If you’re creative, but you’re having trouble finding your outlet, or if you want a hobby that might earn you a few extra bucks, bead crafts may be for you. It is a fun way to make gifts, express your creative side, and yes, make a bit of cash. Perhaps you simply love jewelry and want unique pieces you can wear with pride, knowing they’re completely original, and created by you.
Unlike most art forms, bead crafts don’t take years of training, although you’ll certainly get better with practice. All you need is a love of jewelry or woven artwork, an eye for color and design, a few supplies, and a couple of free hands.
Bead Crafts: Hobby or Jewelry Business?
If you’ve ever taken a look at sites like Etsy, you see that beaded jewelry is very popular. The prices range from inexpensive to hundreds of dollars, depending on the materials, artistry, and craftsmanship. Jewelry stores sometimes sell beaded pieces for thousands.
The best-beaded jewelry and artwork are made by hand, by people just like you. For most pieces, the investment is small, compared to the return. You don’t even need a storefront. If you are interested in a bead crafts business, though, be realistic. Until you make a name for yourself, you probably won’t be able to make a living from it, but it is a great way to save money on gifts, and perhaps make some spending money.
Supplies for Bead Crafts
Before you buy supplies, designate a work area in your home. A table is best. Yes, your dining room table can serve double duty, but only if you are prepared to clear your bead supplies away every day. Wherever you decide, make sure that your beads will be safe from the mouths of small children and pets.
You’ll need a few supplies from your local or an online crafts store.
First, you’ll need beading needles they are thinner than most needles, and they have narrower eyes to help make beading easier. Beading needles also have a numbering system; the higher the number, the smaller the needle. It’s best to start out with the most popular and the most basic sizes, which are 10, 11, and 12. Once you begin to master your craft, experiment with more delicate needles.
Next, you’ll need thread. While you can string virtually any thread through beads, the most popular, at least when starting out, are made of nylon or polyethylene (fishing line). Eventually, you can try materials such as jute, for beaded macrame projects.
To cut the thread, you’ll need beading scissors or wire cutters. You can also use embroidery scissors, although they wear out quickly when cutting through fishing line. It’s recommended that you always have two pairs available, in case one goes dull.
Nylon threads may need thread conditioner. It helps keep the thread from drying out and will make it a bit stronger. Beeswax is just one variety. You can avoid thread conditioner if you buy “pre-waxed” or “preconditioned” thread.
Then you need a bead mat, which is merely a sheet of glare-proof material. Most people use a foam material called Vellux. It’s inexpensive and easy to find at any crafts store. You can also use a towel.
Most bead craftspeople recommend that you put your beads in dishes or trays of some sort. Shallow is best. Many recommend ceramic or metal, but there’s nothing wrong with shallow plastic food storage bins. For stray beads, like the ones that will inevitably fall on the floor, use a glass jar. Eventually, you’ll have a fun collection of mystery beads.
A bead scoop is a bit like a metal dustpan without a handle. It lets you scoop up the beads that fall onto the mat.
Because beading work is detailed, you’ll need to see well. Wear reading glasses if you need them. Use a good light and buy a magnifier. Some clip right onto your light.
Finally, you will need actual beads and choosing those is the hard part.
Types of Beads
Bead varieties are endless. There are wood beads, glass beads, plastic beads (good for starting out), ceramic beads, crystal beads, gem beads, metal beads, and even fabric beads. They come in an almost infinite array of shapes and sizes. Here is an excellent resource for various bead types. Below is a video that tells you enough to start you out, and beyond:
Steps to Create a Bead Crafts Project
Now that you have all of your materials, it’s time to get to work. Early on, your projects will be relatively simple. You should easily be able to make a piece of jewelry in an evening, as long as you follow these steps. Once your designs become more elaborate, and especially when you start with woven bead crafts, projects will take longer.
Choose your project
When you’re starting out, you probably want to stay simple. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, though. Decide if you want to make a necklace, a keychain, earrings, or even a ring. Save complicated woven pieces for later.
Plan your bead projects
What do you want your creation to look like? It’s best to start relatively simple. Alternate two or three beads, instead of introducing a whole myriad of colors, textures, shapes, sizes, and materials. You’ll develop a sense of how things work together as you advance. That doesn’t mean you can’t play with your designs, though.
Pro tip: Don’t use beads with sharp edges. They hurt the wearer.
Decide on length
Are you making a necklace or a bracelet? A keychain or a ring? Hold a piece of string up to the appropriate body part and see what length works. Don’t cut to that length, though. You’ll need extra string for knots and in case of mistakes, and you will make mistakes, even after you become an expert. Allow a few extra inches if you plan on adding a clasp.
Cut the line
Ideally, you should cut to about three inches beyond your desired length. Two notes on length: If you are making a bracelet, and don’t plan on using a clasp, an elastic thread is best. If you don’t want to use an elastic thread, design the bracelet so it fits over the hand, not just on the wrist.
Tie a bead
Start the beading by tying a bead about an inch from the end to keep the other beads from falling off. You should do this with an overhand knot or square knot. Don’t tie it too tight. You may want to change the bead later.
Now you get to the fun part. String your beads according to the pattern you created. Sure, you can experiment, but you might get better results if you draw out your idea first.
Check every once in a while to make sure it’s the right length. If you’ve added too many beads, it’s no big deal. Just take some off. If you haven’t added enough, continue. If you cut the string to the wrong size, that’s okay too. Simply transfer the beads to the right sized string.
Clasp or tie it together
If you are using a clasp, you should already have a few extra inches of string. If not, remove some beads. In the beginning, a clasp often proves to be the most challenging part of bead crafts. Here is a video demonstration:
If you aren’t using a clasp, you’ll want to tie it off with a surgeon’s knot. This video explains how to do that:
What to Do With Your Bead Crafts
Now that you know how to create beaded jewelry, and once you have a decent collection under your belt, it’s time to figure out what to do with it. Wear your pieces every day. Wait for the compliments to come pouring in. That will give you an idea of how marketable your jewelry is. Don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions or constructive criticism. It’s how you get a feel for your market.
Give them as gifts. Show them off on Pinterest. You can even sell them. Sites like Etsy offer you an inexpensive way to reach the masses. Take them to craft sales. Perhaps you can even sell them in a local crafts store, either on consignment or sell them wholesale.
To determine pricing add between 25 percent to 40 percent of the cost of supplies and a bit of money for your time. At first, charge around $10 an hour, but once you have a following, you’ll be able to raise your prices.