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Morse Code Necklace tutorial

This took me rather longer than I was expecting; photographing your own hands without getting in your own way is really challenging.

It’s important to note that, while wire wrapped chains like this are a fairly simple thing to make, they do take a good deal of practice to be *easy*.  My wire wraps are tiny; these days I work with 30 gauge wire, rather than the 24 gauge shown here.  I’ve been making necklaces like this for 15 years (!!!), so if you have trouble or your’s isn’t as neat, don’t worry.  Also, the materials for this necklace can be quite inexpensive.  A five foot length of jewelry wire and some pliers and seed beads will run you around $10 and will give you plenty to practice with.

I chose to make each link one character of the code, either a dot or a dash, and I’m using spacer beads to separate my letters and make the code understandable.  This means that your letters will often be made up of more than one link, because most letters in Morse Code are more than one character.  Some letters, like J and Q can be quite long, so keep that in mind when you design your necklace.  Draw it out on paper and make sure you like the way the word looks before you start to save yourself some grief later.

First, gather your materials.  You’ll need a small quantity of seed beads (the black beads in the bowl), larger spacer beads (the red hearts) and some jewelry wire (the spool, you don’t need nearly this much, 5 to 10 feet should do, depending on your word).  You will also need some jewelry chain, unless your word is particularly long.  Your chain should have links large enough that your wire will go through them easily.  You will also need a clasp; you can either make one, or buy one, your choice.  If you buy one, be sure to buy two jump rings to go with it.  The jump rings will also need to be able to connect to your chain.

Materials: Seed beads, spacer beads, and wire
Materials: Seed beads, spacer beads, and wire

Next, gather your tools.  I use round nose jewelry pliers; they’re around $5 at a bead store, and well worth it if you’re going to do this more than once.  I did actually start out using a toothpick, though, which is what I’ve shown here, so if you don’t want to spend the money, use a toothpick or other small cylinder to shape your rings.  I use nail clippers to cut my wire.  These are childrens’ clippers that were $1 at a beauty supply place, and I’ve been using them for years.  For smaller wire, they’re perfect, and cut closer and more neatly than most tools I’ve used.

Tools of the trade: Round nose pliers, a toothpick, and nailclippers
Tools of the trade: Round nose pliers, a toothpick, and nailclippers

Finally, decide on your word and translate it into Morse Code.  I just googled for a chart, and found the one above.  The word you choose and the letters it contains will decide how many beads and how much wire you will use.  You’ll need 3 seed beads per dash, and 1 per dot.  You’ll need a spacer bead for each letter of your word, plus one extra.  Write out your code on paper to see how things will look and make sure you have enough beads.  I use the backslashes to separate my letters; they’ll be replaced with the red heart beads on the actual necklace.


Translate your word into Morse Code on paper ahead of time to save yourself some trouble.
Translate your word into Morse Code on paper ahead of time to save yourself some trouble.

Now that you’ve got everything together, you’re ready to begin.  Cut a length of wire that’s easy to manage, but not too short; I like about 12 inches, but you’ll need to experiment to see what works for you.  Place your toothpick or pliers about an inch from one end of the wire, perpendicular to the wire.  Bend the wire around the cylinder to form a circle with a short tail that runs back along your cylinder.


I’m switching here to using a bungee cord and large knitting needle so that it’s easier to see what I’m doing.  You should continue with your wire and cylinder.IMG_8558


Bring the short tail of wire around behind the long tail, and wrap it around a few times.  It should look a little bit like a noose.  In fact, if you know how to tie a Fisherman’s Knot, or Noose, this is very very similar.



Once you’ve done that, your wire should look like this:



Use your nail clippers to trim the short tail as close to the loop as you can.  Be careful not to cut the loop or your longer tail.  If you can’t trim it flush, use your pliers or the handle of the nail clippers to smash it up against the longer tail.  It should now look like this:

Nice and smooth; this way it won’t catch in your hair or clothes.

You’re going to start with your first letter; your word will be bracketed with spacer beads when we finish, but hold off on that just yet.  Add your beads according to your Morse Code word; each dash or dot will be its own link in the chain.  My first letter is D, which begins with a dash, so I’ll add 3 seed beads and then close off this link.  You may notice that my seed beads look really small; it’s because they are.  I actually didn’t have any standard seed beads around, so these are the micro-beads that I work with; normal seed beads are a bit larger.



Once you’ve added your beads, it’s time to close the link.  It’s just like starting the link, except you need to leave some space between the beads and your circle so you have a place to wrap the tail.





Now trim your tail as close as you can, and you’ve got your first link!  If the tail isn’t sitting flush, you can smash it down, but be careful not to catch your beads.  They’re glass, and they will break on you if you smash them with your pliers.  I do this on a pretty regular basis; it’s not scary, just irritating.  They usually snap in half rather than breaking into bunches of little bits, but it’s a good idea to be working over a tabletop or something easy to clean up.

Once your first link is off your cylinder, you can set it aside (don’t lose it!  They tend to roll) and form your second link.  Begin as before, forming a circle with a short tail going back along your cylinder.  This time, stop here, and pull the circle gently off your cylinder, being careful to not deform it.  Now slide your first link onto the short tail, and into the new circle.



Once your first link is on the new circle, wrap the short tail around the long tail to close your link, just like before.  If you forget to add your links together, don’t worry, you can just do it on the second circle of your link, instead of the first.  Add your next character; in D, it’s a dot, and close your link and trim it as before.




Keep going until you’ve got your first letter done, then begin a new link and add your spacer bead; in my case, my first letter, D is three characters: dash dot dot, and is followed by a little red heart.

D <3

Keep going until you finish your word.  _../../…/_._./._././_/../_ _ _/_.

Decide on how long you want your finished necklace; if your word is short enough a bracelet works, as well.  Measure out a length of chain that is the length you want your finished necklace, minus 2 inches (ish).  Now, hold up your finished word, and subtract that length from your chain.  You should now have a length of chain that, once connected to your word, makes your necklace the length you want, minus 2 inches.  Cut your chain; if you’re unsure, cut it a little bit longer than you think you want, you can always make it shorter later.  Cut your chain in half.  Now, make a new link and connect it to your first character.  Close the loop and add a spacer bead.  Before you close the link, slide one end of a piece of chain onto it to make an extension.  Do the same with your last character.  You can see the chain going away from the silver spacer bead on the left of the blue necklace here.




Check the length of your necklace.  If you’re adding a purchased clasp, simply attach it to your chain with one of the jump rings, and then put the second jump ring on the other chain end as a catch.  Make sure that your clasp is easy to open and close when your word is facing the right way.  For example, I’m right handed, so I want my clasp to go on the right hand side when my word is readable to others; this means the clasp will go on the same side as my first letter.  If you’re left handed, reverse that.

If you’re making your clasp, fold your wire back on itself about two inches from one end.



About halfway down, fold the short tail at right angles to the rest of the wire.



Use the tail now sticking up to wrap around the long tail of the wire, leaving a slender closed loop.  Trim your tail flush.



Fold the slender loop in half over your cylinder to form a hook; you can tweak the end of it upwards if you want to make your new clasp easier to catch.



Add a bead onto the tail, and form the other end of your clasp just like the rest of your links.  Be sure to add your chain before you close the link.



On the other end of your necklace, make a regular link; one circle, one bead, one more circle.  Before you close the final end of your link, make sure its big enough that your hook slips into it easily.



Congratulations!  You’re done!  Wear your new necklace with pride.