Bead Substitution Tips

The original Faerie Queen Cuff

My version of the Faerie Queen Cuff

I don't think I've ever followed project instructions exactly, down to the last bead. (Except, of course, when editing projects for Beading Daily.) Frankly, one of the things I like most about beading is to take a design and personalize it with my own touches.

I realize that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for bead subsitution. It can be scary—the advantage of following someone else's choices, rather than your own, is that you know exactly what you're getting. If you're nervous about making substitutions, just change one element in your next project. I'll bet you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Bead Substitution Checklist 

Color. Consider both the individual colors and how they look as a group. I picked out three tubes of seed beads for the netted cuff bracelet, but ended up using only two of them, along with some green metallics I already had. You may find, as I did, that once you see a row or two of beads stitched together, that you change your mind about that combination.

At left, my original combination. In the final version, the teal accent color "C" became my main color "A."

Size. It's easiest to stick to the same bead size used in the original design. Otherwise, you may need to make adjustments in the number of size of the other beads in the design.

Proportion/Quantity. It matters whether you're switching out a focal bead or a minor accent. For this project, put your energy into figuring out your main color ("A") and then worry about the accent colors ("B" and "C"). Or put another way: you must be head-over-heels in love with beads "A", but with "B" and "C", you can be "just good friends."

Finish. I chose the same metallic finish for all three beads. You can mix finishes, just make sure you're doing it on purpose.

Shape. Even a simple shape change like using triangles or hexes instead of rounded seed beads can make a dramatic difference.

Uniformity. In some designs (like this one), beads need to be uniform in shape and size, or the pattern will be off.

Location/Size of Hole. With seed beads, this isn't an issue. Hole location has caught me off guard before, especially when ordering online. In an earlier post (Designing with Pearls), I mentioned the design challenge of working with freshwater pearls, which have small, irregular holes.

Weight. One reader wanted to make a version of the Faerie Cuff with gemstones. She'll want to consider thicker elastic to hold the weight of heavier beads. Also consider the weight of the finished bracelet. You want your jewelry recipients to still be able to hail a taxi or wave from a parade float.

Cost. Will it cost you more or less to substitute?

Availability. Can you get the beads you need in the timeframe you have? If you're planning on mass-producing these designs (such as for a craft show), will you have enough?


Choose Your Project
I need your help! One project from the new book, Zulu Inspired Beadwork by Diane Fitzgerald, will be available FREE only to Beading Daily members. Please vote for the project you'd like—the one with the most votes will be available here in October. One vote per member—vote now!


This week's featured project, Faerie Queen Cuff by Deb Mausser, is from the editors of Beadwork magazine. The October/November issue features five collage-style projects from the editors, tips from Laura McCabe on how to spark your creativity, and beautiful projects of all types.


Michelle Mach is the editor of Beading Daily. She will be at Bead Renaissance in Denver tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon. Please stop by the Interweave booth and say hello!

Thanks to everyone who commented about the MBA dilemma and sent photos, ideas, and advice. What a terrific group you are!


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