by Judy Markwell


This tutorial will help you pick out the beads to design your bracelet, lists the supplies and tools you need, and give you some techniques to help you make your own charm bracelet. My instructions assume you have very little knowledge about working with wire wrapping.

To start off, lets go over the tools you need for this and most of your wire wrapping projects.



The tools I recommend are the following:
The last three items aren't strictly necessary, but they do make the job much easier, and in the case of the tool magic, make things look nicer. Your work surface can be simply a hand towel or a folded bath towel. It really keeps your beads from rolling all over the place. And containers for beads could be little saucers or such for the seed beads.

This stuff is really magic. You dip the ends of your tools in it, and it coats them with a rubbery substance, which keeps your tools from making little nicks in your wire as you're working with it. It costs about $8 retail, but really lasts a long time.



Here I show you what the tips look like after dipping. You'll need some place to hang your tools upside down while they dry, and something to stir the product with. I made a little whisk out some of my wire. If you're just starting out, you may want to skip this step and the expense, but once you're serious, it makes a big difference in how your work looks and is just a MUST. On my needle nose pliers I pull the coating off of one side after it's dry. You'll need to let your pliers dry about 3 hours .

Supplies

  • Focal Beads - 5 or 6 size of about ½" to ¾" high
  • Assorted black and white beads, about 50
  • Black and white seed beads in two sizes
  • about 6 large & 20 small assorted silver tone beads
  • A Toggle Clasp (optional)
  • A Charm Bracelet
  • 50 head pins
  • pkg 20 gauge silver wire


This gives you a good idea of the kinds of beads you can use for your bracelet. I've got an assortment of shapes, and none of the beads are larger than the focal beads, except for a couple of thin silver leaves. There are long and skinny beads, flat clear beads, little shiny beads. When you assemble the beads, put them in a pile and see if they seem to go together. Even in the pile, your focal beads should be the ones that stand out. If any others seem to grab the attention, take them out of your pile.

You may or may not use all these beads. I always have a charm on every link of the bracelet, and usually there are 2 charms on over half of the links. You'll be checking the bracelet as you make it, so don't worry too much about the number right now. These numbers are just a guess, and you can always make charms with the seed beads, too.

If you look really closely you'll see that there are beads in the picture that I didn't use. After I got to working with the design, they just didn't fit very well. That's pretty much the way it goes every time.

Well, let's get to the creating.....

Assembling the base of the bracelet.

The first thing to do is attach the toggle clasp if you're using it. If you're using a ready made bracelet, it already comes with a clasp. If you want to use it and the length of the bracelet is right for your wrist, you can skip this step. Otherwise, you'll need to put the toggle clasp on now. One safety feature I like to have when I assemble a bracelet made of this heavy a chain is to make sure that somewhere in the bracelet is a "weak link". This is usually a link that comes with my clasp, and insures that if I catch my bracelet on something it will break there at that link, and my hand won't be broken. The toggle clasp will probably come with a link, and I use it to attach the clasp to the bracelet. MAKE SURE that you open your links from side to side so you don't weaken them, as shown in the picture below.


After you double check that your bracelet is indeed the right size, you're ready to create a masterpiece.

My first step is to put all of my focal beads on wires, as shown in the pictures below. Don't actually finish any of them until you've figured out the spacing of the focal beads. I like to hook the wires on the bracelet to see how they look before I actually wire them on there for good.

The first thing to do is put your bead on the wire. I used a seed bead with these focal beads because the hole was so big the head pin wanted to go through the bead. You could use a little silver bead or a bead cap on top if you want.



After you put the bead on the wire, hold it with the chain nosed pliers as shown, and bend the wire to a right angle using your finger.




It should look like this when you've bent it.






Now use your needle nose pliers to grasp the wire at the angle you just made. Put the rubbery part inside the angle so you do your wrapping around the pliers metal side.




Using your fingers or your flat nosed pliers, twist the wire around the needle nosed pliers. Try to picture the final result of the next picture.





Here's the final result. A rule of thumb is that any time you do a new twist with your wire, you should expect to throw away the first three tries, so don't get discouraged with your first try.



Okay, now repeat these steps with all of your focal beads. This will allow you to hook them on the bracelet and be able to move them around to test for spacing before you finalize any of them.

Lots of times I actually count the links on the bracelet and divide it by how many focal beads I have to get a rough idea of where to place the beads. Don't put a focal bead in the very first or very last link or your bracelet.

Here is how each charm should look as it's hanging on the bracelet.











Here's a picture of the charms wrapped on the bracelet, showing the spacing. Once you get them spaced to your liking, finish the wrapping of the wires. Remember that "throw away three" rule and don't get discouraged while you're getting the hang of this.

Grasp the loop you just made with the link of the bracelet to the right of the area where you're working (or reverse it if your left handed).



Grasp the other end of the wire with your flat nose pliers and twist the wire around to the back. Continue wrapping the wire until it almost touches the top of the bead.




