Thursday, July 28, 2011

Charms are Wild article without pictures

I can't get the pdf on here without doing all sorts of things so I just copied and pasted the article I wrote a long time ago. The pictures did not transfer over. If you want the whole thing, just email or message me and I will send you the .pdf. I am hoping that this will encourage people to join my charm swap for Create Art Retreat Chicago in August. Have fun.

Charms are Wild

by Belinda Spiwak

I am wild about charms! I love charms made from yardstick pieces, game pieces, Scrabble tiles, domino pieces, fishing swivels, and safety pins, washers, wire, and leftover quiltie sandwiches. Charms come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and materials. They don’t have to be made from precious metals or even be valuable. They can be made of vintage materials, from hardware odd and ends, or even from sewing leftovers. The best charms are the ones that look great on your charm bracelet, earrings, or necklace. The charm’s value depends on how much it means to you.

There is something about the tinkle of a charm bracelet that I can’t resist. My 6th graders can hear when I am walking down the hall even before they can see me by the tinkle of the charm bracelets on my wrist. I never tire of looking at the different charms on each of my bracelets. I can sit for hours on end making individual charms and then making unique pieces of jewelry with them.

Like I mentioned before, you can use a lot of different materials to make charms. I have a tendency to mix every day objects with altered charms to my charm jewelry. I love to use things that I find at home such project leftovers. I root around the basement, garage, tool boxes, tackle boxes, and drawers for things to repurpose as charms. Even small items such as buttons, washers, and safety pins can make great charms. You can even use your leftover quilting scraps and sewing machine to make charms. Don’t dismiss something until you see it as part of an entire piece. What might not look so great by itself might look great as part of something else.

There is something about assemblage that speaks to me. I love to sit while watching TV and put things together. I can sit for hours on end and put charms together. I like to mix bits and pieces that I have bought here and there with charms that I have made myself. I love to take apart old pieces of costume jewelry that I buy from antique or second hand stores and turn them into my own creations. I will go to jewelry shows to buy strands of beads and metal spacers for my own jewelry pieces.

You don’t have to buy a lot of supplies to make your own charms. You probably have a lot of things at home that you can use right now. Root around and you will be surprised what you can find. Think outside your usual box. Look in old toy boxes. Parts of board games and dolls make great charms. Look in the bottom of your sewing box. Take a look in your junk drawer. Clean out the garage boxes and tool boxes. Have your kids search for pencil stubs hiding in obscure corners of your house. “Borrow” some of those fishing lures and swivels. Inventory your jewelry box. Take apart any old costume jewelry you no longer wear and turn it into something new and funky. Do some innovative twisting and hammering with wire. Turn big quilt scraps into small quiltie charms.

The most important thing about charms is its wearability. A charm should be made a durable material. It should not be so fragile that it cannot be worn on a regular basis. It should not have sharp corners. There should be no barbs so it does not catch on your clothes. The edges should smooth so you don’t get stabbed. The jump rings should be secure. The size should be 1 ½” or smaller. There should be alternating shorter and longer charms on the bracelet for more visual appeal. As you are putting your charm bracelet together, try it on periodically to make sure it is falls correctly. If the charm is stiffer and does not sit correctly, you might want to add on another jump ring so the charm will fall flatter on your wrist. Make sure the bracelet is comfortable. The charms add some weight and can make the bracelet feel a bit smaller. You should be able to easily clasp your bracelet and it should easily sit on your wrist with a little “give” so the charms can tinkle. Don’t put as many charms near the clasp as the rest of the bracelet so you can find and use the clasp more easily.

Another important thing about charms is the jump ring. Sometimes size does matter! You don’t want the jump ring to be too small. If your jump ring is not secure, you risk losing the charm from your charm bracelet. Remember to move one end of the jump ring towards you and one end away from you when opening the jump ring. Do the reverse when closing. Never pull the jump ring apart or it will not close properly. You should see no gaps or space between the two ends of the jump ring. If the jump ring is rather stiff, use a pair of chain nose pliers to open the jump ring. Use smooth jaw pliers (no ridges on the jaws) or you will get scratches on your jump ring. You will need to consider the width of your charm with the size of the jump ring you are using. The size of your jump ring needs to be big enough to get through the hole of your charm plus hook onto your chain. If needed, use another jump ring to hook your charm onto the bracelet chain. Common jump ring sizes are 4mm-10mm. TIP: Jump ring wire diameters can be different. Pay attention to that because you do not want your jump ring to be too fat for your charm hole. Also, once a jump ring loses its shape, it is difficult to get it back to its original shape. It is easier to use a new one rather than spend time trying to reshape a warped jump ring.

