Beading Basics: What You Need to Know to Get Started
By Jamie Jefferson
Stringing beads is a fun way to reduce stress and explore your creative side. Put a colorful
necklace together or create a beautiful matching set with a bracelet and a pair of earrings. Wear your creations, sell them, or wrap them in
tissue paper and give them to your friends.
Basic beading is easy, fun, and relatively inexpensive. You’ll find beading supplies at most craft shops, art
supply stores, and discount stores, in addition to the beading boutiques that often specialize in more expensive beads.
Here is a checklist of the basic tools and supplies you’ll need to begin working on your new hobby:
Beads – You'll find an abundance of different sizes, shapes and styles to choose from. Start off with a few
favorite colors using plastic beads so you can become familiar with color coordination and putting on the finishing touches. This way, mistakes
won’t be so costly. Work your way toward the finer glass, semi-precious, hand-painted, wood and cloisonné beads.
Clasps – There is a wide variety of clamps, closures and clasps, also called findings. Again, don’t be seduced
into purchasing the best and the brightest in the beginning. Most products will have the instructions included on the front or back of the
package, but if you run into a problem, consult a beading magazine or catalog, which you can find either online or at craft shops.
Containers – Depending on your budget and preference, you can use either the standard, flat containers or go up
a notch to the drawer compartments that many people use in their workshops for nuts, bolts and screws. Any containers will do, but, while
working, you’ll want your beads to be easily accessible. Storing beads in dark, confined areas makes them more difficult to work with and to
Crimping Beads – These are an important element in bead-making. They are simply beads constructed of a flexible
metal, which help keep the clasp attached to the necklace. Crimping beads come in gold and silver and in several different sizes.
Round-Tipped Pliers – Invest in a good pair of round-tipped pliers. You’ll need to use them often not only for
picking up beads but also to hold the components while working with them. Flat-nosed pliers also come in handy. Remember to select a pair that
will allow you to crimp.
Trays or Boards – Using a beading tray is not mandatory but it makes it easier to pre-select and measure your
beads. Most trays are made of plastic and incorporate a measuring device either in inches, millimeters, or both.
Wire, Line or String – Again, depending on budget and preference, there is a wide variety of wire, line and
string to choose from. Before purchasing, be sure that it’s the correct size to fit the beads you’ve selected, or vice versa. Some beads have
large holes to accommodate thick string while others, such as seed beads, have tiny holes that only thread or wire will fit through. You could
even use fishing line to practice on, but beading wire is better it doesn’t have a tendency to curl, shrink and distort the way plastic lines do.
You could also use string, rawhide or thread. When beading with string or thread, use a special big-eye or curved needle.
Children can also take part in stringing beads. Look for children’s beading supplies at most craft stores,
generally alongside the adult supplies. Beading is a great way to teach children coordination skills, and to keep them happy and occupied while
you are working on your beading projects. Keep in mind that many of these items should be kept away from babies and small toddlers.
Bead supply warehouses will often send color catalogs by request, listing hundreds of different products, along
with accompanying images. Or you may want to subscribe to a beading magazine where you’ll learn different techniques and methods used by
Check online or at your local craft store for lots of great, free beading patterns and beading ideas. Once
you’ve mastered the art of beading, you’ll be making attractive jewelry, and you'll naturally gravitate to other beading projects. You may even
start to decorate your handbags, create charming wall art, and make lovely bookmarks, sun-catchers, key chains or plant holders. There are so
many amazing things you can do with beads, you’ll wonder what ever took you so long to discover them.
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