Clip off the extra wire. I don't wear eye protection, but I do close my eyes every time I actually make the cut. Also, this is a good place to note that the wire cutters have a right side and a wrong side. They make a flat cut on the end of the wire that you're keeping...


...and the other end is really pointy and NOT something you want left on your jewelry. This picture shows which is the right side of the pliers, but the best way to experiment is to cut off a bit of your wire and look at the ends.




This is about what the end will look like after you've cut it.







Now take your needle nose pliers, and put the side without the coating on the cut and clamp the wire end down so it's even with the other twists. This will take practice, I promise.



Run your finger over the end and see if it's rough. If it is, you can take an emery board and file down the edges so the charm won't catch on your clothes. You're supposed to use a needle file, but the emery board works pretty well - one less tool to buy for now.


This is what your final charm twisting should look like. Don't be too upset when your first one doesn't look like this. By the end of the bracelet, yours should be nice and even.




After you've wired on all of the focal beads, place the bracelet down on your work surface, lay it out fairly evenly, and place your other beads around to see where you might like to put them on the bracelet. Notice the long black beads, and the clear ones with the black ribbon running through them. See how evenly they are spaced. Play around with the beads until you find something pleasing. Start with the biggest beads you plan to use and work towards the smaller ones.


This is the wire wrapping I did on one of the long black beads. I actually did each one a little differently, but here's how I got this look for the beads.





Start by putting the bead on your wire, and don't cut it off the spool. Then use your chain nose pliers and make a fold at the end of the wire as shown.




It should look like this when you've finished.





Hook the charm onto the bracelet.






Fold up the wire with your fingers. You want to make the wire as close as possible to the bead with this bending.





Hold the wire close to the bead to prepare to wrap the wire around the middle of the bead.




After you wrap the wire around the bead, hold it with your fingers again and bend the wire to go back to the top of the bead, as shown.



Bring the wire up to the top of the bead, and wrap it around the little loop you made to hold it onto the bracelet. You will start wrapping at the top of the bead and work towards the top of the loop. Make sure to leave enough room at the top so the bead still dangles freely.


Here's a picture of the final charm. Yours should look something like this. I'm holding the charm bracelet in my hand. Don't you think this makes this ordinary bead look special?





This is a different bead, and I did a slightly different twisting on this one.




And on the third one I did an even different winding. You'll also notice that the tops of the three are different heights. I don't mind the difference, and even welcome it, but if you don't like it try to make sure the tops are the same height before you start winding.



Here's the bracelet with the black beads on it. I've also added some little clear beads with black seed beads at each end. They are spaced so that they are close to the black focal beads, and that I plan to put the large clear black beads across from the white focal beads.

Now it's time for you to start just adding beads. I wanted to demonstrate how you can change the look of a bead by what you add to it. Here are three different treatments for exactly the same bead. It's easy to play around with your beads and try different combinations so you can get variety in your bracelet.

Here's a closeup of my progress so far. I've added all combinations of beads, filling in all the spaces. Some of the beads you may want to twist some wire around, while others you'll simply use a head pin and maybe some seed beads.



Here's another neat little trick to dress up plain beads. You can make a spiral at the bottom of the bead. Start by threading the bracelet onto the wire where you want the bead to go, then thread the bead.


Cut the end of your wire to make it very flat.






Using your chain nose pliers, bend over the end of the wire to make a little hook like this.





Grasp this loop in the side of your flat nose pliers and start twisting it to make the spiral. You will be bending the wire, not moving the pliers, at least after your initial curl. I make three complete loops as shown in the next photo.




Here's the spiral. You'll notice there aren't any "tool marks" on the wire, because of using the Tool Magic.





Using your chain nose pliers, make a small bend in the wire leaving the spiral at about a 90° to the spiral.




Pull the bead down and using your flat nose pliers this time, make another 90° angle bend in the wire. You're leaving a longer neck this time, to make the smaller bead hang lower from the chain and have more impact.




Finish your wrapping, making sure to slide the bracelet into the loop before you finish it (You wouldn't believe how many times I've forgotten to do that). This is the final bead with a spiral. Isn't it fancy?




Here's the finished product. You'll need to use your own judgment as to the placement and combination of beads that you use to finish off your bracelet, but here's a close-up look at the bracelet as I chose to make it. On this particular bracelet there are 45 charms.

You may notice a wire twisting combination or two that isn't detailed in this tutorial. Notice the bottom of the first white bead on the left especially. I think next month we'll have a simple pair of earrings, with that bow twist at the bottom. It's actually my own invention, and I really like the extra flair it gives. It will be a little bit simpler than this bracelet, but that wire twist takes a little bit of practice to get really nice.

It's fun to play around with combinations, but the best way to get a balanced look is to actually put your larger items spaced evenly. Notice the two large silver leaves - they would look clumped if put together.

I'd love to hear from you if this tutorial was helpful for you, or what tutorials you'd like to see. We'll do some simpler things over the next few months, using all different techniques.

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