Boho Style: 5 Ways to Finish Silk, Ribbon & Leather Jewelry

Does your studio have seasons? When the weather gets warm and the days are more blue and sunny than gray and cold, I find my jewelry making follows my wardrobe. When I’m in t-shirts and sandals, I don’t always feel like wearing or working on metal jewelry, using a torch, etc. I like leather jewelry making, maybe using cotton and silk ribbons, with colorful stones and beads.

On a recent weekend, my lovely Mama and I drove into the East Tennessee countryside to a barn sale precisely in the middle of nowhere. It was gorgeous out there–and finding a big, beautiful old barn full of talented artists at the end of our path was invigorating. I was inspired by many of the jewelry artists: one made necklaces out of miniature paintings on tiny canvases hung from leather and silk cords, one used felted balls in lieu of gemstones set in pretty ring bezels, and one hung big, bold gemstones and gem slice pendants not on the familiar long, thin chains but on leather cords and raw sari silk ribbons.

ribbon necklace by Erin Siegel

Raku Ribbons by Erin Siegel

I enjoyed seeing how these artists used fibers and silk ribbon, fabric cords and leather jewelry supplies to bring lightness and color to their jewelry, especially the airiness that fiber brings to metal jewelry. These were all riffs on familiar designs that felt fresh, and I couldn’t wait to get back to my studio to see how I could use leather, sari silk, and ribbons.

Batik Boutique by Lorelei Eurto

Batik Boutique by Lorelei Eurto

If you’re new to ribbon, cord, or leather jewelry making or haven’t worked with these materials in awhile, you might need the same refresher I needed on how to best finish the ends and to attach clasps and other findings. Here are five ways to finish ends and connect components to cord, ribbon, and leather jewelry, excerpted from Lorelei Eurto and Erin Siegel’s stylish, pretty book, Bohemian-Inspired Jewelry.
how to use crimp cord ends in leather jewelry making

  1. Crimp Cord Ends: Insert the end of the cord into the crimp cord end until the cord is close to the top. Position the cord end so that the loop is horizontal to the chain-nose pliers to prevent breakage. Use the pliers to flatten the center of the cord end, securing the cord.
    how to use fold-over cord ends on leather jewelry making designs
  2. Fold-Over Cord Ends: Place the end of the cord into the finding. Using flat- or chain-nose pliers, fold the left and right flaps down one at a time over the cord. Press firmly.
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  3. how to use knot cupsKnot Cups: Tie a double overhand knot at the end of the cord. Trim close to the knot. String the hole on the knot cup. Close the cup gently over the knot with the front notch of crimping pliers.
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  4. how to use ribbon endsRibbon Ends: Add a dab of glue to the end of the ribbon and insert it into the ribbon end. Squeeze the ribbon end closed with a pair of nylon-jaw pliers or flat or chain-nose pliers wrapped in painter’s tape to prevent marring the metal finding.
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  5. how to use bead cones in ribbon, cord, or leather jewelry makingBead Cones: Hold the ribbon [or group of cords/threads] 1/4 inch from the end. Hold 6 inches of 22-gauge wire parallel to the ribbon with half the wire extending past the short end of the ribbon. Using the other half of the wire, bend the wire up onto itself. Begin to wrap the wire tightly around both the ribbon and the other half of the wire, moving toward the short end. Press the wire wraps with chain-nose pliers. If needed, trim excess ribbon. Use the free end of the wire to string one cone. Form a wrapped or double wrapped loop. –LE & ES

Lorelei and Erin also cover various types of knots, glues, and wire wraps you’ll need to use leather, ribbon, sari silk, and other fiber cords in your jewelry projects–plus a guide on how to care for silk ribbon.

make earrings with buttons and cord

Lavender Earrings by Lorelei Eurto

In Bohemian-Inspired Jewelry, you’ll get 50 (yes, FIFTY!) projects by Lorelei, Erin, and other talented artists to help you brighten up your jewelry by incorporating colorful ribbon, leather, silk, and other fibers.

Sonoran Sunset leather jewelry making by Tracel Statler

Sonoran Sunset by Tracy Statler


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