- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 20, 2006

Alexandria resident Jim Kandul says his fingers are too large as he puts a tiny seed bead onto a piece of wire to make a bookmark.

Mr. Kandul, however, does not let the size of his hands interfere with his love of jewelry making. In his house, he keeps boxes and boxes of beads and gemstones and spools of wire to make beaded and wire-wrapped necklaces, bracelets and rings. He teaches a six-week, wire-wrapped jewelry course through the Fairfax County Public Schools Office of Adult and Community Education.

“I like the ability to create something that is unique and that probably no one else in the world will ever have,” Mr. Kandul says.

Beginning beaders can learn the techniques of wire-working and stringing jewelry to make beaded bracelets, necklaces, earrings, rings and watches. They can take classes through adult continuing education programs, parks and recreation departments, and specialty bead and craft stores. They can attend a workshop at a craft show or a bead party where kits and instructions are provided. Or they can follow the instructions and advice offered on the Internet or in beading books and magazines.

“What’s great about beading is you can learn some basics very quickly and get started without investing a ton of money,” says Marlene Blessing, editor in chief of Beadwork and Stringing magazines.

Accents Beads, a specialty bead store in Rockville, for example, offers one-day basic stringing and wire-working classes for $50 or less.

“Our focus in the class is on the techniques and on making sure the student is skilled enough to go home and be able to do it themselves,” says Carrie Johnson, class coordinator for Accents Beads.

Beadwork falls into two categories: stringing, which includes wire-working, and seed bead weaving.

Seed bead weaving uses a needle and thread to weave tiny seed beads into different patterns. Alternatively, stringing beads involves placing the beads — which can be made of a variety of materials, including glass, plastic, gemstones, crystals, pewter, bone, horn, wood and metal — one after another onto a cord made of wire, such as beading wire that is nylon-coated and multi-stranded, or fabric. Fabrics used include nylon, cotton, silk, leather and suede.

The first step in stringing is designing the piece of jewelry and arranging the beads accordingly, says Tammie Cavanaugh, owner of Beadsburg, a bead store in Christiansburg and beading instructor at the Montgomery County Department of Parks and Recreation in Christiansburg.

A tool called a bead board, which has measurements for different sizes of jewelry, can be used to lay out the beads and keep them from rolling around, Mrs. Cavanaugh says.

Spacers, which are made of metal, can be put between the beads as a decorative element.

“You don’t have to be creative, but willing to play and try different things,” Mrs. Cavanaugh says. “The more you play, the more you design, the better you become.”

Mrs. Cavanaugh recommends cutting the stringing material three inches longer than the finished length of the jewelry and using a spring or clip to stop the beads from slipping.

Once the piece is strung, the two end pieces of elastic cord are tied into a knot and glued in place. In the case of wire, a clasp is used. A tool called crimping pliers is used to squeeze and fold a small bead called a crimp bead next to the clasp and lock the wires into place.

“The key is, when you put the final piece on, pull the beads down so they don’t slide,” says Abby Futter, beading and wire-working instructor for the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks in Columbia, Md., and owner of Abby’s Creations, a store in Columbia where she sells her artwork and teaches jewelry making.

Knotting between beads can be used to hold the beads in place or as a decorative device, a method of making different types of knots on fabric-stringing material.

In wire-wrapping, a type of wire-working, pliers are used to wrap wire around a gemstone in decorative patterns and to create different findings, which are metal pieces such as clasps, crimps and earring posts and wires that hold a piece of jewelry together, from a spool of wire, Mr. Kandul says.

“You make a lot more of your things in wire-wrapping than in beading. In beading, you can buy all of your findings,” he says.

Wire-working and beading require only a few tools, including wire cutters and chain-nose and round-nose pliers.

“One of the great things about beading is that it doesn’t require a lot of tools,” says Penelope Diamanti, owner of Beadazzled, a specialty bead store that offers classes in Tysons Corner, Baltimore and Northwest, and author of “Beadazzled, Where Beads & Inspiration Meet.”

Wire cutters have sharp jaws that can cut beading wire and the wire parts used in making earrings. Chain-nose pliers, similar to needle-nose pliers but smaller, are used to grab and wrap wire around a bead, bend wire at right angles, and to open or close wire loops. Round-nose pliers are used to make loops and curves in wire. Beading scissors or snips are used to cut non-wire materials.

Ms. Johnson recommends beginning beaders make sure they have the tools and findings they need before beginning a project.

“Having more than you need is sometimes helpful … because your piece can take on its own character,” she says.

The appeal in beading is being able to make jewelry and use colors the beader desires, says Katie Hacker, author of “Hip to Bead, 32 Contemporary Projects for Today’s Beader.”

“It’s personalizing your fashions. And there’s a satisfaction in being able to say you made it yourself,” Ms. Hacker says.

Beading is not limited to jewelry. It can be used to make key chains, eyeglass holders and lanyards, and to embellish items around the home, such as curtains, doors, drawers, picture frames, photo albums and candle covers.

“There are a million design options. It’s not like it gets boring,” says Cathryn Jakicic, editor of BeadStyle, a how-to magazine on jewelry making published by Kalmbach Publishing Co. in Waukesha, Wis. “It’s a very creative hobby just because of the number of options there are and the infinite combinations you can make.”

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