Getting started with beading - Basic Terms

Posted by Johnnie on 7/21/2010 to Bead School
Creating jewelry has always been a great pastime for people. For some its a fun and creative way to reduce the stress of everyday life.  For others its become a way to make money doing something they love.  For the people I work with here at Toocutebeads.com, its an obsession. Imagination is the only limit to what can be done with beading. Unique jewelry (bracelets, necklaces, earrings) or extravagant painting (using beads as the paint), the possibilities are endless. Beading is a hobby that can last a life time, but getting started can be a little overwhelming.  Let me try to make it a little easier by introducing you to the basic beading terminology.


(here is an interesting piece of art I came across made entirely from beads)

Beads - There are so many different shapes, sizes, colors and styles of beads out there that it can be hard to know what you want. Learning more about all these different beads will come in time, but a good way to get started is by picking a few of your favorite colors and shapes.  This is also a good way to become familiar with the way different colors interact with each other to make different statements. You will hear about beads such as Bali beads, Swarovski, semi-precious, murano, findings, clasps.  Don't let it get you down if you don't know what all the terms mean at first,  just go with what appeals to your sense of style.  One important note is to learn about sizing before you start shopping.  Make sure to keep a ruler on hand to get familiar with millimeters or MM's.

(large hole silver bead with inlayed crystal, Swarovski cube, silver bead cap)

Clasps - Silver, Gold, Marcasite, Pewter, Gunmetal and so on and so on. Clasps can come in any variety of shapes or sizes, but the most important thing to know is that they hold your jewelry together. The vast array of different kinds of clamps, clasps, toggles, and closures will often be referred to as findings. These are needed to complete most pieces and hold them in place.


(clasps can add their own style to a piece.  get creative)

Crimping Beads - These types of beads are one of the most important elements when it comes to beading. These beads are made from a flexible metals which allows the clasp to stay connected to the piece of wire you are creating your jewelry on. Crimping beads come in a variety of different metals and sizes. Expect your crimps to look a bit mangled when you're first learning, but practice makes perfect ;)

(standard 2 x 2 crimp beads)

Trays or Boards -  Not something required when you are beading but it does make it a lot easier when you are getting started. Trays are usually made of plastic and come with a measuring device either in millimeters, inches or both. Some craftspeople use mats as well, made of pebbled rubber or felt so that things stay put and don't roll.

Tool terms - Crimpers, Crimpers, Crimpers! Make sure to get a well made Crimping tool.  A lot of beginning beader's will just flatten a crimp bead with a pair of flat nose pliers, which will cause the piece to come apart very easily.  Be sure and invest in a good pair of round-tipped pliers for your beading. These pliers are needed often for picking up the beads and holding the components while you are working with them, as well as looping earrings. A pair of flat-nosed pliers can be a helpful to, but not a necessity to get started.

(crimp tool and round nose pliers)

String, wire or line - There are a variety of different strings and wire that work for different projects.  Before you make a final decision, you need to make sure that it’s going to be the correct size and fit the beads that you have chosen. Since beads come in all different shapes and sizes, some have larger holes in order to accommodate the string, line or wire you choose. Fishing line is a great tool for practicing patterns on, but beading wire is always considered best because it won’t curl up, shrink or distort the way that plastic lines can. Wires are known by their size and diameter but there are some different types. For example, tigertail is multiple strands of very fine, separate wires.

(0.15 49 Strand Beadalon Wire.  Standard beading wire used at toocutebeads.com)

Learning is an ongoing process, and some 15 years into this business I still see things new, unique and artistic. Let other artists be an inspiration. Use magazine as a resource when starting down your beading path. You will learn all types of different techniques and helpful hints from the professionals that have perfected their own beading methods.

Remember, beading is not a limited path. You will be surprised at how far you can expand your horizons with your beading skills. Learning the skill to make beaded jewelry can lead to so many other great projects, like handbag beading, wall art, key chains, sun-catchers, bookmarks and even plant holders. There are so many creative and unique things you can do with beads that you will wonder why you didn't learn years ago.

Thanks for reading,
Johnnie
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