Sorting/blending pearls for long convertible rope (mini version of Purrhana's)


Well-known member
Jan 6, 2016
Hi all -- I've been quietly lurking after finding out about this site on the PS pearls board. I have been dabbling with stringing some inexpensive freshwater pearls (thank you so much to the ladies who put up such excellent tutorials, and to Pattye for having such great supplies!!), but am a bit stumped on how to proceed with my next project. I've admired Purrhana's Victoria Grayson thread and decided to try something similar, though scaled back somewhat for both budget and treading gently into larger pieces since I tend to wear delicate jewelry. I purchased 3 strands of 7.5-8.5 mm lavender rice pearls which while fairly consistent in luster and color do have a bit of size variation as well as some shape variation among each strand (some are more barrel-shaped, others more oval, and others more drop-shaped). I am struggling with how to combine the strands for a long convertible rope a-la Purrhana. (I will also not feel bad if someone says these pearls are too small for this project!!) I will probably experiment with interchangeable ends -- a shortener clasp, some tassels, maybe even some chunky amethyst or quartz drops -- and will want the option of wearing them as a continuous loop or as a lariat style with both ends loose and something clipped on to each end. (This will be my first try at doing french wire, wish me luck!) In doing endless ropes I have graduated the size (smalllest on each "end" and largest in the center) when blending the strands and tried to keep similar shapes together, but Purrhana's approach was to do either a blending of shapes/sizes or to graduate size from one end to the other (instead of largest in the middle and smallest on the ends). Both of these looked amazing. I fear that if I put the largest pearls in the center of the overall length, they will frequently end up at the back or side of my neck and not be very visible. I could do the opposite and put the smallest in the center, but that would potentially look odd in some stylings. I'm not sure that these pearls will look good "blended" because they are much more similar than the Victoria Grayson tahitians. I also worry that putting the smallest ones at one end won't look as dramatic as the Emily necklace because it won't have the color contrast. I can try it out on cheap thread but sorting 3 strands is a lot of time and I'd love input to what you guys think might be the best place to start.

Also, if anyone can recommend the easiest and safest way to cut apart knotted pearls I would greatly appreciate it. I had an incident with thread breaking halfway through a rope and I struggled to cut it apart without scratching the pearls or getting the knots stuck in the holes. Clearly I was doing something wrong!

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and for all the advice I've already silently soaked up!!
My advice would be to experiment by using beading wire with clamps until you get the look you like. Sometimes it helps to mix in small beads to compensate for differing sizes of pearls. It's great that you have been inspired to do something entirely new. :)

Cuticle scissors are the best for me, but I also have some snips that work.
I use a razor type craft knife. It's very slender and does the job well for me.

These knives are very cheap-- see your local craft store, dollar store or hardware store. Some have a blade that is scored in segments, so that a dull segment can be snapped off (using pliers) and the blade advanced to a new, sharp segment.
Welcome, enbcfsobe,

What a great project! I second Gemgeek's suggestion of using beading wire to try out the mixes of pearls and lengths before doing the final stringing. The beading wire is fairly fast for temporarily threading pearls.

I use my flush cutters for cutting apart knotted pearls. The tips are very fine and I feel I have good control with the handles.

Would you like to show us a photo of your strands before you start?

If I recall correctly, Lilliefuzzysocks had an excellent method for mixing strands. She put all the pearls in a bowl, stirred, then emptied them carefully on a bead board so they were randomly distributed in the grooves. After that process she moved any she felt weren't in the right place. I think this is a great technique! (Thanks soooo much for using and mentioning my supplies too!)

We are cheering you on with this terrific project!
Thank you all so much!!! GemGeek and PearlDreams, thanks for the advice on cutting implements. I think there are probably some better tools around the house laying around the house based on your suggestions (better than giant craft scissors!!) but I may also pick up some thread snippers or flush cutters -- both things I would use for other purposes if I had them.

