DIY Cowrie Shell Macrame Jewelry
Shell jewelry has been on the rise for a couple years now and it’s safe to say it has hit its peak this summer! It seems that all over Instagram lately you can find them stacked on wrists, wrapped around necks, and dangling from ears…but did you know that cowrie shell jewelry is so easy to make at home?!
Cowrie shells, sometimes referred to as puka shells, are a classic shell for making jewelry due to their flat shape, which lends itself perfectly to being strung together to create necklaces, chokers, bracelets, anklets, and more.
We are absolutely obsessed with the macrame method we’re sharing in today’s post, which is so simple yet totally looks like you purchased these shell jewels at some cutesie boutique! All you really need to create the look are cowrie shells, knotting cord in whatever color you please, and gold seed beads to give your creation a professional finish.
You can find all the supplies required to follow this tutorial exactly in our new Cowrie Shell Jewelry DIY Kit! Or refer to the individually linked products below to purchase all the components in bulk.
Alright, what the shell are we waiting for?! Let’s dive on into this beachy keen tutorial!
- Cowrie shells with cut backs* (you can also find metallic ones* here)
- Nylon knotting cord* (I use this kind, but you can find more options on in our Amazon Shop)
- 4mm gold seed beads*
- Large eye sewing needle*
- Safety pin* or washi tape
- Tape measure*
- Beading awl (optional)
*Indicates inclusion in our Cowrie Shell Jewelry DIY Kit!
PREPPING YOUR MATERIALS:
The length of knotting cord and amount of cowrie shells you’ll need will change based on whether you’re making a necklace, choker, anklet or bracelet. Here are our recommended amounts for each of these items in average adult sizes. If you’re making for children, you’ll want to size down these measurements.
- Necklace: 2 pieces of knotting cord @ 54″ each, 18 shells
- Choker: 2 pieces of knotting cord @ 54″ each, 15 shells
- Anklet: 2 pieces of knotting cord @ 38″ each, 10 shells
- Bracelet: 2 pieces of knotting cord @ 26″ each, 7 shells
STEP 1: Knot your strings together and add a gold bead
Once your strings are cut to the sizes indicated above in “Prepping Your Materials,” knot them together at the very end by holding both strands together and tying an overhand knot. Add a large gold seed bead to both strands — I like to thread one string through at a time, unless using a beading needle. Next, tie a second overhand knot lower down on your strings. The type of jewelry you’re making will indicate how many inches down this next knot should be:
- Necklace: 4″
- Choker: 5″
- Anklet: 2.5″
- Bracelet: 2″
At this point, you can either pin or tape your string down to keep it in place and ready to add the shells.
STEP 2: Attach your first shell
Adding shells to your knotting cord is simple. All you’re doing is stringing each of the two strands through the shell going in opposite directions to create an X in the center of the shell. First, identify which of the two strings seems to be on the bottom. Thread the bottom string up through the underside of the shell (cut side), then pull the slack through. Next, take the top string and thread it through the same shell going downwards through the top side of the shell (ridged side) and pull the slack through. Push the shell up to touch the knot above it, pulling any remaining slack on both strings.
STEP 3: Add a knot below the shell
Once your first shell is on, you’ll add another overhand knot below it. The tricky part here is getting your knot to land flush up against the bottom of the shell, keeping the strands inside the shell nice and taught. The best way to achieve this is to place your pointer finger inside the loop of the loose knot and guide the knot up towards the bottom of the shell. Once it lands there, pull tightly on the strings before removing your finger, then split the strings and pull them in opposite directions to tighten the knot and inch it a little closer to the shell. You can see this in action in this video, around minute 2:05. You can also use a beading awl instead of your finger, if you have one handy, to achieve the same result.
STEP 4: Add the rest of your shells
Continue adding shells with the pointy ends of the shells facing the same direction until you achieve the length you’re going for. Before adding the knot after each shell, we advise spot checking the shell to make sure it isn’t upside down or appearing to twist. If either of these things are the case, you may want to switch which of the two strings is going through the shell top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top — usually this does the trick!
Once all of your shells are on with a knot below the last shell, string on a gold seed bead and tie a final knot below it, the same distance down as in STEP 1. Cut the remaining knotting cord below the knot. You should have about 16-18” of knotting cord left, which you’ll use in the next step to create adjustable square knot closure.
STEP 5: Create an adjustable square knot closure
Before creating your first square knot, you’ll want to prep your strings. First, take one of the scrap strings you just cut off and cut it in half — set these two small strings aside. Next, take the ends of your necklace/anklet/bracelet and lay one on top of the other going in opposite directions so that you’ll be able to pull both ends to adjust. Use the two small strings to temporarily tie your adjustable ends in place (tie one at the top and one at the bottom), just like the purple strings in the photos above. This will keep all your strings in place for adding your square knot closure.
Now it’s time to start your square knots! Take the other piece of scrap string, slide it under the adjustable strings and even out the scrap string so it’s the same length on both sides.
To begin your first square knot, lay the left strand of your scrap string horizontally over the center strings. Then place the right string on top of the horizontal string.
Next, feed the right string under the center strings and pull it out through the loop that formed on the left side. Pull evenly on both the right and left strings to tighten. This is one half of your first square knot.
To complete your first square knot, repeat the steps above but this time on the opposite side: right string lays horizontally over center strands. Left string then goes on top of the horizontal string, then under the center strands, and finally out through the loop on the right. Pull evenly on both strands to tighten.
STEP 6: Finish your adjustable closure
Repeat the square knot process, making sure to always alternate sides as you go. You’ll stop when you can count 5-6 vertical notches on each side of your closure. To neatly finish the adjustable closure, you’ll need your large eye needle. Thread your needle with one or both ends of your remaining string, then go under the last two stitches of your knot with your needle, pulling all the way through and pulling tight. If you’re doing one at a time, repeat with the second string. We recommend slightly loosening those last two stitches to make sure your needle is going under and not through them.
STEP 7: Use a lighter to finish your ends
Once both strands have been threaded into the last square knot and have been pulled tightly, cut off the remaining string leaving about a half centimeter of length. Carefully melt the ends that you just cut using a lighter. This will keep the adjustable closure secure and prevent those cut ends from fraying.
Remove the temporary ties and burn the knotted ends of the adjustable strands.
And voilà! That’s all it takes to create a super trendy piece of macrame shell jewelry!
You can have fun with your shell creations and change them up however you like: use two different color knotting cords, add a gold bead after each shell, mix in metallic shell beads, or add other styles of beads into the mix. The design possibilities are endless!
I sincerely hope you love this shell jewelry DIY as much as we do here at TNTP! If you have any questions about the steps in this tutorial, any of the supplies featured, or would like to hash out any ideas you have, please leave them in the comments below! And as always, if you try this tutorial, be sure to tag @theneonteaparty on Instagram so we can see what you create!!
Peace, love & neon,