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Make a Pretty Beaded Eyeglass Holder That Converts to a Necklace!

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Eyeglass chains are practical accessories, but most commercial versions are either cheaply made, generic or very expensive. Fortunately, you can design and make your own one-of-a-kind eyeglass chain that doubles as a necklace. It's as easy as stringing beads on jewelry wire and finishing both ends of the necklace with spring ring, trigger or lobster claw clasps.

These two-in-one accessories are perfect for taking on vacation—even if you don't wear prescription glasses—because you can use them to hold your sunglasses during the day and then wear them around your neck to accessorize your outfit in the evening.

This step-by-step tutorial will teach you how to design and make one of these stylish strands for yourself or as a handmade gift for someone special. There are detailed directions and photos so you can make this project successfully even if you have never tried making beaded jewelry before.

Learn to make a fashionable beaded eyeglasses leash that converts to a necklace in seconds.
Learn to make a fashionable beaded eyeglasses leash that converts to a necklace in seconds. | Source

Step-by-Step Beaded Jewelry Tutorial: How to Make a Convertible Beaded Necklace and Eyeglass Chain

Time required: Design time varies. Assembly takes approximately 15–30 minutes, depending on experience level.

Difficulty: Medium

Cost: Variable

Materials

  • 49-strand nylon coated flexible bead stringing wire (such as Soft Flex, Soft Touch, Beadalon or Accu-Flex), medium diameter (.018" or .019"), regular or colored
  • Two clamshell bead tips, preferably sterling silver, 14K gold-filled or 14K gold
  • Four thick-walled 2 mm crimp tubes, preferably sterling silver or 14K gold-filled
  • Seed beads (I used gold-plated Miyuki size 11/0 Delica beads in color 507, Pink Gold Iris)
  • Your choice of glass, crystal and metal beads and pearls in a mix of sizes, shapes, finishes and colors
    • At least four of these beads must have holes large enough for the beading wire to pass through twice
  • Two clasps—lobster claw, trigger or spring ring type
  • Sturdy open jump rings, preferably sterling silver or 14K gold-filled
  • A matching closed jump ring (i.e., one with a soldered closed seam)
  • Two eyeglass holder ends (AKA eyeglass chain findings)

Tools

  • Flocked bead board with one or more curved channels for designing necklaces
  • Measuring tape
  • Wire pearl reamer (if using pearls)
  • Flush cutter, side cutter or wire nipper designed to be used with nylon-coated 49-strand stainless steel beading wire
    • (Tip: a straight or slanted toenail clipper makes a great, cheap wire cutter)
  • Crimping pliers (designed to work with 2 mm crimp tubes)
  • Round-nose pliers
  • Two pairs of chain-nose pliers, two pairs of flat-nose pliers or one pair of each type

If you don't already own most of these jewelry making tools I highly recommend the 9-piece Beadsmith deluxe jewelry pliers tool kit with case, which includes four of the tools you need for this project as well as five other essential beading tools for much less than it would cost you to purchase them individually. Most of them also have ergonomic handles that make them more comfortable to use and cause less strain on your hands.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Cut the Beading Wire to Length

Decide how long you want the finished strand to be. Add 4 inches to the desired finished length and cut a piece of beading wire to that measurement using a suitable wire cutter or toenail clipper to cut the wire at a 45-degree angle. (For example, for a 17-inch long finished beaded strand you should cut a 21-inch long piece of wire.) Angling the wire end makes it easier to thread on small-holed beads. Important: Do not use a cutter designed to be used with soft wire; the beading wire will damage the jaws of the cutter! Set the trimmed wire aside.

Lay the edge of the measuring tape into the curved channel in the flocked bead board to see which marks on the left and right of the board correspond to the desired finished length.

Tip: While it is possible to design your convertible necklace/eyeglasses chain on a bead board with a long, straight channel, it is much easier to visualize how it will look as a necklace if you design it in a curved channel.

Measuring the beading wire
Measuring the beading wire | Source

Step 2: Design Your Convertible Eyeglass Chain/Necklace

This is the most fun—and challenging—part of this project. Set out the beads you have chosen on a flocked bead board along with the jewelry findings (i.e., the bead tips, crimp tubes, jump rings and eyeglass holder ends). Choose a bead slightly larger than the rest to serve as the focal bead when the beaded strand is worn as a necklace. This bead also will add visual interest at the back when the strand is worn as an eyeglass chain or worn backwards as a necklace according to the current "reverse necklace" fashion trend (sometimes called backward necklace or back necklace).

