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Design a DIY Bracelet Set: Start With a Scarf (Summer) - Part 1

When I started making DIY jewelry, one of my first thoughts was about how to design pieces that both looked great and that I would wear frequently. I thought that creating jewelry with no context could easily lead to my producing lovely pieces that just didn't get a lot of wear because the colors and/or styles didn't align to the outfits I wear. So I decided that I would not make jewelry on spec, but only create items that I knew I could start wearing right away.

Recently I have been making a lot of coordinated sets of stackable bracelets, and I thought it would be fun to show you how I go about making them. As is evident in this typical bracelet stack, I combine three types of bracelets:

(1) Paper bead bracelets: 2-3 (1-2 tube, 1-2 bicone)

(2) Stone/glass bead bracelets: 1-3

(3) Metallic bracelets: 1-3

My bracelets tend to be made from beads in the 5-8mm size, and I will typically wear between 5-7 of them in a stack...sometimes 3 if they're on the large end.

So how can we go about making DIY bracelet sets that we will wear over and over again? Today I'm going to discuss designing bracelet sets starting with a spring/summer scarf. A scarf in warm weather?! If you avoid scarves in the warm seasons because it makes you overheat to think about, have you ever tried wearing a small silk scarf? I didn't quite believe it myself until I tried it, but silk scarves are actually very pleasant to wear in the heat! They are delightfully cool to the touch, and unlike metal jewelry, they don't heat up and burn your neck. Summer is a wonderful time to try braiding your scarf into a necklace, too. Scarves can make great headbands. And don't forget that a larger scarf can be worn as a shawl to cover up in air-conditioning...or tied like a vest...there are a lot of ways to keep wearing scarves in the warm seasons!

In April 2020, I purchased this gorgeous Brooks Brothers twilly-style silk scarf on ThredUp ($27.99) because I loved the fish design and the color scheme, which is perfect for summer. It works with so many things in my wardrobe, and it adds a touch of whimsy to my warm season outfits. So I am using this scarf as the inspiration piece for creating some DIY bracelet sets. With this scarf and a bracelet set, I will have a good start to a beauty bundle! Just add a pair of shoes and a pair of earrings and I'm good to go.

As I make them right now, the paper bead bracelets are the core of the bracelet sets, to which I add glass/stone and metallic bracelets to finish them.

My method for designing the coordinated set involves:

(1) Picking out magazine/catalog paper for the paper bead bracelets, preferably 1-2 each of bicone and tube;

(2) Making the paper beads and creating stretch bracelets with paper + spacer beads (with a choice of silver, gold, or neither as the metal);

(3) Picking glass/stone beads that coordinate to make a stretch bracelet or two.

Remember that when making paper bicone beads, you are looking for a page that has an overall color palette that you like (though the design will be obscured when the bead is rolled) and that is large enough to cut your entire triangular strips from. For making paper tube beads, you only need a small area of paper with the desired design (which will show when the bead is rolled) because the fancy paper can be glued to boring paper that is completely covered in the rolling process.

Let's get started!

Set 1 - Blue/Pink/Green Fish Scarf: Blue/Pink/White Brights Set

This colorful Lands End catalog cover is perfect for the fish scarf! It is the same color palette and even has a simple cartoon-like drawing style in common. The Christmas gift motif is not a great fit for the summery scarf, but the design doesn't show when bicone beads are rolled. I even liked the white background that works well with the white sections on the fish scarf. I used this page as the basis for a set of "bright" bracelets. I cut away the sections with the text (though you certainly don't have to do that, I generally prefer to do so when I can) and cut my triangular strips. The 1" wide triangles for the bracelets are about 6.5" long on heavier paper. I didn't doctor the strips at all; I just rolled them up as-is. The resulting bead has a pattern that is very typical when rolling bicones from paper with a dense, irregular image...beads with a scattershot of randomly placed color.

The finished beads measured 5mm around with my calipers. As is my norm, I used 7 of the 1" bicone beads in my bracelet and added 5mm medium blue glass pearls as spacer beads, inspired by the blue background of the scarf. I decided to make this set coordinate equally well with silver or gold metals by avoiding metal spacer beads.

For the tube bead bracelet, I liked this bright print-mix-on-white blouse image from a Coldwater Creek catalog. Because the image is on the small side, I cut it down the center to have two sheets to work with. Using the 0.5" grid lines on my cutting mat, I lined the blouse image up to the grid line at the shoulder and counted that each sheet could produce 7 0.5" rectangular strips. I glued the blouse image sheets to boring magazine pages, cut and rolled the strips (about 11" long on thin paper), and painted the bead ends with white pearl metallic acrylic paint. Because the image on the catalog page was small, it showed up very well on the tube beads. The finished beads measured 7mm around with the calipers. I added 6mm white glass pearl beads to 11 of the paper beads to create the bracelet.

With my two paper bead bracelets ready, I turned to the glass/stone bracelets. Blue, pink, and white are the dominant colors of the paper beads, so I looked at what beads I had available in those colors. (Obviously you could buy beads purposefully to complete your bracelet sets; I just worked with what supplies I had on hand.) I was able to create one bracelet using a mix of cerulean, light blue, and clear 8mm glass beads (taken from a set of various blue and green beads from Fire Mountain Gems), and I added a metallic spacer at the back to yield my desired circumference. As a second glass bracelet option for the set, I created a bracelet from medium pink 6mm glass beads (from one of those big, inexpensive Amazon sets with 20-something colors) punctuated with silver spacers and a pretty butterfly bead (from a FMG set) in the front.

