I love jewelry projects. Seriously love them. Especially bracelets (gee, have you noticed?? LOL). So I tried my hand at a wire wrapped cuff, and for a first try, I’m pretty happy with it!
The things is, I can’t help looking at it and seeing all the room I have for improvement. Do you do that too? I debated whether I should even share a tutorial, since this time around, I’m FAR from an expert – but in the interest of keeping it real and not being perfect, I thought I would show you a little more about this project. Maybe you like it as-is, and if you do – thank you! But a quick Google search on wire-wrapped bracelets will get you some gorgeous professional pieces that look much nicer. I can’t show you how to make one of *those perfect ones* today, but I CAN show you how to try wire wrapping a cuff for the first time… deal?
This bracelet took me closer to 90 minutes than my standard hour-or-less, but as far as supplies go and the process itself, it’s actually quite simple. What you will need:
- Two gauges of silver plated copper wire. I used 16 gauge for the cuff, and 22 gauge to wrap it. 24 gauge or even 26 gauge would also work nicely for the wrapping work. You need around 14-16 inches of the heavy wire, and around 10 feet (depending on how tightly you wrap it and how wide you make your cuff) of the lighter wire. Out of these packages, I easily have enough wire left for another cuff and possibly two.
- Focal beads you love. I think these brown agates are just gorgeous. I got them from consumercrafts.com. (In fact, I got the wire there, too… I LOVE their site for my basic supplies!)
- Nylon pliers – this is for straightening your wire as you work with it
- Wire cutters
- Optionally – a small file for any sharp edges.
- You may also find a regular pair of jewelry pliers helpful, though they really aren’t necessary.
I made adjustments as I worked and I will note those in the post. Just be warned, what you see in the photos may have been slightly modified later in the project.
First things first – the cuff itself. Cut off 14-16 inches of heavy gauge wire. Form it into an oval that will accommodate your beads. You want it to be about 6-1/2 inches long. A little longer or shorter should be okay, especially if you happen to have larger or smaller wrists.
You don’t need to do anything fancy to connect the two ends. Just wrap them around each other tightly enough to hold the shape securely. You’ll notice here that I have oval-shaped ends, and I squared them off later in the project when I discovered that rounded ends would be much more difficult to finish than square ends. You can square them now, or you can wait until you have some wire already wrapped to stabilize it.
Now, cut off a length of wire that you think you can easily work with. I like to work with about 5-6 feet at a time. Thread a bead onto the center, so that you’re only working with 2-3 feet of wire coming off each end. Position the bead vertically at the center of your bracelet, and wrap the wire around the cuff’s frame several times.
The reason you want to start out at the center is because it’s easy to begin wrapping too tightly, and your bracelet can start getting squeezed smaller. Positioning the center bead helps to reinforce the width you’ve chosen.
Once you’ve wrapped far enough to get to the outside edge of your bead, do the same thing with the other end of the wire so that both ends are securely wrapped onto the frame. There’s no rule which direction you must work in. You will have gaps along your frame in different spots as you work, and we will fill those in later.
Once you have reached the outer edge of the bead, take either wire, and thread it to the opposite side of the cuff’s frame. Wrap it around once to secure it, them pass it back down to the other side.
Do this a couple times. As you work, your wire will start to look awfully bent, so every few passes, you’ll want to use your nylon pliers to smooth it back out.
I spaced mine wider than I really wanted to, but this is where practice comes into play. When you being to hone your wire wrapping skill, you will learn to better manipulate it. Or, I can only assume that’s how the pros can do such fabulous tight wrapping. I’m not there yet.
Once you’ve wrapped the width a few times, wrap your wire around one end of the frame to create space to string your second bead.
Then add it on, and continue wrapping, straightening with your nylon pliers as you go along. Very soon, you’ll probably run out of wire. That’s okay. When you get close to the end, just wrap it a few times around the frame and nip off the excess. You can add more wire there and continue where you left off. This is where NOT being a pro has its advantages – spacing the wire out like this allows you to experiment, add and subtract length, make mistakes, and cover them up. :P
Once you’ve added your second bead, I recommend moving back to the center of the bracelet and working the other way. This will help ensure that your two sides stay even. When I got over there, I had no wire at all, so I started a new strand. It worked fine for me, though people who wire wrap for a living will probably tell you that you don’t want to start multiple strands like this when you can help it.
Once you’ve placed your beads, you just want to keep wrapping back and forth, covering the frame, until you get to the ends. (This is where I discovered that I needed to square those edges.)
You’re probably starting to wonder how to reconcile places where you have too much wire, and places where you don’t have enough. We’re going to be reinforcing the whole frame of the bracelet with wrapped wire, so we will fix bare spots then. Your excess wire can just be threaded through the small gaps you’ve already made. Just keep wrapping it around the frame until you run out or until the frame doesn’t need it.
This extra round of wrapping will also hold your original wraps securely in place. Don’t be frustrated if your beads slide around a little at first – mine did too. Just make sure they are exactly where you want them when you reinforce the frame. That will hold them securely.
Once you’ve filled in all your gaps and reinforced your bracelet’s frame, all that’s left is to form it into a cuff! You should find it fairly easy to bend by hand. It should be strong enough to hold its shape once you bend it.
Overall, I do like how it turned out, though my eye is of course drawn to everything that could be just a little bit neater, just a little bit better. I’m very happy with how much I learned just by working with the wire! I’m looking forward to trying out another couple of styles to see how much more I can improve. But the cuff is gorgeous with my brown sweater, and no one else will be looking as closely as I am, anyway – so I am calling it a win all the way around. ;)