6 Ideas for Using Cord, Ribbon, and Other Stringing Materials

Wrapped Up in Ribbon

Every beader has a shopping weakness, that one type of item that you always look for–and buy–nearly every time you enter a bead shop or show floor.  My current weakness is not a special kind of bead (though I still manage to buy plenty of those!).  My weakness is wide strands of hand-dyed silk, thin satin cords in bright colors, sturdy leather cord in earthy tones . . . anything that lets me experiment with designs on something other than my usual beading wire.  Now that I'm attending more shows, I try to limit myself to just one beautiful piece of ribbon per bead show.  (The important word here is "try"!  If you're at Bead Fest Philadelphia this weekend, you can ask me how I'm doing with that limit!)

I love ribbon because it's an easy way to add a punch of color to a design.  Designer Melissa J. Lee loves leather cord because she feels it adds a "warm, organic feel to a piece."  She added, "I often use glass and fine silver beads when I design jewelry, materials that strike me as generally being colder in tone. I find the contrast in texture and impact between the leather and the silver and/or glass very attractive."   You can find examples of Melissa's work on her blog.

Here are a few ways I've seen ribbon, cord, and other stringing materials used:

  • Tie or wrap the beads to the outside of the ribbon (usually with wire), as shown in this week's free project, Desert Flowers.
  • String large-hole beads (wood, ceramic, plastic are common choices) directly on the stringing material.  Some designers also use knots in between some or all of the beads, which is a way to space out the beads and also add additional texture and color throughout the piece.  Harvest Goddess by Melanie Brooks Lukacs is a good example of this technique.
  • Use the cord as a decorative element, winding it through one or more strands of beads or chain. 
  • String beads as normal on beading wire, but tie short ribbon or other fibers in between some of the beads for added texture and interest.  Shipwreck Beads by Syndee Holt is a fun example.
  • Use ribbon/cord tied in a bow or a simple knot instead of a clasp.  Instead of a single knot, you can also make slip knots on both sides of the necklace to make it adjustable and easy to slip on and off without untying the knot.  This give the wearer some options for necklace length.  (You can also use slip knots to make an adjustable length necklace.)  It also can be an economic choice, since you do not need to purchase a clasp, crimps, or other finishing materials and you also may need fewer beads to complete your design.  This is the technique I used in "Waikiki Wishes" in the new issue of Creative Jewelry on sale now.
  • String a pendant–either a readymade one or one you create yourself–onto a cord.  This gives you a lot of options with switching out different colored cords as your mood–and outfit–changes.  You can buy the cords finished or add the cord ends and clasp (usually a simple alligator or spring ring clasp) yourself.  

Anyone else like using ribbon or cord in your designs?  Anyone having trouble with it?  There's a conversation in the forums about finding waxed linen, plus using ribbon only for special occasion designs since it tends to get dirty.  Join in the conversation.

New Free Project:

Desert Flowers
by Paulette Livers

Beautiful ribbon is great for beads with large holes.  But how do you combine ribbon with beads that have smaller holes like these turquoise stones?  Here's one idea:  create wirewrapped dangles and wrap them with wire around the ribbon.  Keep the number of dangles to a minimum so that the ribbon can support the weight of the beads.  


Fall Reader Gallery:  If you would like to participate in this reader gallery, please send me a link to your blog/website or one JPG image of your best fall-related design by September 5, 2008.  Only one design per person please!  Use the email address:  bdsubmissions@interweave.com and in the subject line of your email, write:  Fall Reader Gallery.  I'm looking forward to seeing your work!

Power of Beading Contest:  Have you entered the Power of Beading Contest yet?   Tell us how beading helped you through a challenging time and you could win a beaded ribbon pin created and donated by designer Kerrie Slade.  We're also running a fundraiser for charity if you want to make your own ribbon pin.  Details.

Michelle Mach shares free projects every Friday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Michelle, please post them on the website.

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