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Tip #7: Calculating How Many Strands of Shaped Beads to Buy for Your Kumihimo Necklace

In my last design tip you learned how to calculated how many beads you need for your kumihimo necklace when working with seed beads. (If you missed it, you can read that lesson here.)

I love braiding with seed beads! They come in an amazing array of colors and fit so neatly together in a braid; however, if we only braided with seed beads we’d be missing out on all the other exciting shapes and sizes. There are fire polished and pearls and rizos and daggers and leaves and bicones and the list just goes on and on. In fact, new bead sizes and shapes are coming to market all the time. It’s hard for me to keep up!

With seed beads the ratio of strung beads to finished beaded braid was 1 to 2. So what’s our magic formula for all the other types of beads?

Sorry. That was bit of trick question. There isn’t one simple ratio for ALL other types of beads. They’re just too varied for one ratio to be true for EVERY bead, but it is possible for you to figure out your usage ratio for ANY bead.

Let’s take the pip bead for example. Pips are a type of pressed glass bead that arrived on the scene a few years ago. They’re flat-ish teardrops that look a bit like flower petals. They’re really cute and come in lots of fun colors!

The first time you’re braiding with a new type of bead, you’ll need to do a test braid to figure out how many beads per warp you need for every inch of finished beaded braid. You can make a really short sample braid using as few as 10 beads per warp or a longer test braid with more beads. Just be sure to make a note of how many beads per warp you string.

For my pip test braid, I strung 35 pips per warp. How did I pick 35 beads per warp? That’s how many pips come on a string. 🙂

When finished, I measured my beaded braid and learned that it’s 7 1/2″ long. Don’t count the endcaps or the nubbin. Just measure the beaded braid.

To figure out how many pip beads you need to string per warp for every inch of finished braid divide the beads strung on one warp by the finished beaded braid length.

Beads Strung on 1 Warp ÷ Finished Beaded Braid Length = Beads Needed on Each Warp for Every Inch of Finished Beaded Braid

35 Pips ÷ 7 1/2″ = 4.6666 Pips per Inch of Finished Beaded Braid

Great! Now to put that number to work for us. Let’s say we want to make a 20″ beaded braid that will be a 21″ necklace once we put the endcap and clasp on.

Desired Finished Beaded Braid Length X Beads Needed Per Inch of Beaded Braid = Number of Beads to String on Each Warp

For our pip example take our 20″ desired finished braid length, multiply by 4.6666 and we get 93.33 pips per warp. Let’s round that down and call it 93 pips per warp.

Now that we know how many beads to string on each warp, we can figure out how many total beads are needed for the project.

Beads per Warp X Number of Warps = Total Beads Needed for Project

In our example that’s 93 pips per warp times 8 warps so 744 pips are needed to make the 20″ beaded braid.

We’re almost done. It’s time to make our shopping list.

Beads Needed for Project ÷ Beads Per Strand = Number of Strands Needed

Pips come 35 to a strand at Design & Adorn. 744 pips divided by 35 is 21.25 strands of pips. We’ll come up short if we round down here, so round that up to 22 strands of pips to make the necklace.

Stay tuned for my next design tip and I’ll explain how a simple mind set shift can make all the difference when it comes to enjoying the design process.  In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more about kumihimo design check out my all new kumihimo retreat Designing in 3D! It’s November 14th – 17th in Sonoita, Ariozona. Click here to read all about it!

Happy Beading!

Rebecca

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Tip #6: Calculating How Many Tubes to Seed Beads to Buy for Your Project

It’s late at night. You’re happily braiding along watching your favorite television program. You’re almost out of beads on several warps, but you’re not worried. Your braid is almost as long as you need. You keep braiding. You drop in the last bead and reach for your tape measure. So close! You just need to string a few more beads so you can finish up. You reach for the tube of seed beads and… NOOOOOOOO! It’s empty!

We’ve all been there. It’s so frustrating. The key to avoiding this agony is to take the time to accurately estimate how many beads you’ll need for your project before heading to the bead shop. Unless, of course, you’re coming into Design & Adorn. In that case, we’d be happy to do the math for you.

Let’s assume that you’re making a beaded kongoh gumi using seed beads and you’ll be using the same size beads on every warp.

For this type of beaded rope the math is based on the following ratio:

Length of Strung Seed Beads per Warp : Finished Length of Braid = 1:2

In other words, you need half your beaded braid length in strung beads per warp.

For example, if you want to make a 20” necklace you would string 10” of beads on each of your eight warps. This assumes you’ll use magnetic endcaps that fit over your beads and add a negligible length. If using a toggle clasp or other ending that will add length, be sure to subtract that from the total finished length before calculating how many beads you’ll need.

Now that you know how many beads to string on each warp, calculate how many total beads are needed for the project.

Length of Strung Beads per Warp X Number of Warps = Total Length of Strung Beads per Project

For our example necklace, we’ll multiple 10” of strung beads per warp by 8 warps and get 80” of strung beads needed for the project.

Up until this point it didn’t matter what size beads we were using, but now we need to make a choice. Let’s use size 8˚ seed beads. If you string up all the size 8˚ seed beads in one tube* you’ll get 24” to 26”. Let’s be conservative and call that 24” linear inches per tube. Now we can calculate how many tubes we’ll need to buy.

