UPDATED Jan 22, 2020: Added many more resources and structured as a guide.
Getting Started Making Beaded Jewelry
In this guide I’m going to share loads of resources to help you get started making beaded jewelry the best way possible.
When I first started making jewelry as a hobby I was so overwhelmed by all the choices in beads, techniques and bead suppliers that it took me a while to do much more than very simple earrings or key chains. It was a good place to start but I wanted to provide you with a guide to help speed up the process for you a bit.
Get Clear About What You Want to Achieve
The first thing you have to establish is, will this be a one-time project for you, or an interest you would like to take up as a hobby, or are you hoping to eventually sell your creations?
Knowing this will help you decide what supplies you need and how much.
If you want to just make yourself a piece of jewelry to match your new dress or give a friend a handmade gift, then your best bet is shopping around for a DIY kit.
Looking for a Hobby?
If you’re looking for a new hobby then you’ll do best deciding on your favorite styles and techniques so that you know which tools and materials are required.
Visit your local bead shops and sign up for some classes. Those are great for getting ideas and sharing local resources. This could also apply if you want to eventually sell the jewelry you make, but in this case you should invest in higher quality tools and supplies.
However, I’m getting ahead of myself so let’s come back to that a bit later.
For now let’s get you better acquainted with the different types of beads, findings, tools and techniques. I’ll provide links to more robust resources as we go.
There are so many types of beads out there but here’s a short list of the most common and the easiest to find free tutorials for.
- Seed Beads
- Swarovski Crystal
- Faceted, Fire Polished
- Gemstones, and Semi-Precious Gems
- Metal Beads
- Lamp work
There are many more but those are some of my favorites. I’ll do a more in depth guide on these in the weeks to come but for now you can check out this list of definitions and photos.
You’ll use combinations of many of these in jewelry projects but I imagine that you will begin to develop favorites that you’ll want to use in most of your projects. The variety is what I love about beading and there are new styles of beads coming out from time to time so keep an eye out!
There are also many techniques you can choose from. With the different techniques come different materials you can work with but deciding on a technique to start with will help keep you focused.
I’ll list the most common, noting the level of difficulty (in my opinion).
- Bead Stringing – Beginner
- Bead Weaving – Intermediate
- Wire Wrapping – Beginner to Intermediate
- Advanced – Bead Embroidery
- Intermediate – Bead Looming
- Beginner – Bead Macramé
- Pearl Knotting – Beginner
- Chain Maille – Intermediate
- Handmade Findings
You can really go down a rabbit hole with the different types of stitches in bead weaving so that is something to investigate.
Fusionbeads.com has a great section on the different techniques and has more than I’ve list here so check it out.
I believe the best technique to start with is bead stringing so you can become familiar with basic materials, ways of starting, joining elements, closing off a project, etc., as well as learn what materials work best in your personal style.
What’s Your Style?
Do you have a certain style that makes your heart sing?
For me it’s BOHO and I’ve always loved Swarovski and gemstone elements, so adding those to as many projects as possible makes me happy.
Here are my favorite styles…
- Art Deco
- Art Nouveau
I found this nice list of descriptions created from Etsy style categories that includes many others.
Some styles are going to rely more on charms or pendants and metals but that’s OK. I like to include charms in the beading category. Who doesn’t like an occasional charm!?
Essential Beading Supplies
The tools you will need for bead jewelry making will depend on which type of beading you choose to do and since I recommend starting with a few simple bead stringing projects, you can get away with the basics to begin with.
Here’s what I recommend for your getting started toolbox,
- Round-nose pliers
- Flat-nose pliers
- Chain-nose pliers
- Cutting Pliers
- Measuring tape or ruler
- Adhesive (E6000 is popular)
- Bead Organizer
- Piece of felt for your workspace
- Magnifying light (for those of us who don’t have 20/20 vision or may be working in the evening)
If you are just making a few projects for gifts or fun, you can certainly start out with an inexpensive set of tools, but if you plan to make this a hobby or a business you should invest in some quality tools. They will last longer and work better!
Here are some recommended beginner supplies you’ll need. I will list them all but I recommend only starting out with what you need. If you want to start out with earrings, then buy only what you need for earrings, only what you need for bracelets, necklaces, etc.
We discussed the different types of beads at the top so you can refer back there but the best thing to do starting out is purchase a project kit, with all the required materials and instructions included, or find a free pattern and purchase what’s in the supply list there.
