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Archive for November, 2020

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Stringing Materials

Posted by learntobead on November 22, 2020

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I’m not proud to admit it, but I used to string things on fishing line and dental floss. It was there. I knew about it. I understood it. It was simple. Uncomplicated. Didn’t need directions. Didn’t need a 20-minute explanation about when these were used, and when they were not, or what they were used for, and what they were not.

Then I discovered Tiger Tail cable wire. This seemed magical, somehow. It was something more than fishing line or dental floss. It seemed strong. It was metal. It was masculine. You could swing from trees on it. You could tie up old planks together to secure them. You could string things on easily without a needle. You didn’t need glue. You didn’t need bead tips or knot covers. It tied easily to clasps. And although, it turned out, the Tiger Tail broke rather easily, I’d pretend like it never broke for me.

Luckily, today, beaders have been blessed with an abundance of stringing materials to choose from. Each has it’s pros and cons. Each much better than the choices I had a few decades ago.

When beaders and jewelry makers select stringing materials, they need to ask a lot of questions of the people who sell these products, as well as the people who use them. You’ll get a lot of contradictory advice. But you need a lot of information to help make your choices. For me, I prefer stringing materials that don’t break easily, allow pieces to drape nicely, move freely and correctly with the body, and are relatively easy to use. But don’t we all.

From a design perspective, you typically get your best results with needle and thread. Needle and thread projects always take the shape of your body. So they feel the best, move the best, and drape the best. However, needle and thread are very involved and time-consuming to do. Especially if you’re selling your stuff, it’s difficult to use needle and thread and expect to recoup your labor costs. As long as you know what the ideal is, however, it becomes a little easier to step back from the ideal, and compensate for any weaknesses through various design techniques and devices.

Threads, Needles, and More Threads

I discovered Nymo beading thread, Size #12 English beading needles, and Tiger Tail cable wire. This wasn’t a match made in heaven. I didn’t take to it like a duck takes to water. It wasn’t a piece of cake.

Have you ever seen a beading needle? They’re so thin. They have even thinner eye holes. First you learn that cotton sewing thread is round and sewing needles have round holes. Next you learn that nylon beading thread is flat like a ribbon, and beading needles have rectangular, narrow holes.

The shape of the eye-hole of a beading needle is like a funnel –one side of the hole is bigger than the other. If you are having trouble fitting that thread through the hole, turn the needle around. Try again.

I started with size #12 needles. I find #10 needles to be more useful for bead stringing and both #10 and #12 most useful for bead weaving. Proportionally, the eye holes in the #10 are much bigger than those in the smaller, thinner needles.

Major Beading Threads

NYMO thread is the granddaddy of them all. It comes in many colors and thicknesses. It doesn’t look like it, but it is one of the strongest things you can string things on. With NYMO, the black is stronger than the white. The white is stronger than the colors.

C-LON thread (also called SuperLon) is a relatively new thread. It’s similar to Nymo, but a little stronger. It comes in a lot of colors, but only a couple of thicknesses. In our store, if you came in for a Nymo product, and there was an equivalent C-Lon product, we would suggest you switch to C-Lon. With C-Lon, the colors and the white are as strong as the black. All are as strong as Nymo black.

ONE-G thread is made by TOHO. This is a premium nylon beading thread, and much more expensive than Nymo or C-Lon. I’m very fond of the strength of the thread, and the feel, give and take of the thread while I’m beading. It has a stretching quality to it that makes it less tiring to use on long projects. It’s my beading thread of choice.

SILAMIDE is a prewaxed thread. Lots of beaders love this. I’m not a big fan of this because it breaks very easily. Some people suggest that you double the thread to deal with the breakage issue, but I find it awkward to use a doubled thread. Even though Silamide is prewaxed, if you purchased it from us, we would tell you to wax it. There’s no waxy buildup on it, and this, we feel, is the major advantage of waxing.

When you use beading thread as your stringing or weaving material, you want to pass through each bead about 3 times. Most weaving techniques do this automatically as part of the step-pattern of the technique.

A Note About Waxing Your Thread

natural beeswax
synthetic beeswax (microcrystalline wax)

I advise all my students to wax their thread before they use it. The wax has these advantages:

  • Protects the thread from chemicals in the environment, including pollutants in the air, chemicals in a person’s sweat, and chemicals in cosmetics and hair sprays. Natural beeswax will protect the thread for 150 years. Synthetic beeswax provides protection for centuries more.
  • The hole of a bead looks like a broken coke bottle. The wax will fill in some of the jagged rim, lowering the risk of the hole cutting your thread.
  • Helps you maintain a tighter thread tension while you weave or string.

There are products called thread conditions. One brand, now defunct, was called Thread Heaven. When you keep pulling the thread through your beads over and over again, static electricity builds up. This results in the thread getting tangle up and knotted while you work. The conditioner prevents this from happening. Waxing will not.

You cannot use both products. You have to pick one. I suggest always picking the wax.

The Hybrid “Cable Thread”

Every year there are many new stringing materials. Many start as advances in fishing lines. One recent advance is what I call the hybrid “cable thread”. These are made from threads that are braided together (instead of braided wires as in a cable wire, see below) and encased in nylon,

Three brands — Power Pro, WildFire, and FireLine are very prominent. I especially like the FireLine.