I will try to dig up some beading wire -- I haven't done much stringing so I'm not sure if I even have any in the house. I probably have some craft wire or monofilament somewhere though. This is a long enough project that I really don't want to have to start over due to not liking the arrangement!! Also it will tell me pretty quickly if the pearls will read too small. I like the idea of starting with a random mix -- then I can switch some out or play with the direction of the pointy-er ones until I'm happy with it. GemGeek, I'm not sure exactly what you mean by adding smaller beads -- I'm having trouble envisioning what that would look like. I have some tiny gemstone rondelles, and some rice-shaped seed pearls hanging around in my stash, but I'm not sure where I would use those. Do you have any examples of pieces that used this strategy that I could take a look at?

A few pics are attached to show the strands, with a few detail shots showing the variation in shapes (and a bit in color) toward the end. Sorry for the bad photos -- its fully dark here. I am also including a shot with the intended thread, which is Beaders Secret in Lilac. It looks quite dark on the spool but I'm hoping that the knots will not look as dramatic and will actually help them to read a little more purple?

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enbcfsobe! Welcome to the P-G! And I am very flattered that you liked my creations enough to try something similar! Yah! :eek:

The ladies here have shared really good info about available cutters - personally I just use an old cuticle cutter. To share more info about sizing/arrangement/stringing, etc -

Victoria Grayson is around 8.5mm-12mm, and Emily Thorne is about 6mm-12mm. And to tell the truth I didn't feel either arrangement caused the pearls to "not stay put" or roll around too much. With the 7.5-8.5mm pearls, the size difference is not huge, so you especially don't have to worry about it rolling around to the side/back. And yes without the color graduation, I do think having the smaller at 2 ends and larger in the middle would probably be the best arrangement.

A few things to take into consideration - 1) as much as the ropes are versatile and can be worn a bunch of different ways, I do find that I have a "default" style (double layered). And in that position, the 2 smaller end with larger center works perfect. 2) I actually find the length of the rope to be more important than the arrangement of the pearls. You should experiment a bit, but I find 54" to be my min length. I have ropes that are shorter and it just looks awkward when I do the double loop.

In terms of stringing/knotting - Victoria Grayson was knotted by PP, and while I absolutely intend on learning to knot with Pattye's beader's secret, I haven't gotten around to it yet, so Emily Thorne is on SoftFlex, and it is absolutely fine, too. It is definitely an easier way to start, and allows you to try different arrangements more easily.

Yes please do share pics of the strands & findings you are using for this project, and please do share pics as the project progresses. We can't wait to see finished products & neck shots and please post if you have more questions!
Agree..I always string a large or unusual project on wire first and crimp it closed so I can see how it fits on various shaped friends :)

I too use the flush cutters ... or a box cutter .. or a razor blade ... depending on how much room there is...but flush cutters 98% of the time.

And as for just keep all the bits in proportion and it will be fine.
If the pearls were different enough, throwing in a rondell every inch or two would create enough contrast to distract from it. But these pearls are only slightly different, so they should work well with the method Pattye described. :)
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Welcome! I use an exacto knife or what some people call a utility knife. It has a retractable razor blade that can be either broken off to expose a sharper, new blade, or unscrewed and a new blade put in to replace the dull blade - it depends on the style of the exacto knife. I usually slide the pearls over to one side and then line the blade right up against the pearl and push down to cut the thread. I have been using an old towel underneath so the pearl doesn't bounce around much and don't roll around when they are cut. Then I pull the threads out with my nails after I finish the strand.

As far as how to go about laying down a strand, I usually put all the pearls in a flat container and line them up. The real big ones and small ones are easy to pull out. With a longer strand, I'll usually put them in big, small and medium groups. This is where having a bead board is really nice. I move them around depending on size. With your pearls, you have length as well as width to think about. After finding positions for all the pearls, I string them quickly with regular sewing thread that has been doubled or quadrupled. As I thread them, I look at the 4-5 pearls on my needle, or near it and see how they look next to each other. If I don't like the way they look, I move them around. It is easier to see how the strand looks when everything is strung, plus, you get an idea of the length and how long you really want a strand. Once I like the temporarily strung strand, I cut out all the thread except one strand and pass a needle, threaded with BS, into each of the holes of the sewing thread strung strand. That saves me a lot of time having to find the hole of each pearl. Pulling the sewing thread tight and having the pearls nestled next to each other make it quicker to get the newly threaded needle through the pearls too.

