Chain Reaction: Make Your Own Beautifully Beaded Chain

Although pre-made chain is readily available in a myriad of styles, metals and finishes, sometimes it doesn’t quite do the trick for us jewelry-makers. Sometimes, you need something a little bit more special — with a handmade touch. So why not make your own chain?

Necklace with wire-wrapped bead chain

There are several ways you can create your own chain — using different styles of links, creative wirework and inventive plier-skills! — but today, I’m going to show you how to make your own beaded chain. All you need it wire, beads and your plier arsenal — round-nosed pliers, chain- or bent-nosed pliers and flush cutters.

Warning: Making beaded chain will cause hours to disappear and is highly addictive! Set an evening aside for chain-making fun!

Ingredients for wire-wrapped chain

Materials: 

  • 0.8mm wire
  • 10mm beads
  • Slim round-nosed pliers
  • Bent- (or chain-) nosed pliers
  • Flush cutters

I find it easiest to have two pairs of bent-nosed pliers to hand for most wirework projects, and for this particular technique, I favor my slimmer round-nosed pliers — you’ll see why later. Also, although I am going to take you through making wire-wrapped loops, I would recommend practicing and getting thoroughly comfortable with this technique before starting on your beaded chains. Although you will get plenty of practice of wrapped loops as you make chains, you will find starting from a point of confidence leads to more successful and satisfying finished chains.

Step 1

Step 1.

Cut a length of wire roughly 40 cm long (or whichever length you are comfortable working with). Turn a wrapped loop at one end. Slide a bead on and close with a second wrapped loop.

Step 2

Step 2.

Repeat step one, but when it comes to turning the second wrapped loop, stop when you have the loop, but before you begin wrapping.

 Step 3

Step 3. 

Wiggle the loop from step two, open and slide it into one of the loops from step one.

 Step 4

Step 4. 

Take your round-nosed pliers and use them to grasp the incomplete linked loop from the previous step. This is where those slim round-nosed pliers come in handy! Use a pair of bent- (or chain-) nosed pliers to wrap the neck of this loop.

Step 5

Step 5.

Repeat steps two through four until you have chain of your desired length!

Designer tips

1. When working with flush cutters, there is a “right” way and a “wrong” way to cut with them.

Wire cut 'right' and 'wrong'.

It’s hard to see in pictures (or even in real life sometimes!), but try it yourself, and run your finger gently over the top of the wire when you cut both ways. You will definitely feel the difference, even if you can’t always see it. It’s super important especially when making turned loops, because otherwise they don’t close properly, but it’s also really important when making wrapped loops and wrapped loop chain. If the wire tails have sharp, jagged ends (even if you tuck them in carefully) then they will catch on your clothes or worse, your skin. 

2. Play around with different sized beads and gauges of wire. Make sure the wire you choose fits the hole of your chosen beads well — you shouldn’t have to force it through. You could even make this chain without beads – make fancy links, messy links where the beads would have been etc.

3. Have fun playing around with different styles of wrapped loops – neat coils, messy wraps, double or even triple wraps if you are working with thin gauged wire. Have fun experimenting!

Here are some examples of wire-wrapped and beaded chain for inspiration:

Necklace with wire-wrapped bead chain Necklace with wire-wrapped bead chain Necklace with wire-wrapped bead chain

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