Wire Jewelry Idea April 18: Make Handmade Neck Cords on a Dime

By on April 18, 2012
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Wire Jewelry Idea April 18:
Make Handmade Neck Cords on a Dime

by Rose Marion, Wire-Sculpture.com

The other day, I had just made a bucketload of pendants and I was getting ready to photograph them, then either list them online or save them for a show. I wanted them all to have the same style of neck cord, but I didn’t want to go to the craft store and pick up a few dozen premade neck cords. First, it wasn’t a very economical option, and second, I do like having a bit of handmade-ness in my jewelry, even in the neck cords. I also didn’t want to go with a premade metal chain, although I’ve used them before. So I made a list of my options:

  • Steel cable memory wire
  • Silk or organza Ribbon
  • Satin cord
  • Leather or suede lace or cord
  • Wire wrapped collars

I will tell you what I went with and then I’ll tell you why I made that decision.

I went with some leather lace. I like that the leather is thick and will stand up to my 40x30mm pendants. I picked up a large hank of leather lace in Tucson this year, a great deal – although I do have to shave the rough side down with a razor blade to get a smooth finish. Just like Dale outlines in her Finished Ribbon directions, I measured how long I wanted the cord to be, folded each end over, and wrapped it snug with wire (half round and round do very well). In my necklaces, I always use a very big S hook, because I abhorr lobster claw & spring ring clasps (they hurt my fingernails!) and either side can be the clasp side (not a right or left handed design). This design is also very smooth and light on the neck.

handmade copper leather neck cord by Rose Marion

Here's the S clasp and wire wrapped leather neck cord I made for my pendants. I used 18-gauge half hard wire, toughened with a rawhide mallet, for the S clasp.

So why didn’t I choose other options?

Steel cable memory wire
This was a popular find in Tucson; although we don’t carry it on Wire-Sculpture, you can find it elsewhere online. It’s a piece of neck memory wire, usually 16 or 18″, with a plastic coating, that attaches with a magnetic clasp. I loved the one I got in Tucson for lightweight pendants, but for big 40x30mm cabochons, the clasp started digging into my neck. That’s a big clasp, about 1″ long, so I took it off! The memory wire neck wire would work well for small pendants, but not mine.

Silk or Organza Ribbon
Ribbons can display jewelry beautifully, and one advantage is you can make ribbon neck cords yourself in a rainbow of colors. When you add hand-dyed silks to that, you’ve got a sea of potential color, perfect for a special occasion. However, for everyday use, this may not be practical. After hours and hours of square wire rubbing down the edge of organza ribbon, especially if weighted down by a hefty cab, the organza may start to fray. Using a good-quality ribbon with a light pendant should be safe.

Satin Cord
Spools of satin or satin-like cord, such as for kumihimo and knotting, can be used just like a ribbon: folded, wire wrapped, and fitted with a clasp. These. The reason I didn’t use satin cord for my pendants is because mine is a polyester imitation that has kinks in it, and even after soaking and laying flat to dry overnight, it still has folds in it. I imagine real satin wouldn’t do that – does anyone know how I can flatten mine?

Wire Wrapped collars
I would sell every pendant of mine on a wire wrapped collar in a heartbeat if I could: but these collars take time and materials that I don’t expect someone to pay for with a $20 pendant. I will say: I was at a gem show this past weekend here in town, and there was a wire wrapping artist. She wasn’t the only one there, but she was the only one with handmade wire collars – and boy, the crowd around her table was thick! She had several perfectly-shaped collars, fitted for the collarbone and everything, in delicate sterling silver wire, $60 each. Worth every penny.

After looking at my options, I think you can see why I picked my handmade leather cord options. It doesn’t cost me much to make them with copper or silver-filled wire and 20″ of leather cord: maybe more than a dime, but less than 50 cents in materials. Plus, I can add an extender chain to the cord so it’s adjustable. But what’s best for me isn’t the only option.

What low-cost, touch-of-handmade cords do you like to offer your customers with the purchase of a pendant? Let me know in the comments below!

35 Comments

  1. avatar

    bonnie riconda

    April 18, 2012 at 6:15 am

    fake satin cord with kinks: since it’s a synthetic material, have you tried heat to get the kinks out? try ironing on a low setting.

    • avatar

      Rose

      April 18, 2012 at 10:34 am

      Thanks Bonnie (and all who suggested an iron!) I was afraid that it might melt or singe with ironing, but I can experiment with the low settings. I will give that a shot – Thanks!

      • avatar

        Susan Atkinson

        April 18, 2012 at 11:03 am

        Be sure to use a damp press cloth!

        • avatar

          Rose

          April 18, 2012 at 1:13 pm

          OK! Will do :)

      • avatar

        Cindi

        April 18, 2012 at 12:14 pm

        You might try putting a damp wash cloth between the cord and the iron

    • avatar

      Dolcie Crawford

      May 29, 2015 at 8:25 pm

      I used to use a lot of silk ribbon with my stitching. It loves to kink just like a lot of other blends. I found that if I spritz the ribbon with white vinegar and run it through my curling iron a couple of times, (yep, the one I use for my hair) it comes out perfect. Plus it has a bit more body and the color is more vibrant.

