A knotty problem of pearls and needles

by Mary
(Dublin, Ireland)

Getting knotted!

Getting knotted!

A friend who is a great dresser with a penchant for autumnal colours chose a strand of olive-bronze-avocado freshwater pearls from my stash to have made into a necklace. Determined to do her proud, I went in search of stranding silk and a knotting awl. My local bead shop stocked neither: awls are easily got in a hardware shop, they said. They did have a polyester non-stretching silk replacement, but advised me to use beading wire and a small seed bead to space the pearls, as they themselves do. Using the most flexible 49-strand beading wire and a small gold seed bead (the similar necklace above uses a metallic bronze seed bead which makes the necklace look considerably darker), I finished off the sumptuous pearls with a German vermeil catch which can be worn to the front. My friend's hazel eyes were enhanced by the toning necklace, she loved the smart modern look of the clasp, so she feels great when wearing it, gets many many compliments and has been a terrific advertisement for my work.

Another friend wanted a peacock pearl necklace made up for her. I was determined that this time I would master knotting. In the meantime I had acquired silk, fine needles and a Bead Knotter from an American vendor. The instructions for the Bead Knotter were far from clear, eventually after an inconclusive exchange of emails I realised that the vendor had omitted one vital step in the instructions, no wonder I was confused! But the needle, while able to take my doubled
silk thread through the small pearl hole, could not cope when put back through the hole a second time. Four broken 72-inch strands of black silk later, I crossed to the path of least resistance and again used the wire and seed bead solution. The client again was happy.

Not one to lightly abandon a challenging bit of problem solving (aka being a stubborn old stick), I determined to have another go when we went off for a sunshine break in October. With me came pearls, silk, Bead Knotter and some ultra-thin twisted wire needles that were purpose-built for the job and which I had located at Rio Grande. A few days into our holiday, out came the supplies. "Up from this table I will not get until I have licked this problem", I declared. By the end of that long frustrating day, I had it licked. Seven or eight times that day the knot slipped off and pulled itself tight a good distance away from the pearl. Only exceptional persistence got those knots worked loose enough to reposition the knot beside the pearl and tighten again. Then to my delight, I discovered the relaxing, mesmeric effect of pearl knotting. Now, alas, I am a total knot addict! I have almost abandoned my lovely semi-precious stone beads as the call of the pearls draws me to them again and again, the lustre is gorgeous but the knotting is divine!

The difference it makes to the necklaces? The wonderful soft drape that makes wearing pearls an experience of exquisite comfort!

Comments for A knotty problem of pearls and needles

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Apr 28, 2008
Nothing like silk
by: Kari


I've never used wire, but I'll take your word for it, that the necklaces turn out stiffer. I guess there is nothing like silk, although the synthetic thread works well too and is very strong.

I have your pearl strand ready to go to the mail.

I enjoyed parts of three days in Dublin last year. I enjoyed a fellow playing a Dublin Dulcimer.

I wish I had thought to visit more museums, however, as I love having photos of the antique pearl pieces.

Thanks again for contributing.


Apr 26, 2008
Reply to Kari
by: Mary

Thank you, Kari! The beading wire leaves the necklaces quite rigid, as the left photo shows. I am totally in love with the drape silk knotting gives, I have even used heavier silk thread, always doubled, on large stones too and they have draped so much better.
Mary from Dublin, Ireland

Apr 25, 2008
Gorgeous Necklaces
by: Kari

Mary, Your necklaces are gorgeous! Your persistence paid off well....that can be a lesson for all of us.

I enjoyed reading the nitty gritty details of your efforts and success.

I'll be sending you a strand of cultured oval freshwater pearls as in the photo.

Thanks so much for sharing.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Pearl Knotting.

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.