Easy DIY No Clasp Bead Bracelet with Stretch Elastic Tutorial + Paper Bead Tips
Welcome back to the monthly edition of Where Bloggers Live! I am lucky to have joined a terrific group of bloggers who give a peek into the places and spaces where they spend their time.
Today's topic is Jewelry...and I decided to take this opportunity to put up a tutorial for the easy DIY bead bracelets that I make using stretch elastic.
Let's get started!
Step 1: Gather your supplies.
--Beads of your choice. I have two sets of 7 1" bicone paper beads (tutorial), which is enough for me to make two bracelets that fit my wrist, plus 6mm gold-tone beads and 6mm black glass beads to use as spacers.
--Stretch elastic cord. I have .5mm Stretch Magic here. I have .5, .6, .8, and 1.0mm stretch elastic that I use for bracelets. The general rule is the heavier the bead, the thicker your stretch elastic should be. Many people advise to use the thickest elastic that will fit inside your beads. For seed beads, paper beads, and other very small/light beads, .5mm works well for me. For glass beads over 6mm and for stone beads over about 4mm, I like to use a thicker stretch elastic. I will note that thicker elastics are harder to tie and create larger knots than the .5 or .6mm elastic.
--Ruler (or measuring tape) for measuring the stretch elastic.
--Scissors for cutting the stretch elastic.
--Bead bug, binder clip, tape, etc. to use as a stopper for holding the end of the stretch elastic so the beads don't fall off. I use a simple binder clip from my office supplies stash. (I actually forgot it when I gathered my supplies and took the photo below!)
--Bead board (optional) for laying out your bead design. I like this bead board that is made specifically for designing bracelets because it lets me lay out my beads in the grooves, where they will stay put, and I can play around with the design. It has inches on top and cm below so you can see how long your bracelet will be. If you don't have a bead board, you can lay your beads out on something and measure with a ruler. Try to select a surface where the beads will stay in place! Before I had a bead board, I placed the beads directly on the large piece of black fleece that covers this working section of my beading table (which is an old pair of fleece pants I cut open).
--Beading needle (optional) if using small beads like seed beads.
--GS Hypo Cement for securing the knot in the stretch elastic. I have a little system I use that I will show in detail when we get to that section.
Step 2: Determine the correct length of elastic for your bracelet and cut it. First, wrap some stretch elastic (not stretched) around your wrist and determine what is a comfortable length that is neither too tight nor too loose. If you are using larger beads, remember that the beads themselves will take up some space so you will want more length! Add about 2.5-3" to this measurement for the length of the elastic you will cut. I make bracelets that are about 7.75" with seed beads and about 8-8.25" for larger beads, and I cut my elastic about 10.5".
Step 3: Stretch your elastic about 10 times before you put on any beads. This will help keep your bracelet from stretching out too much later.
Step 4: Attach your "stopper" to one end of the elastic. Here's how I put my binder clip on. Before you start adding beads, make sure your stopper is nice and secure! (For the binder clip, you have to capture the elastic at one of the ends of the clip; if you put it in the center of the clip, the clip doesn't actually hold it.)
Step 5: Arrange your beads on your bead board or beading surface in the desired order and so that they create a bracelet of your desired length. The knot will lie between the two ends of your line of beads, so be sure to arrange your beads accordingly. For seed bead bracelets, I don't usually bother trying to lay them out on the bead board because they are so small and don't line up well. But I do lay out my other beads, even if the design is just the same bead one after the other, because I can make sure I have enough beads for the length of bracelet I'm making.
The top of this photo shows my initial design using the red/blue/green bicone paper beads and the gold-tone spacer beads. I alternated between them for a very simple design. But remember that I want my bracelet to be about 8" (up to 8.25") long, and this design is 8.5" long (the 5" on the left of the 0 point and 3.5" on the right of the 0 point). So I removed one of the long paper beads, then added extra gold-tone spacers until I reached 8" (shown on the bottom of the image).
Note for working with paper beads. Paper beads are extremely light, which means...If you have a bracelet with both paper beads and heavier beads, if you don't pay attention to the balance of the weight when you put the bracelet together, your bracelet will have a tendency to shift around on your when you wear it. Gravity will cause the heaviest part of the bracelet to shift to the underside of your wrist.
Therefore you will want to include spacer beads all the way around your paper bead bracelet to keep the weight evenly distributed. That green and gold bracelet below was one of my first efforts, and when I didn't need spacers at the "back" of the bracelet (the part of the bracelet on the underside of my wrist when wearing it) to get my desired length, I just left them off, thinking Eh, this part of the bracelet doesn't show anyway. Au contraire. That part of the bracelet always ends up showing because gravity pulls the "top" section with the spacers under my wrist. I end up adjusting it throughout the day. It's annoying! Avoid this irritation by balancing the weight of your beads. (I have several bracelets I need to restring following this advice.)
The weight balancing issue applies to more than just spacer beads. Consider these scenarios as well (all hard-won knowledge derived from my own experience of getting the weight balance wrong!).