Place your focal bead in the center position on your flocked beading board, as shown in the photo below. As you'll see, I picked out three possible focal beads for my strand and eventually chose the subtly patterned, twisted glass vintage bead as my focal.

Selected beads on a flocked bead design board
Selected beads on a flocked bead design board | Source

I usually create my design by starting with a framework of bead stations—clusters of three to five beads in a symmetrical pattern that are spaced out around the lowest curved channel of the bead board (see the photo below).

Planning out the main design elements for the beaded eyeglass holder / necklace
Planning out the main design elements for the beaded eyeglass holder / necklace | Source

Then fill in the spaces between the stations (clusters) with small and/or slender beads. I often use short or long bugle beads or stacks of 5 to 12 seed beads in between the larger bead stations. This creates a pleasing visual "rhythm" and helps keep the eyeglass chain from becoming too heavy and uncomfortable.

Test fit each bead to make sure the hole is wide enough to slide onto the beading wire. If you are using pearls, which often have small holes, use a twisted wire pearl reamer to slowly and gently enlarge each hole from both sides.

Select and reserve four beads with holes large enough to fit over two beading wires.

Filling in with spacer beads between the bead clusters
Filling in with spacer beads between the bead clusters | Source

Step 3: Add a Clamshell Bead Tip Onto One End of the Beading Wire

When you are pleased with your bead design layout and it is a little shorter than you want the finished convertible eyeglass chain necklace to be, it's time to finish one end of the strand.

Start by threading a clamshell bead tip onto one end of the wire. Make sure the opening of the clamshell faces outward and leave a short tail about 1.5 inches long. Thread a small seed bead (I used a size 11/0 Miyuki Delica bead) onto the wire. Take care not to let it slide all the way down into the open "mouth" of the clamshell bead tip. Bend the end of the wire back on itself and thread it back through the opening at the base of the clamshell tip as shown below.

Feeding the wire and a stopper bead through the first clamshell bead tip
Feeding the wire and a stopper bead through the first clamshell bead tip | Source

Hold the clamshell bead tip and the short wire tail with the fingers of one hand. Use your other hand to pull the remainder of the wire, snugging the seed bead down into the bottom of the open clamshell as shown and shortening the wire tail to about 1 inch long.

Gradually pinch the clamshell tip closed around the seed bead, making sure both halves stay perfectly aligned until the edges meet.

Snugging the clamshell bead tip before gently pinching the halves closed
Snugging the clamshell bead tip before gently pinching the halves closed | Source

Step 4: Add the First Crimp Tube

Thread one of the crimp tubes onto the long end of the wire and push it down to the other end of the strand, sliding it over both the long main wire and the short wire so it is snug against the closed clamshell tip. Separate the wires and hold them wide apart with your non-dominant hand as shown in the photo below.

Threading on the first crimp tube
Threading on the first crimp tube | Source

Pick up the crimping pliers in your dominant hand. The jaws have two notches known as crimping stations. I will call the round notch closest to the tip of the jaws the "rounding notch" and the notch closest to the handles the "crimping notch." Note that the crimping notch has a center "tooth" that will create the channels in the crimp tube.

How crimping pliers work - the notch with the "tooth" separates the two strands of beading wire; the other notch folds over and rounds the bead crimp.
How crimping pliers work - the notch with the "tooth" separates the two strands of beading wire; the other notch folds over and rounds the bead crimp. | Source

Open the crimping pliers and center the crimp tube inside the crimping notch. The tooth should be centered between the two wires. Squeeze the pliers gently to crimp the tube.

Important: Use just enough pressure to create the two channels for the wires and to hold the crimp tube in place so it can't slide. If you squeeze too hard you will deform the thin metal and weaken the crimp.

Squeezing the crimp tube around the two wires
Squeezing the crimp tube around the two wires | Source

This creates a crease in the center of one side of the crimp tube, dividing the tube into two channels with one wire inside each channel.

The photo below shows what the crimp tube should look like after it has been crimped. You can see the wires are well separated, each in its own channel of the crimped tube.

The crimped tube
The crimped tube | Source

Remove and carefully reposition the crimped tube in the rounding notch of the crimping pliers (the one without the tooth).

It is very important to keep the crease of the crimped tube centered between the jaws of the crimping pliers and facing outward, as shown in the photo below.

Squeeze the crimping pliers gently to fold and round the crimped tube.

