Claire has been creating handmade jewellery since 2002 and teaching jewellery making through online tutorials and courses since 2010.
Designing and making jewellery is an enjoyable and rewarding hobby that has become increasingly popular. Craft shops sell a wide range of beads and other materials that can be used to create beautiful and unique jewellery for yourself or family and friends. Your creations do not need to be elaborate or made with expensive materials to be creative, lasting and appealing.
It is also possible to buy a wide variety of kits showing you how to create jewellery using techniques such as beading, wire work, macramé and chain maille. These contain all the required materials and instructions on how to complete the project. These can be a great option for people who are starting out in jewellery design or who are looking for a hands-on way to learn a new technique. This can be useful if you want to avoid buying lots of new materials for a technique that you find you don’t get on with or decide not to continue with.
Whether you are new to jewellery making or not there are many small hints and tips that can help make certain aspects easier. These can also be useful in helping you gain insight into new methods and ideas. Ideas and inspiration for your designs can be found in books and magazines or searched for online. You could also browse jewellery shops and websites for ideas and inspiration for your creations
Beading and jewellery making forums such as Bead Buddies or Beading Daily can be great sources of information as well as help and tips from other beaders and jewellery makers.
Hints and Tips
1. If you do not have a set of nylon jawed pliers you can prevent the jaws of regular pliers damaging your wire or other components by wrapping them in several layers of masking tape. This will provide a softer surface and unlike other tapes does not leave a stick residue when removed.
2. A mouse mat makes a good non-slip surface for jewellery making and holding beads. Its soft spongy surface also means that there is no risk of scratches or other damage to the findings, beads or finished piece.
3. Nail clippers can be used as easy to handle wire cutters. The larger type are sturdier and although they do wear out in time they produce a neat clean cut and can fit into most small spaces. They can also be used to cut nylon thread and are cheap and easily available to buy.
4. If using super glue for any jewellery making projects opt for the type that comes in a bottle that dispenses one drop at a time. This will give you much more control over the amount of glue applied. Alternatively or for very small amounts of glue, place a drop of glue on a suitable surface and then use a needle point, scrap of metal wire or small paintbrush to apply it as needed.
5. If you accidently spill beads they can be quickly and easily collected by covering using a hoover with a pair of tights or stockings over the end of the pipe.
6. If you need to enlarge the hole in a bead, this can be done using a bead reamer. Care must be taken to work slowly and gradually especially with more fragile materials such as glass and crystal as these may crack. Wood and plastic beads are generally more resilient and you may be able to increase the hole significantly. If you have a suitable vice, wood and plastic beads can also be easily drilled to enlarge the hole size. Other materials such as glass and gemstone require specific drill bits and techniques.
7. If you wish to make many identically sized loops but don’t have a set of mandrels or stepped pliers, use a marker pen or small amount of masking tape to mark round nosed pliers at the right spot. Lay the wire for each loop over this mark and create your loop. If you use one size a lot you could use a permanent marker to make that spot.
8. Ideally jump rings should be opened using two pairs of pliers. This decreases the risk of any distortion of the ring and makes it easier to close them neatly.
9. When closing jump rings push the ends slightly together at the same time to stop any gap forming.
10. If you wish to hide the joins in jump rings small beads or crimp tubes can be glued over the join using a tiny amount of super glue. To do this thread the bead/crimp on to the ring and then close it. Apply a small amount of glue over the join and then slide the bead/crimp over the top.
11. To cut two or more lengths of chain the same length, thread the end links onto a head pin or length of wire and let them dangle down. This makes it easier to cut each length the same. Another method to use is to count the chain links rather than using a ruler to measure the chain.
12. Use drinking straws to store necklaces or lengths of chain. This will prevent them from becoming tangled.
13. Use rubber bands to secure the ends of reels of wire and cords and stop them unwinding.
14. When stringing beads always leave a gap of a few millimetres before attaching any findings or finishing the piece. This allows the beads to move and lessens the risk of them being damaged or breaking due to being placed under pressure. This technique also decreases the risk of the stringing material snapping. If there is no space for the beads to move the finished piece of jewellery may also not bend correctly to be worn.
15. Bead boards are very useful for planning out designs especially when you do not have a definite idea of how you want it to look or when using repeating patterns. They are also a very helpful tool when planning more complex patterns and seeing how this will fit into the final length or how many of each bead you will need.
16. When using a thin thread with large holed beads, placing a smaller bead inside the hole will help to stabilise them on the thread. The smaller bead can be glued in place if needed.
17. Finish elasticated pieces of jewellery or longer length necklaces with a knot rather than clasp. This knot can then be glued inside a bead to create a continuous pattern. This can be great for children's jewellery or for people who struggle to fasten jewellery clasps.
18. Calottes and cord ends (sometimes known as knot covers) create a neat and practical way to finish jewellery pieces. These can be especially useful when thicker cords have been used or for multi-strand pieces.
19. If you do not have a set of nylon jawed pliers wire can be straightened by holding a folded piece of soft material between your fingers and thumb and then pulling the wire through.
20. Lengths of twisted wire can be created using a hand drill. Fold a length of wire in half and secure it to a vice or other fixed point. Fix a hook (the small type found in DIY stores are fine) into the drill jaws and then put this through the loop created in the other end of the wire. Turn the drill slowly to twist the wire.
© 2014 Claire