  2. avatar

    Cyreathia Reyer

    April 18, 2012 at 6:44 am

    I watch for the organza ribbons to go on sale and then pick up bolts of it in different colors. Then I make up some in different colors or color combinations to offer to my customers. I also make custom necklaces to match the colors in my pendants and found that if I do that, my pendants sell much faster. In my local area, it seems that pendants alone do not sell. One of my last two day shows, I had pendants out and no one looked at them. The second day, I had them on ribbon necklaces and chains and sold everyone. Go figure.

  3. avatar

    Bobbie

    April 18, 2012 at 6:58 am

    I only wrap pendants in copper, so I buy the #43 metallic copper color round leather cord from Leather Cord USA to hang them from. I use hook and eye in copper as a closure, adding a 2″ copper chain extender.

    • avatar

      Laurie

      April 18, 2012 at 10:02 am

      Bobbie,
      Thanks for the information. Leather USA is a great site.

    • avatar

      krazymate

      April 21, 2012 at 7:05 am

      thank you so much for the copper cording source.

  4. avatar

    Jeanne

    April 18, 2012 at 7:16 am

    Hi Rose,
    I had struggled with same problem with folded nylon “silk” cord packages which leave the cord creased. Instead, you can get it at a fabric store in the “by the yard” ribbon section where it comes on the long plastic oval. When you buy what you need just keep it coiled or hung in strips of different sizes. It has worked well for me. No more kinks!
    Regarding getting the kinks out – I believe you have to wash it and air it dry slightly stretched out. It works with clothes.??
    I also like leather cording. I keep spools of different size diameters to fit the need of the design.
    I’d love to know what “leather lace” is.

    • avatar

      Rose

      April 18, 2012 at 10:31 am

      Thanks Jeanne!

      Leather lace, I’ve found, is what some suppliers call flat leather cord. Think shoe”lace”es.
      Rose

  5. avatar

    Sharon

    April 18, 2012 at 7:59 am

    On your “satin” cord polyester imitation kinks-have you tried steam ironing the kinks out? Just a thought.

  6. avatar

    Sandy

    April 18, 2012 at 8:20 am

    To get the kinks out of your poly cord, try “ironing” it against a warm light bulb. Grasp it about 3 inches from each side of the kink and gently draw (and maybe roll it a little, too)the kinked part over the bulb. Don’t let it get too hot. It works with ribbon. I saw this tip somewhere, years ago, when I was crafting other things. A curling iron on low might work, as well.

    • avatar

      Rose

      April 18, 2012 at 10:35 am

      Hm! I will try that, thanks Sandy!

  7. avatar

    Dana Soderstrom

    April 18, 2012 at 8:45 am

    Hi, Rose!

    First, thank you for all you do there at W-S. You’re a great source of knowledge and encouragement.

    I do so like the look of the leather or suede for a pendant, especially if it’s a hefty one. In an emergency, like the customer “wanted something now and I don’t have any thing” kind, I once looked through my sewing kit, found a nice long pair of shoelaces. I nipped the plastic ends off, knotted the new ends and politely made it a slip-knot adjustable cord. The customer loved their new necklace, especially because I didn’t have to add a charge for the cord!

    Tip for the creases/folds in your cord. You might try ironing them on a low heat (medium if you think they won’t melt),while they are still damp.

    • avatar

      Rose

      April 18, 2012 at 10:36 am

      Shoelaces? What a great on-the-fly idea, Dana! Nice save :)

  8. avatar

    Kathy Brice

    April 18, 2012 at 8:56 am

    I specialize in making full sets of jewelry and have never done a wire wrapped pendant that was not on a matching necklace. I love the idea of using the handmade leather cords. I use a lot of suede laces in the leather bracelets that I make for granddaughter and her friends. I think those work as well but might need to be doubled to carry the weight.

  9. avatar

    Sarah S

    April 18, 2012 at 9:01 am

    For satin cord with kinks(or leather lace with kinks), I cut it about an inch longer than I need, wet it, attach a weight to one end and clip the other end up high, so that the cord and weight hang down. Binder clips work great for attaching the weight (a small back with some nice rocks in it) and for hanging. With the weight pulling on the cord as it dries, the kinks go away. I cut it long, as the binder clips may leave marks where the grip the cord, so I like to cut fresh ends.

  10. avatar

    Vannie C.

    April 18, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Very fine wire can be crocheted with your choice of hook size into an interesting chain; working loosely or tightly or a combination of loose and tight will create interesting effects.

  11. avatar

    Charlie

    April 18, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Love the info but I too would like to know exactly what leather lace is. I also enjoyed the comments by the others that responded. The info was very helpful.