If you start buying things randomly, the expenses can add up quickly. Starting with a project in mind will not only help keep the costs down, but you’ll find out if you like those particular beads or project types or not, before spending a lot of time and money.
Here are some examples of starter kits from Beadaholic.com.
Here are some nice free bead jewelry patterns.
If you start out with a kit you should verify what’s included but in general here’s a list of what you’ll need on hand.
- Head pins
- Eye pins
- Jump rings
- Crimp beads
- Crimp bead covers
- Spacer beads
- Bead Caps
- Clasps and toggles
- Ear wires
- Beading needles
- Beading thread
- Memory wire
- Beading wire
One of the first things I wanted to understand when I started making jewelry was the different types of beading threads, cords, and wires. Debbie Witenski explains this very well in this article. Thanks Debbie!
Setting up a Workspace
Depending on whether you are doing a one-off ‘just for fun’ project or picking up a new hobby this can be a quick space on the dinner table or a space tucked away in a corner, or even a part of your already existing dedicated craft room.
When just starting out you won’t have a lot of supplies to organize so you can get by with a ‘portable’ workspace. Something you can set up and put away quickly and keep out of sight until the mood strikes you again.
In this case, simple plastic organizers work great along with a medium sized plastic box so that everything is kept in one place.
Testing a New Hobby
If you want to go all out and work on your creations several days a week and you have a place in your home set aside for that then do your research and plan a space and organization that you can grow into. For example, you might want to purchase organizing modules that you know will be available for purchase in the months and years to come so that your space doesn’t become cluttered and your items don’t become a chore to find.
It’s really frustrating to buy supplies you thought you didn’t have only to find them a week later!
I found this great video on YouTube recently that I thought was really helpful and speaks to setting up your workspace so that you are inspired by what you already have in stock. Great ideas so please check it out! These are scalable solutions so don’t feel like it doesn’t apply to a beginner.
Where to Get Supplies
Now that you know what you need and how to setup your work space, you’ll need an inexpensive place to buy all of the things you need. From my experience, buying beads from an online wholesaler is often less expensive than buying from your local craft store.
If you are very creative and coming up with your own designs comes naturally, then once your supplies arrive and your space is well organize, you’re ready to get started. However, if you need a few patterns or how to videos to get you off to a good start, these can be found easily on the internet and many are free.
So far, Fire Mountain Gems is hands down my favorite online wholesale jewelry making supply source. They have a big selection at affordable prices. Be sure to check out the entire site! You can even order a free catalog to have on hand for all your future needs.
Finding Project Patterns and Tutorials
I know we covered this already but I wanted it to have its own section for ease of reference.
There is no shortage on the internet of free project patterns and tutorials.
Here are just a few of my favorite places to find free downloadable patterns.
Almost all of the supply shops online have a tutorials section and those are nice because they usually feature supplies they actually sell there. So, once you find a supplier you love, check out their tutorials section. To be honest, most of them are not super beautiful but I do sometimes find at least a handful that I would love to try out.
YouTube is another great place to find tutorials for projects.
Here’s a play list of great beginner level projects I put together for you.
While I believe that beginners should always start with FREE whenever possible, I know there will be those of you who will be looking for that perfect project and be willing to pay a few dollars to get it.
Etsy is my favorite place to find paid jewelry project patterns. They have tons of really beautiful patterns and some don’t restrict you from reproducing for selling the finished product.
A word of caution: Be sure to read through the fine print to know if there are licensing restrictions as well as what form the pattern comes (PDF download or video or both) in and what else is included.
You can also find some great project kits there as well. Again, be sure of what you are getting and check on the ratings of the shop. Check into their return policies, etc.
Whenever I want to start a creative project I spend some time researching what others have done to get some inspiration. It usually helps me get clear on what style I want to go for, what colors I want to aim for and what’s trending at the moment.
But inspiration doesn’t always come from watching others. It comes from what’s in your spirit so listen to yours and if you feel like creating without patterns or by doing variations then go for it!
Be open to what strikes you.
Don’t be discouraged if it takes several efforts before you get a certain technique down. We all know but need to be reminded sometimes that practice and experience is what develops skill.
I don’t believe in perfection because I’ve been chasing it all my life and haven’t found it yet! Haha!!
Or maybe perfection is the art of acceptance.
I hope you found this information useful. If you have a resource for bead jewelry making that you love, feel free to leave it in the comments section.