Thursday, May 28, 2009

Beading Tips: Wire-Wrapped Loops

I started making my own jewelry a few years ago when I became disgusted at the mark-up on even the simplest jewelry pieces. I bought a few magazines, visited a few bead shops, and tooled around the net. It was unbelievably easy to learn how to make jewelry for myself, my family, and my friends. It took a bit longer than that to elevate my skills enough to feel comfortable selling my items, but that's another story.

I wanted to pass on some tips on one of the basics of making beaded jewelry: wire-wrapped loops. First, you need a good visual guide. I spent countless hours and dollars pouring over magazine and website guides before finally finding an illustration that "clicked". In that moment, I realized the mistakes I had been making and knew right away how to correct them.

I'm not an artist, so I'm going to refer you to two of my favorite guides online:

From Fusion Beads, Techniques: Wire Wrapping

BeadStyle Magazine, Basics: Wrapped loop (scroll down below the "Plain loop" instructions)

So on to some tips that may help you from making some of the rookie mistakes I did!

1. Practice on base-metal wire first. It will take a few (or a lot!) of tries before you perfect the technique, so save your expensive wire by practicing on the cheap stuff first.

2. Yes, you DO want to use chainnose/flat pliers when the instructions tell you to. Jumping from tool to tool may seem tiresome, but in the end it is worth it.

3. Make sure your tools are in good shape: you want sharp wire cutters, non-ridged flat/chainnose pliers, and round nose pliers that align properly. My biggest pet peeve: all my round nose pliers eventually become misaligned to the point that they can't hold wire between their jaws properly.

4. Your hands, especially your fingers, are very valuable, yet delicate tools. Make sure your hands are clean when you start work, and check that they stay that way during your project. Also, be nice to your hands! If they start to cramp, take a 15 minute break.

5. Your eyes get fatigued as well! Use good lighting, and allow your eyes to relax every few minutes - all that concentration on tiny stuff right in front of your face can eventually lead to a headache.

6. Always use Sterling Silver if you intend to sell the item you're making. A majority of customers will specifically look for this, and the others will be impressed that you used such quality materials.

7. Use soft, narrow gauge wire. Sterling silver is a perfect medium because it is so easily maleable. The narrower the gauge and the softer the silver, the easier it is to manipulate the wire with your fingers. Be careful not to use anything too fine if you're working on a heavy piece!

8. Count your wraps. Most projects using wire-wrapped loops will involve more than just one loop, so do your best to make all your loops in the piece look consistent. So if you make one earring with 3 wraps under the loop, make sure to make the other earring have 3 wraps around as well.

9. This may only appeal to fellow beaders with OCD, but here it is: when attaching wrap-looped items to the main piece (necklace, earring back, etc), make sure they all face in the same direction. Confused? I've got visuals!

Front of Loop


Back of Loop

If you don't see the difference, congratulations, you don't have OCD - continue on to Tip #10. If you do see a difference, then I'll tell you that a long time ago I decided I preferred the side shown in the first picture best - so I called it the "front" of the loop. Hence, when hanging the dangle from an earring back, I always make sure that the dangle's loop faces "front".

10. Relax! The longer you sit and fret at perfecting one thing, the more frustrated you become, and the more mistakes you make. So take breaks to walk around, flex your fingers, correct your back, grab a snack, or just go to the potty. Also, music can be very relaxing, but NEVER watch television when beading - it is so distracting, I eventually look down at my project and realize I've been trying to complete the same wrap for the past two commercial breaks!