You use these with needles, but do not have to wax them, though I suggest you do. You don’t have to go through your beads three times, like with the threads. Once is sufficient, though I sometimes go through 2 or 3 times to firm up the way the beads lay on the stringing material, and so the beads don’t wobble.

You don’t necessarily have to wax the FireLine, but a lot of people like to do this. The major advantage of waxing is that the wax protects the integrity of the nylon encasing. Cable threads are strong only to the point the nylon encasing is able to maintain the twist in the braided threads. As soon as the encasing is violated, the thread immediately untwists and breaks. You might pierce the thread with the needle as you are working your piece; the wax will melt into the hole and plug it. A pollutant in the air, or a chemical in someone’s sweat, or cosmetics or hairspray will make the nylon encasing deteriorate. Perfume oils will dissolve it. The wax provides a protective shield to minimize this happening.

If you wax it, this will increase your thread tension considerably. In most projects a tight tension is very desirable. With some very tight bead weaving stitches, like Peyote, cable threads may result in too tight a tension. Usually, I use regular beading thread with the Peyote stitch. With weaving stitches with loose tension, like Right Angle Weave or Ndebele, the cable thread’s tightness is an advantage, giving you more control over managing the thread tension as you work your piece.

Beading thread is flat and shaped like a ribbon. Beading needles have rectangular holes. FireLine, however, is shaped round. To make it easier to thread FireLine into a beading needle, you can flatten the end of the FireLine. I pull the end between two of my fingernails. You can also use a chain nose pliers to flatten the end. Then pop it into your needle. Don’t pull this through your teeth. It will cut into your teeth.

Pieces done with the cable threads lay stiffer and feel stiffer than the threads, like Nymo or C-Lon, but they drape and feel much better than the cable wires.

Many stringers and bead weavers have switched to cable threads.

Bead Cords

For some types of jewelry projects, you don’t want to cover and hide all the stringing material with beads. You might be putting knots between beads, or you might be doing macramé, braiding or kumihimo with beads, or you might be doing something like a Tin Cup necklace, where you have a cluster of beads, then some cord showing, then another cluster of beads, then more cord showing, and you get the idea.

In this case, if we used threads, the raw and waxed threads would be kind of ugly. Most cable wires, if showing, would be ugly. So instead, we use what is called Bead Cord.

Bead Cords are threads which have been braided together to make the stringing material look pretty. However, we don’t wax the bead cord to deal with issues like fraying or stretching. This would ugly it up.

Thus, when we use Bead Cord, we are trading off durability for appearance. If we were going to cover all the bead cord with beads, then this would not be the best choice of stringing material. You would want to use either a thread or cable wire, in this case.

There are many brands and qualities of bead cord.

Most people prefer Griffin Bead Cord, which comes on cards, and has a needle fixed to one end of the 2-meter long cord. There are many colors and thicknesses. It is available in Nylon and in Silk. I’d give this cord a grade of a “B”. What people like about this cord is that it comes with a needle attached on one end. This makes it easier to use when you are knotting between beads. It allows you to start with a thicker cord.

I recommend using silk bead cord if your project is all pearls or mostly pearls. I suggest using nylon bead cord if your project is very few pearls or no pearls. Unfortunately, every other type of stringing material, except the silk, will ruin the pearls. These other materials cut into the nacre around the pearl, starting at the hole, leading to cracking and chipping around the bead, thus ruining them. Only silk won’t cut into the pearls. Unfortunately, silk naturally deteriorates in 3–5 years, so anything you do on silk will have to be re-done every 3–5 years.

Nylon doesn’t deteriorate, so that’s why we suggest it for everything else. Now some people tell me things were always done on silk. I tell them nylon wasn’t always. But I can reverse hats. Say you’re selling your pieces. There’s more marketing cache if you say “it was strung on silk”, than if you said “it was strung on nylon.” You can make it your customer’s problem to re-string in 3–5 years.

Basically, at the same level of quality, the pros and cons of nylon and silk are the same. At the same quality level, they fray the same, stretch the same and get dirty the same. It’s just that the silk deteriorates and the nylon does not.

Bead cords are also used in knotting, macramé, braiding, bead crochet and kumihomo.

C-lon or S-lon (same thing, two different brand names) is the A-grade nylon. It comes in 4 thicknesses. It’s excellent.

Flexible Cable Wires

When I first started beading and making jewelry, I was not a big fan of thread. I was never one to sew. Needle and thread seemed so complicated. It took so long. The threads seemed to break. They frayed. They stretched. They got tangled up and they got knotted up. It was hard to see and keep in my field of vision a very thin thread on a very thin needle going through some very small beads. I poked myself with the needle. It made me cranky.

I turned to Tiger Tail cable wire. Cable wires are flexible wires that are braided together and encased in nylon. The wire is stiff enough to be its own needle. Stringing beads on a cable wire seemed so perfect. You only had to go through your beads once. The wire was stiff enough to be its own self-needle. Zip, zip. Fast, fast. For years, I made everything on cable wires. Always satisfied, never a complaint.

