Friday, November 14, 2014

Memory Wire Bracelet Tutorial

It is that time of year again to pull out our supply of candy cane beads and make some more jewelry.  We made a huge supply of beads last year so still have a bunch on hand to play with.  If you play with polymer clay you will find my free tutorial here to make your own.

We like to use the shorter beads in bracelets and so we made some up in the spiral memory wire style.  The nice thing about this type of bracelet is that they are easy to put on and take off and they fit any wrist size.

Working with memory wire can be a little tricky at first, but once you know what you are doing, it can be a lot of fun.  When you first unpack the wire you will notice it is a lot like a "Slinky" toy.  When you stretch it out a bit and then let go, it will spring back into the same shape.

With this type of bracelet you want to have 4 to 5 "rounds" or rings so it will wrap around the wrist several times making it more secure and giving it that stacked bracelet look.  It is best to cut a bit more to allow for finishing at each end.  Do not use your good jewelry cutters for this type of wire as it will ruin them.  There are special "memory wire shears" you can buy for this.  These are very strong cutters and are like a mini "bolt cutter" so are also handy for cutting other things like soldered chain or other steel or brass wire.

Make an eye loop at the one end of your wire with your round nose pliers.  The loop acts as a stopper for your beads when stringing and you can also add some pretty dangles and charms on it after.

This type of bracelet can take quite a few beads which can make the bracelet rather heavy if you are using a lot of glass or metal types.  Because Polymer clay beads are light, they work really well.  Long tubes also look really stunning on these bracelets and the typical ones are made from metal.  Not only are these tubes rather expensive, they are also heavy and can tarnish quite easily.

I discovered a great substitute for the metal tubing which is called Softglass cord and is available at Shades of Clay  (*See update below)  The Softglass cord is like Buna except it is hollow inside so you can thread wire through it.  It also has a beautiful satin glass-like finish and comes in a wide range of gorgeous colors.  The other cool thing about using this type of tubing is that you can cut it to any length.  You can use scissors or I find using a heavy tissue blade makes really clean and straight edges.  Here I used the 2.5mm but the thicker cord works well too.

Now the fun begins.  You can play around with different patterns to see what works for you.  The main idea is to have your beads somewhat evenly spaced or "weighted" all the way around.  You will notice that the bead placement can change drastically with different tube lengths.  If you find it isn't working, then try cutting the Softglass cord longer or shorter and see what works best.  For the bracelet shown here (below) I am using the Emerald Green Softglass cut into 1-1/2" lengths.

Start threading your beads and cord tubing on the wire.  When you are happy with your pattern, slide the beads down to the end of the wire.  Keep adding your beads until your wire is full.

When you are happy with your bracelet, finish off the other end with another eye loop.  Add some pretty bead dangles and charms at each end and you are done.

* Update - Unfortunately, Shades of Clay no longer carries the hollow cord show here in the different colors but is available in black or frost.  You can use any cord, however that is hollow for these bracelets or make your own hollow tubing from polymer clay.


Hermine said...

I allways great pleasure reading your blog. Thank you for this tutorial.

2 Good Claymates said...

You are so welcome Hermine. I hope you have a lot of fun with it.

Unknown said...

This is one of the most attractive memory wire bracelets that I have seen. I tried to link to the "Shades of Clay" page and the link was bad -- thought you might like to know. I'm going to look elsewhere for the buna tubes. :)

2 Good Claymates said...

Thanks for the heads up on the link. I just fixed it and added an update as Shades no longer carries the Softglass in the different colors -- just black and frost. Other cords that are hollow can be used as well as making your own from polymer clay.