Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Floating Bead Necklace Tutorial

Well, this was the necklace I really wanted to make almost two weeks ago, but didn't have the correct beads.

Please do not assume I'm any kind of expert here, altho I gladly share a tutorial with you. I'm sort of a happy idiot when it comes to jewelry making: I'll just try whatever. I'm sure there's a more proper way to do this, but I didn't know it, so this is how I did it:

I started with Swarovski beads in three sizes and 7 colors:

4 each of 4mm bicone beads in red, orange, yellow, green, aqua, blue and purple.
3 each of 6mm bicone beads in red, orange, yellow, green, aqua, blue and purple.
1 each of 8mm bicone beads in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. They didn't have the aqua in an 8mm bicone.

Next I cut five strands of monofilament:
1 at 23"
1 at 22.5"
1 at 22"
1 at 21.5" and
1 at 21".

After I cut these strands, they wanted to curl up and get mixed up and generally drive me bats. So I decided to stick a piece of cello tape on the end of each strand, with a number to indicate the correct order. I then taped these ends down to my work surface and beaded onto the open end.

The idea for the necklace is that I wanted it to look like the beads were sprinkled all over my neck and were just floating there. So, I drew five lines on a piece of paper and sprinkled the beads all over the paper to get a random effect for placement.

Of course, they didn't just fall right on the lines like good little beads. I used a chopstick (of all things!) to sort of organize them, making them fairly equally distributed.

Now I have to tell you about my magic beads. They're called crimping beads, and I had bought one hundred .925 silver 1X1.1mm crimping beads. That's really smalls, shiny little thingies.

Sorry this is a little fuzzy.

Incidentally, I work on a towel because the surface makes it ideal to keep beads from rolling all over. If, however, you dump these little crimping beads onto a terry towel, you are going to lose them. They are so small.

And because they are so small, and because the 8mm beads have a largish hole in them, I decided the best way to do this would be to sandwich the large beads between two of the 4mm beads, whose holes are not too small, in order to keep them in place.

Like this:

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The basic technique for this necklace, once you've decided on beads and placement, and you've cut all your monofilament in the right lengths, is to bead a crimper bead on your first string, crimp it (by gently squeezing it with a flatnose pliers) where you want your first bead or beads to go, then put your bead or beads on, and finally to string another crimper and crimp it behind the bead or beads. You don't want to make it tight against the bead, just let gravity tell you where to put this second crimper.

Now, with the previous necklace with the faux black leather cord and the Czech glass beads, I was real careful about centering and so forth. With this one, I just dove in and put this first grouping of beads wherever. I figured I could fill in the blank spaces on successive strands as I went along. It worked out pretty well this way.

So, I finished the first strand and continued onto the second, filling in the gaps from the first strand. The designing of this became very fluid as I went along. At one point, I nudged my paper map and the beads went all over and I had to separate them all over again. I almost could have just put the beads in a bowl and picked them randomly that way. And when I got to the last strand, I decided I had too many beads, so I added a few to the first strand.

Here they are, before the closure. You can see there is a randomness, but also order to the way the are laid out. Some strands have spaces, other strands have beads in that space. I wasn't going to be too particular about randomizing the color placement, tho. I just let a red bead be next to a red bead if that's the way it went. But I was careful to make sure the 8mm beads were pretty evenly spaced. I guess I was just using an equal part of careless and careful. How's that for scientific?

So, next I gathered the left side of the strands, and then I strung another magic type of bead.

For the life of me, I can't remember what these beads are called. I'm sure it has something to do with their function.

I took the strands again, made sure they were even, and tied a knot around two inches from the end.

And this is where I stopped being able to take good pictures. But here is the knot, anyway. Just an overhand knot tying them all together.
Then I cut about a half inch away, took a cigarette lighter and melted the ends together. Do this a little at a time as they melt and burn fast. But when the melted part was right on top of the knot, I stopped.

In another stunning feat of photography, you can almost see that I slid that last unnamed magic bead up over the knot, and crimped it close. That bead has a little loop at the end of it, to attach a jump ring to.

I did this operation on both ends of the necklace, and of course the strands twisted like crazy. I just let them. It was then I decided it was a little short for my chunk of a neck, so I added several jump rings to one end of the necklace. I put a closure on the other end, and it was done!

Of course, one could practically staple Swarovski beads to one's neck and it would still look beautiful. Hard to make a mistake with such lovely materials.

If you attempt to make this necklace, please send me your questions and a photo of the end product. Thanks!


Exuberant Color said...

I love the necklace and the tutorial was great.

Carmen Rose said...

Good for you, the necklace is lovely and will be very fun to wear with all that sparkle!
A flat crimp should work fine for this but it might be helpful to learn how to make a full crimp with a crimp pliers. Directions are here:

Brooke said...

See? I told you I was a happy idiot doing whatever. The link you sent is very interesting, and it's funny that I've never come across it in my limited experience. Well, I guess that sorta explains everything...
A bead tip! That's the name I was looking for! Thanks, Carmen. That was really great and very helpful.

Luxquilt said...

Just beautiful!

The Beading Gem said...

I for one appreciate your effort in making this tutorial. It's great when people take the time to share.

Melody said...

Yes, wonderful tutorial and funny too. I can hear your voice as I read it.

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful! Wonderful tutorial. I often wish I had a necklace like this for summer.
Rhonda M.

Akiko said...

I would like to see your face in the photo along with the beautiful necklace and your neck. V(*O*)V

Peggy said...

Excellent! Thanks so much, Brooke! You make it look easy and do-able. (I, on the other hand, try to make it as difficult as possible! LOL) Now all I need is about 12 or 15 more hours in the day, and I can do it all!


trishia said...

I was trying to type up an email to a friend to explain how to do a floating bead necklace. Halfway through I figured someone, somewhere HAD to have this in a tute with photos... and here you are!

Thank you so very much for the tute, it is perfectly what she needs to do her very first beading project AND it is perfectly the inspiration I needed to make a multi colored necklace without being anal about the color placement- its gorgeous!

Science For All said...

Thank you! the piece is wonderful - as is the tutorial. You're a natural shimmering star at this!

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Nancy Kent said...

I love your necklace. I am a beginner beaded and I am hooked. I would love to see more tutorials by you. If I could suggest one thing p, I'd love to see clearer pictures. Happy beading. I live in Northern NJ. Does anyone know of a beading club or a get together for headers? Anyone interested?

Nancy Kent