Frankie Says Macramé

When I was in elementary school, my mother came home one day with a bag of old cigar boxes. She went out to the garage, tapped a nail into the top of each and tossed beads and twine inside. Then she taught my sister and I how to macramé, tying the start of each bracelet to the nail and showing us how to tie the knots and slip on beads.

The cigar boxes are long gone, but I still macramé. In the same way that athletes warm up by stretching and writers by free writing, I use macramé to loosen up before playing with wire and chain. It isn’t too tedious, so I’m able to relax and make the knots without over-thinking it.

If you get frustrated while learning how to bead and wire wrap, take a step back and macramé. It’s easy, it’s fun and it’s cheap. Packs of cord cost around $5, and make about 1,000 bracelets (not literally, but they last a long time). 

Macramé bracelets are also incredibly easy to customize. You can change the type of beads, color of the string or the braiding patterns. Check out my next post for a super simple pattern to get you started!

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Building your arsenal: Pliers

What to buy

Before you run out and spend a boatload of money on jewelry making supplies (trust me, it isn’t hard to do), it is important first to get a sturdy set of pliers. You might already have pliers in your toolbox, but jewelry making requires smaller, more precise tools.

There are five pliers you should buy before you start, and most stores that carry jewelry making supplies will sell them as a set (I bought mine at Michael’s for $10). You can buy them separately, but I recommend buying all five together. It costs less, and having all of them will make your life easier.

Long (or Chain) Nose Pliers—These have longer ends to grip wire or jump rings.

Round Nose Pliers—Round ends let you form loops.

Bent Nose Pliers—I spent a long time not knowing what to do with these but they’re actually really useful, especially in wire wrapping.

Flat Nose Pliers—I use these mainly to hold wires in place, as the flat end won’t create creases.

Wire Cutter—You will wear these out so make sure to get a durable pair.

Practice before spending any more money

Unless you are a jewelry-making prodigy, you will probably throw out or take apart the first few pieces you make. Or maybe that’s just me. It took a lot of practice and playing around to find my style.

Before you buy chain, beads or stone settings, buy headpins. Plain old, flat head pins. Practice loops and wrapped loops, cutting wire and opening and closing jump rings on necklaces you already own (most necklaces will have them). Once you gain confidence using pliers, the rest will be a cakewalk.

Create even if you aren’t creative

“That’s nice, but are you any good?”

I’ve heard this phrase many times when I tell people I make jewelry. The truth of it is that I use jewelry making to deal, not because I am good at it. The more I make, the more I feel relaxed and able to hack it.

In a world of Netflix and DVRs, it’s easy to get home and turn the TV on to feel released from the stress of the day. I admit it; I recently binge-watched all nine seasons of The Office. But studies have linked more time in front of the TV to higher odds of becoming depressed, with one study reporting rates of depression up to 8% higher in teens who watched more TV.

On the other hand, practicing some kind of creative outlet has shown to promote self-healing and even physical health. The important thing is to find something you want to do, and whether you’re good at it or not doesn’t matter.

I found jewelry making by accident. A friend—who shall remain nameless—gave me a necklace for my birthday one year and it was the gaudiest, tackiest gift I ever received. The “bones” of it were good, but the final product was terrible. I borrowed a pair of pliers and began tearing it apart, putting it back together, then tearing it apart again. I ended up with two new necklaces, a pair of earrings and a new hobby.

Not everything I make is a work of art, but the act of creating something with my own hands is worth the time and effort. The world would be a better place if more people found their creative outlet, so get out there and just do something. Carve a piece of wood. Do a jigsaw puzzle. Make a collage. Do whatever the hell you feel, and you will feel fantastic.