Gather your beads, elastic cord, scissors, and glue.
Measure your wrist, so you know what size bracelet to make. For reference, a small adult wrist is 7″ around, a medium wrist is 8″, and a large wrist is 9″.
A bracelet made from larger-diameter beads will feel tighter than the same-sized bracelet made from smaller-diameter beads, like seed beads. If you are using large beads, you may need to add a little extra length to your bracelet.
Cut the elastic to length.
I like to use a double strand of elastic to make stretch bracelets. A doubled cord gives the bracelet extra strength, so it will last for a good, long time.
Cut a length of cord that’s twice as long as your wrist measurement, plus 12 inches. In other words: measure your wrist circumference, multiply by two, and add 12 extra inches.
Remember, it’s always better to cut a piece of elastic that’s too long and trim away the excess cord later.
Prestretch the elastic cord.
Pre-stretching the elastic prevents it from stretching out over time as you wear the bracelet. Hold a four-inch length of elastic between your fingers, and stretch it out a few times. Move down the length of the cord to the next section, and repeat. Keep going until all parts of the elastic cord get stretched.
Secure the end of the cord.
Fold the cord in half, so you’re working with a doubled length of cord.
If you are using a beading needle, add it to the folded end.
Place a bead stopper or binder clip on the cord ends so that the beads don’t slide off as you string them. If you don’t have a bead stopper or binder clip, you can fold a small piece of tape around the ends of the cord.
masking tape wrapped around the ends of elastic beading cord to act as a cheap bead stopper
Lay out your beads.
Arrange the beads in order before you start to string them on the elastic cord.
I like to use an inexpensive beading tray to organize my beads. A beading tray is a small velvet-textured design board with U-shaped channels marked with inches and centimeters. Beading trays are great for keeping your beads from rolling around the table while you plan your design.
String the beads onto the cord.
If the holes of the beads are large enough, you may string them by hand. Hold the end of the cord in one hand, and use your other hand to place the beads onto the cord.
If the bead holes are smaller, you may need to use a needle to make stringing easier. Many people recommend these large-eye beading needles. If you don’t have a beading needle handy, you can fold a small piece of beading wire in half to create a makeshift beading needle.
a folded piece of jewelry wire used as a beading needle to string colorful pony beads onto elastic stretch cord
In either case, try to put the bead with the largest hole on the cord first. (Once we get to the finishing step, I’ll show you how to hide the knot by sliding it into the center of that bead.)
Keep adding beads until you have enough. Check the length periodically by wrapping the strung beads around your wrist. You don’t want it to be too tight or too loose.
Tie a knot to secure the beading cord.
Once you’ve added enough beads, knot the ends of the elastic cord together.
Remove the bead stopper and needle from the elastic cord. Carefully, bring both ends of the cord together. Place one of the free ends through the folded end. Now, you’ll tie a knot with the two free ends.
elastic cord at the end of a beaded bracelet
tying the ends of elastic cord with a surgeons knot
Instead of tying a regular overhead knot, I prefer to secure the ends of the cord with a surgeon’s knot.
Making a surgeon’s knot is easier than it sounds. It’s very similar to a square knot, except you’ll loop the ends over twice instead of once. This extra pass makes the knot more durable.
a black and white illustration diagram showing how to tie a surgeon’s knot
Make the first half of the surgeon’s knot, and pull on the ends of the cord to remove slack in the bracelet.
Hold the first half of the knot in place, and tie the second part of the knot. Pull the knot tight without letting go of the tension in the bracelet.
Secure the knot with glue.
Hold the beads away from the knot, and apply a small dab of glue to the knot.
seed bead bracelets with letter beads and a tray of rainbow colored beads and glue
For jewelry projects, I recommend using flexible, fast-drying glue, such as G-S Hypo Cement or E6000.
I don’t recommend super glue since it can be brittle when cured and abrade the elastic cord over time. For the same reasons, avoid using clear nail polish as glue (even if you see other tutorials recommending it). It may be convenient, but it won’t last long.
Hide the knot.
There are a few ways to hide the knot, so it’s doesn’t distract from the design of your finished bracelet.
Hide the knot inside a bead.
The simplest way is to slide the knot into the hole of one of the neighboring beads. This only works if the bead hole is large enough to accommodate the knot. (That’s why I told you to put the bead with the largest hole on the cord first so that it would be next to the knot.)
To do this, apply a small dab of glue to the knot. Then, while the glue is still tacky, slide the adjacent bead over the knot. Let the glue dry.
Let the glue dry before trimming the ends of the cord. Jewelry glues dry in about an hour but takes up to 24 hours to fully cure.
Once the glue has dried, gently stretch each cord end, and use small sharp scissors to trim the excess cord as close to the bead as you can.
Alternative: Hide the knot with a crimp cover.
If the knot doesn’t fit into the hole of the adjacent bead, you will need to conceal it in another way. You can hide the knot by covering it with a crimp bead cover. For this project, I suggest a 4mm or 6mm crimp cover.
Tie the knot as usual, and add a small dab of glue to secure it. Slip a crimp cover over the knot so that the knot is inside the crimp cover.
Use a pair of chain-nose pliers (or other small pliers) to squeeze the crimp cover until the edges meet and the cover is completely closed.
Once the glue has dried, trim the excess cord with scissors or flush cutters.
Note: Be careful here. We’re talking about crimp covers, not crimp beads. Don’t use a crimp bead to secure the elastic cord! If you compress a metal crimp bead on elastic, it can cut through the soft cord.
How to Make Stretchy Bracelets that Won’t Break
Here are some tips that I’ve found to make durable stretch bracelets that won’t break.
Choose a high-quality stretch cord, like Stretch Magic Cord or Opelon Stretch Fiber.
Use doubled elastic if the bead holes are large enough.
Tie the elastic with a surgeon’s knot instead of a simple overhand knot.
Secure the knot with a drop of glue, and wait for it to dry. Remember that jewelry glue takes up to 24 hours to cure completely. Ideally, you will want to until the next day to wear your new bracelet.
When you put the bracelets on, roll them onto your wrist instead of stretching them over your wrist.