Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Making paper beads

I've had a couple of requests for more information about how I made the paper beads, so thought I'd post what I did, what worked and what didn't.

What you need:
  • Paper or thin card
    I use either thick magazines (unfortunately free weekend newspaper ones aren't great) or flyers, or thin (cereal box weight) cardboard
  • Scalpel, ruler & board/guillotine
    anything which enables you to cut long straight lines quickly and easily - scissors would be OK, just a bit hard on the hands
  • Crochet hook
    or something similar to wrap the paper around - if you want a narrow hole in your bead (for instance if you want to string your beads interspersed with tiny seed beads) try a cocktail stick.
  • Pritt Stick or similar glue
  • A handful of clothes pegs
  • Varnish and brush
    I'm currently using wood varnish
  • Wooden skewers
    if you opt for narrow holes in your beads, you'll need lots of spare cocktail sticks for drying them
  • Egg box/disposable drinks cup
    to stick the skewers/cocktail sticks in with drying beads


Cutting paper:
Cut the paper/card into very long but narrow triangles.  The short side of the triangle gives the length of your bead; the diameter will depend on the weight of the paper and the size of your rolling implement.
    A triangle this size, using cardboard and a crochet hook gives a bead approx 1cm dia x 1.5cm long.

    Starting at the widest end of the triangle, start to roll the paper quite tightly around the crochet hook.  No  need to glue the start of the roll, the tension keeps it in place.  Roll until you reach the end of the paper, then use the Pritt Stick to glue the end securely and remove the crochet hook.  Hold the end in place with a clothes peg until the glue dries.  If you're using quite heavy card and the end of the roll is tending to unravel, try curling the end by pulling it against the crochet hook (as if you're curling birthday present ribbon) so that it curls around the bead, and then glue as normal.

    When I have a batch of beads ready rolled, I then varnish them.  I'm currently using wood varnish but it's not as solid as I'd like, so Plan C is to try resin of some description (Plan B was dilute PVA glue, but that didn't work at all, just seemed to sink into the bead - other suggestions welcome!).  I put several beads onto a skewer and use an old (artist's, not decorator's) paintbrush to coat them in varnish.  I then pierce the eggbox with the skewer to suspend the beads whilst they dry (if you're doing beads with narrow holes, use spare cocktail sticks here).  After about an hour, when they're touch dry, I move them on their skewers to check they're not attached to either the skewer or each other.  When the varnish is fully dry, I do another coat.

    For bracelets I use elastic to string the beads - it doesn't need to be able to stretch loads to fit over a hand and there's no need to add a clasp.  I use elastic from a bead shop - something like Stretch Magic, and then do a super firm knot which I Super Glue to make sure it doesn't come undone (without the glue it doesn't stay knotted).  The best knot I've found is a double fishermen's knot - it looks hard but once you've worked out what you're doing, it's not.   Leave long ends on the knot (a centimetre or more) and slide them inside the beads to hide them.
    For long necklaces I've been using waxed thread (from haberdashery shops), largely as I had it lying around and I figured it should be strong enough - the beads are so light there shouldn't be that much wear and tear.  And it just needs a common or garden reef knot, rather than anything more taxing.
    For short necklaces (haven't done any yet, mind), think I'd use waxed thread attached to a clasp.

    OK, that's my paper bead making guide, or as much as I can think of right now.   Feel free to post questions and I'll try to answer them.  Happy (rock and) rolling.

    1 comment:

    1. Could you please convert your paper triangle size to US inches rather than metrics? I don't do metrics very well as I grew up learning what they taught me in the US. Thanks.