You can do it – we can help!

When we sit down to create our tutorials, we never assume or require that you have any previous beading experience. So, from getting started picking your beads and threading your needle to determining your finished length and finally attaching your clasp, we’re with you every step of the way, explaining what to do with clear instructions and showing what’s happening with high-resolution, full-color, close-up photos.

Look for the “Easy” label in the top left corner of our listings to know which patterns are best for beginners. 

Which patterns are the easiest

All of our beading patterns are written so that beaders of any skill level can easily complete the project. But, some projects are easier than others.  With that in mind, we’ve labeled all of our easiest beading patterns (and corresponding kits if available) with the word “easy” in the top left corner, so you can easily spot them, regardless of which page you’re on. Or, just click on the button to view all of our easiest beading patterns.

We’ve included a lot of information below to help beginners get started with beading, from figuring out which projects to start with and what tools you need, to how to set up your workspace and where to buy supplies. If you’re still unsure about something, please don’t hesitate to reach out – we’re always happy to help.

“Hi ladies. I just wanted to tell you how much I am enjoying your patterns. I’m brand new to beading. Without any sense of what I was getting myself into, I purchased your dangle Christmas tree earring pattern and Peppermint Earring/Necklace pattern. Because your instructions were so clear, my first pair turned out perfectly. I made sets of each for every girl in my family. I think I’m addicted now and plan to come back for one after another. Thank you for your thoughtful detail. You have won a repeat customer!” – Heather

What type of project to start with

There are numerous types of beading techniques, each with its own distinct process, tools, and skill set.  It can be overwhelming when starting out to know the difference between each technique and which one(s) you should try. Below, we have briefly touched on a few of the major techniques that we offer tutorials for in hopes it will help you narrow down where to start and what to try.  Remember, like with any new hobby or worth-while endeavor, expect a learning curve, be patient with yourself and just have fun!  One of the great benefits of beading is, that if you “mess up” you can undo your work and try again with little to no waste of materials!

“Bangle-icious” Beading Pattern

Bead stitching

If you like the look of intricate bead work, and you enjoy any type of hand sewing (such as embroidery), you may love bead stitching (a.k.a. off-loom bead weaving). Bead stitching projects utilize a beading needle and thread and are made by stitching beads together in beautiful and unique ways with various beading stitches. Bead stitching projects usually take longer, but can be very rewarding!

Bead stitching projects

Wire working

If you’re a little more adventurous and like to manhandle things a bit, you’re a natural for wire-working. While basic wire-wrapping projects are great for beginners, some free-form wire work and metalsmithing can be a bit less forgiving and are typically best for more experienced beaders.

Wire working projects

Leather and knotting

If you enjoyed making friendship bracelets and braiding hair as a kid, and enjoy any type of knitting or macramé projects, chances are you’ll feel right at home making braided and knotted jewelry using various techniques including, pearl knotting, bead crochet, kumihimo, etc.

Leather and knotting projects

Bead stringing

If you enjoyed stringing beads as a kid (honestly, who doesn’t!), and you love buying beautiful stands of beads and coming up with interesting patterns and designs – and maybe even working in other fun and interesting components, then bead stringing may totally be your thing! Bead stringing is where most folks start out because it’s typically less demanding than wire work, and less time-consuming than bead stitching.

Bead stringing projects

Setting up your workspace

Every crafter dreams of having their own dedicated space that they can call their own.  The ideal space would have a great worktable, super storage and ample lighting.   If you’ve got such a space, that’s great!  If not, here are a few solutions that will help (at least until your uber craft room manifests itself).

“Sun & Moon” design

Lots of light (preferably “natural daylight”)

No matter where you work, at a table, with a tray in your lap in front of the TV, or with a portable tray wherever and whenever you can (you go, girl!) – you’ll need good lighting. Bright light makes it easier to see those tiny holes in those tiny beads – resulting in less eye strain and fatigue. Depending on the workspace, we use table-top lamps, gooseneck LED floor lamps, and overhead lighting.