So, in conclusion, charms can be made from many different materials. You can do a lot from recycled, repurposed, and every day materials. And, size does matter! You don’t want your charms to be too big or it will flop around on your wrist. You want to have alternating longer and shorter charms on your charm bracelet. You don’t want to overcrowd your charm bracelet. Just remember that your charms and charm bracelet should be fun and that your charm bracelet should have plenty of “tinkle”.

(Individual instructions for charms on separate pages to follow.)

Instructions for text bead:

Supply list:

Pottery bead or any oblong bead

Book text

Tim Holtz Distress Ink or Quilting Arts website

Gel medium

Paint Brush

Wax paper


  1. Tear strips of book text into thin strips shorter than length of bead about 1-1 ½” long.
  2. Edge strips of text with Distress Ink. Let text dry.
  3. Use paint brush or finger and apply thin coat of gel medium to the bead. Roll the text around the bead. Apply a coat of gel medium on top of the text. Lay on wax paper to dry. Let dry completely.

Beaded charms

Supply list:

Head pins

Safety pins

Fishing Swivel pins

Various beads

Liquid glue – clear drying

Round nose pliers

Cutting pliers

Head pin charms: Assemble beads on head pin. Cut off excess wire. Use round nose pliers and make eye at end for jump ring.

Safety pin charms – Open safety pin and place some beads on pin. Put some clear drying glue on tip of safety pin before closing. This will prevent pin from opening when on bracelet. Let dry.

Swivel pins – Open swivel pin and place beads on swivel pin. Place glue on tip of pin before closing.

Mini Domino Charms

Supply list:

Mini dominoes

Ground Coffee


Teesha Moore stamp

Permanent ink black stamp

Dremel Drill or similar drill

1/16 drill bit

Drill press, piece of scrap wood, or hard cover book


  1. Drill a hole near the top of the mini domino for the jump ring. Drill the hole near the top as close as possible or the jump ring will not be able to go through. If you do not own a drill press, use a piece of scrap wood or an old hard cover book that you don’t mind having holes in.
  2. Take a small pot, place mini dominoes in the pot. Cover the pot with cold water. Place several spoonfuls of ground coffee into the pot. Let boil and then simmer for half hour. Let sit for an hour. Drain and let sit for overnight. Tip: You can try this with herbal teas such as passion fruit or raspberry for a purple or raspberry color.
  3. Drain the coffee grounds from the pot. Wash the coffee grounds from the dominoes. Dry dominoes with towel and let dry completely. Uneven coloring is a bonus.
  4. Select an area of a stamp that you like, ink with permanent ink. Stamp the blank side of the mini domino with it. Let dry completely. Repeat with all of the mini dominoes. No need to seal or spray if using permanent ink. Color, if desired.

Pencil charms

Supply list:


Manual pencil sharpener

Flush cutting pliers

Round nose pliers

Clear liquid glue

20 gauge wire

Dremel drill or similar drill

1/16 drill bit

Drill press, scrap wood, or hard cover book


1. Take a pencil and use a pair of flush cutters to cut into it in a circle. You want to do it about 1.5'-2" from the metal end of the pencil. Basically, you want to cut off the rest of the pencil. Take the flush cutters or the cutting part of a pair of pliers and cut into the pencil where you want to break. Just go around the pencil in a circle using the pliers. You don't have to go all the way through. The pencil is soft enough that it will break in two, if you give it a start. If it is too long then, you might want to break off more or you can always just sharpen it more later. I just eyeball how long it should be.

2. Once the pencil is broken off where you want it to, you will need to sharpen it a bit. You don't want it too sharp or you might stab yourself when wearing it. I sharpen it just a bit until a see a little bit of graphite poke through. If you get it too sharp, you can break off the tip with the flush cutters or scribble a bit on a piece of scrap paper. I have found that electric sharpeners don't usually work here. The sharpener is too far away from the opening and I can't get it to sharpen. The ferrule gets in the way or the pencil goes in too far. The manual sharpeners work much better. I use the kiddie sharpeners that they sell in my school store and they work great. Makes my thumb kinda sore after awhile though.

3. Once you get the pencil sharpened and short, it is time to drill. The metal band of the pencil is called the ferrule. The little indentations of the ferrule will be what you will be drilling through. I usually use the 1/16” bit to drill through the pencil. You want to go all the way through the end of the indentation to the other. Hold the pencil firmly and drill through the metal part of the pencil. If you don’t have a drill press, use a piece of scrap wood or hard cover book underneath the pencil.

4. Cut a piece of 20 gauge wire about 5-6” long and push it through the hole you just made so it goes halfway through the hole. Use the round nose pliers and twist the wire together tightly together at the base of the eraser. Use of end of the wire and create an eye. Wrap one end of the wire and twist it around the eye. Wrap the eye end of the eye around the eye a couple of times. Cut off excess.

