DIY Beaded Earrings and Zipper Pulls
Beaded jewelry is fast, fun, and affordable.
One lazy Sunday afternoon I sat down with a box of beads and findings that I'd purchased some time ago but had never gotten around to tackling. My intention was to turn a few lovely charms into zipper pulls and dangly earrings. I love dangly earrings, but am forever breaking them or losing one. And I seem to have a problem with zipper tabs snapping in half and leaving me pinching to open pockets. I didn't know how much fun I would have making new earrings and zipper pulls!
Beads and I don't have a loving past. The last time I fell in love with some beads and attempted to make a necklace for a friend, I ended up mailing her the whole mess of twisted wire and mangled rings, and encouraged her to turn it into something resembling civilization. For some reason, my beading afternoon went incredibly smooth and I ended up with dozens of beautiful beaded earrings and zipper pulls to keep, give as gifts, and sell on my Etsy shop.
Image © ME, but yes! Repin with pleasure.
First I gather my supplies
A few supplies to get you started
No matter what kind of project you're getting started with, there are a few standard supplies you'll want to stock up on. Even though some of these sell in sets of 40, 60, or even 100, you can go through them fast, especially once you've started burning through gift ideas.
Headpins are used to form the base of your earrings and pulls. You can buy them with a ball on one end, or a tiny ring already formed. The ones with a ball at the end act as a stopper. You can hang a charm off the ones with a ring on the end. If you buy solid pins, you can also cut off the tips and create your own rings, so it's really personal preference, once you get the hang of it, to decide which you should buy. These go fast too, so buy lots!
I LOVE making zipper pulls and sticking them on everything, so I buy these in bulk. Even if a zipper doesn't need to be replaced, wouldn't your bags look so much cuter with a personalized pull?
Decide which beads you'll use
When you get started setting up your earring or zipper pull, the first thing you'll do is decide which beads you want to use. You can place beads, take them off, and rearrange them, but it's easier to decide on a general pattern first. Use a bead board, shallow dish lined with fabric, or a Scrabble shelf to corral and line up your beads.
The beads are the fun part!
Even before I gather my supplies, I'm digging through my beads to see what fun combinations I'll play with!
Twist, don't pull, open jump rings and round parts - Trust me...you'll be using a LOT of jump rings.
Pulling apart jump rings and round sections of wire pulls the circle into an oval shape that's nearly impossible to close securely and return to a nice round shape. Plus, when you squeeze them shut, it's easy to oversqueeze and end up squishing them, potentially breaking beads.
By opening rings by twisting them to create almost a spiral shape, you'll be able to securely clamp them closed with the flat part of your multi-tool and preserve a perfect round shape.
Buy a QUALITY beading multitool
The right multitool will save you frustration by helping you avoid misshapen rings, mangled clasps, and busted beads. Your beading tool doesn't have to be expensive!
Rather than keep track of several types of pliers, invest in this one set that has a wire cutters, flat edge for squishing closed crimp beads and straightening pins, a round nose pliers for shaping rings, and a jump ring closer that will help you avoid mangled rings.
For longer or "relaxed" beading...
If you don't want your zipper pulls and earrings to hang stick straight on a headpin, you can use beading wire or floss, and crimp beads. Crimp beads are placed and crimped (squeezed shut) over wire and thread to act as a clamp and stopper. They can also be decorative and hold big beads on thinner chains.
Crimp beads are tiny and you can use two or more per project, so four or more per pair of earrings. They're also easy to lose or flick off into space, so buy these in bulk.
For small projects, wire type isn't truly important. You'll use a lot of excess because it's easier to thread a long tail through a bead and cut off the end than it is to try to thread a tiny tail through a bead to finish off.
For long and "flowing" beading, use wire or floss
Above you read about using beading wire and floss to create longer strands. My favorite technique for using wire or floss is to cut a piece about four times as long as I think I'll need, or longer. It's easier to thread long tails into small beads, so don't be afraid to use generously long wires. Slide your end bead or charm to the middle and fold the wire in half. Then slide your remaining beads onto the doubled wire or floss.
Follow the directions in the next photo gallery to learn how to use a crimp bead to create a loop on the closing end of your wire or floss, then thread your tails through existing beads and hide the ends. You'll end up with lovely, finished jewelry with no exposed wires or threads!
Stringing beads on cordClick thumbnail to view full-size
Beading on a HeadpinClick thumbnail to view full-size
Use a loop-ended headpin to add a charm
To add a charm to the end of your earrings or zipper pull, start with a loop-ended headpin. You can make these by curling the end of a straight headpin, and cut off the flat part at the tip if you need to. Remember to twist your loops open, not pull them, to avoid mangled oval shapes and mashed rings. Attach your charm, close your loop, and start beading!
Your charm selection is ENDLESS
Add an earring findingClick thumbnail to view full-size
Earring findings for sensitive ears
If you're worried about sensitivity, never fear! Earring findings come in a range of qualities.
My New iPad Case Pull
Add a zipper pull
Jump rings come in many sizes, and you can use larger ones, clasped onto the small ones, to attach your jewelry to a zipper pull. The ring on this specific photo isn't a jump ring - it's from another piece of jewelry - but it shows you how the larger ring easily clips into the pull.
Zipper Pull Parts
Pearl and Birdcage Zipper Pull
Beading corrals and keepers
As you get into beading, a few tools will make your life easier.
A bead design board will help you align your beads before you start your project - large or small - and keep them from rolling and flicking away.
A large container that holds several smaller jars is my recommended technique for storing beads. Each individual container can be picked up and toted along, and if the lid of the large container comes off, you won't have one giant mess of beads, just a small mess of sealed containers.
As you continue beading, you'll branch out into beads made of metal, glass, plastic, ceramic, porcelain, etc. You'll find a reamer handy for making holes larger, shaving off shards, and getting little beads unstuck from the holes of larger ones.
With help, kids love making their own jewelry!
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