Daylight bulbs

We also switched to “natural daylight” LED light bulbs in all of our work lights because they best represent the true colors of the beads (whereas soft, warm, and cool lightbulbs skew colors one way or the other). If you want to ensure that you see colors the way they appear out of doors, look for daylight bulbs (rated with a color temperature between 5000K and 6500K) or full spectrum lightbulbs (rated with a color temperature of 6500K and a CRI of 96%). While originally marketed to photographers and folks combatting SADS (Seasonal Affected Depression Syndrome), daylight bulbs are now widely available at most big box stores.

A good work surface

How you set up your beading workspace will depend on the type of beading you’re doing and where you’re the most comfortable working. A table is probably preferable if you’re bead stringing or doing wire work. If you’re bead stitching, you might work better in a comfy chair with a bead tray on your lap (we cover bead mats, trays, and design boards in more detail below).

Portable table

We used a sturdy folding table for years. It worked well because we could easily move it from room to room, depending on where we wanted to work, and it kept our projects off of the dining room table, kitchen counter, and coffee table.

Bead mats, trays & design boards

Bead mats – a MUST-have!

One item we find invaluable for any type of beading project is a bead mat. Beading mats are a thin, soft, felt-like foam that you lay on the table and pour your piles of beads on. Bead mats range in size from 7″x7″ to 13″x18″. Note: If you’re going to use a jewelry display tray or “Bead Mat Tray” (described in the section below), then you’ll want one of the larger sizes so it will fit snug around the inside edges of the tray.

Bead trays – our FAVORITE solution

We discovered that jewelry display trays make great portable beading trays. While they’re not meant for this purpose, their compact size, sturdy build, shallow (but not too shallow) depth and stackable design make them darn near perfect for our use! Just cut a bead mat down to size, slip it in the bottom of the tray, and you’re good to bead. There are many different styles available that we have purchased and tried – and some are definitely better for this unique purpose.

We purchase stackable plastic jewelry display trays (that are 14.75″ x 8.25″ x 1″ high) and then line the bottoms with cut down bead mats. These make a great, very sturdy little surfaces to work that have the added benefit of stacking beautifully when not in use. The nearly 1″ interior depth (made slightly shallower with the bead mat in the bottom) easily accommodates larger beads, so the trays still stack nicely even with projects in them.

Jewelry trays typically come in either black or white and can be found from various online sources. Some are offered with a removable pin board in the bottom to pin jewelry to for displaying purposes (save your money as you won’t be needing those). Also, beware of thin, cheap ones with cardboard bottoms – you DON’T want those. If you try this solution, make sure you buy the ones that have a nice flat 1/4″ edge rather than the ones that have a thin “pointy” edge that can be very uncomfortable on your wrists while you work.

Make sure you also get a pack of bead mats (sold separately) that you can cut down to size and place in the bottom of the tray(s) to keep your beads from rolling around. We use the leftover scraps of bead mat as handy little table mats that we can place individual findings or small quantities of beads on while we’re sorting and designing (so there’s no waste). The photo at right shows the style of jewelry tray we typically buy.

A similar (new) solution from BeadSmith

BeadSmith must have been reading our minds because they recently came out with a similar style stackable bead tray that they call the Bead Mat Tray (we found it on Amazon).  They made their Bead Mat Tray a larger 11″x14″ to accommodate their standard size bead mat (so there’s no need to cut it down to size).  Other than that, it is a similarly lightweight, sturdy, stackable, molded plastic tray.  The only other difference is that they made theirs 1/2″ deep, whereas the jewelry display trays are 1″ deep.  If you’re working predominately with smaller size beads, or you don’t plan on stacking trays with large projects still in them, that shouldn’t be an issue. 

Between the two . . .

The Bead Mat Tray is great for table work and more involved projects that require ample space.  But, for smaller projects, working in front of the TV in a narrow chair, or when we use large beads that we may want to still be able to stack, we still prefer the jewelry trays with the cut down bead mats.

