Thursday, December 15, 2011

Beaded Memory Wire Bracelets

These versatile bracelets are great for beginners and experienced beaders alike.  You can create infinite possibilities simply by varying the size, shape, type, and style of the beads.  This bracelet took me less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

Using Memory Wire
Most craft stores that carry beads and beading string also carry memory wire.  It usually comes in 1/2 oz or 1 oz packs, and you cut it to the size you want.  If you do 3-loop bracelets like the one pictured above, you should be able to get 6-8 bracelets out of a 1/2 oz pack.  Most commonly they are made out of Stainless Steel, but some stores have Silver or Gold plated.  There is a standard size, but they are also available in a larger size (to fit around larger wrists). 

In addition to the Memory Wire, you'll also need a wire cutter, a round-nosed pliers, and a little bit of patience.  When you take the memory wire out of the package, it resembles a Slinky, and it can get tangled in a similar fashion.  Handle with care.  For a three-loop bracelet, start at one end with the cut in the middle.  Count three loops over, and then make your cut on the third loop just past the middle (so that the ends overlap slightly).  Use a round-nosed pliers to create a closed loop on one end.  I've found it easier to bend the wire in the exact opposite direction of the natural curve (see picture).  Use a good quality round-nosed pliers.  A Flat-nosed or needle-nosed pliers will also work, but the resulting loop tends to look less like a perfect circle and more like a squashed pear.  Not that it really matters.  Nobody will probably notice it except you.  With the end secure, you are ready to start putting beads on it.

About the Beads
Those color-coordinated variety packs work great for this project.  Try to avoid using beads that are too large or chunky. Anything larger than your thumbnail probably won't lay nice on the wire. Also avoid using anything with sharp or scratchy edges, as the beads WILL come in contact with your skin. Long, straight beads with narrow openings tend to be difficult to get onto the wire, because the wire is circular. Be careful about using too many heavy beads or your bracelet will be impractical to wear, (much like stilettos).

On a budget? You can usually mix a few less expensive beads to your higher quality ones without cheapening the appeal. Try using a variety of glass, metal, and acrylic. You can also make your nice beads stretch farther by mixing in some seed beads, tube beads, and size E beads in coordinating colors, along with metal spacer beads. Shop around for the best prices. Use coupons. Some stores, like Hobby Lobby, have a coupon in the weekly paper. Even if you don't receive the paper, you can print their coupon directly from their website. Buy bigger quanities, like pre-packaged bead mixes, or try finding online sources.

How many beads will you need? That depends on how big your bracelet is. Obviously, if you cut the wire with more loops around your wrist, you'll need more beads. The larger the beads are, the less you will need and the quicker it will be to make. If you use mostly smaller beads, you'll need a lot more and it will take longer to make.

Start feeding the beads on in random order.  If you have 18 to 20 large beads, you'll need to space them out about an inch apart and fill in the rest with smaller beads.  You don't have to push the beads all the way to the end, just let them fall and they'll work their way down eventually.  You may be tempted to wrap it around your wrist to get a feel for how it looks.  I wouldn't advise that.  The beads will fall off the wire if you let go of that end even for a second.  I can't tell you how many times that's happened to me.  If you need to put it down or feel compelled to see how it's shaping up, take a piece of Scotch tape and fold it over the wire to prevent the beads from falling off.  This is also a great way to secure the beads if you need to take a break from the project and come back to it later.  I've learned the hard way not to leave an unfinished bracelet lying about.  My curious little darlings just can't resist picking it up...

Quick Tip: Are you losing half of your beads on the floor anyway? Try using a tray that has an edge, like a bar pan.  Line it with a paper towel, cloth, or piece of felt.  This helps the beads from rolling around too much and/or escaping.

Finish the bracelet off the same way you started it, by making a closed loop on the end with the pliers. Here are some examples: 

This funky acrylic mix is from Walmart.  I added additional clear "size E" beads and some shiny silver acrylic beads.  Because it uses mostly larger beads, it was super fast.  It was done in less than 15 minutes!
All of these beads were leftovers from other projects.  This a great way to use those extras, especially when you only have a few left of each kind.  Notice how using all smaller beads created a bracelet that lays flatter.

My niece, Mary Durham, made this bracelet for me.  It has 4 loops and includes mostly brown and gold beads with some pretty pearlescent ones.

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