Pros: Clear, simple instructions; tons of photos; extremely comprehensive
Cons: Misses a few small details
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
If you want to get into beading & jewelry-making, Chris Franchetti Michaels’s Teach Yourself VISUALLY Jewelry Making & Beading is a fantastic place to start. It’s a thick book loaded with photographs, and it tackles a comprehensive spread of topics.
The first chapter, naturally, covers the issue of various beading supplies. It delves into different types, shapes, and sizes of beads; stringing materials; tools such as cutters and pliers; needles and thread conditioner; knotting tools; glues; bead reamers; bead looms; storage; hammers; needle files; mandrels; wire jigs; hand drills; jeweler’s saws; findings; etc. This is a far more extensive and thorough chapter than that in Campbell’s Getting Started Stringing Beads.
Next Michaels touches on ‘the art of design,’ or color harmony, motifs and patterns, etc. This is a very quick overview, and if you’re interested in this topic I would instead recommend the next book that I’ll be reviewing, on color for beaders, by Margie Deeb.
The chapter on basic bead stringing techniques is fantastic. It’s laid out in a very sensible order, from laying out your design to selecting a stringing material and finishing method, then stringing and finishing. A thorough chart details the common lengths for various styles and sizes of necklaces (both men’s and women’s), bracelets, and anklets, which is far more thorough than the chart in Campbell’s book. Michaels touches on some issues that Campbell neglects, such as the need for a bead reamer, the difference between ‘tiger tail’ and newer beading wires, and which diameter of beading wire you’ll need for which types of beads. (However, Campbell presents more material on knotting than Michaels does.) Simple, clear charts make it easy for you to find the information you need at a glance—such as a chart of common finishing methods used for different stringing materials. Michaels also includes basic techniques for creating beaded lace, drops, fringe, and tassels.
An entire chapter on bead weaving deals with both hand-weaving and loom weaving, and includes a handful of basic stitches and finishing techniques. Handy charts show bead size and bead size vs. thread and needle size. The chapters on wirework include selecting wire, safety with wire, making your own jump rings, eye pins, and head pins, creating drops and links, making clasps and chains, using double wire, etc. They tackle techniques for using a wire jig to design pieces as well as using a mandrel or just pliers. A handy chart helps you understand wire gauge; it includes an image of how thick the gauge is as well as a description of what it’s useful for. You’ll even learn to make wire cuff bracelets, toggle clasps, and a Byzantine chain, as well as ear wires and connectors.
Next, there’s information on knotting: beading and macrame. This is followed by chapters of both basic and intermediate projects (a handful of each, including techniques using bead-weaving, macrame, loomwork, as well as the more basic bead-stringing).
If you truly want to delve into beaded jewelry as more than just a way to make a few pieces for yourself, then I highly recommend grabbing a copy of Michaels’s book. It’s extremely valuable and highly instructional. The use of brief, clear instructions combined with a ton of tables and photographs make it a quick read that teaches you an incredible amount of material. It’s also a fantastic quick-reference book for use while making your creations.