The Challenges of Bracelet Making: How to Make Great Beaded Bracelets That Fit!

bracelet-making
I love making beaded bracelets, but bracelet making presents its own unique set of jewelry-making challenges!

"Kissing your hand may make you feel very good, but a diamond and sapphire bracelet lasts forever." – Anita Loos

I think Ms. Loos was onto something there, don't you? I love bracelet making, and beaded bracelet patterns are hot these days – just look through the pages of Stringing or Beadwork magazine and you can see an amazing variety of beaded bracelets! Bracelet making is a fun way to try out new beadweaving and jewelry-making techniques without the effort that might be required to make a larger piece of beaded jewelry. Beaded bracelets are also fun to wear because you can look at them again and again throughout your day and enjoy them – try that with a necklace or a pair of earrings!

But bracelet making offers a few challenges that making other types of beaded jewelry don't. Making a bracelet that fits properly can be a little tricky, and since bracelets get a lot more wear and tear than other types of beaded jewelry, it pays to take steps to make sure that you (or your customers) get the most out of their beaded bracelets.

Measure, Measure, Measure!

Getting the correct fit for your beaded bracelet requires a lot of planning. Bracelets are harder to size than necklaces because it seems like no two wrists are alike! If you sell your finished jewelry, don't try to make a bracelet that will fit every single wrist out there. Instead, try making a range of sizes and remind your customers that larger bracelets can always be made smaller.

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Making a bracelet with lots of large components can require a longer finished length, like the Motion Ocean Bracelet by Yvonne Irvin.
  • To ensure the correct fit for your bracelet, you first need to measure your wrist (or the wrist of the person who will be wearing the bracelet). If you don't have a tape measure (easily purchased at your local craft or fabric store for around a dollar), you can take a piece of beading wire or string and wrap that around your wrist to the desired length. Trim and measure with a flat ruler. This measurement isn't necessarily the length of your finished bracelet, however – it is only the inner diameter of your finished bracelet, and will be the part that fits around the wrist.
  • You also need to take into account the size of your clasp when figuring the length of your finished bracelet. Measure the length of the clasp when it is closed and subtract that from the length you want to make your finished bracelet.
  • Also remember that if you are using larger, chunky beads, chain and jewelry-making components in your bracelet, you will need to make that bracelet longer than you think you need. You want to make sure that the measurement of the inside of the bracelet is the measurement that you got with the string or beading wire. So instead of measuring the total length of the finished bracelet, close the bracelet with the clasp and see if your beading wire or string fits in the center of the bracelet.
  • Because you don't want to have to tear apart a finished bracelet when you discover that it is too small (or too large), use Bead Stoppers or adhesive tape to hold your beads in place on your beading wire before you attach the clasp.

The Well-Made Bracelet.

Plus De Rouge by Merle Berelowitz is the perfect example of how a bracelet can be visually striking yet comfortable to wear.

We are constantly doing things with our hands all day long, so a bracelet sees a lot more movement than a necklace or a pair of earrings. If your beaded bracelet design uses a lot of bugle beads, crystals or metal beads with sharp edges, it's a good idea to make sure that you prevent wear and tear on your stringing material or beading thread.

  • For crystals and bugle beads, you can always add a seed bead "buffer" before and after each bead. Using a quality beading wire or beading thread like Fireline or Wildfire can also help prevent breakage from rough bead edges. If the bracelet is made using off-loom beadweaving stitches, you want to either use a double thread or reinforce the beadwork as much as you can without breaking any beads. (Don't force your needle through a tight space!)
  • Double check your knots and crimps to make sure that they are securely fastened. Use a tiny drop of glue to secure knots that are tied in ribbon or fibers. There's nothing worse than seeing a beautiful beaded bracelet come apart with a flick of the wrist!
  • When choosing your clasps and closures for beaded bracelets, think about how easy they are to do with one hand and how comfortable they are to wear around your wrist all day. Well-made magnetic clasps and toggle clasps are always good choices for beaded bracelets because they can be worked with one hand. Lobster claw or trigger clasps can be a little harder to close but are a good choice for a lighter bracelet made with chain. Ribbon ties look great, but are also somewhat difficult to manage with just one hand.

Are you ready to get more great inspiration and ideas to make bracelets? Subscribe to Stringing magazine and keep up with the hottest trends in bracelet making techniques and components. You'll find dozens of great bracelet making ideas from some of today's most talented beaded jewelry designers!

Do you have any tips or techniques for bracelet making? How do you make sure that your bracelets are properly sized? What are your favorite clasps and closures for beaded bracelets? Leave a comment and share your expertise here on the blog!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer

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