Rounding the crimped tube
Rounding the crimped tube | Source

Step 5: Add a Large-Holed Spacer Bead and Another Crimp

Thread one of the four large-hole beads you reserved onto the wire, followed by another crimp tube. Slide them both down until they are next to the tube you just crimped, making sure they go over both the short and long ends of the wire near the finished crimp.

Crimp the tube, holding the wires far apart in your non-dominant hand as before. Then round the crimped tube.

Note: Although it is not essential to add a second crimp I highly recommend it. The second crimp serves as a backup so the beads will not fall off the wire (and possibly be lost) if the first crimp ever loosens.

Threading the first bead and the second crimp
Threading the first bead and the second crimp | Source

Step 6: Trim the Beading Wire

Thread on a second large-holed bead and snug it up next to the second crimp. Use the flush cutters or wire nippers to trim the wire tail as close as possible to the new bead.

Trimming the wire tail
Trimming the wire tail | Source

Step 7: String the Remaining Beads, Crimp Tubes, and Clamshell Bead Tip

Thread on the rest of the beads onto the wire in the order you laid them out on the flocked bead board.

Threading the rest of the beads on the wire
Threading the rest of the beads on the wire | Source

After all the beads have been strung, other than the two remaining large-hole beads you reserved, thread the following onto the wire in the order listed:

  • The third large-hole bead
  • The third crimp tube
  • The last large-hole bead
  • The last crimp tube
  • The other clamshell bead tip
  • A seed bead

Threading the crimp tubes, beads and clamshell bead tip on the other end of the wire
Threading the crimp tubes, beads and clamshell bead tip on the other end of the wire | Source

Step 8: Close the Clamshell and Trim the Wire

Thread the end of the beading wire back through the clamshell bead tip, the two crimp tubes and the two large-hole beads as shown below.

Threading the wire back through the crimp tubes and beads
Threading the wire back through the crimp tubes and beads | Source

Slide the beads down snugly and pull the wire tail a bit. Re-snug the beads and pull the tail a bit more. Repeat until the seed bead is snugged against the fold inside the clamshell tip, leaving just a bit of slack on either side of the crimp tubes.

Note: A small amount of slack in the finished strand is necessary to allow it to drape nicely. Too much slack will leave obvious gaps between the crimps and the rest of the beads, which will look unprofessional.

Snugging the wire against the clamshell tip
Snugging the wire against the clamshell tip | Source

Gently pinch the clamshell bead tip closed. Then crimp both tubes.

Note: It is more difficult to keep the wires separated inside the crimp tubes on this end of the strand because there is only a small amount of slack beneath each tube. Just do your best. It gets easier with practice.

The closed clamshell tip and crimped (but not yet rounded) crimp tubes
The closed clamshell tip and crimped (but not yet rounded) crimp tubes | Source

Round both crimps in the rounding notch of the crimping pliers.

Rounding the last bead crimp tubes in the crimping pliers
Rounding the last bead crimp tubes in the crimping pliers | Source

Trim the wire tail as close as possible to the third large-hole bead (the one that is not next to the clamshell bead tip).

Trimming the wire tail closely
Trimming the wire tail closely | Source

Step 9: Attach the Clasps to the Bead Tips

There is a short, flat area at the very end of the hook at the top of each clamshell bead tip. Grasp just this small, flat end with the very tips of the round-nose pliers and curve it under slightly. This will make it easier to attach the clasp.

Curving the end of the hook on the clamshell bead tip
Curving the end of the hook on the clamshell bead tip | Source

Slip a lobster claw, trigger or spring ring clasp over this curved hook. Use the round-nose pliers to gradually continue curving the hook around and underneath the loop.

Attach the other clasp to the other bead tip.

Tip: If the attachment loop on the clasp is too small to allow the clasp to move freely, you can use a jump ring to connect the loop to the clamshell bead tip.

Attaching the lobster claw clasps
Attaching the lobster claw clasps | Source

Step 10: Make the Eyeglass Holder Adapters

Open two jump rings. Slide the loop or an eyeglass holder end finding onto each jump ring.

Close the jump rings, making sure the two sides are aligned and there is no gap at the seam where they meet.

Eyeglass holder ends attached to jump rings. The jump ring on the right has been attached to the chain with one of the lobster claw clasps.
Eyeglass holder ends attached to jump rings. The jump ring on the right has been attached to the chain with one of the lobster claw clasps. | Source

How to Wear the Strand as an Eyeglasses Chain

To wear the beaded necklace as an eyeglasses leash, hook each clasp onto the jump ring on one of the eyeglass holder adapters.

