On Guido’s podcast I mentioned that I recently decided to update my jewelry, and have become interested in working with wire and beads for that purpose.


As soon as the words left my mouth, I regretted blabbing about it. Sure, I’m interested, but haven’t gone beyond buying some basic supplies. But now that it was out there for the whole world to hear, I guess I had to give it a try.

It all started when I came across an old pair of earrings:

I love everything about these – the simplicity, the scale, the way the shape looks against my face – but I hate the posts. I like French or fishhook wire much more. I reasoned it shouldn’t be too difficult to switch out the posts, and I’d get much more wear out of these earrings.

Armed with a basic jewelry tool set (always check for a coupon!), the book Making Wire Jewelry and More, and some supplies from Beadworks, I did a bit more than just upgrade the posts:

I also finally wrapped up these pretty lilac stones I’ve had sitting around:

Let me posit this to you: wire and beadwork is not complicated, but it takes some finesse to make it look professional. Yes or no?

Anyway, I enjoyed fiddling around with all the tools, found Making Wire Jewelry a great beginner’s guide (briolettes? I’m the queen of briolettes!), and like the end results enough to wear my new pairs of earrings. I look forward to making more jewelry and sharpening my skills! Next time I may even use real sterling silver wire… though considering I wasted a good yard for 4 small briolettes, maybe the really nice stuff isn’t for me just yet ;).


46 thoughts on “Outed

  1. AprilMayBornInJune

    Those are awesome, really classy. I thought I was going to do wire work last year, but forgot to get the wire, so I made some with yarn for my daughter. (kindergarten – so not picky yet) =)

  2. Allie

    I’ve done a little beading and it’s always been a lot of fun. Your earrings look great! Your skills always impress me whether knitting, sewing, or beading. I love reading your blog and always look forward to your posts.

  3. domesticat

    i was one stamp away from $20 off at beadworks when my wallet was stolen. grrr. anyway i did some jewelry making before knitting, and it stuck long enough to for one season’s worth of christmas gifts. i have miles of sterling silver wire and crystals and pearls that i hope will one day see the light of day…

  4. JJ

    I like what you’ve done with the earrings. I’ve been making (and repairing) my own jewelry for years. I like making earrings for the “instant gratification” factor. Just wait until you get into bead weaving – it’s twice the fun!!!

  5. margaux

    i completely agree, i think that beadwork isn’t so much hard as it is to really perfect the pressure and angle you put on the wire… those earrings look great! i miss boston so much – i heart beadworks! you are truly a talented crafter in all ways…. so when’s the last time you went to Home Depot 😉

  6. StacyZ

    The stones are pretty. Just as with anything there are little tricks you learn as time goes on (I am a jewelry designer)

    One good site for tutorials is eni oken – just search her name.

    Also on the sterling thing look up altamont silver in California. They have by far the cheapest wire around what you want for most your stuff is 24 gauge half hard. That is a great size to start with. Please let me know if you have questions or want any information.

  7. gina

    if you want to use sterling, just save the bits that are mistakes, and then sell them back to a jeweler. even tiny bits are worth saving because they all will be melted down anyways! 🙂 i have made sterling jewelry (plus beaded things) for a few years, and this process works pretty well for me.

  8. Kristy

    Yes, it does require some finesse. I’m still not very good at cutting the wire so that the end looks good and doesn’t scratch. Your earrings look great!

  9. Dove

    I did beading of all sorts for years, and, yes, the hardest part to making jewelry is making it look professional. I managed to get there with some things, but not all. I still can’t do the hangman’s loop, like you did, so I close everything with a simple loop and make it flush and neat. I haven’t had any problems with it. Although it wouldn’t work for wrapping beads like you did.

    I also have to say, yours definitely do NOT look like a first time effort! Very good work!

    The other trick to beading, which you’ll have no trouble with, is using nice, high-quality supplies. It really makes a world of difference, moreso, I’d argue, than using nice yarn does in knitting.

  10. Charles

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  11. Hmm

    Venture a little farther into beadwork (and wire), and you’ll see that there is quite a bit that qualifies as “complicated.” Please don’t dismiss other craft areas just because you’re a novice.

  12. Jennifer

    They look great! I just tried my hand at it for the first time, and I agree it’s hard to make it look neat — but yours don’t look like a first timer. With practice your work will be perfect!!!

  13. Amy

    Your earrings look great! If that’s your first foray into beading, I’m sure all your FO’s will be absolutely professional looking in no time! Yes, wrapping is pretty picky to get “just right” but who’s looking that closely, anyway? You are amazing!

  14. Frances

    Beading is fun. But wire-wrapping takes a while to get good at. Especially if you have the wrong tools [me! me! I’m beading with needle-nose pliers!]

    Welcome to the dark side!

  15. Monica

    I’ve thought about doing some beadwork but between not knowing where to start and being up to my ears in new things lately, I’ve kept putting it off. Maybe next year!