Total Length of Strung Beads per Project ÷ Inches per tube = number of tubes needed

For our example necklace we’ll take 80” of strung beads for our project and divide by 24” per tube to get 3.33 tubes. In this case we’ll round up and buy 4 tubes of size 8˚ seed beads.

Happy Beading!
Rebecca Ann Combs

PS: Remember that if you’re using a bead spinner you may prefer to have an extra 4-8 grams (about ½ tube) so you don’t have to spin down to the bottom of the bowl.

*PPS: All “per tube” counts are based on the tubes sold at Design & Adorn which are 2½” long and about ½” wide.

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Tip #5: Color Context

Alex made a stunning Rock Climber kumihimo necklace for her aunt using an usual dyed pink stone. Her aunt loved the necklace, but then requested matching earrings. Oh no! All of the pink stones were used in the necklace!

With no stones beads left for the earrings and slim odds of finding more, what did Alex do? Cut apart the necklace and start over? Dedicate the rest of her life to the search for matching beads? Check out this two minute video to find out.

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Tip #4: Pick the Right Color Proportions

The first step in creating your best kumihimo design plan is picking the right color combinations. Color is usually the very first thing we notice in any design. Because it’s such an obvious part of your jewelry it’s important to get it right.

The right colors will help you achieve your design goals… whatever they are… matching your new outfit, supporting and accenting a focal bead, or creating pattern & interest.

Planning Part Two: Pick the Right Proportions

Once you have selected the right colors the second step is to choose the right proportions. That means to balance the colors of your necklace so they have correct relationship to each other and to the piece overall.

Imagine you’re making a salad. You have spinach, tomatoes, bacon, cheese, vinegar, and oil. Do you just mix together one cup of each?

Of course not! Yuck!

The trick to a great salad is to correctly proportion all the different flavors. You’ll start with a whole lot of spinach and then toss in a few tomatoes… maybe just a sprinkle of the cheese and bacon… finish it off with a light drizzle of the vinegar and oil. Yum! That’s a great salad!

That may seem obvious with food, but the concept is the same with beads. It’s all about balance.

Take a look at the colors I picked out for my Happy Camper necklace. The colors work great together, BUT the mix is too busy because the colors haven’t been properly proportioned yet.

Here are the same colors mixed up with better proportions.

This mix is perfectly balanced to support the pendant and highlight it without overwhelming it.

Color selection is extremely important, but it’s equally important that you balance the colors in the correct proportions. When you plan your next piece, after choosing the right colors, be sure to take the time to proportion them correctly.

Choosing & proportioning your colors correctly will take your jewelry to the next level, especially when you build upon a strong foundation of design skills.

If you’re interested in learning more about color selection and the art and science of great design, check out my upcoming kumihimo design retreat in southern Arizona: Wine, Dine & Design!
Happy Beading!

Rebecca Ann Combs

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Tip #3: Choose the Right Colors

Can I let you in on a little secret? You might think that I just have an eye for design and that somehow I know by instinct how to put beads together in winning combinations, but that’s just because you only see my finished necklaces (and you didn’t know me when I was first getting started).

The truth is that designing is a skill I’ve learned over many years and all by best jewelry creations all start with a plan. Some are just rough sketches or strands of beads lined up next to each other. Other plans have charts, diagrams, and involve a bit of math.

No matter how simple or how detailed the plan, the important part is taking the time to make some critical design choices before you start.

Planning Part One: Pick the Right Colors

Color is usually the very first thing we notice in any design, not just jewelry. Imagine getting compliments on a new pair of shoes. What are you more likely to hear? “Ooooo! I just love those RED shoes!” or “Wow! What an amazing rounded toebox on those kitten-heeled shoes!

Red, right?

Of course, those other details matter, but color is almost always noticed first.

Because we make emotional connections and judgements about colors, we often just reach for our favorites. It’s great to develop a personal color palette, but we should still evaluate and question our color choices every time we start a new jewelry design.

Take a look at this bracelet I made a couple of years ago.

The bracelet looks fine. It’s not a knock-it-out-of-the-park, set- my-heart-on-fire bracelet, but it’s pretty.

On the left side of the bracelet the beads are Purple Iris Gold and on the right side they’re Brass Gold. You might not be able to see the difference in the photo… and that’s my point. These two colors are too similar to tell them easily apart… even when you’re holding the bracelet in your hand.

What if I told you this is actually a carefully counted ombré design? I had to sit and string these beads one by one, carefully checking my counts, and after all that work no one can see the pattern.

I was going for subtle and what I got was invisible.

COLOR FAIL.

Now take a look at this bracelet.

This is the same exact counted pattern, but this time with a much better color choice. Now with two distinct, bold colors this design really POPS!

Of course, you don’t have to pick bold, contrasting colors to create a beautiful piece of jewelry. It’s possible to get that subtle, ombré look I was going for in the first bracelet – but the colors have to be right.

Color selection is SO important that it’s my first step in creating your design plan. When you begin next piece, start your plan by picking the right color combinations.

But color is just the first part of your design plan. Click here to read Part Two of “How to Create Your Best Design Plan”…

Happy Beading!

Rebecca Ann Combs