Got wire scraps?

While working with head pins, you will most likely end up with a pile of trimmings.

What do you do with these? The most obvious answer is to chunk them in the trash, but I like to make them into jump rings. You can’t use the teeny tiny ones for this but if you use longer head pins, you will end up with plenty of scraps that will be pliable.

So here’s how:

Pinch the end between the prongs of your round nose pliers and twist inward until it forms a loop. The size of the jump ring will depend on your plier placement–the closer to the end of the prongs, the smaller it will be. With the ends side-by-side, trim them simultaneously with your wire cutters. Use pliers to close the jump ring.

Almost any jewelry you make will require jump rings, so hopefully this will save you some money and prevent wasting usable material. Happy crafting!

(Note: In my spring cleaning madness, I misplaced my camera cord. Pictures coming soon!)

Advertisements

Thinking outside the craft store

I’ve already established that thrift stores are the greatest place on Earth. Don’t get me wrong, craft stores are also great. But often times when I turn the corner into the jewelry aisle, I start wanting everything. “Ooh, I want those beads! And that chain! And look, it’s a necklace-making kit!” These thoughts start flooding my head and next thing you know, I can only think of designs with these items.

More often than not, I feel that this craft store state of mind limits my creativity. I start seeing what the displays want me to see–buy this book, this material, make this necklace. People who design craft store displays are geniuses. They play on what’s trendy or what everyone is Pinteresting (not sure of the proper term). When skulls are popular, you will find a display of skulls, next to a book about skull jewelry, next to a kit that makes skull jewelry a snap. Even their websites are this way.  

To bust out of this craft store rut, I like looking for atypical materials. Here are a few examples, and a few DIY projects that might inspire you (some links are to blog posts outside of wreck. renew. repeat.)…

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking outside of the jewelry aisle at the craft store. You can pretty much use any material you come across (as long as it isn’t perishable…). You will still need to visit a craft store for most projects to pick up head pins and jump rings, but grab them and run. Get out into the world and try to find supplies in random places. It may be a disaster sometimes, but craft disasters make for funny stories. Trust me, I have a ton of ’em.

2015-03-16 17.54.03

I made this today from a stone, chain and beads (from thrifted items).

Scouring for supplies at thrift stores

Today let’s go on adventure. Not skydiving, no road trip, just a jaunt to the thrift store. As a college student and jewelry maker, the thrift store is my friend and should be yours, too. Say it with me, “The thrift store is my friend.” Walk up to that clear display case with confidence and look critically at its contents. There will be a lot of plain old junk. But if you’re lucky, you’ll find some usable chain, interesting pendants or beads you can reuse. Try not to judge pieces by what they look like now. The point is to rip them apart, after all. Some of my favorite pieces I’ve made have been crafted from old, tacky jewelry.

IMG_7343

This is probably my favorite thing I’ve ever made, and I created it out of an old charm bracelet.

IMG_7347

These earrings are also entirely made from jewelry I found at the thrift store.

IMG_7324

I love old buttons. Mainly because they make for a super easy afternoon project. I have about a million pairs of stud earrings that I made from vintage buttons.

You can save a lot of money finding supplies at the thrift store. And when I say a lot, I mean it. Most vintage or thrift stores sell old jewelry in bags, sometimes for as little as $1. There is literally nothing that cheap in the jewelry aisles of craft stores. Plus, thrift stores are fun. You never know what you’re going to find.

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.