tricky and the wire is pretty forgiving. I’ve found it helps to bend the wire straight at a right angle where it comes out of the bead before clipping it to the right size and bending it into a loop. Doing that helps to keep the beads in place while you try to loop the wire and it also helps you make the loop facing the same direction as the bottom loop that’s already made. I hope you’re following this.

Anyway, once you’ve made up all your bead segments–either 20 uniform segments for the one necklace pattern or 11 plus 11 alternating segments for the other pattern–you’ll need to cut some small little lengths of chain. With the sharp edge of your pliers clip off a link of the chain to create a 4-link section of chain such as you see at the bottom of that picture. You’ll need 20 of these guys.

Once you’ve got the little sections of chain link all you do is take one of your beaded segments, bend the loop ever-so-slightly enough to be able to slip the end link of the chain in place then bend back the loop again to close it up, which secures the chain to the end of the bead loop.

Repeat this until all your bead and chain segments have been secured together and your necklace is finished. You now look as cool as my little sister!

Making Necklaces and Earrings with Bead SimpleBead Simple shows some of Ms. Beal’s own examples of this technique and gives some first-rate ideas for simple necklaces, earrings and bracelets. One of my favorite earring designs is a simple one-bead design similar to what you see here, though she does hers slightly different and I think hers turned out better.

I don’t know if I should mention this last part but if you buy enough materials for two necklaces, make two but sell one then you’ll probably be able to break even for the cost of the project anyway–and I’m no genius but I do believe that that actually does save you some money!

Which reminds me. I’ve stuck a couple of my creations in my Etsy shop if you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own. Enjoy!


Susan of X was this week’s winner of the beautiful woodburned box by Sixth and Elm–it’s just gorgeous!

Have you got an entry for this month’s Write-Away Contest? The theme is “Wonder Woman.” the prize is a beauty and the deadline is next week . . .

Sponsored by: Pak Naks–Decorate your stuff with these cute little rubber guys!

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