With special tools, hardware and complicated instructions, beginners to the beading craft may feel overwhelmed before they get far in the art of beading. For beginners, starting slowly and focusing on the pattern the beads are making will let you get comfortable with the materials before you move on to more difficult projects.
There are numerous types and styles of beads available today. Beads can be formed from nearly any material including natural stones, glass, ceramic and wood.
When selecting beads for a beginner's project, avoid seed beads, very small beads and irregularly shaped beads. Instead, look for those with a uniform, slightly oversized hole that is easy to thread, with uniform size and thickness. The key is to focus on your patterns and color combinations; as you become more comfortable working with beads and making beaded jewelry, you can expand to other materials.
Beads can be strung on elastic, nylon, silk cord or wire to create endless variations and designs. As you begin learning the craft, stick to supplies that don't require special tools to work; you want to focus on learning how many beads you need in a length and to become comfortable with threading techniques. Once these are mastered, start working with crimp beads, pliers and other supplies.
To get started, make sure you have the following supplies at hand:
- Elastic thread
- Beading silk cord with beading needle attached - beading needles are thin, flexible wires attached to the cord that will help you thread the cord through smaller sized beads
- Decorative silk cord or ribbons
- A large assortment of beads in different colors, materials and shapes
Three Beading Projects for Beginners
Even if you've never worked with beads before, you can create these three jewelry pieces with some basic supplies. Once you've become accustomed to the processes, you can use these projects as springboards to more intricate, complicated designs.
This bracelet is strung on stretchy elastic cord. No special hardware is needed to attach the ends, so you can focus on the placement of the beads.
- Elastic thread
- 4 - 5 large decorative beads
- 4 - 5 smaller stone beads in a coordinating color
- 16 - 18 small clear glass beads
- Measure your wrist and add approximately 1-1/2 inches to the length. The beads will fill some of this space when it sits on your wrist; the extra will be used to help tie off the ends easily.
- Cut a length of elastic thread in the length you just calculated and lay it horizontally in front of you.
- String two clear glass beads onto the thread, but don't push them all the way to the end; stop about an inch away to keep them from sliding off.
- String a decorative bead, pushing it against the first two beads.
- String two more clear beads, followed by a stone bead.
- Repeat the pattern until you have approximately 3/4-inch of thread left unfilled.
- Tie the ends of the elastic together tightly so the beads on either side of the knot slide up tightly against it. Double knot the thread for strength.
- Try on your new bracelet.
Mother-of-Pearl Disc Necklace
Mother-of-pearl discs lay flat against the skin, so a longer necklace that can be slipped over the head will still have an understated look to it. This beading technique will help you get used to using a beading needle, as the discs are thin enough to need a little help being threaded.
- Beading silk cord with beading needle attached
- 9 one-inch flat mother-of-pearl discs
- 35 1/4-inch flat mother-of-pearl discs
- Unwind several lengths of silk cord, but don't detach it from its holder. This will keep the beads from slipping off the other end while you thread. This technique will also let you save the beading needle and excess thread for another project.
- Hold the needle in your non-dominant hand and a large disc in your other hand.
- Turn the disc so the hole drilled through its side faces the needle.
- Push the needle through the disc and slide the disc down until it meets the spool the thread is on.
- Push four smaller discs onto the needle in the same way. Follow with a larger disc.
- Repeat this pattern until all beads have been used.
- Unwind the rest of the cord from the spool, taking care not to slip the beads off the back end of the cord. Catch approximately 1/2-inch of thread at the end.
- Cut the opposite end of the cord that holds the needle down to 1/2-inch.
- Tie the two ends together and trim the excess.
- Wind the leftover silk cord and needle back onto the spool for another use.
Fancy Beaded Necklace
Beadwork can be fancy without the need for a lot of specialty tools or supplies. By using the beading needle and a simple technique, you can create multi-faceted jewelry.
- Beading silk cord with attached needle
- Decorative silk cord
- 22 half-inch painted glass beads
- 12 quarter-inch painted glass beads
- 35 small white ceramic beads
- String a small white bead onto the silk cord using the beading needle. Follow with a large painted glass bead.
- Repeat this pattern for nine large beads.
- After stringing the small white bead that follows the ninth large bead, string a small glass bead. Alternate small white beads and painted glass beads for four glass beads. End with a white bead.
- Pull the beading needle and cord as taut as possible.
- Slip the needle around the end white bead and back inside the small glass bead above it.
- Continue pushing the needle back through all the small glass beads and white beads until you exit the white bead that is next to the last large glass bead you left.
- String a new large glass bead next to the white bead, followed by another white bead.
- Repeat the previous off-shoot of small glass beads, threading back up through them.
- String another large glass bead, and make a final off-shoot of smaller beads.
- String the larger glass beads and smaller white beads until you complete the necklace.
- Pull both ends of the silk cord as tight as possible to tighten up the decorative off-shoots at the bottom of the necklace.
- Cut two lengths of decorative silk cord and tie them tightly onto the white silk cord next to the end beads.
- Push the decorative cord as close to the beads as possible to hide the knot.
- Wear the necklace by tying the decorative cord behind the neck.
Perfecting Your Art
There are numerous designs and patterns that can be done in beads using these very basic techniques. Play around with color, size and texture combinations, as well as creating multi-stranded designs. You'll soon find that you're ready to tackle even more elaborate projects.