Brit Ashley Wood Explains How to Get Started Beading

Posted by on Jan 19, 2011

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There are so many different beading techniques to learn, you could do something new for years without running out of ideas. Or, at least that's what Brit Ashley Wood, author with her mother of “Beading: 200 Q&A —  Questions Answered on Everything from Basic Stitches to Finishing Touches,” tells us. While she recommends a beading group or jewelry class to learn tips and techniques, we asked how to get started.

Dorothy Wood, beading, beading 200 Q&A

What type of jewelry making project do you recommend for a beginner: earrings, pendants, necklaces or bracelets?
Any of these are suitable for beginners, it just depends on the complexity of the technique. Young children can have lots of fun stringing pretty beads on a piece of elastic thread, but adults can string beads easily and quickly to make a simple pendant or necklace. Or by following the questions and answers in the book, beginners can learn how to make plain links and loops to make earrings. 
Where are the best places to find how-tos and instructions for beading?
Technique books like “Beading 200 Q&A” give all the basic information you need to get started and answer questions you might have as you progress. I often have people contact me through my website,, if they have a problem understanding a technique in one of my books, but otherwise the Internet is a good source of information if you know what you are looking for. 

What is the most popular beading trend right now?
Precious metal clay and working with silver wire and sheet is proving very popular at the moment as people who have been making jewelry for a while want to extend their skills and make their own beads and findings. Wirework continues to be popular and jewelry designs using chain of some sort is a strong trend. 

Do you have any tips for people who sell beadwork or jewelry? 
I’d say make sure you learn correct techniques so that the pieces of jewelry don’t fall apart after a short time. It’s important also to use the right thread — weight and thickness — for the beads you are using so that the thread doesn’t fray and snap after it has been worn a few times. 

Is it cheaper to make your own jewelry than to buy it pre-made? What are the benefits of home jewelry making? 
With so much cut-price jewelry on the high street it is not cheaper making your own costume jewelry as beads and findings are fairly expensive, but it is rewarding to make your own to match a particular outfit or color scheme. On the other hand, if you are aiming towards the better-quality jewelry it is probably cheaper to make it yourself. Designs using silver chain, Swarovski Elements or semi-precious stones are well worth making, and if you like sewing, an embroidered bib-style necklace is easy to make and can be made for a fraction of the cost of a designer necklace. 

What do you think attracts people to beading and jewelry making? 
It’s a creative hobby where you can actually use the things you make, either yourself, as a gift or to sell. With some basic skills everything you make as a beader is of a reasonably professional standard and you don’t need to be particularly artistic, although you may need to use reference or inspiration images to help you choose colors of beads. There’s no huge outlay of expensive equipment, you just get things as you go along. 

Where do you find inspiration for your beading? 
I love very bright colors, buttons and making my own beads. Right now, I’m very into knitting and combining beads with fibers. I tend to pick Mum’s brain about what is fashionable — she reads magazines like Vogue to find out what trends are coming along and also searches designer jewelry websites for inspiration. Spending time looking at beading magazines and online using image search engines to see what different designers are doing is really inspiring, as is checking out exhibitions. Mum finds researching vintage jewelry designs from the '30s particularly exciting, but I’m always more enthused by the bright colors, crazy patterns and shapes of the '60s. 

Which do you enjoy making more: beaded arts and crafts or handmade jewelry? Why? 
When my mum first started writing beading books, it was mostly home decor items she made, such as fringing on cushions, lampshades and scarves or bead-embroidered boxes and picture frames, but at the moment jewelry making is where it is at. I love making jewelry too, especially adding ribbons or buttons to the design. But I also love to use beads to quickly change the look of something — add some big chunky beads to a plain blind-pull for instance — to make gifts, or to add texture and sparkle to my knitting or origami. 

What kind of beads do you use most — crystal beads, sterling silver beads, glass beads, wood beads?
Mum recently had the opportunity to write a book using mainly Swarovski Elements and she really loved it; she prefers fairly fine jewelry, and creating jewelry designs with the crystals was an absolute joy. I really love stone beads, both semi-precious and round beach pebble type beads, particularly unpolished stone, which changes colour and texture with use. 

Describe your favorite beading project. 
One of the most popular pieces Mum has ever made is a wire knitted corsage. It is a simple piece of bead knitting using two thin wires, size 5 Miyuki triangle beads and size 8 seed beads. The circular design is created from three different techniques and then assembled. She ran workshops at the knitting and stitching shows a couple of years ago and every class was fully booked. My favorite piece is a necklace I made for “Beading 200 Q&A” — I “borrowed” some purple ribbons and fiber from Mum’s stash when I was visiting, “acquired” some of her purple beads, including the most fantastic big ceramic donut, and then added some of my own. I used a picture of a ribbon work necklace I found online for inspiration, but added chain and beading wire to get more drape — I wear it regularly, and I always get compliments!
cover of Beading: 200 Q&A
Excerpted from "Beading: 200 Q&A" by Dorothy Wood and Ashley Wood, published by Barron's Educational Services

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