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DIY Beaded Earrings and Zipper Pulls

Updated on August 5, 2013

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

First I gather my supplies
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.

Silvertone Ball Headpins - 2 - Beading Supplies & Findings
Silvertone Ball Headpins - 2 - Beading Supplies & Findings

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!

 
Blue Moon Beads Lanyard Hook 23mm, 45/Pkg, Silver
Blue Moon Beads Lanyard Hook 23mm, 45/Pkg, Silver

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!

BeadSmith XTL-5620 Jewelry Beading Tool 4 In 1 Pliers Round Nose Cut Wire
BeadSmith XTL-5620 Jewelry Beading Tool 4 In 1 Pliers Round Nose Cut Wire

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.

Blue Moon Crimp Beads 2-Millimeter, Package of 200, Silver
Blue Moon Crimp Beads 2-Millimeter, Package of 200, Silver

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.

 
Beadalon Artistic Wire 20-GaugeTarnish Resistant Silver Wire, 6-Yard
Beadalon Artistic Wire 20-GaugeTarnish Resistant Silver Wire, 6-Yard

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 cord

Click thumbnail to view full-size
To start, I use much more cord than I think I'll need and I slide my charm to the middle.I match the ends of the cord and slide the beads on, making sure both strands go through the beads.Slide your beads to the middle of your piece to meet the charm.So far so good!To attach a crimp bead, slide both ends of the cord through the crimp bead. Put them through the jump ring or whichever attachment you wish to use, then slide them back through the crimp bead. They'll go in through one side, then backwards on the secThread the cord through your last bead (or a few beads) and gently ease everything together to tighten it.Be sure to crimp your bead BEFORE cutting the cord!Once your bead is crimped shut and secure, carefully cut the tail end of the cord. Beautiful!
To start, I use much more cord than I think I'll need and I slide my charm to the middle.
To start, I use much more cord than I think I'll need and I slide my charm to the middle.
I match the ends of the cord and slide the beads on, making sure both strands go through the beads.
I match the ends of the cord and slide the beads on, making sure both strands go through the beads.
Slide your beads to the middle of your piece to meet the charm.
Slide your beads to the middle of your piece to meet the charm.
So far so good!
So far so good!
To attach a crimp bead, slide both ends of the cord through the crimp bead. Put them through the jump ring or whichever attachment you wish to use, then slide them back through the crimp bead. They'll go in through one side, then backwards on the sec
To attach a crimp bead, slide both ends of the cord through the crimp bead. Put them through the jump ring or whichever attachment you wish to use, then slide them back through the crimp bead. They'll go in through one side, then backwards on the sec
Thread the cord through your last bead (or a few beads) and gently ease everything together to tighten it.
Thread the cord through your last bead (or a few beads) and gently ease everything together to tighten it.
Be sure to crimp your bead BEFORE cutting the cord!
Be sure to crimp your bead BEFORE cutting the cord!
Once your bead is crimped shut and secure, carefully cut the tail end of the cord. Beautiful!
Once your bead is crimped shut and secure, carefully cut the tail end of the cord. Beautiful!

