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Making Knotted Jewelry

In fine jewelry stores, you will find cultured pearls knotted on silk and finished with gold findings. I spend a lot of time on Facebook, Instagram and jewelry designer websites, and I have to say I rarely see knotted beads on these sites. The idea behind knotting is to put a knot between each pearl so that they don’t rub together. Should the strand break, you would only lose one pearl. This is a great idea and adds quite a bit of value to the finished piece. However pearls are not the only thing that you can knot.

It is almost true that you can find about anything on the Internet. That’s why I was so surprised that there were no knotting groups on Facebook. I took care of that in short order, and now you will find a group dedicated to pearl knotting here; I started this group because I hope several people will start to share how they have used knotting in their jewelry making. Probably like everybody else who bought a tool and started teaching themselves, my first pieces of work were done with pearls. But I went on to do several other different things (Figure 1).

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Figure 1
Knotting with stones

Stones can be knotted into pieces of jewelry, but the holes in stones are sometimes bigger than those in pearls, and can differ from one stone to the next. For that reason you have to use a thread that will just about fill the holes of what you’re going to use. This is so that once you make a knot, that bead is not going to move.

Silk thread comes twisted with its own needle in several different sizes. The sizes range from 0 -16, with size 16 being very thick. If you really get into pearl knotting, you may do what I did. I bought silk thread size FFF, and if the holes in stones are really large, I can double, triple, or quadruple the silk thread until I have a thickness that will fill the hole.

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Figure 2

Maybe some people don’t do much knotting because it’s not exactly an easy thing to do. If your knot gets tightened too far away from the bead by mistake, it is difficult to get the knot out without damaging the silk thread. In some cases, it would not be unusual for me to spend 15 minutes trying to loosen a knot. And sometimes, I start all over again. 

Figure 1 shows an example of a knotted piece I made for charity. It took quite some time to check the thread to make sure that it would work well with the stones that I was using. As is often the case, I had to make a choice between a thicker thread that would be a little difficult to get through the stones, or a thinner one that might produce a few knots were too small and would end up disappearing into an adjacent bead.

With large stones still being the rage in fashion, being able to knot large stones expertly can result in a piece in which you should rightfully take pride (Figure 2). The necklace here has two colors I really like together: pink and green. The simple chain mail neck strap helps keep the weight down and the necklace comfortable. Getting the cord through the crystals was difficult, and a few broke, but the knots were perfect for the large stones.

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Figure 3
Special considerations

When knotted with silk, the piece needs special care. You should not hand wash silk necklaces. If the stones are dirty they should be cleaned with a damp, soft cloth. If the silk looks like it’s weakening for whatever reason, your piece should be re-knotted. It’s for this reason that when I do knotting I do not use inexpensive materials.

One point to be made about doing knotting is that the thread is extremely important when it comes to color. Some pearls that I knotted with different thread show the different effects that you can get (Figure 3). All the pearls in this series are peacock pearls. In the first strand, I used white thread, in the second strand I used black, and in the third strand, I used cobalt blue. When doing knotting you have to realize that the knots are going to make a big difference with how your finished piece will look.
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Figure 4

I recently made a knotted necklace for a customer using high grade garnet beads. I wanted to emphasize the color of the garnets, so using garnet-colored silk made perfect sense to me (Figure 4). One of the benefits of knotting a piece, especially with silk, is the drape that you get in the necklace itself. Nothing compares.

One of the benefits of knotting a piece, especially with silk, is the drape that you get in the necklace itself. Nothing else compares. And once you get good at knotting, you can start combining it with other jewelry making techniques to make something special, like the way that I combined chain maille with knotting in the picture shown in Figure 2. 

Another way that I combined a beading technique with knotting was in a Kumihimo necklace in which the knotted pearls seem to continue through the braiding (Figure 5).

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Figure 5
Combining knotting with other techniques

Notice how in this piece, the red knots between the pink pearls match the red leaves that I used in the Kumihimo braid in the middle of the necklace. To me it looks like the pearls go into the end cap and then start rotating around the rest of the necklace and continuing up the other side of the strand. 

So if you haven’t tried to do a knotted piece, I suggest you give it some of your time as the resulting work can be quite striking. Some people can knot just with their hands, but I would rather use a tool because I make fewer mistakes that way. Anyway that you do it, knotting is a great beading technique to understand and use.

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