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Leitara earrings

Play with shape, size, and texture, and use up leftover beads, with these “ladder” earrings

“Leitara” is the Old High German word for ladder; the name was inspired by my many visits to Mader’s, a German restaurant, while teaching at the Bead&Button Show in Milwaukee. Learn how to use 20-gauge half-hard wire to make a form for showcasing rows of beaded runglike embellishments. These earrings are great for using up your “bead soup” — your stash of leftover or mismatched beads — because you can incorporate seed beads, glass beads, crystals, and pearls into the “rungs.” You can also customize the length of the dangles. 

SUPPLIES

Earrings 2 1⁄2 in. (6.4 cm) long

  • 8 6 mm or 7 mm pearls
  • 8 4 mm or 5 mm crystals
  • 8 2 mm or 3 mm crystals
  • 80–90 assorted seed and 3–4 mm beads
  • sterling silver round wire
  • 8 in. (20 cm) 20-gauge half-hard
  • 7.3 ft. (2.2 m) 24- or 26-gauge dead-soft
  • chainnose and roundnose pliers
  • flush or diagonal wire cutters

INSTRUCTIONS

Wire frame

Leitara earrings Step 1
Step 1
Cut a 4-in. (10 cm) piece of 20-gauge wire. Make a small plain loop on one end.
Leitara earrings Step 2
Step 2
Make a right-angle bend 1⁄2 in. (1.3 cm) from the loop. Make a right-angle bend 1 in. (2.5 cm) from the previous bend.
Leitara earrings Step 3
Step 3
Bend the last 1⁄8 in. (3 mm) of the wire at a 45° angle up and away from the other corners.
Leitara earrings Step 4
Step 4
Using your fingers, curve the wire so that the angle you made in step 3 slides into the loop.
Dangles
Leitara earrings Dangles Step 1
Step 1
Cut a 2-in. (5 cm) piece of 26-gauge wire and make a small loop at one end. Flatten that loop slightly to form an eye pin. String a 2 mm or 3 mm crystal on the wire, and make a wrapped loop above the bead. Repeat to make a total of four small bead units.
Leitara earrings Dangles Step 2
Step 2
Cut a 2-in. (5 cm) piece of 26-gauge wire, and make the first half of a wrapped loop at one end. String a 4 mm or 5 mm crystal, and make the first half of a wrapped loop. Repeat to make a total of four medium bead units.
Leitara earrings Dangles Step 3a
Step 3a
Cut a 4-in. (10 cm) piece of 26-gauge wire. On one end, make the first half of a wrapped loop. Then wrap around the jaw in the same place again to make a double loop. Complete the wraps. 
Leitara earrings Dangles Step 3b
Step 3b
String a 6 mm or 7 mm pearl on the wire and make a wrapped loop below the pearl. Repeat to make a total of four pearl units.
Leitara earrings Dangles Step 4
Step 4
Attach a small bead unit to one loop of the medium bead unit. Then attach the medium bead unit to the single wrapped loop of a pearl unit. Complete the wraps. Repeat to make three more dangles.
Leitara earrings Assembly Step 1
Assembly Step 1
Cut a 4-in. (10 cm) piece of 26-gauge wrapping wire. Bend the wrapping wire over the bottom edge of the frame, about 1⁄2 in. (1.3 cm) from the end. Wrap the 1⁄2-in. (1.3 cm) tail around the frame a few times, and trim any excess wire.
Leitara earrings Assembly Step 2
Step 2

String the double loop of one dangle on the wrapping wire, then make two wraps around the frame about 1⁄4 in. (6 mm) from the initial wraps. 

Repeat along the edge until all four dangles are attached. Make a few final wraps, and trim the wrapping wire.

Leitara earrings Assembly Step 3a
Step 3a

Cut an 8-in. (20 cm) piece of 26-gauge wire. Wrap the end of the wire around the frame just above the bottom back corner. String beads on the wire to fit between the back and front of the frame. 

Leitara earrings Assembly Step 3b
Step 3b
Wrap the working wire around the front of the frame a few times.
Leitara earrings Assembly Step 3c
Step 3c
Add a second, third, and fourth row of beads, wrapping around the frame at the end of each row. Trim the excess wire.

4. Make a second earring to match the first.
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