Beading on a Headpin

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Headpins have a stopper at one end that makes them great for dangly earrings and zipper pulls.To start, simply slide your beads onto the headpin. If you have beads with very large holes, use a seed bead at the end to keep them from sliding right off.Once you have your beading complete, it's time to curl up the open end.Use a good quality round nose pliers to create your new curled end.Hold the beads securely on the headpin by putting a finger at the end of the pin, so the pin doesn't slide out the bottom while you hold the beads in the middle.Cut off the excess wire, leaving at least a centimeter of wire between the last bead and the end. As you craft, you'll get comfortable with estimating how much wire you'll need and how long you prefer your tail to be.Grip the very tip of the wire in the round nose pliers and squeeze tightly. Carefully and firmly wrap the wire around the edge of the pliers until you can no longer go around the single round edge. (You'll see what I mean when you get there.) You'll Wrap until you've nearly reached the beginning of your chain of beads, then use the very tip of your pliers to slightly bend the ring backwards to center the loop on your pin. It's easier to show than explain, and after a few you'll develop your own
Headpins have a stopper at one end that makes them great for dangly earrings and zipper pulls.
Headpins have a stopper at one end that makes them great for dangly earrings and zipper pulls.
To start, simply slide your beads onto the headpin. If you have beads with very large holes, use a seed bead at the end to keep them from sliding right off.
To start, simply slide your beads onto the headpin. If you have beads with very large holes, use a seed bead at the end to keep them from sliding right off.
Once you have your beading complete, it's time to curl up the open end.
Once you have your beading complete, it's time to curl up the open end.
Use a good quality round nose pliers to create your new curled end.
Use a good quality round nose pliers to create your new curled end.
Hold the beads securely on the headpin by putting a finger at the end of the pin, so the pin doesn't slide out the bottom while you hold the beads in the middle.
Hold the beads securely on the headpin by putting a finger at the end of the pin, so the pin doesn't slide out the bottom while you hold the beads in the middle.
Cut off the excess wire, leaving at least a centimeter of wire between the last bead and the end. As you craft, you'll get comfortable with estimating how much wire you'll need and how long you prefer your tail to be.
Cut off the excess wire, leaving at least a centimeter of wire between the last bead and the end. As you craft, you'll get comfortable with estimating how much wire you'll need and how long you prefer your tail to be.
Grip the very tip of the wire in the round nose pliers and squeeze tightly. Carefully and firmly wrap the wire around the edge of the pliers until you can no longer go around the single round edge. (You'll see what I mean when you get there.) You'll
Grip the very tip of the wire in the round nose pliers and squeeze tightly. Carefully and firmly wrap the wire around the edge of the pliers until you can no longer go around the single round edge. (You'll see what I mean when you get there.) You'll
Wrap until you've nearly reached the beginning of your chain of beads, then use the very tip of your pliers to slightly bend the ring backwards to center the loop on your pin. It's easier to show than explain, and after a few you'll develop your own
Wrap until you've nearly reached the beginning of your chain of beads, then use the very tip of your pliers to slightly bend the ring backwards to center the loop on your pin. It's easier to show than explain, and after a few you'll develop your own

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!

Add an earring finding

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Add an earring finding to any beaded set with easy to use earring hooks. I buy these in bulk and twist open several at a time so I always have a set ready to go.Start by opening the end of your earring hook.Remember to twist, not pull it open.Hook on to the end of your headpin or the jump ring at the end of your corded piece.Gently twist the ring shut and adjust to make sure the gap is tight enough the pieces won't slip apart.In seconds, you have gorgeous handmade jewelry!
Add an earring finding to any beaded set with easy to use earring hooks. I buy these in bulk and twist open several at a time so I always have a set ready to go.
Add an earring finding to any beaded set with easy to use earring hooks. I buy these in bulk and twist open several at a time so I always have a set ready to go.
Start by opening the end of your earring hook.
Start by opening the end of your earring hook.
Remember to twist, not pull it open.
Remember to twist, not pull it open.
Hook on to the end of your headpin or the jump ring at the end of your corded piece.
Hook on to the end of your headpin or the jump ring at the end of your corded piece.
Gently twist the ring shut and adjust to make sure the gap is tight enough the pieces won't slip apart.
Gently twist the ring shut and adjust to make sure the gap is tight enough the pieces won't slip apart.
In seconds, you have gorgeous handmade jewelry!
In seconds, you have gorgeous handmade jewelry!

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

My New iPad Case Pull
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.

Pearl and Birdcage Zipper Pull

Pearl and Birdcage Zipper Pull
Pearl and Birdcage Zipper Pull

Beading corrals and keepers

As you get into beading, a few tools will make your life easier.

Bead Design in Beading Board and Gray Flock with Lid, 9 by 13-Inch
Bead Design in Beading Board and Gray Flock with Lid, 9 by 13-Inch

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.

 
Darice 2025-251 Clear Bead Container with 24 Storage Jars
Darice 2025-251 Clear Bead Container with 24 Storage Jars

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.

 
Beadsmith 4 Piece Bead Reamer Set
Beadsmith 4 Piece Bead Reamer Set

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!

With help, kids love making their own jewelry!
With help, kids love making their own jewelry!

Repin me! CrafterBerly on Pinterest

Repin me! CrafterBerly on Pinterest
Repin me! CrafterBerly on Pinterest

Thanks for repinning this on Pinterest!

A few more earrings and zipper pulls I made

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Thanks for visiting!

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