12 Expert Tips for Making Beautiful Bracelets of All Types
Every jewelry maker I know has one type of jewelry that makes her sigh or cry or curse.
For me, that’s bracelets. I can whip out a dozen pairs of earrings in a couple of hours without batting an eye, but making a single bracelet can sometimes stump me for days. Logically, I know it shouldn’t be this way. After all, a bracelet typically takes fewer materials than a necklace and is only a few beads more than I would use for earrings.
When I find myself moving my beads repeatedly around my design board, I know it’s time for me to seek some inspiration. To help me with my latest creative block, I gathered some ideas from expert jewelry designers who make all types of bracelets by combining beads, wire, leather, and ribbon with a variety of techniques, including bead weaving, stringing, wire working, and mixed media.
Disguise the Clasp
Unlike a necklace where the clasp may be hidden at the back of the neck, a bracelet’s clasp is always on display. This used to irritate me until I embraced the philosophy, If you’ve got it, flaunt it! Former Beadwork editor Melinda Barta is a master at this technique. Her Pretty Sneaky Snap Clasp in Best of Beadwork: 10 Custom Cool Projects uses right-angle weave and bead embroidery to hide an easy-to-use snap behind a gorgeous focal.
Make Individual Components Separately
Sometimes when I’m feeling especially stuck, but still want to create, I make a bunch of individual components that I can later combine into a bracelet The Fire Flower Bracelet by Carole Ohl in Best of Beadwork: Modern Vintage is a great example of this kind of project. Each brilliant peyote-stitched flower uses a combination of crystals, pearls, glass teardrops, and seed beads. (Bonus: Once I get the hang of a new pattern, I’m able to watch movies while I make the number of components that I need.)
Add Texture with Bead Shapes
Lots of jewelry designers fret about color combinations. I know I do. Sometimes it’s good to remember that it’s possible to make a beautiful cuff with a monochromatic or very limited palette by simply varying the types of beads. The Whistle Stop Bracelet by Marcia L. Balonis in Stitching with Shaped Beads: 10 Beading Projects to Make with Tile & Brick Beads shows how combining three different 2-hole bead shapes can make a fabulous cuff.
This advice sounds counterintuitive if bracelets aren’t your favorite type of jewelry to make. But if you like a bracelet you’ve already made, why not make a few more in different colors? Stacks of bracelets are still very fashionable. I like the Brick Tracks Bracelet by Marjorie Schwartz in Stitching with Shaped Beads: 10 Beading Projects to Make with Tile & Brick Beads. It looks great and it’s an easy and quick peyote-stitch project.
Splurge on a Unique Focal
Skipping About by Erin Prais-Hintz in Jewelry Stringing Presents: 20 Projects to make for under $20 shows how you can finish a bracelet with ribbon if you’ve spent most your beading budget on a unique artist-made bead. Ribbon comes in tons of different colors and patterns and can feel soft and comfortable against the skin.
Make a One-Size-Fits All Bracelet
One of the challenges of making bracelets is that unlike necklaces and earrings, bracelets need to fit precisely. If they’re too large, they’ll fall off. If they’re too small, the clasp won’t close. This simple Bodacious Copper Bangle by Kim St. Jean in 10 Wire Bracelet Projects eBook is just the kind of classic shape that fits a wide range of wrist sizes.
I tend towards a minimalist look in the jewelry I make. What inspires me about Hot Summer Flowers by Kate McKinnon in Best of Stringing: Lampwork eBook is how she combined multiple lampworked flowers along with numerous silver spikes. I’d have been tempted to parcel out those flowers over several pieces rather than combine them in one bracelet. (Or perhaps, more honestly, hoarded them in my bead drawer for a few years.) This bracelet reminds me that sometimes it’s good to go all out in a bold jewelry design!
Mix Your Metals
Not everything needs to match! The Vintage Lace in Rings bracelet by Sue Ripsch in 10 Chain Maille Jewelry Designs uses a combination of sterling silver, yellow gold, and rose gold jump rings. This a striking look for jewelry. In addition, I find that changing up the colors while doing chain maille helps me keep my place when working and find it again when I pick up the project later.
Think Everyday Looks
If you saw my handmade jewelry, you’d see that I find it easier to make jewelry for a specific occasion such as a wedding or prom. I don’t seem to make enough everyday bracelets, the kind of simple copper or silver piece that will look great with any outfit. The Orbital Chain by Deanna Kittrel in 10 Chain Maille Jewelry Designs is a classic silver chain maille bracelet that could easily become an instant everyday favorite.
Play with Wire and Use Leftover Beads
I save all my leftover beads and short pieces of wire from previous jewelry projects, hoping that I can use them eventually. The Whimsical Wrapped Bangle by Cassie Donlen is one way to use up a few random beads in your stash.
Many wire jewelry designs require precision. If you don’t use wire regularly, this exactness can feel intimidating. Swirls and Whirls by Pepper Mentz shows you how you can bend short pieces of wire randomly (there’s no wrong way!) to create a modern bracelet. (Both projects are featured in 10 Wire Bracelet Projects eBook.)
Embellish a Premade Cuff
One of the easiest ways to make a bracelet is to start with a purchased leather cuff. Love You Still by Lexi Grenzer in #HandmadeBracelets shows off a handmade mixed-media focal attached to a cuff. This idea appeals to me because by the time I’ve created a personalized component, I’m in a hurry to show it off with a quick project.
After looking through all those project photos, I’m now feeling inspired to tackle a new bracelet (and some earrings and necklaces). Hope you are, too!
Grab your own instant inspiration and get beading!