Design Boards

In addition to a bead mat, most bead stringers like to work with some form or style of bead board or design board. Bead design boards come in various shapes and sizes, ranging from travel size to extra long sizes (for longer necklaces). They are typically made of lightweight molded plastic that have shallow necklace-shaped grooves with units of measure along the sides. You lay your beads in the grooves (which hold them in place) while you work out the desired order or pattern (and length). Then, when it looks the way you want, you can start putting it all together. The size bead board you use will depend on the size project you ultimately want to make. If you are going to be making bracelets and shorter necklaces – a standard bead board will do. For long necklaces, you will want an extra long bead board.

Jewelry design board

Bead mat and jewelry display tray

Bead tray

Where to buy beading supplies

We currently offer a limited selection of beads and jewelry making supplies from our Etsy shop.  We hope to move all of our beading supplies to this website (and expand our offering) in the near future – stay tuned.

If you’re lucky enough to have one nearby, shopping at your local bead shop is a great place to start.  If you don’t have a dedicated bead store nearby, major craft stores (such as Michael’s and Jo-Ann’s) have been expanding their selections of beads and beading supplies, due to the ever-growing popularity of DIY beading.

You can also find what you need at your local bead store or favorite online retailers. Here are a few that we shop at regularly: ArtBeads.com, ShipwreckBeads.com, Beadaholique.com, LimaBeads.com, Amazon, as well as vendors on Etsy (just take note of where an item is shipping from – some are shipped from overseas and can take extra time to arrive).

Substituting with Different Beads or Beading Materials

Many of our designs can be made using comparable beading materials. For example, if our pattern calls for 4mm round pearls, in most cases, you can use different types of 4mm round beads instead (such as 4mm round fire polished beads). Please note: If the pattern is for a bead weaving (or stitched) project, it’s typically not recommended to use different sizes of beads than those recommended, as the original design may not work out as intended. You may also substitute recommended materials with your preferred brand (for example, using Nymo vs. FireLine thread) unless otherwise noted for a specific reason. For example, if we specifically recommend using TOHO seed beads with a particular project, the project may not work out as well if you substitute and use Delica seed beads instead (which differ in shape).

Sorting & storing beads – oh my!

There’s no shortage of bead storage solutions.  Sorting and organizing beads is a necessary evil, and for some (including Cara) a favorite pastime!  Here’s what we’ve learned and what we’ve settled on.

We like to store our beads in small plastic bags. Note: Make sure you label them with re-ordering information, so you can get if you run out.

Common bead storage solutions

Organizer Trays are the first thing most folks try out. The thing we don’t like about organizer trays is that beads have a tendency to jump out of their compartments and get all mixed up with neighboring beads. It’s also a hassle to get all the beads out of the tiny compartments – big fingers, little beads, tight corners. And don’t even get us started on the nightmare of trying to reorganize a large bead stash – forget about it! And, while hard plastic jars keep beads separate and are easier to handle, they’re bulky and expensive.

Our favorite bead storage solution

Several years ago, Cara figured out a solution that has been an absolute lifesaver for us – and it’s all we use now.  We put all of our beads and findings in small, individual zip top bags.  These bags are available in numerous convenient sizes – our favorites are 2″x2″, 2″x3″, and 2″x4″ (we use larger sizes to keep awkward items such as cut lengths of cording and beading wire tidy and protected).

Zip ’em up!

Plastic zip top bags are cheap, keep beads separate, can be tossed on a bead tray or in a bin for worry free transport, are easier to sort and a breeze to store! You can find these bags from various sources such as ShipwreckBeads.com and Amazon.

How to label bags of beads

Label each bag before you pour the beads in it. We write the bead (or findings) info on a small white sticker. Then, we use clear masking tape to tape the sticker on the inside of the bag – with the info facing out. That way the sticker never falls off, and you always know what’s in the bag.

Sorting & storing your bagged beads

If you choose to bag your beads, storing them becomes as easy as tossing them in an open drawer, clear shoe boxes or, if space is limited, larger gallon size bags. We’ve purchased numerous 10 drawer rolling organizers that we use to sort our bags of beads by type, size and color.