If you're not using paper beads in your bracelet, you don't need to pay as much attention to the balance of the weight, but don't pay zero attention to it either. If you have beads of noticeably varying weights, there is the possibility of gravity pulling any heavier sections of the bracelet to the underside of your wrist. Keep this in mind when you are laying out your design.
OK, now you should have your design laid out with the right length and with a balance of the weight of the beads. Time to start stringing.
Step 6: String your beads on the elastic, using a beading needle if desired. I really only use the beading needle for seed beads because the stretch elastic is thick and non-fraying. But certainly you can use a needle with any beads you like.
Step 7: Once all the beads are on the elastic, double check that your length is right. Sometimes beads lay funky on the bead board/other surface so your measurement isn't quite accurate. Measuring your string of beads against a ruler before you tie things off allows you to make any last-minute adjustments.
Here are how some of my other paper beads look laid out on the bead board. I used 1" DIY bicone paper beads as the main beads in all of these bracelets, but depending on exactly how close they all are to 1" and what spacer beads I used, sometimes I used 6 paper beads and sometimes I used 7. In the bottom bracelet, I used thin daisy spacers so I had 7 paper beads, 6 thin spacers between them, and then several larger spacers to fill it out to the desired 8". These bracelets all measure 8-8.25", which is my sweet spot for paper bead bracelets.
Wait a minute...what if you wanted to add a charm to your bracelet? It's actually very easy. Here are the supplies you will need:
--A charm (or multiple).
--A jump ring for each charm...probably.
--Two pairs of jewelry pliers; I use round nose pliers and chain nose pliers.
The reason I say you will probably need a jump ring is that how your charm will lie when you wear the bracelet depends on the orientation of the "loop" on the charm. On my playing card charm, the loop is on the same plane as the flat charm itself. If you visualize stringing the charm as it is directly onto that bracelet in the photo, the playing card will lie sideways with the edge of the charm rather than the flat body of the charm facing up. So I need a jump ring to change that. This may be difficult to visualize, but no worries...you can always try stringing the charm directly on the bracelet and see how it looks. If it's not lying the right way, add a jump ring. But my rule of thumb is to use a jump ring if the "loop" of the charm looks like the one on this playing card.
If you need a jump ring, add it to the charm. Here are instructions with both photos of how to open and close a jump ring and a short 1 minute video showing how to do it and add something to the jump ring. They use two chain nose pliers in their example.
Here's the charm with the jump ring.
I added the jump ring with the charm dangling from it at about the mid-point of my design (I have an odd number of long paper beads so I couldn't be precise). See how the charm now lies flat? That's what I like my charms to do.
One other consideration before we finish the bracelet. Stretch elastic bracelets are more durable/less likely to break if you cover the knot. If you are using paper beads or other large-hole beads, you're in luck because the knot will disappear into the bead. Just make sure at least one of these beads is at the end of your string. If you are using beads with smaller holes, you can use a large-hole bead at the end of your string. When you tie the knot, you can tuck it into this bead. And when you wear the bracelet, this extra bead will be at the back (underside of the wrist) and not show.
The lime green jade bracelet below is an example of an early bracelet I made before figuring this out. I put small spacers between the rectangular jade beads but both ends of my design were jade beads with small holes. When the knot was tied, it was between these two jade beads...and over several wears, the roughness of the jade wore away at the elastic until it broke. I remade the bracelet with a silver large-hole bead as shown on the other bracelets.
I still have a good number of glass and/or stone bead bracelets where the knot is just sitting between two beads, and so far none of the others have broken. Most of my beads are smooth round beads, so it makes sense that they wouldn't abrade the elastic in the same way the rough jade ones did...or at least not as quickly. So I don't know whether it's absolutely necessary to cover the knot on every bracelet. I have seed bead bracelets with exposed knots that I have worn a lot of times without a problem. But I think it's definitely safer to cover the knot, and it's a good idea to get in the habit of doing so. I only had a few large-hole beads, so I purchased a set of inexpensive ones to add to my glass/stone bracelets as needed in the future. Just remember to have a bead with a large hole at the end of your string of beads!
OK, now you should have your stretch elastic with beads strung to the right length, a good balance of the weight of the beads, the charm properly oriented if using one, and a large-hole bead at the end of the string. Time to knot the string.
Step 8: Carefully remove the binder clip and tie the two ends of the stretch elastic together with an overhand knot (photos) or a surgeon's knot (photos; video). If you're using heavy (.8 or 1.0mm) elastic, your knot may not want to hold in place...at least that's been my experience! In that case, after knotting, I place another binder clip below the knot on the excess elastic to hold the knot in place temporarily. For lighter elastic, your knot will likely hold just fine. But don't worry if it seems insufficiently tight to hold the bracelet together! We will be tightening and gluing this knot so that it sticks for good.
After putting a surgeon's knot in this .5mm elastic, the knot automatically retreated into the large-hole paper bead with the ends of the elastic sticking out. With non-paper beads, it might not do this automatically. That's OK, we will take care of it when we do the glue.
