Monday, January 12, 2015

Episode 67: Tools of the Trade - Beading with España

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:
Or directly download it from this link.:

Beading Basics

by 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.


This 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.


You want some clear plastic storage to sort and find all these  little pieces quickly.

I recommend at least one good sized box with compartments that you can hold the essentials in. There are tons of great options at most craft stores nowadays, I personally like the tackle box type of storage for my main supplies, like tools and findings, with a separate box that has small removable jars, boxes, or tubes to hold the beads. This allows me to just take out the beads I want to play with.

So now you have everything you want to put together, and a place to keep it. Whats next?


Your  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.


 Your 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 Stoppers

This 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!

No comments:

Post a Comment