Smaller beads in the 2-3mm range lend themselves to oodles of uses. They make cool spacers in strung designs, add visual interest in conjunction with other bead sizes, and hang beautifully when strung or knotted. And, my personal favorite, they can be wire wrapped into a chain of gemstone deliciousness.

I'm aware that I'm in the minority in my love of making my own wrapped gemstone chain. Most of my bead friends think I'm off my rocker. Their dislike of wire wrapping anything under 4mm seems to come from impatience or their perceived lack of ability.

I've spent the better part of the last five years honing my skills on tiny wraps, and I'm hoping my experience can save my fellow beaders time and  encourage any naysayers to try their hand.

Wire Gauge is Critical.
You need to consider both the hole size in the bead AND the proportion. For example, our 3mm rondelles fit up to 24 gauge wire easily, but once it's wrapped, you might be feeling like something's a bit "off". That's likely because you're seeing more wire than bead, making the metal visually outweigh the bead you were expecting to accentuate. Your technique isn't the problem, it's the wire gauge. For a 3mm bead, I prefer 26 gauge. 28 gauge also fits, and the results are more delicate. For a 2mm bead, you may find you have fewer options. Generally, I prefer to step down to a 28 gauge, but I've also used 26 gauge wire and liked the results.

Tools Matter.
We all know that some tools have better hand feel and durability, but just because a tool is great for one task does NOT make it the perfect tool for all. Tools designed for precise work will make your life easier. Lots easier. Consider, for example, that most "economy" round nose pliers have about a 1.5 diameter at the tip, mid-range generall gets you close to the 1mm mark, and higher-end brands will measure at .75mm. If you're going to wire wrap with 26 gauge or under wire, do yourself a favor and get a round nose, chain nose and cutter designed for fine work. (If you've been debating an upgrade, seriously, treat yourself. The best investment I've made is good tools.)

Patience is Key.
Most entry-level beading classes teach wire wrapping on 22 gauge wire. Why? Because it generally produces the best results for beginners and it's relatively easy to see. When you downsize your wire, it's a bit harder to see, the feel is different, and you'll need to adapt before you're as proficient as you normally are. Give yourself some grace and some time to get the feel of it. I recommend stepping down a gauge level at a time, for example, if you've never worked with 24 gauge wire before, get the feel of that down before moving on to 26 and then 28.

Got a design with itty-bitty beads you'd like to show off? We'd love to showcase your work on social media.

Shoot images my way:
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Erin, Dakota Stones

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