#WhitworthAdvent: Simple But Chic: No Fuss, DIY Adjustable Necklaces

Do you want to try your hand at creating a handmade gift but just don’t have the time or the will to stitch or bake anything? This easy method of creating a necklace is a lifesaver for adding a last-minute, personal touch to a gift with minimal fuss. It can also save you some money if you’re careful about where you source some of your materials.

You will need:

  • Leather, faux leather, waxed cotton or nylon cord (nylon cord is also sold as Chinese knotting cord)
  • Beads- with a large enough hole to accommodate your cord
  • Sharp scissors
  • A lighter to seal the ends of your cord (*optional- only applicable to nylon cord)

The kind of beads you use are really up to you and whatever you think will suit the recipient’s taste. If you’re working with an especially tight budget, you could potentially re-use some beads if you or someone you know has a beaded item of jewellery that they no longer use or the item in question is broken. Local charity shops are a good place to look if you need to source beads immediately and at low cost- you may be able to find something that you can take apart and repurpose. If you intend to make a few necklaces, however, it may be easier to just buy either a string of beads or a small number of loose beads.

There are beads out there to suit all tastes and budgets, from lightweight acrylic, bone and wooden beads to heavier ceramic, glass, and semi-precious beads. Beads will vary in price depending upon the material used and whether they have any carved or hand-painted details, although many bone, porcelain and wooden beads are still quite cheap even with lovely hand-painted details. Vintage lucite beads can be bought loose for a cheap price sometimes. Some lucite beads also have a lovely iridescent ‘glow’ to them.

Glass beads vary in price depending upon how and where they were produced but you can buy some beautiful lampwork, Czech glass and Murano glass beads in small quantities for a cheap price if you search through Ebay, Etsy or Vinted. In my opinion, Czech glass beads and Murano glass beads are particularly beautiful but Cazech glass beads are perhaps not as suited to this particular tutorial as many of them are produced with a small hole size of around 0.6mm-0.8mm.

Murano glass beads

Semi-precious beads vary in price depending upon the quality and rarity of the stone used, in addition to the shape and size of the beads. Simple, round rose quartz beads will generally cost less than faceted rose quartz beads carved into the shape of a star, for example. Rose quartz is also pretty common and therefore quite cheap compared to other stones.

On this occasion, I had some beads left over from various other craft projects and broken necklaces that I was able to use, so I did not need to purchase a lot of beads- although I did buy a small amount of some beads to suit the taste of certain recipients when those I already had would not be suitable. Ebay and Etsy are good places to start looking for reasonably priced beads. There are also a variety of small, family-owned online stores that specialise in jewellery making supplies such as The Bead Shop, which used to have a store in Afflecks in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

You will usually be able to buy a whole string of beads or smaller quantities of around ten beads or more. Just be sure to set your filters to items located in your country if you’re browsing Ebay or Etsy and want to receive the beads in time for Christmas! Always check product listings for information on the size of the beads and particularly any information on the hole size of the beads. Remember that the holes drilled into your beads will need to be either the same width or (ideally) a bit larger than the cord you are going to string them on, so this will determine the sort of cord you buy.

Now on to the tutorial!

Step One:

Measure out the length of cord you want to use. I used about 32 inches of cord which, when doubled up thanks to the sliding knots you will make later on, makes for a shorter necklace of around 15 inches that can be shortened to choker length.

Step Two:

Thread your beads onto your cord. You can use a few beads of just one large focal bead. In the case of most beads which have had a hole drilled through the centre, threading the beads on is easy but if your beads have been drilled through the top or look better suited to being pendants, you may be better off using a lark’s head knot- which you can see below.

To make a lark’s head knot: first decide which side of the bead/pendant you like best and want to be presented at the ‘front’ (which will be the side where you see a loop of cord running horizontally across the rest of the cord, the loop will not be facing the wearer when they are wearing the piece). Then pass both ends of your cord through the hole in your bead or pendant but do not pull the cord all the way through. You then bring up both ends of the cord over the top of your bead or pendant and pass them under the loop of the closed end of cord which has not been pulled through the bead. Then pull both ends tightly and when the loop of cord slides down to your pendant, the knot has formed. The lark’s head knot is also known as a cow hitch.

Step Three: (optional- applies to those who have used a lark’s head knot)

If you have used a lark’s head knot you may want to further decorate your necklace with the addition of some smaller ‘seed’ beads above your pendant.

Passing two pieces of cord through a bead isn’t always easy and can make for a tight fit. I have found that trimming a small chunk out of each end of the cord, so that they are more tapered, makes it easier to thread both ends through a bead.

Step Four:

If you do not need to make a lark’s head knot to secure your bead or pendant in place, you may wish to tie a simple knot either side of your focal bead to hold it in place in the middle of your cord.

Step Five:

Once you are satisfied with the placement of your beads, you will need to make two sliding knots to make the necklace adjustable.

To make a sliding knot, place both ends of your cord flat with one end above the other, then pass one end of cord over the other (making sure you have a tail of a couple of inches left at the end of the cord you are looping) and loop it around that end two times. You should end up with what looks like three loops.

Pass the end of the cord you are working with up past the loops you have made and then through the centre of your three loops. Pull the end tight enough to secure the knot but not so tight that you cannot slide the knot up and down the length of cord it is looped around. Trim a bit off the end of the cord you have been working with so it looks tidy and there is not too much excess cord jutting out from the end of your knot.

Repeat the process on the other side.

Now you’re finished!


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