When I was in my early thirties, I used to make bead necklaces. It was fun while also being a source of endless frustration. For every successful necklace that got worn, there were several others that just didn’t work out. I was constantly taking them apart, dissatisfied, and trying to re-work them into a form that pleased me. I could never predict what colors or patterns would look good together, so it was all trial and error, and very time-consuming.
Eventually I lost interest. I put away the big box of beads and the fishing tackle box containing my pliers, different lengths of cord, and assorted clasps and crimps. The tools came in handy once in a while, when a clasp needed to be replaced or a strand needed to be lengthened or shortened, but that was about it.
So I’m not sure where or how I recently decided to try my hand at making stretch bracelets. I think the seed was planted by Debbie at She Accessorizes Well (my accessory muse, who by now is probably starting to think I’m a creepy stalker!) She ran a post back in February showing her handmade bracelets, and although I immediately forgot about it, the idea took root somewhere in my subconscious mind.
It certainly helps that bracelets are so big right now. I’ve been adding a lot of them to my collection in the past six months, and most of them are stretch bracelets rather than cuffs or bracelets with clasps. And since the stacked look is also really popular at the moment, I’ve been trying them in different combinations. One day last week, when I struggled with groupings that just weren’t working, I started to fondly remember the days when I could make my own accessories to fit my needs.
Now, I never had good luck making bracelets, but I always made the kind that were fastened by metal clasps. They tended to be too loose and floppy, because if they were tight enough to hug the wrist, they were too tight to fasten without help! In contrast, the stretch bracelets I’ve been buying are easy to put on, and they tend to fit and stay put more comfortably.
So I got an idea. I looked more closely at the new bracelets. Hmmm…. stretchy, elastic-type cord. Tied in a regular knot. How hard could it be?
So I went online and found some instructions here, among other places. Amazing! When I went through my first beading phase, the World Wide Web was still a mysterious place that I didn’t understand and rarely visited. Think what I could have done if I’d had a whole, wide world of blogs and YouTube videos to guide me!
I was relieved to see that there weren’t too many supplies needed. I already had the beads, hidden away for years. (Well, I also took apart one of my unworn necklaces. For me, pillaging beads from existing jewelry has always been an essential part of the process). Beyond that, I just needed to hop over to Michaels for these items:
which were surprisingly inexpensive and easy to find. And off I went!
I spent the better part of one evening and one Saturday playing with my beads. I’d forgotten how much fun it was to experiment with the different colors and textures, trying multiple combinations.
I’d also forgotten how the fun wears off at about the 90-minute mark.
I’d forgotten that, if you choose to do your beading while sitting crossed-legged on the floor with your materials spread out around you, your body will get stuck in an unyielding pretzel formation unless you stand up from time to time. I’d forgotten that it’s hard to do this if you can’t get up off the floor. I’d forgotten that, the longer that you sit, the harder it becomes to get up.
And let me assure you: these things have not gotten any easier in 15 years’ time.
I’d also forgotten about the beads with teeny-tiny little holes that defy your attempts to thread them. And the way your hands cramp up when manipulating the pliers. Sadly, these difficulties have also gotten worse with age.
To put it simply, I’d forgotten how much profanity enters the picture during hour two of beading.
But overall, I have to say that stretch bracelets are easier to make than the necklaces that I used to create. The instructions in the link above are a good start, but you might also want to look at some YouTube videos like this one. (That’s the only way I could figure out how to tie the knots).
At first I wasn’t at all sure that the knots would hold, but I think I got it. I’m less sure about the whole glueing-the-knot thing. If I thought beads with teeny-tiny holes were bad, I hadn’t seen anything until I encountered the microscopic applicator tip of the G5 Hypo Cement, designed for close work in small spaces. I could barely see where the glue was coming out of the tube, let alone where it was going! And then the needle-like tip of the cap stubbornly refused to be inserted back into the tube afterwards. You know how hard it can be to thread a needle? Imagine that the needle is oozing glue the whole time. Now you get the picture.
More swearing ensued. But I did it! I completed four bracelets. I’m still not entirely certain that they won’t break, in spectacular fashion, in the middle of the street somewhere. This very thing happened to more than one of my handmade bead necklaces, I now recall. But here they are:
I must confess to being rather pleased.
I’ll spare you a blow-by-blow description of all the complexities of stacking bracelets. I’ve tried wearing multiples before, and I often have difficulty — they catch on each other, they clash or blend too much, they overwhelm each other so that the whole is less than the sum of its parts, and on and on and on.
I have no easy answers. It’s all trial and error. I tried many, many combinations of these new bracelets with my previously acquired ones, but I didn’t like most of them. The grouping shown here was my favorite by far. If you’re looking for further inspiration, I recommend the Bloggers Do It Better “Arm Party” on Pretty, Shiny, Sparkly.
Yes, I’m seven months late to the arm party. Better late than never, I guess.
Now, I can’t swear that I’ll love these as part of an overall outfit. I have a secret suspicion that stacked bracelets may look best up close; I liked the photo better than I liked the bracelets in a mirror. From a distance, I wonder if they might just look like a haphazard mess. But I will have fun figuring it out.
And next time, I will do my beading at a proper table with an ergonomically correct chair. One must adapt to changing circumstances, after all.
How about you? Have you experienced any adventures in beading or jewelry-making? Do you wear stacked bracelets? Do you have any tips for either making or stacking them?