Makin’ Paper Beads

August 7, 2009 at 10:37 am | Posted in Recycling | 3 Comments

_wsb_430x374_pink+paper+beadsI’ve spent much of this morning making paper beads, which I’ve never done before. Apparently, thrifty and crafty Victorian females made beads with scrap paper, which they then strung to make bead curtains as a cheap way to divide rooms and screen areas for privacy. Instructables has a handy how-to, created by the folks at Mzuri Beads, a company in Uganda that sells cool beads (as seen at left) made from recycled paper.

I’m experimenting with this because tomorrow I am helping to throw a baby shower, and I was sitting here trying to come up with a participatory craft/ritual/activity in which all the party guests can participate. The guest of honor loves handmade items, and she’s into nature and spirituality, but not into any specific religion, so I wondered: What can we all make that would let us put our wishes into it for her and for her partner and their baby? Maybe we could each write our private heartfelt wishes on slips of paper, then do … something … with the slips to create … something … beautiful and lasting. But what? And how to do it so that the messages remain private, so that they stay kind of secret? Hmm. By rolling them up! But … what can you make with tightly rolled slips of paper? Beads!! But … how to make them? Hmm. It’s on the Net!

So I had to practice, because tomorrow at the party I’m going to put out a tray containing glue stick, skewers, pencils, and a bunch of very long slim isosceles triangles, snipped from colorful magazine pages. Each guest can write a wish on one side of a triangle, which becomes the inside; glue stick is spread over the wish, and the triangle is rolled tightly, wide side first and message side in, around the skewer. When dry, the beads are removed, varnished, and strung. Obviously — because varnish and parties don’t go well together — I’ll have to take the beads home with me and then varnish and string them here, sending or giving the finished necklace to our guest of honor later. But she can keep it forever … and it will be full of good wishes!

In the process of practicing, I learned that two centimeters is a good width for handmade paper beads. I’m not into the metric system; it just came out that way. And I learned that “busy” magazine pages with lots of colors and patterns — and no white space — create the effects I like best. Others might prefer subtler colors, less contrast, and/or a repeating overall pattern such as flowers, dots or checks.

Tomorrow’s the party! I’ll let you know how our experiment works out.


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  1. What a lovely idea, and what lovely results. I hope you will post the finished item?

  2. I just posted the Mzuri Beads Instructable on my SuicideGirls blog the other day. The Crafty group loved it. I’m working on a door curtain myself. :)

  3. What an amazing idea to have friends at the shower participate by writing sweet baby wishes inside the paper before rolling them up! So how did it go? I bet everyone loved the cool idea. Also, as a paper bead artist myself, I really appreciate the bit of history you included about the Victorian days, how interesting! Thanks for sharing.

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