Here are the finished Bright set options! Upper left is the two paper bead bracelets alone, then we have paper + blue, paper + pink, and finally paper + blue + pink. For wearing, I could add 1-3 metallic bracelets to create my daily stack.

Set 2 - Blue/Pink/Green Fish Scarf: Blue/Pink/Silver Soft Set

Here is our inspiration scarf again. This time I wanted to create a set of bracelets with an overall softer color scheme to wear with more muted clothing. Not as bright and saturated as the first set of bracelets...instead with a more pastel feel...but drawing on the same hues as the scarf.

This time I found my tube bead paper option first...a pastel striped dress image from a Lands End catalog. I cut the image in half again and measured things out on my cutting mat, finding that I would come up a bit short of the 12 0.5" rectangular strips I typically make, and that the beads will need to be skinny for the striped part of the image to fully wrap them. But I liked the print enough that I tried it, gluing the striped section to boring paper and making about 10" long strips. I made 11 0.5" tube beads that are 4.5mm around. (This shows them in their pre-painted state, which is when I often am like Hmmm, are these going to turn out okay? because they always look kind of uneven and wonky.)

I painted the bead ends with metallic silver acrylic paint, and after two coats of Diamond Glaze they looked good! (It always surprises me a bit how much of a difference the painting/glazing makes to the tube beads.) I strung them with 5mm silver ball spacers and added a butterfly bead in front (a different one but from the same FMG set as the pink bracelet above) to compensate for the fact I was one paper bead short.

For the bicone beads, I was so happy to find this nice long image of four blue/white/pink shirts from the Lands End catalog. I had two copies but only needed one to make my 7 1" beads. I cut the strips (about 10" long) and left the white sections as-is since white is one of the featured colors in this "soft" set. The resulting beads have a lovely color-washed look.

I used 7 1" paper bicone beads (5mm around) and icy soft blue 6mm glass pearls (from the big Amazon set) to create the bracelet.

This time I made two bicone paper bead bracelets for the set since I found this cover of The Economist with a soft blue background and soft pink piggy bank image. I cut across the piggy bank area (beneath the text and above the white section) to make my triangular strips (8" long) and rolled them as-is into 1" 5mm bicone beads. These beads are pretty typical of what you get when rolling a large scale image into bicones...beads that look striped.

Here you can compare the large-scale image "striped" bicones (at right) to the small-scale image "scattershot of randomly placed color" bicones from the Bright set (at left). With the piggy bank image, we knew from looking at the strips that they would be light blue at the ends and center with pink and a bit of black in between. Of course we didn't know exactly how the final beads would look, but we had a basic idea. In general, large-scale images with simply demarcated areas of color are the easiest for having a rough idea of what the final bicone bead will look like.

Since I had already used silver ball spacers with the striped dress tube beads, I did something a little different here and used a combination of silver cartoon-like flower beads and daisy spacer beads (both from FMG) to create the bracelet.

My coordinating glass bead bracelet did not come together extremely easily because I had my heart set on using beads in a soft blue color, which I didn't have. But pawing through a set of cat's-eye disk beads in varying blue and green colors, I came up with enough 7mm disk beads in a light blue to make this bracelet alternating with 6mm silver balls. This is definitely one of those "necessity is the mother of invention" situations. I would not have thought to design a bracelet this way, but I do like the result, and I am pleased to have come up with something different from what I've made before.

Here are the results of these efforts...the 3 paper bead bracelets alone at the left, and with the soft blue/silver bracelet at the right. I like that the Soft set brings out the lighter blue, softer pink, and white aspects of the fish scarf.

Now that we have a couple of bracelet sets to play with, let's see how they look in outfits. I've mentioned before that I keep a list of possible outfits organized by season that I select from each weekend when I do my routine outfit prep for the coming week. These outfits have the garments, scarf/necklace, and shoes already selected, but not the earrings or bracelets. So I took a couple of outfits from my warm weather sections to add the new bracelets to. Now these outfits are fully prepped for the coming warm weather.

First is a Spring (mid-April to mid-May) outfit with a navy "twin set" and bright salmon pants plus the inspiration fish scarf. The Bright bracelet set is a good fit for the overall color scheme and intensity of this outfit.

Second is a Summer (July 1-Aug 31) outfit in navy, denim, and baby blue. The floral scarf has a light blue background with a bit of brighter blue, bright pink, and silver in the print. This is a great outfit for the Soft set, to which I added a purchased metallic bracelet to complete it (a silver one with a few light blue beads and an oval dangling charm; part of a set bought from CJ Banks). This outfit demonstrates that you needn't be wearing the inspiration scarf in a particular outfit to get good use of your DIY bracelet set. If you choose an inspiration scarf that has colors that you like to wear together, the resulting bracelet set is likely to come in handy for many outfits.

I hope that this post gives you some ideas about designing a DIY bracelet set that you will both love and wear frequently!

In my next paper bead post, I would like to share two more DIY bracelet sets that I created starting with a scarf.

Other posts in this series:

Blogs I link up with are listed here.

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