When I first started beading, I am afraid to admit, I didn’t invest in any kind of beading tools. I just used common household tools to get the job done. Now that I have been beading for a while, I know how important my specialized tools are. I thought I would pass along what I have learned about what to use and when for those of you who are still digging around in the garage looking for that specific cutting device or pair of pliers.
Whether or not we like to admit it, it happens to all of us from time to time and when it comes around, we try to pretend it doesn’t exist but there is no avoiding it. I call it beader’s block and it feels like it literally drains every creative juice I have. Because I make a living being creative, people often assume that I am always “on” and full of great ideas and fabulous new designs. The truth is that often times, it seems that because I do make a living being creative, I experience beader’s block more than I ever did when making jewelry was just a hobby and a therapeutic creative outlet for me. So what do I do to work beyond the frustration?
“I have a pattern that calls for Supplemax. Can I substitute the Supplemax with Fireline?”,
Memory Wire is a wonderful thing. It makes awesome coiled bracelets that appear to be single strands stacked on your wrist in a cuff like style. It makes a necklace that never loses its shape or form and stays exactly where you want it to. Like anything wonderful, though, it can be a little tricky and have its share of headaches.
One thing that always confuses people about working with Memory Wire is its size. It comes in Medium and Large. As a general rule, you will want to get the Large Wire size when making bracelets. I have a 6.25 inch wrist and the Medium Memory Wire is tight, especially when I am working with larger beads. That being said, Medium Memory Wire can be great for making cuff style Memory Wire bracelets or bracelets for children.
As for necklaces… There are two things you will want to consider when choosing Memory Wire for a necklace. One is how large your beads are. The second is how large—or small—the wearer’s neck is. I have a small neck; I make most of my necklaces about 14 inches. Therefore, I almost always use the Medium Necklace Memory Wire. The other time you would want to use a Medium sized necklace is when you are using heavier beads. Because the Medium has a tighter coil, it tends to hold its shape when weighted down with things like gemstones. Large Memory Wire is great for people who typically wear a 16-18 inch necklace. It is also ideal for stringing lighter weight beads, such as seed beads and crystals.
Whatever size Memory Wire you choose and use, you will want to remember the following general guidelines about working with Memory Wire:
- ALWAYS use Memory Wire Shears to cut your Memory Wire. If you use a Nipper tool, you will dull your blade and possibly break your tool.
- You can invest in Memory Wire End Caps to end your Memory Wire pieces. This is how I ended Memory Wire when I first started using it. You will want to invest in some Super Glue or other very strong and fast drying glue to make sure the ends are secure.
- If you are not a fan of the end caps, I would suggest using the Wire Looping Pliers to make a simple loop at each end of your Memory Wire. I like this better than the end caps because you don’t have to wait on your glue to dry AND you can dangle things off the ends of the necklace or bracelet.
I have discovered these things through years of working with Memory Wire and doing everything wrong—breaking a Nipper tool, getting Super Glue all over myself and my creation. I hope the information here will inspire you to love Memory Wire as much as I do and hopefully save you a headache along the way!
Shanna Steele, Auntie’s Beads Designer
Many people have questions about which beading wire to use for what project. “Should I use the 19 strand, .015” or the 49 strand, .018”? How do you know which wire jewelry supplies work best? Well, after many years of playing around with beading wire—and many mistakes along the way—I may have learned a thing or two.
7 Strand Wire is composed of 7 tiny strands of wire coated in nylon. When I first started beading, I exclusively used 7 strand wire for two reasons. First of all, it is very economically priced. Secondly, it comes in fun colors so it is great for illusion necklaces or any other jewelry creations where your wire will be exposed. It is stronger than Tiger Tail (which is what you may find at local craft and hobby stores) and it is pretty flexible. This wire is perfect for beginners or for simple beaded projects that are relatively lightweight.
19 Strand Wire is made of 19 tiny strands of wire coated in nylon. The thing I love about 19 strand wire is that, while it is stronger than 7 strand wire, it also tends to be more flexible. I use 19 strand wire for every beading project that involves seed beads, as well as for any beaded jewelry designs that require weaving or passing through the same bead more than once. This wire is the perfect combination of flexibility and strength—and the price is reasonable, too!
49 Strand Wire is made of 49 tiny strands of wire coated in nylon. This is the wire the pros use. The most expensive of the Beadalon wires, it is also the most flexible and durable. It lays wonderfully and never kinks. It is strong enough to hold gemstones and will not be frayed by crystals or glass. This wire is great for just about any beading project you can imagine!
Diameter is a relatively simple concept once you understand the difference between 7 Strand, 19 Strand, and 49 Strand wire. The diameter number actually refers to the millimeter measurement of the wire. For example, a .012” wire is .30mm while a .015” wire is .38mm. Most designers will probably use a .018” wire for stringing the majority of the time. This diameter—whether you are using a 7, 19, or 49 Strand wire—will work with just about any bead. An exception to this rule would be stringing pearls; generally speaking, a 19 Strand wire in a .015” is best when working with pearls because the hole is so small. Another exception to the .018” rule is stringing very large beads or beads with larger holes. 49 Strand wire comes in a .036”, which is perfect for those larger, chunkier, heavier beads.
Click to view project examples using different types of wire…
19 Strand wire with a .012” diameter
19 Strand wire with a .015” diameter
49 Strand wire with a .015” diameter
49 Strand wire with a .018” diameter
Designer, Auntie’s Beads