Basic beading tools

Regardless of the type of bead work you’ll be doing, there are at least a couple of tools that you’ll probably need.  You may be able to find one or two in your house’s toolbox, but it’s more likely that you’ll need to pick up smaller, more delicate jewelry making versions, which will give you better results.  Like most tools, prices vary considerably from one manufacturer to another.  We suggest that, if you’re just starting out, get yourself some of the following basic tools that fit both your hands and your budget.  Then, as your skills progress, you can always upgrade to higher quality tools.  We like to put our “dream tools” (usually Lindstrom) on our birthday & holiday wish lists.

Needles

There are two main types of needles used for beading – stitching needles and stringing needles. Below, we’ll share which ones we use for each and why.

#12 John James English Long Beading Needles

Stitching needles

We use John James English beading needles for our bead stitching projects. These needles range in size from 10 (which is the thickest) to size 15 (which is the thinnest and most delicate). English beading needles also come in different lengths – short and long. The needles we most often use (that work well with the majority of our stitching projects) are the size 12 longs. We prefer these because they are easier for us to hold (due to their longer length) and are able to easily pass through the small holes in tiny 15/0 seed beads. You may want to experiment with different types of needles to find what works best for you.

Stringing needles (collapsible needles)

Sometimes, it’s helpful to use a special type of needle when threading beads onto certain beading materials. While beads easily slip right onto beading wire, leather cording, or thread, it can be very challenging to try to string beads onto materials such as ribbon, elastic stretch cord, etc. That’s when collapsable beading needles come in handy. These needles allow you to thread your challenging cord through a collapsible loop and then easily fish the needle (with cording in tow), through the bead. The most common types of collapsible needles are “twisted needles” and “big eye needles”.

Note: Twisted needles are easy to use, but don’t hold their shape well over time. And, big eye needles hold their shape fairly well but are extremely sharp on each end and can easily provide a painful poke.

Flush cutters

Flush cutters

Flush cutters are one of the most invaluable tools for bead weaving.  They differ from standard wire cutters, or side cutters, as the blades are in-line (or flush to each other) allowing for a very close cut, resulting in very little thread or wire poking out. When using flush cutters, hold them so that the flat (or flush) sides of the blades are facing the side you are trimming for the closest cut.

Pliers

The types of pliers you’ll need to have on hand will depend on the type of beading you’ll be doing. If you’re going to stick to bead stitching (or off-loom bead weaving) projects, then you’ll probably be able to get by with just a pair of chain nose or flat nose pliers (described below). We have found that it’s very helpful to have two pairs lying around for when we need to open and close jump rings and ear wires. That way, you don’t need to try to hold the project tight with one hand while using the pliers with your other. Instead of buying two chain or flat nose pliers, you can use a round nose plier as your second pair to open and close jump rings (and such). That way, you’d also have a pair of round nose pliers on hand if/when you need it for wire work!

Chain nose pliers

Chain nose pliers are similar to flat nose pliers in that they are flat and smooth on the inside (with no teeth that can leave any undesirable indentations, or toothy marks, on your wire). Unlike flat nose pliers, chain nose pliers have a slight curve along the outside edges and form a pointed, narrow tip at the end, so they are easier to get into tight places. Chain nose pliers are handy for lots of tasks, including opening and closing jump rings and ear wires. They are also commonly used when wire-wrapping and manipulating wire into desired shapes.

Flat nose pliers

Flat nose pliers are very similar to chain nose pliers (in that they also are smooth on the inside face), and you may be able to get by with either one or the other if you’re just bead stitching. However, if you’re planning on doing a lot of wire work, flat nose pliers are a nice tool to have. Unlike chain nose or round nose pliers, flat nose pliers, with their 90 degree angled edges, allow you to get a nice sharp, 90-degree bend in your wire when needed. If you’re mostly just using your pliers to open jump rings and ear wires (and not manipulating wire into shapes), flat nose and chain nose pliers both work fine and are interchangeable. We personally prefer to work with chain nose pliers because of their pointed tips, which allow us to more easily hold smaller objects – like small jump rings.

