This article is part of the Tools of the Trade series, sponsored by the Geek Girl Crafts Podcast. The author, España Sheriff describes the basics of beading and what you need to get started.
You can listen to this podcast:
Beading Basicsby España Sheriff
This article should cover the basic equipment you’ll need to get started with beading. It assumes an absolute beginner status, someone interested but just getting started. It also assumes a basic project such as a simple necklace composed of beads strung on a wire.
BeadsThis is obviously your most essential element. Most projects will start with you choosing the beads that you want in order create your project.
There are an almost infinite variety of shapes and sizes from tiny seed beads to big old baubles. There is no wrong answer here, find something you like and want to wear and take it from there.
Stringing Material:This is your other cant-do-without. There are many to choose from, but for my favorite for stringing beads is probably wire. Whichever you choose it’s wise to have a few shades from light to dark to choose from, especially if you’re working with translucent beads.
Findings & Components:Findings refers to all the functional bits and pieces of a piece of jewelry. The clasp, the hook of
an earring, and so on. In this case, for a necklace you would probably want a clasp to open and close it.
As for COMPONENTS, some projects may not need any but generally speaking you are going to want to have some CRIMPING BEADS on hand.
CRIMPING BEADS are small metal tube shaped beads that you squeeze shut after looping your wire or cord through it forming a closed loop in order to attach a clasp. They have plenty of other users as well.
Once you have your beads and your components, you’re going to realize that’s a lot of fiddly bits to manage.
StorageYou want some clear plastic storage to sort and find all these little pieces quickly.
So now you have everything you want to put together, and a place to keep it. Whats next?
SurfaceYour working area. I recommend a beading mat. This is a neutral colored cloth that holds the beads so they’re easy to find and at the same time serves the purpose of stopping your beads
from rolling around and onto the floor.
A beading design board serves a similar purpose, and as the name suggests also allows you to design the piece on it. It comes indented with grooves in the shape of a necklace so you can
try out your design. The grooves have measurements so you can make sure you have enough materials to fill the design.
SO, you’ve got your beads, they’re laid out on the board or mat. Now you want to have some tools to actually put the pieces together.
PliersYour absolute basics are; Pliers and Cutters. Most craft stores sell decent little starter sets with the essentials; a set of cutters, a set of round nosed pliers, and a set of flat nosed pliers.
- The cutters are obviously to cut the wire, chain, or so on. They’re sturdy and made to deal with materials that scissors can’t.
- Chain nosed pliers have a flat edge and are for almost anything from holding and manipulating findings, beads, and wire, to flattening crimping beads. These are your new hands practically.
- Round nosed pliers are also very good for manipulating things, but their shape is mainly in order to make loops in wire. This is actually something that comes up an awful lot, so these are
- handy little things.
As you progress you’ll find yourself adding to these, getting different sizes and more specific tools, for example there are crimping pliers that are better for that specific task. But these will do for a start.
Tweezers are also going to help you a lot by letting you manipulate smaller beads, threads, wire, knot, etc. (TWEEZERS and GLUE are optional but often very handy to have.)
Bead StoppersThis last piece of equipment is a massive time saver. They come in a few varieties but my favorites are little springs that you grip the cord with.
These tools will allow you to complete a project from start to finish, including some pretty complex ones. There are many wonderful beading project guides online that will walk you through making stunning creations; a Google, Tumblr, or Pinterest search will turn up more projects than you can complete in a year.
It's probably good idea to get comfortable and familiar with the capabilities of the basic tools before you give in to the inevitable temptation to get other new shinies. That will also let you figure out where your interests really lie; as you make different things you'll find that some techniques are far more appealing to you than others.
And once you find a project an complete it, share it with us!