Today, there are many brands, qualities and distinctions of cable wires. There are easily over 24 choices. Each brand organizes its worst to best wires differently. None of the brands provides sufficient information on their labels to make a fully informed choice. It’s very confusing. It’s virtually impossible to compare across brands. You need to know the materials the braided wires are made of, the thicknesses of the finished wires, and the number of wires braided together within the cable, the material the nylon sheathing is made of, and the thickness of this sheathing.

The true measure of wire strength is called “tensile strength.” This is the amount of force it takes to keep the wire from untwisting within the nylon sheathing. Tensile strength depends on what the wire is made of, what the nylon sheathing is made of, and how thick and nonporous this nylon sheathing is. This information is not found on any of the labels.

On the labels of these products, the manufacturers list the number of strands braided together within the cable. This gives you some information, but not enough information to make a choice. You don’t know what the wire is made of, or it might say “stainless steel”, but there are hundreds of grades of stainless steel. They do not list what the nylon sheathing is made of, or how thick and nonporous it is. Some companies differentiate their lowest from highest qualities based on the number of strands. For example, one company’s low end is 7-strand and its high-end is 49-strand. However, other companies do not differentiate by number of strands. Another company’s 7-strand high end product is stronger and softer than its middle-range 49-strand product. It’s middle range 49-strand product is stronger and softer than that first company’s high-end 49-strand product.

A long time ago, manufacturers put “pound strength” on their labels. It’s on some labels, but not all. The actual pound strength numbers change more often than feels comfortable.

There are no government standards about measuring “pound strength.” Because of this, whenever you see “pound strength” on a label, whatever the product, you need to take this with a large degree of skepticism. First, there are two definitions of how to measure pound strength — (1) how heavy the fish is that the line will support, and (2) how much force the line will support when reeling in a fish of a given weight. But because there are no standards, it is up to the factory to put whatever they want. Most of these wires are made in total or in part in one factory in Taiwan. The person at the factory responsible for labeling pound strength many years ago never got it right, and never got it the same. One batch would show 20#, then the next time it might show 2#, then 5#, back to 20#, down to 10#. Since he could never get this right, the manufacturers asked him to leave this information off the label.

There are many brands of flexible, nylon coated cable wires. These cable wires can be grouped into three levels of quality:

— Craft (Tiger Tail)
 — Designer (Flex Wire)
 — Professional or Artist

I start people at the Designer (flex wire) quality cable wires. Most craft stores only carry the Craft quality. This is rather useless. Most bead stores carry the Craft and Designer levels, and sometimes the Professional or Artist level as well. The “best” level is extremely expensive, so I feel the beader or jewelry-maker needs to justify the extra expense when moving up to this quality. I’ve rarely seen a situation where the Professional quality was needed.

Tiger Tail was the original cable wire, and today it is the low-end product. It’s the Craft level wire, and all brands carry it. Often you don’t see the word Tiger Tail on the label. You can tell it’s Tiger Tail because it’s very cheap — substantially cheaper than anything else — usually under $5.99 for a 30ft spool. Tiger Tail wire breaks very easily in and of itself. The wire tends to kink. The way you should attach Tiger Tail to the clasp is to tie the wire into a knot or a double-knot. This gives you a very secure connection to the clasp.

Tiger Tail Cable Wire

Flex-wire is the Designer Level. Flex-wire (again available in several forms in each of the brand lines) is noticeably more expensive than the Tiger Tail — usually starting at $10.99 — $18.99 and up for a 30ft spool. It does not break easily in and of itself. It does not kink. However, it is very difficult to tie into a knot. So you have to use a crimp bead in order to hold the wire in place and secure the clasp. [I only recommend 2 brands — Soft Flex and Flexrite. These are very supple; the nylon sheathing has a high degree of integrity; they are very strong]

Flex wire cable wire

The way you use a crimp bead is that you take the wire and go through the crimp, through the clasp, then back through the crimp. You crush the crimp with a pliers (preferably a crimping pliers) to hold it into place. The major reason to use a crimp bead is to make your piece look more finished, than if you had tied a knot. However, it does make your piece less secure.

When you crush your crimp bead onto the wire, this flattened crimp becomes like a little razor blade. All jewelry moves. So your crimp is constantly trying to saw through your wire. On Tiger Tail, crimps easily cut through the wire, so that is why we suggest tying a knot. If you don’t like the look of the knot, you can either use beads on either end with large enough holes to swallow the knot. Or you can use a piece called a crimp cover and slip this over the knot, squeeze it shut, and it looks like you have a bead there.

With Flex-wire, this wire is so strong that we feel very comfortable recommending that you use a crimp bead on each end. However, and this is a big However, we DO NOT suggest that you use more than one crimp on each end. Sometimes your friends, or your mind, will tell you that if 1 crimp was good, then using 2 or 3 crimps on each end will be more secure. It’s not. All you are doing is adding razor blades. You’re increasing the chances that one of these crimps will cut through the wire.