  16. brenda

    Great job! As a bead store owner who loves knitting, I completely sympathize. I have found (if there is a crimp tool in your tool kit) that using the top hole in the crimp plier squeezes the cut end of the wrap in just enough so it doesn’t get caught in your hair or clothing. I always tell my students that learning wire wrapping is like learning to write the alphabet, repetition is the key. Your wraps look great!

  17. Teresa

    Wow..great modification to the earrings! I’ve tried bead work myself, but I usually end up making the necklace too bulky looking. Then it usually ends up breaking the string I used to bead them. (Up to 10 pounds my butt!) Nothing more embarrassing than having dinner at a restaurant and your beads all of a sudden flying across your dinner plate and down your shirt.

  18. Alison

    I have a small stash of beading supplies. Every so often I will be struck wtih the uncontrollable urge to go to Beadworks and get stuff to make jewelry. Problem is I don’t put things together well while I’m there, and then wind up with this random conglomeration of stuff. Beading and wirework is also an area where I cannot shut off the perfectionism, and so that is a problem for me. The Beadworks urge hasn’t hit as much in the last year or so (or with the same intentity), in part because of the expansion of my fiber-crafting. And also because I have a little drawer full of beads and no idea what to do with them. 🙂

  19. jen

    Ah, beading, my first crafty love. How I have neglected it of late in favor of pretty pretty yarn. 🙂

    My advice for wirework practice is to pick up some copper wire at your local hardware store. It’s cheap, and easy to work with. It’s more malleable than silver, so it’s not an exact match, but it will give you a feel for working with the tools, and you can make some fun stuff with it. Get 18 gauge – thick enough to really play with, but not too thick for jewelry.

  20. Anna

    I heard you on It’s a Purl, Man, and it was fun to hear your voice!

    You make me want to knit more socks. And to check out all of Nancy Bush’s books.

    Keep up all the awesome work!

  21. Laurel

    Another good book is All Wired Up by Mark Lareau. That’s the one I started with and it was really helpful. Of course, I couldn’t just stick with wire wrapping, so I eventually took classes and now do metalsmithing, too… when I have a place to keep and use an acetylene torch. Good luck, your pieces look really nice.

  22. Brenda

    I’ve done beading for several years, and the techniques are pretty easy in concept but do take consistency in application to look professional.

    I practice with brass or copper wire from the hardware store, and once I have a design or technique down, I switch to sterling silver wire. I use 24g sterling for pearls (they have little holes), 22 g for most crystal and smaller glass, and 20g for bigger beads. 18 gauge is good for making findings (clasps, earwires, etc.).

    Also, good tools are a must. I buy most of my tools now from riogrande.com (swanstrom tools rock). However, when I started out, I purchased a pair of Craftsman round nosed pliers and needlenose (smooth, not serated!) pliers from Sears. They are guaranteed for life, and they are well made.

    http://www.fusionbeads.com has free shipping and very good bead prices. integritypearls.com is a good source for freshwater pearls from China, and altamont.com has good silver prices (as does riogrande).

  23. Dove

    Also: something I wish people told me. Pay attention to the hardness of the wire. I generally use half-hard– sturdy, but easy to manipulate. Dead-soft is great for wrapping. Full-hard holds shape best, so it’s good for unwrapped loops, but it is brittle.

  24. Romi

    Cool earrings. And, yes, I would agree: working with wire and beads is easy but takes practice to look professional. The best thing about it is that a wire and beads stash takes up much less room than yarn. 🙂

  25. Chris

    They are beautiful!!! It absolutely takes practice, but I’d say you’re there. Bead on a Wire is also another great book to reference. Have fun!!

  26. Robin

    Very pretty earrings! I’ve been making stitch markers with beads and stones. I can’t stop! Love doing this. All my knitting will have stitch markers whether it needs them or not! They dress up my knitting! Will have to start trying to sell them soon — am running over!

  27. denise

    along with Mark Lareau’s All Wired Up, I strongly recommend getting Sharilyn Miller’s Bead on a Wire (sharilynmiller.com). Mark’s book gives you a lot of basics in shaping and dealing with wire, and Sharilyn’s book teaches you all how to make it professional–the basics plus how to really finish off your wire jewelry. If you’re really getting into wire, also check out the work of Connie Fox (www.jatayu.com), and Lisa Niven Kelly (lisanivenkelly.com), and Dallas Lovett to name a few. Beading and wire work are just as addictive as knitting–I should know, I’m a beader who only wanted to knit and crochet to use the technichs in jewelry making. Now, i’m totally hooked.

  28. Jonelle Butler

    Have you ever looked at the Wigjig.com site? Even if you aren’t interested in wire jigs, it has tons of instructions for jewelry techniques, and patterns.

    The earrings look great. Nobody will be examining the wrapping technique anyway…and practice makes perfect! What better excuse to make more earrings…


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