    Thank you for all your efforts.

  12. avatar

    Ruth Soucek

    April 18, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Since most of my pendants are light weight, I have started using Organza Ribbon Necklaces and Steel Wire Necklaces, to keep down my cost and that of my customers as well.
    sunandmooncraftkit.com, sells them for $0.25 each in a variety of colours…..cheeper to buy them finished than investing my time in making them. My own designed link necklaces are very labor intensive.
    I reserve those for whole Gemstone Bead/designer Link Necklaces. Larger pendants I usually do incorporate into my necklaces as a focal point.
    Cereathia is right….pendants alone don’t sell very well, I figured that out pretty quickly.
    Good luck with your necklaces. Ruth

  13. avatar

    Melanie

    April 18, 2012 at 10:18 am

    regarding the kinks in the satin cord have you tried using a curling iron? It is much easier than trying to get the cord to lay flat for a regular iron – just clip the curling iron on one end – leaving a small tail to grab hold of – and pull the cord through slowly. I have used this idea and it worked pretty good.

    • avatar

      Rose

      April 18, 2012 at 10:33 am

      What a great idea!! I hadn’t thought of that, I will definitely try it! Thanks Melanie!

  14. avatar

    Patricia Peters

    April 18, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Hi Rose

    I just made a bunch of silver clay pendants for the gallery I display in, in between making renaissance clothing for the upcoming Faire season. I have a whole spool of Bodice/Corset lacing in black, and that with about a half inch fold and ten or so wraps with heavy duty thread and double knot with FrayChek, a couple of jump rings in the loops and s-hook clasps with extra silver wire and I was all set to go – about 30 min to do the 10. I always like to use up “stash” when I can.

    • avatar

      Rose

      April 18, 2012 at 10:33 am

      Great idea, Patricia!

  15. avatar

    Rebecca

    April 18, 2012 at 11:49 am

    I know some might not like premade idea, but another online supplier sells 6 packs of leather cord with a lobster clasp & 2″ extension chain in 3 lengths and various colors for around $3.00 a pack(especially when you buy a lot of items at once). Because my cost is so low (roughly 50 cents a cord), I include it free with a pendant purchase. I used to just tie a slipknot in satin cord until a customer lost her pendant (which I replaced at no cost to her. I kept a customer, but lost a few bucks! I learned my lesson). The cords I use aren’t perfect (I don’t really like lobster clasps either), but they look nice. I keep 3 colors — black, brown, and white — and the customer picks which color matches best with the stone. I love the handmade ones in this article, though! Thanks for sharing!!!

  16. avatar

    Suzanne

    April 18, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    What great ideas! Thank you all. Another thing I use to make neckchords is waxed linen chord or string. It comes in black and white. I like to crochet a length, or do a quick macrame design, add some hand made jump rings and “S” shaped sterling clasp made with left-over silver wire.

  17. avatar

    beverly bishop

    April 18, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    I do all my 30×40 wirewrapped pendants with kumihimo satin cords and they sell real well. I just match the cords to the stone and they really make a statement. I use the satin cords from satincord.com, first because it is the least expensive in the 70 yd 1mm size and the cords are well made, and there is no allergies to it like with metals. Kumihimo has become all the rage here in tucson. For myself it is very relaxing to do it while watching tv and it doesn’t take long and it is finished. Everyone needs to try it, it adds alot to pendants, bracelets, and if you add beads to it very high end. BeBeaz

    • avatar

      Jan

      April 21, 2012 at 3:49 pm

      I love Kimihimo as well. How do you finish yours to keep costs down?

  18. avatar

    Trish

    April 19, 2012 at 9:13 am

    Hi Everyone,
    I have been using a flat iron on a low to medium setting to iron lots of things! Ribbons, strips of satin, chiffon, cord, etc. Works like a charm! Just be sure to test your item first to determine your heat setting. You also don’t need the most expensive brand iron either. I picked mine up at the drug store for $15.00. (also works great around the house on drapes, shirt pleats, fringe that has kinked up, etc)

  19. avatar

    Donna Geurin

    April 21, 2012 at 6:46 am

    This is an excellent article with lots of great ideas and very helpful. I also use Greenhead decoy cord and make matching clasps and add and extender. And I must give credit to Tela Formosa for her tutorial and recommendation for this method.

  20. avatar

    Wilma Hughes

    April 21, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    I find that if I hang the pendant from something and then steam the cord that the kinks come out fine. leave it till dry. Thanks for all your info, it is also so helpful
    Wilma

  21. avatar

    Miss B

    April 22, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    Watch out for the leather cord. I to used this for a cabochon, pendant and after a couple of years it finally wore through and my very heavy wire wrapped pendant fell off. I think I’ll use silk or a wire collar next time.

    • avatar

      Rose

      April 23, 2012 at 11:29 am

      Thanks, Miss B! What a great point, I will consider the raw leather cords as a time-limited solution… thanks!

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