If you’ve crimped correctly, one crimp on either end is sufficient. It doesn’t matter what the shape or the size of the crimp bead is. It doesn’t matter how heavy the beads are.

Cable wires come in different thicknesses.

For necklaces, you want to choose the thinnest wire that is the most durable. This is because the major design goal here is to have your necklace drape as best and as comfortably as possible. We suggest something around .014” or .015”. If someone sits at their desk and fidgets with the necklace a lot, then this thinner thickness will break. In this case, since durability is becoming an issue, the .018″ or .019″ will work fine.

For bracelets, you want to use the thickest wire that is most comfortable. Bracelets take a huge beating on a daily basis. We suggest something around .018” or .019”.

For eyeglass leashes, we suggest .024” or .019”. These take the most beating. You don’t want the leash or the eyeglasses themselves to break.

Cable wires are fast and easy. They are not as involved as using needle and thread. However, with the cable wires, the finished projects tend to be stiff. They don’t lay well. They don’t move well at all. If you make a bracelet with needle and thread, the bracelet, when worn, conforms to your wrist. If you move your wrist to the right, your bracelet also moves in the same direction to the right. If you made that same bracelet on cable wire, the wire takes the shape of a circle. Your wrist is actually oval. If you moved your wrist to the right, the bracelet done on cable wire would actually move in the opposite direction — to the left.

Lots of deep physics here. But the results are obvious, and often embarrassing. This most often happens with necklaces that turn around when worn, bringing the clasp front and off-centered, sometimes making the wearer look somewhat clownish.

Most brands of cable wire I find too stiff. They have major problems of draping and moving with the body. They lay on the body funny. Two brands I find particularly good, and these are the only brands I use, are Soft Flex and Flexrite.

Hard Wire

People use hard wire to make things like ear wires and clasps, earring dangles, chains, rosaries, coils and components, and wire-wrapped settings for stones.

But hard wire is not a stringing wire. You can’t simply put beads on it and attach the ends. The hard wire would bend and distort, but not return to its original shape, like a cable wire would.

There are many kinds of hard wire.

At the low end is called Craft Wire. Craft Wire is plated wire over steel or a brass alloy of steel. Craft Wire is bad for finished jewelry projects. It’s OK for practice. It’s OK for stationary objects like a beaded ornament. All jewelry moves. The plating doesn’t bond at all to steel. So when you bend the steel back and forth, the plating tends to wear off quickly. Also when you bend steel back and forth, it doesn’t take long before it breaks.

Craft wire, no matter the brand, tends to be packaged like the white spool pictured below.

Above Craft Wire is Plated Copper Wire. If you need to work with a plated wire, then Plated Copper Wire is a great product. There are many brands. The packaging varies but it never looks like that of the craft wire above. The plating and enameling bonds well to copper, so it takes a very long time to wear off. Also, when you bend copper back and forth, it takes a very long time to break. It comes in lots of colors and lots of metallics.

Higher in quality than plated wire is called “Raw” wire. In our store, we sell raw brass, raw copper, raw nickel. We sell sterling silver wire, fine silver wire, gold-filled wire and a new metal called argentium silver. Argentium is tarnish-resistant sterling silver.

The sizes of wire are measured by “gauge”. What Gauge means is that somewhere on earth there is a standard sized pipe. Gauge refers to how many wires will fit into the pipe. So, if you can fit 20 wires into the pipe, the wire is 20 gauge. If you can only fit 6 wires into the pipe, that wire is 6 gauge.

When buying wire, another choice to make is how HARD or stiff the wire should be at the start of your project. Wire is usually sold as 
 “Half-Hard”, or

With “Hard” hard wire, you can’t bend the wire. This is useful when making a hat pin or stick pin. You cut the length of wire you want. You take a metal file and file one end into a point. The wire is stiff, so it will easily puncture a hat or a fabric, without bending. However, if you wanted to make a loop on one end of the hard wire, say to make an earring dangle, you could not; it won’t bend.

With “Half-Hard” and “Dead-Soft” wire, you can manipulate the wire. You can twist it, bend it, curve it, wrap it, hammer it. Each time you manipulate the wire, you harden it. If you keep manipulating and manipulating the wire, it eventually hardens to the point where it is “Hard”, that is, unbendable. If you kept going still, the wire would become brittle and break.

Your goal as a wire artist is to find that level of hardness/softness where, after you manipulate the wire the way you want, you’ll end up with wire that keeps its shape, stays in place, or if it is holding a stone in, that the stone won’t pop out.

If I want to make an earring dangle by putting some beads on a wire, and bending one end into a loop so that I can hang it, if I started with “Half-Hard” wire, I would grab the end of my wire with a round nose pliers, twist my wrist to form the loop-shape, and let go of the wire with the pliers. I can trust that the loop-shape will keep its shape.

If I had started with “Dead-Soft” wire, however, and repeated this same procedure, the loop would open up and lose its shape. The wire is too soft. To start at “Dead-Soft”, I probably would have to grab the wire at both ends with vises or pliers, twist the wire until it started to harden, make a loop with a round nose pliers, and perhaps hammer on this loop a bit — all before I could trust that the loop-shape will keep its shape.