The beaded necklace clasped to the eyeglass holder ends (adapters)
The beaded necklace clasped to the eyeglass holder ends (adapters) | Source
Eyeglasses attached to the finished beaded chain
Eyeglasses attached to the finished beaded chain | Source
The finished beaded eyeglass chain displayed with glasses on a mannequin
The finished beaded eyeglass chain displayed with glasses on a mannequin | Source

How to Wear the Beaded Strand As a Necklace

If the necklace is attached to the eyeglass holder adapters, open both clasps and remove the eyeglass holders.

Hook both clasps to opposite sides of the closed jump ring.

Attach the clasps to the closed jump ring to wear the strand as a beaded necklace
Attach the clasps to the closed jump ring to wear the strand as a beaded necklace | Source

Make the Necklace Length Adjustable With an Optional Extender

I suggest making your beaded strand 18–20 inches long, including the removable connecting jump ring and both clasps. You can make a simple extender chain that allows the wearer to adjust the length for even more versatility.

To Make a Necklace Extender Chain:

  1. Choose a chain with open links that one of the clasps can hook into easily.
  2. Cut the chain to the desired length. I usually make my extenders 1.5 to 2 inches long. Be sure to use a cutter that is suitable for the chain's gauge and type of metal.
  3. Add a decorative beaded dangle to one end of the chain.
    If you don't know how to make a beaded drop, you'll find clear instructions in my Romantic "Queen of Hearts" Beaded Earrings tutorial.
  4. Add a jump ring to the other end of the chain.

To make the beaded strand into a longer necklace, attach the jump ring end of the extender to one of the clasps. Then hook the other clasp into any opening in the chain to adjust the length as desired.

Beaded eyeglass chain worn as a necklace
Beaded eyeglass chain worn as a necklace | Source

Have You Ever Designed a Piece of Beaded Jewelry Before?

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© 2014 Margaret Schindel

More by this Author


Do You Like This 2-in-1 Jewelry Project? Do You Think You Might Try It? 39 comments

ecogranny profile image

ecogranny 18 months ago from San Francisco

Margaret, that really is lovely. I'm not a jewelry maker myself and no longer have the eyesight or steady hands to attempt it, but I will pass this along to my FB and Twitter friends. I know a few who might love to make this chain.


petapiper2 20 months ago

Full marks for the best laid out, most informative, fully descriptive tutorial ever.


SusanDeppner profile image

SusanDeppner 20 months ago from Arkansas USA

What a beautiful piece of jewelry, a wonderful idea, and a fabulous tutorial!


Lady Lorelei profile image

Lady Lorelei 20 months ago from Canada

I often pick up bags of old beaded necklaces at garage sales and thrift stores but I would never have thought to re-purpose it into an eyeglass holder. What a very helpful idea. Love it girl. You truly are the queen of the crafting bead.


Sylvestermouse profile image

Sylvestermouse 20 months ago from United States

What a beautiful eyeglasses leash! The idea that it will convert to a necklace is truly awesome! I need to make one of these for my mom. She would love it and she has to have reading glasses. She is constantly searching for where she last had them too. This piece would be a great solution!


Virginia Allain profile image

Virginia Allain 2 years ago from Central Florida

What a marvelous tutorial. Very well illustrated.


savateuse profile image

savateuse 2 years ago

I really like the idea of an eyeglass chain that converts to a necklace!


Brite-Ideas profile image

Brite-Ideas 2 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Looks great here Margaret, I've never used these leash necklaces, but wow they sure are pretty aren't they!


NellyWerff profile image

NellyWerff 2 years ago from The Netherlands

Thank you, very instructive and such a good idea. I have glasses and such a beaded chain is way nicer than the store bought ones!


norma-holt profile image

norma-holt 2 years ago

What a great idea. I am sure I would love one of these. Well done.


tcaldy 2 years ago

Love this! I need to make one for my own glasses.


clouda9 lm profile image

clouda9 lm 2 years ago

I have a paracord lanyard on my glasses right now... this beaded chain is definitely a lot prettier. Thanks for the detailed instructions.


