You may have noticed in reading this blog and looking at my DIY shoe designs that I like to play! I like trying new, sometimes outrageous things and seeing if they work. I’m no longer in my teens or twenties, but a fair portion of those age groups’ saucy energy is still running through my veins.
It was in this spirit that my collection of boot bracelets was born. It all started with some gorgeous copper chain and a hand-wrought copper embellishment made by a southern California artisan. They looked like the perfect thing to wear around the ankle of my cowboy boots.
So I got some copper jewlery findings (split rings and a lobster clasp — more on that stuff in a moment), measured around the ankle of the boot, added a scant inch for ease and drape, and made a bracelet for my boot. I ended up making a bracelet for each boot, but the second one is purely optional.
The nice thing about boot bracelets is that they are an embellishment you can change whenever you want. Sort of like jewelry for your feet. First let me show you some closeups of several of the bracelets I’ve made, then I’ll give you some how-to tips. Remember, you can enlarge any of these photos by clicking on it.
These two boot bracelets are simple beaded strands. On the left, triangular beads of brecciated jasper are interspersed with tiny gold and green beads. On the right, batiked beads of burnt bone are separated by little freshwater pearls used as spacers.
Here on the left are two strands of 4mm rolo chain hung with a decorative brass keyhole and a giant key (the latter is from from a scrapbooking store). To the right, large gold chain is embellished with a metal bow (a brass stamping painted red with metal paint). Some rolo chain hangs from the bow along with a gorgeous gold-and-Venetian-glass heart.
At left, even chunkier gold chain (this time, it’s “frosted” with embossing) holds a hand-colored brass stamping in the shape of a heart. I used colored pens that were guaranteed to work on metal to color in the flowers on the heart, then I brushed on a sealant. On the right is another cowboy-boot bracelet, this time using oxidized copper rolo chain and a concho with the same finish.
Now here’s the piece de resistance (in my not-so-humble opinion). It features three strands of tiny metallic finish cube beads with a “centerpiece” made from a green and black belt buckle topped by a batiked bone bead.
I’ll concede that this last boot bracelet was a little hard to make, since the strands of cube beads could not all be the same length if I wanted them to drape properly (the top row had to be shorter than the middle row, the bottom row longer). The bone bead was glued to the belt buckle.
Did these shots give you some ideas? I hope so. Now here’s some how-to.
If I’m stringing beads for boot bracelets, I use Dandyline or Fireline, which is basically ultra-strong braided fishing line that you can easily knot. It’s also strong enough to use without a beading needle, so you can just poke the strand through the hole in the bead. I start with a length that’s TWICE the circumference of the boot, plus 9-10.” Leaving aside the clasp and any other findings for the moment, I just string the beads and hold them up to see if they will be the right length once both parts of the clasp have been added. Then I string on one end of the clasp, wrap the thread around it a couple of times, and feed it back through all the beads I’ve already strung, so I end up with a double-strand of thread.
When I’m back at the beginning, I adjust the ends so they are even, then I thread them through the other end of the clasp and tie TWO surgeon’s knots. Lastly, I feed the two thread tails back thorugh a couple of beads before cutting off the ends. (What I DON’T do is use crimps to secure the threads of my boot bracelets — they are simply not sturdy enough for life on the street.)
Here are some photos showing two types of clasps I like to use. The top photo shows a large lobster clasp (I use 15mm or larger, available at jewelry supply and beading sites/stores), the bottom shows a hook and eye type clasp.
If I have to use other findings, like a ring to connect a chain to a clasp, I don’t use the even-popular jump ring (the kind that looks like a circle with a cut in one side so it can be opened) because these usually aren’t strong enough. Besides, if you end up using beading thread and try to loop or tie it onto a jump ring, sure as shooting that thread will slide out the tiny cut in the ring, no matter how tight you think you have it pressed together. Instead, I use largish split rings, where the circle overlaps itself — like on key rings.
You can let your imagination be your guide when making boot bracelets — you can hang all sorts of cool and unexpected things on them, BIG things, too, like that keyhole, which actually came from a hardware store specializing in architectural stuff. If you need help figuring out how to do the beading or attach things, look online or in your local library for beading and jewelry-making tips. And feel free to send me photos of what you’ve done (preferably on a boot). I’d love to see them!