Stringing the pearls is something you get better at the more you do. My very first stringing was an 18" strand which was strung using a simple knotting method, where you thread, then knot, thread, then knot.... now I prefer the Chinese knotting method. Be sure to practice with a few pearls and the thread before attempting the long strand. You want to make sure the knots are tight and hold, and you need to get an idea of how BS works, how much pressure to use with it, etc... My first strand's pearls had large holes so I had to quadruple the thread to keep the knots from slipping, so always do a practice run if you're not sure. Good luck!
Thank you all for the amazing responses!!! I was under the weather so sorry for the delay in following up. Nothing to show yet, though if someone could advise why my photos are not loading I'd appreciate it -- I could only get one photo to load after multiple attempts. Is there a naming convention that I need to follow?

Purranha (so sorry for misspelling before!!) thanks for your detailed info on your amazing ropes! In particular I am wondering whether I shouldn't have gotten an additional strand. I'm hoping that the smaller size of the pearls makes it all even out okay.

Amti thanks for your description of your process. I will probably do much the same -- I couldn't find any beading wire around but I've got lots of thread. I have a necklace-style beading board I can use. I'm still not sure whether I will sort them first or just use the big bowl method. Since as GemGeek pointed out they are relatively similar, I may just try the bowl approach first and only sort if I get too frustrated with that method.

Thanks again to all for your input and cheering me on! I will try to post another pic with the thread if I can get it to work.
Thanks JerseyPearl :) That means lots knowing what amazing wares you work with on your projects!

Thanks to all the advice about length, I tied the 3 strands together to do a mini-test and they are definitely too short for what I wanted. So now I'm waiting for a 4th strand before proceeding. I couldn't justify paying expedited shipping again so it will be a while.

In the meantime I still cannot figure out file uploads. I tried a few times to upload a photo of the strands (changed the naming a few times too), to no avail. I was able to upload the earrings I bought to coordinate. They are button-shaped and were sold as 8-9 mm with sterling backs. The size seems about right (I don't have calipers -- need to get some!). They were super cheap and I couldn't resist taking a gamble on them since I've been wanting to try out some larger studs. They are slightly more grey and more purple than the strands.

YP Lavender Button Earrings.jpg

YP Lavender Button Earrings on ear.jpg
I think I solved the image problem -- I suspect my file was too large. I downsized the jpeg and, voila! (ETA: also apologies for the giant ear picture above! now i know i need to resize pics even from my phone!)

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Hi enbcfsobe! Lol no worries about Purrhana, everyone does it.

So, I've put together the 3rd piece of my Revenge tassel ropes - The White Knight - Nolan Ross. Have posted it on the Victoria Grayson thread. It is actually quite similar to the strand your putting together, but it's just white instead of lavender. The vendor only had 3 of those freshies left at that time and I got all 3 strand, which came out at about 45", and that's why I knew ropes that are too short would be problematic lol!

I'm not going through the trouble of finding a 4th strand at this time simply because I already have Emily Thorne & Victoria Grayson. But may decide to rework Nolan Ross at some point. Take a look at the other thread for pictures! :D

BTW, for Nolan Ross, since they are freshie potatoes, I didn't bother putting in spacer seed pearls (like I did with Emily Thorne), or have them knotted (like Victoria Grayson). Haha yes I know not the best practice, but I"m ok with them for now. Stringing and putting Nolan Ross together took 10mins!
Purranha, you could always use the little silicone spacer beads that look like knots with the wire! I hear you on the speed stringing, especially when it comes to a long rope. Wire is so easy, and provides that instant wear gratification!
Purranha -- thanks for the insights! the white knight looks great. what size tassel did you use? maybe knotting would actually help with the length, you should gain 1-2 inches per strand I think? I actually enjoy the knotting, though this will be the longest project as so far I have done 2 32-ish inch ropes, so this will be a new challenge.
Trying one more time to upload the photo with thread -- it appeared for a short time and then disappeared, not sure why...


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I can see the photos, enbcfsobe. Lavender knot should really bring out the purple tones in your very pretty pearls!