Beaded Wrap Bracelet Tutorial
Friday, December 12, 2014
Need a gift for that hard-to-shop-for fashionista on your list? Wrap bracelets are all the rage, and you can spend big bucks on the pricey designer brands, or make one yourself in an hour or two at home!
I love these leather wrap bracelets because they’re casual enough for jeans and tees, but they also can be dressy, depending on the beads and stones you choose. I’ve even seen them done in pearls and white leather for brides!
You can make a single wrap, double wrap (like I’ve made here) or if you’re ambitious, try 4 or 5 wraps for a dramatic boho style.
I’m going to show you the way that I create my wrap bracelets, but there are lots of different tutorials and videos on creating the same look, with slight variations on methods or final appearance. I’ve taught lots of people to make these bracelets, including my students at Creative University, but this is the first time I’ve tried a jewelry tutorial. This is going to be a long post, so if you get lost and need a video tutorial, try this one, which has some very good tips and is easy to follow.
You’ll need leather cord, nylon beading thread, a small needle and beads. I’ll discuss more about the supplies as I go along, and check the bottom of this post for links to some supplies.
Begin by cutting your leather. For a two-wrap bracelet, you’ll need enough to wrap loosely around your wrist four times, then add 12” for the closures. Fold your leather in half and add a button, then tie an overhand knot under the button.
Attach your bracelet to a firm surface. I’m using a cutting board, but sometimes I use a clipboard. I don’t like working directly on the table, since I usually need to move my project before I’m done, so use something portable.
Attach the free ends to the bottom of the board. If your board is short, just clip the leather at the bottom to keep it taught. You can readjust as your bracelet gets longer.
Cut your thread. You’ll need 10 feet for each wrap, so I cut 20 feet of thread. Yes, that’s a LOT of thread, and the biggest challenge will be to keep it from tangling while working. I have a few hints, but the best advice is to be prepared and don’t rush, and maybe have a glass of wine or a cup of cocoa to relax before you begin.
You’ll need to use beading thread for this bracelet, don’t try it with regular sewing thread. There are no knots in this bracelet except at the start and end, so if your thread breaks the whole bracelet goes. Nylon thread is super strong and very thin, it will hold up to lots of wear.
Thread your needle. I use a fine embroidery needle for my wrap bracelets, it’s easy for me to thread and hold onto. I have a hard time with beading needles, no matter how hard I try I just can’t get the hang of threading them and they usually break on me, so I’ve come to an agreement with beading needles… we leave each other alone and I won’t bad mouth them.
You’ll need to double your thread, so after passing through the eye of the needle, bring the free ends together. Don’t tie in a knot just yet….
Wax your thread. I like to use beeswax on my thread to keep it from tangling and it makes the thread stronger. Hold the wax in one hand, trap the thread over the block with your thumb and pull the free end. Do this several times until the two pieces of thread stick together and appear as one.
P.S. I use beeswax when sewing buttons onto my clothes, you’ll never lose a button again!
Attach your thread to the bracelet. After you’ve waxed your thread, tie the end in a knot. Then slide the needle through the leather knot on your bracelet, so that the needles exit the opposite side of your leather loop with the button. (Come out of the bottom of the knot). Pull the thread through and nestle the knotted end of the thread in the leather knot. Trim the loose end of the thread and add a drop of hypo cement to secure the thread in place.
Secure the thread before beading. Using your needle, go under one of the pieces of leather and up through the middle. Do this two or three times, until you have wrapped the thread a few times around one of the “legs” of your bracelet. Keep these loops tight, up close to the leather knot (my photo below shows a loose wrap, which it does when you let go of the thread to take a picture).
Begin beading. Beginning on the right side, bring your needle under the right leg and up through the middle of the bracelet, between the two legs. Add a bead to the thread, nestling it between the two pieces of leather.
A couple of notes: I’m a lefty with a pencil, but a righty with a needle. So I’m using left and right directions for right-handed beaders. If you hold your needle on the left, switch any left/right instructions.
Also, you’ll notice that I skipped ahead on my beading progress to show you the bead threading. It’s easier to see how the threading works when you can see a few beads already on the bracelet.
Here’s another view (below). I just love those black and white beads!
Left side: over and back through. After adding your bead, the thread will be on top of the left leg. Bring your needle under that left leg and pass it back through the bead, coming out on top of the right leg. Pull it out of the right side of the bead. Go slow, you will now have four layers of thread inside the bead, and you have a lot of yards of thread that need to pass through. (See tangle tips below to keep your thread from knotting).
Once you’ve passed the thread all the way through, you’ll have a nice snug loop on the left side, holding the bead against the left leg. Your thread is now on top of the right leg.
Begin again, and again, and again. You’ve completed your first bead addition. Your bead is seated between the two leather cords, and the thread is on the right side, with the thread on top of the right leg. To add your second bead, pass the needle under the right leg and up through the center, adding a bead as you do so. Do you remember that part from the first bead? Now you can continue with the under/through/over/under/through pattern until you have added enough beads to wrap around your wrist once.
You can stop now if you have a single wrap bracelet, or continue with the same beads if you want all one bead style, or you can change to a different bead for your second wrap.
Tangle Tips: The first few beads are the hardest, and it does get easier as you use up more thread. The biggest frustration is dealing with all the thread and preventing tangling. Clear your workspace on both sides, so that nothing catches the thread - that means no scissors, extra beads, etc. Put everything on the table in front of you instead of on the sides. After passing the needle through the bead, I find that it's easier to park the needle somewhere at the top of my workboard, instead of holding it in my hand while I pull the thread. This allows me to pull with two hands and keeps the thread from doubling back on itself.
Changing bead sizes. I like a little variation in my wrapped bracelets, so I switch beads at the half-way point. This sort of makes it look like you have two bracelets instead of one, but there’s only one clasp to mess with. I usually pick a sparkly or metallic bead that coordinates with the stone or glass bead I started with. In this bracelet, I’ve not only switched the type and material, but I also changed the size to a much smaller size. When doing this, you’ll notice that your leather “legs” need to be manipulated a bit to get them to lie smooth in the transition space. Take your time and smooth your bracelet as you work, rolling the already strung beads to get them to the most pleasing position so that the entire band lies flat and doesn’t bulge or warp.
Finishing your bracelet. Check your bracelet length as you get closer to the end of your leather. Make sure that you don’t make the bracelet too long since your closure will account for a few of the last inches. When you’re satisfied with the final length, tie off your thread, leaving the needle still attached. Remove the bracelet from your board and tie the free ends of the leather in an overhand knot.
Pick up the needle and pass it through the leather knot, then snip the thread flush with the other side of the knot. Use a dot of hypo cement on either side of the knot where the thread enters and exits, as well as on the thread knot to keep it from untying.
Using your button as guide, tie the free ends of the leather cord in a second knot, leaving a gap between the first and second knot, large enough to slip the button through. Trim the cord, leaving a short tail. If needed, add some hypo cement to keep the leather knot from slipping.
Enjoy your finished bracelet!
Supplies (click to shop at Auntie’s Beads) 2 mm Black Leather Cord
Nylon Beading Thread, size D
8 mm Black & White Calsilica gemstone beads
4 mm Black Crystal beads