Round nose pliers

Round nose pliers are invaluable when you’re doing any type of wire wrapping, such as making wire-wrapped earrings. The round, tapered ends of the tool (which are wider towards the back and narrower at the tips), are perfect for forming different sizes of wire loops. Grabbing the wire towards the back of the tool will allow you to form large loops, and holding the wire closer to the tips will form nice, tight and small wire loops.

Crimping pliers

Crimper pliers are mainly used to tightly fasten and secure crimp tubes and crimp beads in bead stringing projects. The inside face of the pliers have two distinct notches (one towards the back and one in the front). These are used to dent and then fold over or close/crush crimp beads or tubes to tightly secure flexible beading wire(s) together (such as when you attach an end clasp). There are several types of crimping tools available to beaders. We use the standard blue handled crimping tools that come in three different sizes – standard, micro and mighty. The “micro” is used for the smallest crimp tubes (1×1mm), the standard is used with 2×2mm crimp tubes and beads, and the “mighty” is designed for 3×3mm and larger crimps.

Flat nose & chain nose pliers

Round nose pliers

Crimping pliers

How to customize your jewelry

With any pattern, there are certain things that are totally fine to change up if you want to personalize the design, and there are certain things that need to remain constant in order for the design to work out successfully. Check out our helpful tips below to know when it is, and when it’s not, okay to make substitutions.

Bead colors

Everyone has favorite colors, and chances are that you have some different color preferences than we do. That’s why we make up several color samples of each design, so you can get an idea of what it looks like in different color schemes. However, you’re not limited to any of the colors that we use. Always feel free to experiment with your own color schemes or use the same colors as shown in our samples.

When you’re looking at our beading patterns, try to focus on the designs, rather than the actual colors we used. That way, if you like a design, but aren’t in love with the colors, all you have to do is substitute with your favorite colors (and that goes for the color and style of the findings as well).  Click here to see an example of how changing the bead colors can really change the look of a design.

Bead sizes & shapes

Most bead sizes and shapes are measured in millimeters and are universally consistent from one manufacturer to another. If a pattern calls for a specific size and shape bead, you can use any brand you prefer.

Seed beads are the notorious exception to this rule. Not only do seed beads follow a different sizing scheme (15/0 through 6/0), actual bead sizes and shapes can vary widely from one manufacturer to another. These differences can wreak havoc in designs (especially, bead weaving projects) by dramatically changing the overall shape and appearance of the project. If a design requires a specific brand of seed bead to work out correctly, we specify that on the Materials page of the pattern.

Sizing & length

Our beading patterns are not designed for a specific size. Rather, we show you how to make the project to size, so you’ll have a perfect fit every time.

End clasps and earwires

Most jewelry utilizes some sort of end clasps or ear wires. These items are referred to as “findings”. There’s a wide variety of findings, and each has its own way of being attached to the jewelry. Our patterns specify the type of findings we used and show in detail how they’re attached to finish off. If you’re not sure if the style finding you want to use will work, just contact us.

Metal colors & finishes

If a design includes any findings (such as end clasps, jump rings, crimp covers, chain, wire, etc.) you’ll typically want to make sure that all the various metal components you use are the same “color” and finish. This will result in a more cohesive and professional appearance. If the design purposefully features a mixed-metal look, it will be clearly indicated on the Materials page.

Bead stringing materials

There are numerous stringing materials available to folks these days. Our patterns always let you know what specific beading materials we used and, if it’s important, why. If you’re familiar with comparable products and rather use something else, chances are it’ll be fine. However, some substitutions may not work out as well. So, if you’re new to beading, we recommend that you either use the material we specify or check with us (or your preferred bead supplier) for a satisfactory substitution.

Wire & chain

As with bead stringing materials, changing the thickness of the wire you use can significantly affect the way a project works out – and, not always for the better. Patterns that utilize wire will tell you what size or gauge wire we used and what, if any, alternate gauges can safely be substituted.

“Uptown Necklace” beading pattern

“This pattern was well written and easy to follow! I’m more of a visual learner so the photos were super helpful. Thank you.” – Christy