Tutorial: Grape Cluster Earrings
It’s kind of hard to tell just yet, but the end of summer is inching closer. This is a mournful fact for me, heat-loving reptile that I am. I must thus stuff myself with all the tasty in-season fruit I can, soak up some sunshine, and pretend winter will never come.
And I’ve got the perfect earrings to do it in.
Grapes! Grapes for your ears! Want some? Let’s just dive into it, shall we?
This is what you’ll need, all of which should be available at your average chain craft store (or awesome local bead stores):
- Earring hooks. I prefer lever-back hooks- no pokey bits to stab me in the neck, and they don’t fall out when I’m dancing. The importance of this may mean I need to reasses my mad dancing skillz.
- Head pins. They’re straight bits of wire with a flat bit on the end to keep beads from falling off. If you want, you can make your own with wire- just twist a tiny little loop at the end.
- Jump rings, which are little circular bits of wire with a break in them.
- Pearls (or other beads) in your preferred grape color. Freshwater pearls are cheap and come in all sorts of dyed color varieties. I’ve seen some amazing green pearls, though I went for something more purpleish here.
- Leaf beads of some form. Mine are big and glass.
And for tools:
Wire cutters, and round-nose pliers. It may help you to have two pairs of pliers (one to hold, one to bend), but most commercial headpins are soft enough to bend with your fingers in a pinch. I also like to work on a cheap piece of felt- it keeps the beads from rolling around as much.
Hehehe, in a pinch. I slay myself.
That’s it! Now to work. I’m going to write this tutorial for the total jewelry-making novice; ie, rather than saying “make a loop”, I’m going to break loop-making down into some crazy simplified steps. The tutorial will be long, but believe me, the actual process is quick and simple. Like pie. Only easier, because I’ve never managed to make an easy pie. Seriously, where do we get those idioms?
1) Stick a pearl on a headpin.
2) Grip the wire at the top of the bead about halfway up your round nose pliers (or maybe a little less- depends on said pliers). Take note, or even mark, where you’re gripping the wire- you’ll want to grab all the other “grapes” at the same spot, so that when you bend the wire it’s the same distance on every piece.
3) Bend the wire at a 90-degree angle.
4) And change your grip on the wire. You’ll want your pliers on the opposite side of your 90-degree angle than they were before; and again, you’ll want to pay attention to where you’re holding the wire and try to hit the same spot on the pliers every time. It’ll keep all the finished grapes uniform- not something to kill yourself over, but good to aim for.
5) Wrap the wire around the pliers to make a loop. You’ll have to change your grip again halfway through, to get the end of the wire to cross over itself at the bottom of the loop. The free end of the wire and the stem of the “grape” should be at a 90 degree angle (again) when you’re finished.
6) Wrap the free end of the wire around the stem, going slowly and keeping your wraps tight (and your free end at 90 degrees- that’s what makes the wraps neat), until it butts up against the pearl bead. It helps to have a long tail on your wire at this step- I tend to buy the extra-long headpins just to make handling easier.
7) Clip the remaining tail off the wire as close to the bead as possible. You don’t want to leave a little bit out to poke you. If you can’t get as close as you want, use your pliers to bend any pointy bits in closer to the stem.
8) And you’ve made a grape! Great! Now make 19 more, for a total of 20. You’ll need 10 per earring.
9) Open a jump ring. Note to the jewelry newbies- you’ll want to grab the ring at either side of the break, and bend the ends PAST each other. You do not want to grip either side and pull them apart, distorting the whole loop- you want the ring to stay as round as possible, so you can put it back together again. See above for pictorial edification and stuff.
10) Put one bead onto the jump ring, then bend it closed again by gripping both sides of the gap and bringing the ends back together.
11) Open another jump ring, and string the first jumpring/bead combo and one more bead onto the second ring before closing it. Now you’ve got a chain of two jumprings with various beads attached- you’re going to keep adding jumprings to the chain, so don’t lose which one is your “top” ring. Add more jumprings/beads in the pattern of 1 bead, jump ring chain, 1 bead (so 2 beads per jumpring, with the chain in the middle so it doesn’t get lopsided) until you’ve used 10 beads.
Starting to look kind of grapes-ish, no?
12) Now we deal with the leaf bead. My bead has a hole through the top of the bead, and thus can be attached with a single jump ring through said hole. YMMV, though- some beads have holes running the length of the leaf, and thus will have to be strung on a headpin just like all the grapes.
13) Whatever sort of leaf bead you have, attach it to the top ring in your grape cluster. Attach your earring hook as well (some hooks you can open and close like a jump ring, some you’ll need to attach to/with a jumpring), and you’ve got one grape cluster earring! Now just make another, and you’re set: