Friday, October 3, 2014

The Versatile Wrapped Loop

Those of you that are familiar with my jewelry style know that this classic link is a go-to technique of mine.  In fact, I don't think there is a piece of jewelry in my shop that doesn't have at least one wrapped loop connection!

Recent earrings featuring my new copper clay morsels and Czech glass beads connected with wrapped loops!

I remember first learning to do these a million years ago.  I had been making know, the old "bead on a headpin" style and just doing a single loop at the top, never really knowing where to cut the end and how big to create the loop.  They tended to come off the ear wires a lot...let's just say, they weren't my best work!  A fellow opera singer/jewelry maker had been mentoring me and one night in our dressing room, she showed me the wrapped loop.  It was really difficult and my initial tries were truly ugly using those same cheap, hard headpins I had been using, but I was hooked!

Fast forward through a lot of wonky, misshapen, kinked work.  I graduated to sterling silver soft wire and cut it myself to make links rather than relying on bought headpins.  Wow, what a difference! It was so much easier to make the wraps and get them to lie straight and tight.  Around this time, a friend asked me if I could repair an old broken rosary and I thought, "wow, I bet it would last a whole lot longer if I did wrapped loops instead of these single ones".  A heckuva lot of rosaries and wrapped loops later, here I am.

One of my Melismatic Rosaries with carnelian and sterling.

My recent COM piece featuring Kristi Bowman's gorgeous copper clay focal and a beaded chain of wrapped loop serpentine.
The thing about wrapping loops for rosaries or beaded chain, is that it seems like it will take forever, wrapping each of those beads until you have the right length!  It can be very monotonous and hard on your hands!  I mean, gosh, there are 53 Ave beads and 6 Pater beads in a rosary, plus the wrapped connectors/spacers!

My solution has been to do sort of an assembly line so that I do all of 1 step for all my links at a sitting.  Here is my process...a little crazy, but it works for me!  My rationale is that all of these steps require a different grip of the pliers or my hands/fingers and I can go quicker if I can do some  or all of the repetitive things at a time.

My assembly process for the COM piece.
Now, I am sure most of you know how to make a wrapped loop...I mean, there is a tutorial in almost every beading or jewelry-making book out there.  If you have a specific way that you bend the wire or form the loop or even make the wrap, they will all work with this quick assembly process I have with some tweaking.
  • Measure length of wire you need using your beads of choice.
  • Cut a couple of pieces at the measured length.  Using 1 of the cut pieces, complete an entire link.  This will ensure that you have enough wire to wrap both sides consistently, ie, same number of wraps, similar loop size, etc.  You want to have an almost exact amount.  Too much, then you have to cut off small pieces for the scrap pile.  Not enough...well, you pretty much have to start over!  I know a lot of people say work from the spool, but that sort of throws a wrench into the assembly line concept.
  • Once you are sure of your length, cut as many pieces as you will need for your project, or at least one sitting.  I use a previously cut piece to measure the next piece, so they might not be exact, but pretty close.
  • Make your 1st loop on all your pieces. You can slide a bead back on the get a feel for where you want to make that first bend.  Once you have done a few, it becomes second nature.
  • Do all the wraps on the 1st side.  For rosaries, I usually do 3 wraps and stop at one layer for a more simple, refined look.  For my beaded chain, I tend to do 2 wraps and leave wire for a 2nd layer.
  • Put beads on all looped pins
  • Do the initial loop on the opposite side.  DON'T wrap them yet! We are going to connect them by inserting the open loop through the wrapped loop of the previous bead.  If you are working with multicolored or different beads, this gives you a chance to pick and choose which one to go next and change it before the point of no return!
  • Once you are satisfied with the layout, you can go ahead and make the wraps.  I always wait until both sides have been wrapped before doing a 2nd layer on either side...the bead provides some stabilization.

  • Once you have your wraps done to your satisfaction, snip the extra wire as closely as possible.  I like to cut at an angle so the wire flattens against the other wraps and doesn't just come to an abrupt stop like flush cut wire, especially if you are using larger gauge!
  • Use your pliers to make sure there are no ends sticking out.  A huge pet peeve of mine is to see finished wrapped loops with unfinished ends!  Here is where I also take the time to make sure the loops are straight and as centered as possible on the bead. 
  • My last step, and this is just my preference, is to make sure both loops of the link are turned the same way.  This keeps the chain from kinking too much, and to me just looks more cohesive and thought out.  

Here are a few more helpful tips...
  • I mark my pliers with a sharpie to get my loops a consistent size. 
  • I use thumb and index finger of my left hand (pliers in my right) to make my wraps..sometimes with harder wire (bronze) I may have to use pliers to finish.
  • My go-to gauge for rosaries and most beaded chain in 22g. The bigger the beads, the larger the gauge of wire you should use for strength, however.
  • Obviously, if you are working in sterling, save those snips!
Here's a variation I did a few months ago with some double-hole Czech glass beads I had, or twins.  I wanted to do wrapped loop links, but use both holes.  I folded the wire in half and put each leg through a hole of the bead, then made the wrapped loop at the top.  These had to be done 1 at a time in order the insert each link in the previous loop before it was wrapped.

There you have it!  Hope you give a beaded chain with wrapped loop links a try.  Would love to see what you create :)


  1. Wow Melissa, that's alot of wrapping!! I love what you did with my Component of the Month and the Earrings and Rosary are beautiful too!

  2. I love the look of your beaded chain and gaining insight into your process was really interesting. I don't know if I'd have enough patience to do a whole rosary, but you've inspired me to at least do a little more with beaded chain. Thank you.

  3. Beautiful pieces thanks for the tips, especially the 22g.

  4. Thank you for thus wonderful tutorial! I will definitely try to perfect my technique using your tips!

  5. Your rosaries are beautiful and I love that you use wrapped loops for strength. It looks so much better that way too. Thanks for sharing your tips!

  6. Thank you very much for this. I like using wrapped links in my jewellery. My worst bit is getting the loop nice and circular. I have to stop and come back if I start getting lazy and they go pear shaped! I never thought of double wrapping the wire. I shall have to try that!

  7. I love wire wrapping. It's relaxing though my process varies from yours except for the fact that I figure out the length and cut them all at once also.

  8. Melissa, I had to come back to this post! Your instructions have totally inspired me and have finally eliminated my wire-wrapping fear! For years, I've been struggling to make nice rounded loops, 'even' wraps (tho I know 'messy' is 'in' right now!), the same number of wraps on each side of a bead...just everything about wrapping seemed to go wrong for me. Well..NOT any more, thanks to your tutorial! Something 'clicked' in my brain after I read your instructions carefully and really took full note of your pictures. I'm just thrilled and amazed...and now I can put all that wire I've been hoarding (and previously scared of) to use! Whhoooo hoooooo..really ❤️


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