Most wire artists and how to books tell you to start at dead soft. Many of my students and customers who follow these directions have their bracelets pull apart, their shapes distort, their stones pop out of their settings. This is because they have not manipulated the dead soft wire enough to get it stiff enough. I suggest, either starting with half hard wire, or to twist the dead soft wire somewhat to stiffen it before you begin to shape it.

Plated Craft and Copper-Core wire typically comes as “dead soft”. It is up to the manufacturer to determine what that means. So, you will find that one company’s dead soft might be stiffer or softer than another’s. Typically, if I start at dead soft, I twist the wire or hammer it to harden it a little bit, before I start my projects.

Some Other Popular Stringing Products

Elastic String: People hate clasps. So they love this material. You put the beads on, tie a surgeon’s or square knot, put a drop of glue on the inside, then the outside of the knot, cut the tails, and that’s it. Comes in different colors, different thicknesses, different textures. Does deteriorate a little over time, and it does lose its memory. There are many brands. Some labels say they don’t deteriorate or lose their memory, but from experience, they all do.

The elastic string which is round lasts a long time. The elastic string which is flat like floss shreds rather quickly.

When using elastic string, you first take some super glue and coat the beginning 3/4″ to 1” of the string. Let it dry. Take a single edge razor blade and cut the end at an angle, so you have a point, and the end becomes a self needle. Put your beads on. Then tie a surgeon’s knot or square knot. As you tie your knot, put a drop of glue on the inside of the knot, pull tight, and put another drop of glue on the outside of the knot. Any glue EXCEPT super glue.

We suggest E6000 or Beacon 527, but, with this product, you can use school glue, rubber cement or elmers glue. Super glue dries like glass, so the bond becomes like a piece of glass. When you pull the string, the bond shatters like glass. Moreover, the broken bond looks like a piece of broken glass. The other glues dry more like rubber, so when you pull on the string, the bond acts like a shock absorber.

Elastic string can deteriorate in about 1–2 years, depending on its exposure to the air and sunlight.

Illusion Cord (monofilament): Basically a thin fishing line. Used to make illusion necklaces. Small crimp beads are used to hold clusters of beads in place. Not particularly durable. Any monofilament will dry out and crack from exposure to ultraviolet light and heat.

Hemp: Used with various macramé, micro-macrame, knotting and braiding techniques.

Irish Waxed Linen: Similar to hemp, but a higher quality. Used for more fashion-oriented jewelry that incorporates macramé, knotting and braiding techniques. In jewelry, the waxiness of this product draws dust and dirt to it. You might want to use, instead, an unwaxed bead cord for jewelry.

Leather: Always popular. Greek leather is the highest quality. Don’t shower in this. It makes the leather dry out and crack.

Waxed Cotton: A more durable leather substitute. It doesn’t have that great earthy smell of leather, however. Simply a waxed or glazed cotton wrapped around a nylon monofilament. You can shower in this.

Pearl Cotton #8: Used in making bead-knitted bags. 11/0 seed beads will slip over the Pearl Cotton #8.

Rubber Thong: Another leather substitute and more durable. Very soft to the skin.

Satin Cord (Rat Tail): A shiny, colorful cord that’s used to hang pendants from. Pretty. Frays relatively quickly. Not durable at all.

Organza Ribbon: The type of ribbon that you would string beads on. Use a Big-Eye needle to get your beads onto the ribbon.

Memory Wire: A stainless steel coil, like a slinky. Cut off some rings, put beads on, then, bend the ends. Caution: Memory wire will ruin all your jewelry tools. If you are using Memory Wire, then use industrial strength tools — things you would find in a wood-working shop.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Jewelry Findings: Preparers

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Jewelry Findings: Controllers and Adapters

Cleaning Sterling Silver Jewelry: What Works!

What Glue Should I Use When Making Jewelry?

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

A Very Abbreviated, But Not Totally Fractured, History of Beads

The Martha Stewart Beaded Wreath Project

When Choosing Colors Has You Down, Check Out The Magic Of Simultaneity Effects

The Use of Armature In Jewelry: Legitimate or Not?

Pearl Knotting Warren’s Way

Organizing Your Craft Workspace…Some Smart Pointers

You Don’t Choose Clasps, You Choose Clasp Assemblies

Know Your Anatomy Of A Necklace

Mini Lesson: Making Stretchy Bracelets

Mini Lesson: Making Adjustable Slip Knots With Thicker Cords

Mini Lesson: How To Crimp

Mini Lesson: Attaching End Caps, Cones, Crimp Ends

Mini Lesson: Brick Stitch

Mini Lesson: Flat Even Count Peyote

Mini Lesson: Ndebele Stitch

Mini Lesson: Petersburg Chain

Mini Lesson: Right Angle Weave

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Everyone Has A Getting Started StoryThe Nature-Inspired Creations of Kathleen

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Glass Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Lampwork Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Crystal Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Seed and Cylinder Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Choosing and Using Clasps

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

Thank you. I hope you found this article useful.

Also, check out my website (www.warrenfeldjewelry.com).

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online. Begin with my ORIENTATION TO BEADS & JEWELRY FINDINGS COURSE.

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Posted by learntobead on November 18, 2020

Warren Feld Jewelry

Update, 11-17-20


Jewelry creates a series of dilemmas for the jewelry maker — not always anticipated by what most jewelry makers are taught in a typical art class.

That’s the rub!

Painters can create any color and color effect they want with paints.

Jewelry makers do not have access, nor can they easily create, a full color palette and all the desired coloration effects with the beads and other components used to make jewelry.

Jewelry is not like a painting or sculpture that sits in one place, with controlled lighting, and a more passive interaction with anyone looking at it.

Jewelry moves with the person through different settings, lighting, times of day.

Jewelry sits on different body shapes.

Jewelry must function in many different contexts.

Jewelry serves many different purposes.

People use and understand colors using their senses.

These perceptions among wearer, viewer and designer include:

(1) The Sensation Of Color Balance
(2) The Sensation Of Color Proportions
(3) The Sensation Of Simultaneous Color Contrasts

Better designers are able to manage these sensations. They do so, in major part, by relying on a series of color sensation management tools.

We review these in great detail in this course.

In this course, you will learn some critical skills for jewelry designers that you will want to know…
• How to pick colors for jewelry, and how this differs from picking colors as a painter
• How to adapt basic color concepts in art when making jewelry
• How to recognize the differences between universal responses to color from the more typical subjective ones, and what better designers do about this

• How to manage the sensation of color within your pieces to achieve your designer goals

You will learn to make smart choices about color when designing and making jewelry.

9 Video Lessons (approximately 80 minutes)
8 Exercises
1 Article (40-pages)
$45.00 enrollment

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Posted by learntobead on November 1, 2020

LESSON 4: Set Realistic Goals

At the Tennessee Craft Organization Fair, Nashville, TN. Image by FELD, 2005.

From my online video tutorial:

Instructor: Warren Feld


Roland and Rolanda

Making money at fairs and shows isn’t as easy as it seems. As Roland and Rolanda quickly found out. They thought all it took was to rent a table at any show or fair, lay out their jewelry, wait for customers to come by, and purchase their stuff.

All through the shows, they sat on chairs reading books, waiting for people to come by. They spent more money on inventory, packing, displays and travel than they ever made.

And they never developed any kind of plan of action.

Roland and Rolanda needed to set realistic goals:

– (1) how much money did they have to get started and sustain themselves?

– (2) what was their break-even point?

– (3) what did they need to prepare themselves to “sell”?

  • (4) what amount of repeat business and follow-up sales were they looking for?
Typical Budget Items


How much money will you need?

Make a list of all possible costs. There are the obvious like transportation, lodging and meals, and the costs of displays, packing and marketing, and the costs of the parts used to make the pieces which sell.

Entry fees will vary widely from show to show. They cold cost $25/day up to $400 and up per day. They could go as high as $5000 per day.

If you have a specific craft show in mind, review their rules, and what they entry fees cover, and do not cover.

What are the costs of extras, like electricity, tables, special lighting? Do they also collect a percent of sales? Do they offer special services, like booth sitting, for extra fees? Is parking free, or do they charge? Do you need to provide additional insurance? Will you need to purchase special licenses, registration and permits, such as an out-of-state wholesale license?

 Fixed Costs and Variable Costs

There are two types of costs: Fixed and Variable

You need to prepare a budget to be sure you can pay for what you are committing yourself to.

You will need display supplies, packing supplies, marketing and promotion supplies, and probably some food and drink for yourself. You will be traveling. You may have to stay overnight somewhere. You will probably have some credit card finance charges and cell-phone charges associated with sales you make. You may need to pay someone to help you staff your booth. You probably will be paying various fees — entry, electricity, table rental. And you will need enough money to buy enough supplies to make up your inventory.

Your breakeven point is when your revenues = your costs.

How much money do you want to make?

At the very least, you want to come home from the show and breakeven. That is, you want to cover all your costs.

So, in your budget, you have begun to list all your costs.

Now, how much inventory will you need to make, and sell, in order to breakeven?

Inventory: Bring 4x what you need to sell

At this point, we are going to talk about inventory in terms of retail prices, not in terms of numbers of items, and not in terms of wholesale costs.

Our total inventory would equal the total of all retail prices (=the prices you are selling each piece at), if every piece sold.

A good rule of thumb for figuring out how much inventory to bring is this:

You will need to bring with you, at a minimum, 4 times the inventory (=total retail dollars) you hope to sell.


For example, if you need to sell $200.00 of merchandise to breakeven, you will need to bring $800.00 of merchandise with you. Again, $800.00 is the total of all the retail prices of what you bring.

If you want to take in another $100.00 of sales on top of your breakeven, then you will need to sell $300.00 (=$200 + $100) of merchandise, and then you will need to bring a total of $1200.00 (=$800+$400) of inventory. This is $400.00 more inventory that you would need to bring to make one hundred more dollars over your breakeven point. Again, $1200.00 is the total of all the retail prices.


I want to introduce you to a quick and dirty breakeven analysis. I call this “Quick and Dirty” because we are using imperfect information. However, this imperfect information is good enough to help us make a decision whether a particular craft show is worth the risk.