5. Tip of pencil should not be too sharp so you don’t stab yourself. Use cutting pliers to take end off or use scrap paper to dull end. Dip graphite end in clear drying liquid glue. Shake off excess and let dry. This will prevent the pencil from accidentally marking your clothes when wearing it as a charm.

Quiltie Charms

Supply List:

Quilt sandwich – fabric, batting, and fabric sewn together

Rotary cutter

Metal ruler

Cutting mat

Sewing machine

Multi-colored thread

Eyelet setter

1/8” eyelets


Flower sequins

Seed bead



  1. Randomly sew scrap pieces of scrap quilt sandwiches together.
  2. Cut the quilt sandwiches into 1.5-2” pieces.
  3. On the sewing machine, you can use a straight or zigzag stitch. Sew an outside border about 1” big. It does not have to be straight to make it a bit interesting. The overall size should be about an inch.
  4. Cut the excess fabric off from the outside border of where you have sewn. Be careful not to cut off where you anywhere you have sewn. Trim all excess threads.
  5. Pick a corner, punch and hole, and set the eyelet.
  6. Put a dot of glue in the middle of your quiltie charm and put your flower sequin on top. Press down gently with your finger. Repeat with all your quiltie charms. Let dry.
  7. Put a drop of glue in the middle of your flower sequins. Drop a seed bead in the middle of the sequin. Repeat with all the flower sequins. Let dry.

Scrabble Tile and Mah Jong Tile charms

Supply List:

Scrabble tile

mah jong tiles

Dremel drill or similar drill

1/16” drill bit

drill press, scrap piece of wood, or hard cover book

Brilliance or similar pigment ink pad

heat gun

Artgirlz stamps

Permanent black ink stamp pad

Gold or silver paint pen

Spray sealer


  1. Take the drill and drill a hole near the top of the tile. Make sure you drill the hole in the right spot and not upside down!
  2. Take a light colored Brilliance pad and press the blank side of the tile into the Brilliance pad. You can press the entire tile or just part of the tile into the Brilliance pad.
  3. Heat set the tile until you see the color begin to become matte.
  4. Repeat with different colors until the tile is covered. Heat set in between colors.
  5. Select a rubber stamp image. Ink image with black ink and press tile into stamp. Lift off and heat set.
  6. Go over edges of tile with paint pen.
  7. Use a spray sealer on the tiles in a well ventilated area. Let tiles sit in ventilated area until smell dissipates.
  8. Attach jump ring to tile charm.

Wire Squiggle Charms

Supply List:

16 gauge wire

Flush cutting pliers

Round nose pliers

2o gauge wire


Bench block and mat


  1. Cut a 4-5” section of 16 gauge wire and make a closed loop at one end of the wire.
  2. Turn the wire around and loop the wire around the round nose pliers.
  3. Keep looping the wire around the round nose pliers until you are near the end.
  4. When you are near the end, make another closed loop.
  5. Take the hammer and work harden the wire. To work harden the wire, you hammer the wire flat. If the loop end of the wire opens up, use the round nose pliers to close it again.
  6. If desired, cut a 5-6” section of contrasting colored 20 gauge wire and wrap it around one of the loops of the hammered 16 gauge wire loops. Use the pliers to flatten the wire ends so that you don’t have any sharp barbs. Use flush cutters to cut off any excess. You don’t have to wrap wire around the entire squiggle – just around a small section.

Yardstick charms

Supply list:

*Foldable yardstick –found at any hardware store or online

*Important – Don’t get the yardsticks that have the piece of metal that runs through the length of it.

Dremel Drill or similar Drill

1/16” drill bit

Cutting attachment

Sanding or grinding attachment

Drill press, scrap wood, or hard cover book

Table vise

Chain nose pliers

Jump rings


  1. Use the Dremel and cut the yard stick into long pieces. Cut the yardstick off where the joints meet. Discard the joints or save for another project. You can clamp the yardstick into the vise to cut it into smaller pieces.
  2. Cut the yardstick pieces into even smaller pieces than before. You can also cut the pieces into smaller pieces lengthwise. If you are not comfortable using the cutting attachment, you can use a table vise and clamp the yardstick piece to it before cutting it into smaller pieces than before.
  3. The pieces that you have cut will have some sharp edges. Use the sanding or grinding attachment and smooth down the sharp edges.
  4. Change to the drill bit and drill a hole near the edge in all your charm pieces. You can drill more than one hole in each piece if you want to attach additional items. Make sure you do this on a drill press or into a piece of wood or old hard cover book so you don’t accidentally put holes into something you don’t want to put holes into!
  5. Add a jump ring to your yardstick charm.

1 comment:

Rhea said...

Great info! I emailed you about the charm swap at Create (and this article), but have not heard back from you yet. I will be bringing my charms and crossing by fingers. I just posted images of my charms on my blog. :) Cheers!