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Beading Basics

Have you ever wished you could make your own beaded jewelry? This article can help you get started!

In this article, you will find:

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Beading Basics


A finding refers to anything in beading that is not a bead. This can include clasps, earring pieces, clamps, connectors, pin backs, separator bars, caps, and wire pins of various kinds.

Beads can be made out of almost anything you can imagine. Crystal, glass, bone, pearls, plastic, metal, stone, paper, papier-m�ch�, clay, shells, wood, seeds, dried beans — you name it. Even broken necklaces and other pieces of jewelry can be transformed into exciting new pieces.

Beads can also be strung on other types of materials besides thread or wire. Heavier decorative cord can be used to string larger beads with larger holes, and leather thongs look good with more primitive-looking beads. You can also use elastic cord to string beads, which works well with continuous bracelets where you don't want to add a clasp.

Besides beads, beading needles, thread, and findings, you might use other equipment, like a bead board for laying out designs, a magnification device (beading can be hard on the eyes), and, possibly, a bead loom for bead weaving. A partitioned container is helpful for sorting beads. (A used cardboard egg carton works great!) If you decide to try wire work, you'll need some additional tools.

There are lots of ways to make beads yourself using a minimum of materials and tools. Try some of the following.

Polymer Clay Beads


Polymer clay is actually plastic, but since it acts, looks, and can be fired like clay, it's called "clay." It acn be fired at a low temperature in a home oven, which makes it versatile for the home crafter.

Crafty Clues

When beading, make sure that your thread, needle, or wire will fit through the bead hole you make. Sometimes you can make the hole bigger using an awl or circular file, but if you do this you risk damaging or breaking the bead entirely.

Polymer clay, which is available at craft stores or through mail order catalogs, is such a versatile medium, once you get started with it, you'll think of a million applications. To make an easy marbled bead out of polymer clay, purchase two or three different colors of polymer clay (FIMO and Sculpey III are two brands to look for).

You'll need a craft knife or single-edged razor blade and a needle or skewer for making a hole.

Prepare your clay before you begin by rolling it in your hands and manipulating it to soften it; this will make it easier to work with. You can tell the clay is ready when you can bend it and it doesn't break off.

Take small pieces of each color clay you want to use for your bead and knead them together. Don't blend the pieces completely into one color, but distribute all the colors evenly.

Roll the clay out to make a snake-like shape, about 1/2-inch in thickness. Use a craft knife or single-edged razor blade (adults can to do this for younger children) to cut the snake into equal pieces (you can measure with a ruler if you want to be precise). Then roll the pieces in the palm of your hand to create evenly sized,smooth balls. Pierce a hole through the center of the beads and bake according to the manufacturer's directions. You can also make cylindrical-shaped beads by simply cutting and putting a hole through the center without rolling the clay into a ball. Experiment with other shapes if you like!

You can read more about polymer clay in Crafting with Clay: Beads and Buttons.

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