Step 9: Add GS Hypo Cement to the knot. Sounds easy, right? Actually, I find this the hardest part of the whole process because the same qualities that make this glue and applicator great for holding a stretch elastic knot together make it a devil to use!
The big issue I have is that once you remove the lid, the glue just starts flowing out of the nozzle even when you are holding the bottle upright. It will not stop flowing until you put the lid back on. And see that lid below? It has a very thin piece of metal that you have to line up and insert into the extra thin nozzle...and all the while the glue is flowing out. If you put the lid back on while there's glue all over the nozzle, it can become impossible to remove the lid again. Ask me how I know.
So I use this set up with my GS Hypo Cement, and though it seems silly to have such a process for it, it works very well. Note that I generally glue my bracelets in batches rather than one by one. I get them all knotted and ready to glue, then wait until I have a bunch of them and glue them all at once.
I store my GS Hypo Cement upright in a juice glass. I cut a piece of sponge and store it with the glue in the glass. I also have a bottle of isopropyl alcohol with it. (It doesn't need to be 91%; that's just what I happened to have on hand.)
When I'm ready to glue some bracelets, I soak the sponge in alcohol, remove the lid from the GS Hypo Cement, and insert the nozzle on the glue bottle up into the sponge. The secret is that GS Hypo Cement is dissolved by isopropyl alcohol! So with the alcohol-sponge on the nozzle, the glue doesn't flow out everywhere.
I pick up my first bracelet, tighten the knot, then remove the sponge from the glue. The glue will slowly start to come out (not gushing like usual at first). Use the precision tip to place glue on the knot. You don't have to use a ton of it, but there's no reason to be stingy either because GS Hypo Cement dries clear. Once you have the knot glued to your satisfaction, place the alcohol-sponge over the glue nozzle and put the bottle back in the glass as above. Tighten the glued knot and tuck it into your large-hole bead if it didn't hide there automatically. Place the bracelet on a protected surface (I use an opened up cereal box on top of a TV tray as my drying area). Continue with the next bracelet and so on until you're done with the glue.
Now's the tricky part (for me, anyway) - getting the thin piece of metal on the lid back into the nozzle! You will want to have the lid in your hand when you remove the sponge and immediately maneuver the thin metal into the nozzle before the glue bubbles out. If you miss on your first attempt (as I usually do), put the nozzle back into the sponge and swish it around to dissolve the glue on the outside of the nozzle, then try again.
Step 10: Let the GS Hypo Cement on your bracelets dry for 24 hours.
Step 11: Trim the excess stretch elastic from the knot. You can get fairly close to the knot but be careful...I have cut too close and caused the knot to fall apart. I would err on the side of leaving a little extra elastic. You can always snip a little bit more if needed. The elastic is clear so a tiny bit of tail on the underside of the bracelet really isn't a big deal.
Step 12: Put your stretch bracelets on and take them off properly! You absolutely DO NOT WANT TO STRETCH THE BRACELET TO PUT IT OVER YOUR HAND. No, no. You don't want that.
The correct way to do it is:
Bring your fingers together to collapse your hand as small around as possible (see image). Place the bracelet (no extra stretch applied!) over the ends of your fingers. With the other hand, slowly, gently roll the bracelet up over your knuckles and palm...the elastic will slightly stretch as needed to move over your hand...until it is fully in place at your wrist. Then release your fingers to their normal position. (Do not release them prematurely! Stretching your fingers out while the bracelet is still somewhere on the hand will cause the bracelet to explode all over the room. I can attest.)
Ta-da! There's your new bracelet!
When you remove your bracelet, reverse this process:
Bring your fingers together to collapse your hand as small around as possible. With the other hand, slowly, gently roll the bracelet down over your palm and knuckles...the elastic will slightly stretch as needed to move over your hand...until it is fully removed from your hand. Then release your fingers to their normal position. (Do not release them prematurely! Stretching your fingers out while the bracelet is still somewhere on the hand will cause the bracelet to explode all over the room. I can attest.)
If you would like to see a video tutorial, this is a good one. The technique differs a bit from mine, but is solid.
I am indebted to these two posts at The Spruce Crafts for refining my technique to reduce the breakage of my bracelets:
Reasons Why Stretch Bracelets Break
How to Make Stretch Bracelets That Don't Break
Thanks for joining me in sharing my beaded stretch bracelet tutorial, paper bead bracelet tips, and GS Hypo Cement hack. Next month's topic is Favorite Bloggers...hmmm.
In the meantime, visit these lovely bloggers as they share about their jewelry:
Bettye at Fashion Schlub
Daenel at Living Outside the Stacks
Em at Dust and Doghair
Iris at Iris’ Original Ramblings
Jodie at Jodie’s Touch of Style
Leslie at Once Upon a Time & Happily Ever After
Are there any other jewelry makers out there? Any tips or tutorials you would share with beginners?
Blogs I link up with are listed here.