Arachnea profile image

Arachnea 2 years ago from Texas USA

Since I think I'll be switching from trifocals to a pair of different script lenses, this seemed like a fun idea. Very easy to follow instructions, too!


happynutritionist 2 years ago

Isn't this fun! My mother and sister switch back and forth between reading and distance glasses so need these.


esmonaco profile image

esmonaco 2 years ago from Lakewood New York

You do such creative work and your instructions are great step-by-step, Thanks for sharing you knowledge :)


Margaret Schindel profile image

Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts Author

@gtkamo: Hi again! Please see my reply to your previous question. :)


Margaret Schindel profile image

Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts Author

@gtkamo: Hi! Your convertible eyeglass chain / necklace design will be different than mine (among other reasons because I used some rare vintage beads in mine). But to give you a rough idea of scale, the green oval pearls were about 6x9 mm, the small round gold-filled beads were 3 mm, the tiny cylindrical seed beads were size 11/0 Delica beads, and the matte iridescent long tube beads were about 15 mm long. Don't worry too much about the specific size of the beads; I've made some gorgeous convertible eyeglass leashes / necklaces with beads on a much larger scale. If you can, go to a bead store where you can pick out different beads and try playing around with different combinations to find ones that will look good together. Be sure to include some larger ones for the focal bead and as the centers of your "bead stations", and then fill in with smaller beads in between. I hope that helps! :)


vinita11233 2 years ago

nice idea. I never thought of doing this. Thanks for this lens :)


gtkamo 2 years ago

Bead-confusion...So lost as to what size beads to use. Would you mind sharing what sizes you used in this sample


gtkamo 2 years ago

Thank you so much for showing detailed information. You have given me the courage that I think I may even be able to make this. I'm so overwhelmed by bead sizing; what size beads did you use?


maandgmendoza 2 years ago

at last i found this site..i could start making eyeglasses chains for our grand alumni homecoming..thank you so much.


smine27 profile image

smine27 2 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

I'm always impressed by your creativity. What a great way to dress up everyday items.


favored profile image

favored 2 years ago from USA

I could use this with as many times as I put down my glasses. So pretty, and it can match a number of outfits. Way to go making the front page as well.


Radgrl profile image

Radgrl 2 years ago

Very nice.


SusanDeppner profile image

SusanDeppner 2 years ago from Arkansas USA

Pretty, pretty, practical project! :)


anonymous 2 years ago

A very detailed step by step lens! You have done well to explain everything in such great detail.


Heidi Vincent profile image

Heidi Vincent 2 years ago from GRENADA

Lovely tutorial, MSchindel, and a very stylish outcome with 2 very good uses!


acreativethinker 2 years ago

These are so beautiful and a great idea for keeping track of your glasses. Thanks for sharing and have a great day! Take care. :)


Diana Wenzel profile image

Diana Wenzel 2 years ago from Colorado

Fantabulous! Love your perspective that everyday utilitarian things don't need to be plain or ugly. Why, those are the things we see and use the most. They should be the loveliest things in our world. Beautiful eyeglass jewelry. Excellent presentation and tutorial. Love your creative designs.


Craftymarie profile image

Craftymarie 2 years ago

I wear my glasses on a cord around my neck - I used to prop them on my head but I'd take them off and forget where I put them! I do love this idea and a beaded design would look so much nicer than a plain black cord. Never even thought to do this and it is a great tutorial thank you.


kislanyk profile image

kislanyk 2 years ago from Cyprus

Saw this lens on the front page and was not surprised to see your name written below it :) A wonderful and easy tutorial that can actually get people into beading. Love it!


Pam Irie profile image

Pam Irie 2 years ago from Land of Aloha

What a beautiful piece. Your tutorial is outstanding!


Ruthi 2 years ago

I love the fact that the eyeglass leash is easily convertible into a necklace! Yes, functional and fantabulous!


Brite-Ideas profile image

Brite-Ideas 2 years ago from Toronto, Canada

You are incredibly talented and for anyone who wanted to tackle this on their own, you've provided clear, concise, and very easy to follow instructions - and the chain is gorgeous!


Jerzimom profile image

Jerzimom 2 years ago from Ladysmith, WI

I love this. I wear glasses so these eyeglass leash are nice. Great tutorial!


Nancy Hardin profile image

Nancy Hardin 2 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

Your jewelry work is incredible, and so is this lens. Wonderful job on the step-by-step photos. I've not seen anybody who does it better!


LiteraryMind profile image

LiteraryMind 2 years ago from Connecticut, USA

This is a great gift idea.


David Stone1 profile image

David Stone1 2 years ago from New York City

Wow. Margaret, you've done it again - a detailed, beautifully written peace that will make it easy for a lot of us to make something beautiful.


Merrci profile image

Merrci 2 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

Great how to! It looks so pretty and is so practical!

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