Your breakeven point is where you have sold enough inventory to cover your costs. That is, the total retail dollars you have taken in equals the sum of your fixed plus your variable costs.

We use our quick and dirty breakeven analysis to answer the question: How much inventory do I need to sell in order to breakeven?

Let’s familiarize ourselves more with the components of the formula, and then review the math.

Examples of Fixed Costs


Fixed costs are costs that remain the same, regardless of how many items you sell at your craft fair.

Fixed costs include things like fees, travel, food, and staffing. Again, you have to lay out this money for fixed costs whether you made no money at all, or made a bucket full of money at your craft fair.

Examples of Variable Costs


Variable costs are costs that get incurred when each unit is sold.

Thus, variable costs fluctuate based on the number of units sold. If you seel very few pieces, your variable costs are small. If you sell a lot of pieces, your variable costs will be much higher.

Variable costs include special packaging and displays, brochures and business cards handed out with each sale, credit card fees you are charged by the banks after each sale, and the cost of the parts used to make each piece that has sold.

We estimate variable costs using some industry standards about the percent of total retail price these costs are associated with.

Tamaya Soul Necklace by FELD



When we calculate the cost of inventory, we differentiate between the cost of those pieces which we actually have sold from the cost of those pieces we did not sell.

For purposes of developing a budget and calculating a breakeven analysis, to help us decide whether a particular craft show is worth the risk, we focus only on the estimates based on what we sell.

From an overall business standpoint, because you will want to bring 4x the inventory of what you predict will be sold, and these additional out of pocket expenses associated with the pieces which would not be sold have not been included in our breakeven analysis, you will need to be realistic, whether you can afford the show, or not.

Examples of Investment Costs


There are some additional costs you will incur which are also not included in our breakeven analysis. I’m going to call these “investment costs.” Investment costs are things you pay for which have to last a very long time, and which you will use at many, many craft shows.

These include “long term assets”, such as buying tables na dchairs, a tent, and display cases.

These also include “long term liabilities”, such as paying down loans and credit card charges over a longer period of time.

We do not include these investment costs in our breakeven analyses.



Say you will be doing a 2-day craft show out of town, 200 miles away from home. And you will need to hire 1 person to help you. Let’s look at our budget for doing this particular craft show.

You have budgeted for your fixed and variable costs as shown in the table above. I have plugged in some typical numbers into this budget table.

Our fixed costs are relatively easy to figure out.

Our variable costs, however, will have to be estimated. These variable costs are keyed off the retail prices you set for your jewelry. We will use some industry percent of price standards, as well as our breakeven analysis formula, to help us figure out the “TO BE CALCULATED” variable costs in our budget table.

Calculate Estimated Variable Costs Using Rates (aka, multipliers)

For example,

I have used 12% as the proportion of the total retail price that would be spent on marketing costs. These costs would include brochures, business cards, a post card mailing, some promotional ads, some effort to contact previous customers to let them know you will be at this craft show. The industry standard for marketing ranges between 5 and 15 per cent.

If you are getting started, you can use my numbers presented in this table. After you have done a few craft shows, you can begin to analyze your own sales and cost data, to develop what are called multipliers for each variable line-item category.

Again, our quick and dirty analysis is keyed off our retail prices.

I am assuming that you already know how to set fair and reasonable prices for your merchandise. If not, I would suggest reviewing my PRICING AND SELLING video tutorial.




Let’s review this breakeven formula application again, in English.

For those of you who haven’t had algebra, or are somewhat math-phobic, I want to go over the mathematical analysis in more English terms. It is important to understand the concepts, and to understand how to do the math.

First, we have the breakeven formula itself. Basically, it says:

100% of Breakeven revenue
 The Total of all our costs.

Some of these costs are fixed, meaning we have to pay for them, whether we make any money or not.

Some of these costs are variable, meaning we only incur these costs when we sell something. The amount of variable costs “Varies” based on how much we sell.

We are trying to figure out how much we need to sell in order to breakeven. We can easily figure out our fixed costs. We estimate our variable costs as a percent of revenues.

In this particular example, 
 Our fixed costs were $535.00. So, Y = $535.00
 We estimated our variable costs as 65% of revenues. So our variable costs = .65 times X.

This is all the information we need to do the algebra in the formula and figure out our breakeven revenue=costs point, which we have called “X”.

We begin to re-state the formula as:
 100% of revenue equals $535.00 + 65% of revenue.

So, we continue to play with the formula so that we get:
 Total Breakeven Revenues on one side of the equals sign, and everything else on the other side.
We have to do this is a few steps.

We re-write the formula again:
 100% of revenue minus 65% of revenues equals $535.00.

 And we simplify this a little by writing the formula as:
 100% minus 65% times revenues = $535.00

And simplifying the formula even more, we subtract 65% from 100% and get 35%, and the formula reads:
 35% times revenues = $535.00

Since we want to end up with 100% of revenues on one side of the equation, and the dollar amount that this 100% equals on the other side, we have to do one more math step.
 To change .35X to 1X, we have to divide it by .35.

