I consider myself still an amateur beader in many ways, but I like the process of coming up with new designs for the simple, delicate necklaces I favor. I might not be able to weave thousands of tiny beads together into a wearable maze of color, but I can at least string some pearly and sparkly beads on a wire! 😀
I’ve noticed, though, that I tend to use a certain set of rules when it comes to creating beaded patterns, though–and those rules sparked the idea for this post! Read on to discover how I design my pieces!
Tenet #1: Use smaller beads at the ends of the piece and larger beads in the middle of the piece.
This technique, called “size graduation,” is one of my favorites, especially for necklace design. You start out with small beads at either end of the necklace, and then use larger and larger beads till you get to the center of the piece. This draws the eye to the center of the piece, and also helps the wearer know where the necklace is supposed to be centered!
Tenet #2: Make patterns of interlocking symmetry.
I usually do lots of small patterns to make up my necklaces and bracelets. For instance, on either end of the necklace, there’s usually a couple of little symmetrical patterns; then, closer to the center of the necklace, there is a larger symmetrical pattern that surrounds the centerpiece (usually one to three large beads). All together, this necklace pattern looks like a wearable palindrome, both sides mirroring each other.
Pattern: clear seed bead–tiny pink pearl–small white pearl–tiny pink pearl–small tan/gold pearl–tiny pink pearl–small white pearl–tiny pink pearl–clear seed bead. This longer pattern would be great for building up toward the center of a necklace.
Working with small units of patterns like these seems to create a much better-looking product than some of the non-symmetrical designs I’ve attempted over the years. Somehow, I never finish the non-symmetrical designs–I don’t even get around to stringing them. The symmetrical ones, however, always end up finished. 🙂
Tenet #3: Use colors that play well with each other.
In most of my pieces, I sprinkle in a good bit of neutral and metallic colors, like white, clear, gold, tan, black, silver, or gray–and then I use one or two stronger colors that stand out. Old favorite combos like pink and gold or blue and silver also work well for me. Sometimes I’ll use all beads of the same color but in various finishes to achieve a neat effect (sparkly purple, for instance, looks very different from pearlescent purple).
I do occasionally like to weave in a few distinctive beads, but that’s usually saved for the centerpiece of a necklace, using patterns of more “ordinary” neutral beads around it to visually support it.
Tenet #4: Different light textures are welcome.
What I mean by “light textures” is how the light bounces off each bead (as mentioned briefly above). Sparkly beads sharply reflect light, while pearlescent beads softly glow, and metallic beads shimmer. By putting the three different textures together, you get a neat effect on the eye–the eye constantly moves around the necklace, taking in the different sparkles, shimmers, and glows.
My favorite necklace, by far, is one that I made using light teal sparkly beads (Pacific opals) and white pearls, with clear and silver seed beads as accents. It always gets delighted comments when I wear it, and I think it’s because of the different light textures (plus the pretty color combination).
Tenet #5: Don’t go too big.
I like to use smaller beads because it lends a delicate, fairy-like look to my jewelry designs. In small sizes, any sparkly beads are pretty rather than flashy, keeping the overall effect clean and modest. It also doesn’t draw attention away from the outfit as a whole, but enhances and plays up the good parts of the ensemble. (Given that I’m pretty clumsy, I don’t like to wear any jewelry that I could potentially get tangled up in or injure myself on, so that’s probably another reason I go for short, simple jewelry. :D)
Small, balanced designs with colors and textures that play harmoniously with each other represent the five rules I go by when making beaded jewelry. But what do you think? What are your favorite ways to design? Tell me in the comments!