Mathematically, if we do something to one side of the equation, we have to do it to the other side, as well.
 That’s how we get:
 100% of revenues = $535.00 divided by 35%.

And the answer is that our breakeven revenue, where our sales equals our costs, is 

So, to breakeven, we would need to sell a retail total of 41528.57 of merchansie at our 2-day show. To sell that much inventory, we would need to bring about 4x that much, or $6,000.00 of inventory with us.

While we do not include the costs of this additional inventory, and which we assumed would not sell, we still need to anticipate in our realistic goal setting process, the financial impact of all this.

Let’s update our budget table for this 2-day craft show example:


Now, let’s review our breakeven analysis with another example.

Say you are doing a 1-day craft show, close to home, low fees, you bring your own tables, and you don’t need electricity, and don’t need extra staffing. Also, you don’t plan on doing a lot of marketing.

First, you begin to set up a Budget.

Here we have fixed costs equal to $70.00.

Our variable costs we estimate to be 54% of our total revenues.

Next, we calculate our breakeven point, using our quick and dirty formula.

Breakeven Analysis Formula

We see our breakeven point is $152.17. And using our rule of thumb about how much inventory to bring, we need to bring 4 x $152.17, or about $600.00 of inventory.

The Next Question To Ask Ourselves: How Much Profit Do You Want To Make?

How much more money do you want to make above and beyond your breakeven point?

You don’t just want to breakeven. You want to make a profit. At our breakeven point, we have covered both our fixed costs and our variable costs. Our fixed costs are now all paid for.

As we bring in more addition revenues, we will have more variable costs to cover, and only based on how much more we sell.

Example 1 above: In our first example, our breakeven point was $1528.57.

In this example, 65 cents of each dollar in price that was earned was spent on variable costs, and 35 cents on each dollar earned was spent on fixed costs.

As we go beyond our breakeven point, and become profitable, again in this example, we would be spending only 65 cents out of each additional revenue dollar for variable costs.

We would have no more fixed costs.

If we had sold one more dollar, we would have had 35 cents remaining. We could have used that remaining 35 cents out of each dollar of additional revenue to pay for some of our investment costs, as well as pay ourselves something.

Profit Goal

How much of a profit goal you want to set is your personal choice. However, I like to tell students that breaking even at the show itself is OK, if you also have strategies in place to generate follow-up sales, either through repeat sales between shows, or repeat sales at the next show.


Selecting and doing craft shows requires research and planning. And it requires an ability to keep up a good “Retail Personality” while standing on your feet for ong hours, sometimes when it’s too hot or too cold or too windy and dusty.

Selling Jewelry requires a different mind-set than Creating Jewelry. If you don’t have the personality for Selling, bring a friend with you who does.


A good goal to set is to generate repeat business equal to 25%. So, if you have 10 sales at the show, your goal would be to get 3 repeat sales. These could occur when the customer contacts you between shows. These could also occur at the next show you do, when the customer buys from you again.

You will make a might higher profit and experience better long-term outcomes, through repeat business. With repeat business, you can considerably lower your variable costs, particularly those associated with marketing. Because of this, that 2nd or follow-up sale is often more important than that 1st sale at the show.

Lesson 4 was to set Realistic Goals.

It is OK to start small. To start locally. To gradually take on bigger and bigger shows, while you are establishing your reputation and building a following.

You obviously want to keep your expenses to a minimum, and there can be some steep up-front costs, such as creating a sufficient inventory.

Starting small gives you a chance to test out your ideas about costs, whether you like doing craft shows, whether there is a good fit between your merchandise and the shows, and whether there is a good fit between your personality and doing craft shows.

When you start, you might be able to share booth space with another friend who has a business, and share some of those other fixed costs, like travel and fees.

Do your homework when selecting craft shows which fit well with your goals and your budget. Figure out your breakeven point, and how much inventory you need to bring to make a profit.

As Roland and Rolanda should have done.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Should I Set Up My Craft Business On A Marketplace Online?

The Importance of Self-Promotion: Don’t Be Shy

Are You Prepared For When The Reporter Comes A-Calling?

A Fool-Proof Formula For Pricing And Selling Your Jewelry

Designer Connect Profile: Tony Perrin, Jewelry Designer

My Aunt Gert: Illustrating Some Lessons In Business Smarts

Copyrighting Your Pieces: Let’s Not Confuse The Moral With The Legal Issues

Naming Your Business / Naming Your Jewelry

Jewelry Making Materials: Knowing What To Do

To What Extent Should Business Concerns Influence Artistic and Jewelry Design Choices

How Creatives Can Successfully Survive In Business

Getting Started In Business: What You Do First To Make It Official

I hope you found this article useful. Be sure to click the CLAP HANDS icon at the bottom of this article.

Also, check out my website (www.warrenfeldjewelry.com).

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online. Begin with my ORIENTATION TO BEADS & JEWELRY FINDINGS COURSE.
Check out these two other tutorials:

Pricing and Selling Your Jewelry. Learn an easy-to-use pricing formula and some marketing tips.

So You Want To Do Craft Shows… 16 Lessons I Learned Doing Craft Shows. Understand everything involved and make the smart choices.

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