Well, working my way through my stash has meant that I’ve gradually been able to organise my craft room a little better – although it’s still a long way from finished! Sorting through a set of drawers I came across some A4 sheets of paper that I’d marbled a few years ago, but never done anything with. It took me a little while to decide what to do with them, but I thought I’d have a go at making some jewellery and I plumped for a bracelet. I chose 2 designs with a similar colourway and found a sheet of handmade pale lemon paper too which I thought might go quite nicely so added that in as well.
There are lots of on-line tutorials explaining how to make paper beads, but it’s really, really easy to do. First you decide on how wide you want each of your beads to be – I went for 2cm across. Next you mark the back of each sheet of paper with cutting lines so that each strip is the desired width at the base and rises to a point at the top (see the photo). So basically you’re looking to cut out long, thin triangles 🙂
Once you’ve cut out your strips, it’s time to turn them into beads. To do this you need a thin knitting needle or skewer and you simply wrap the paper around as tightly as you can, starting from the wide base. Try and keep the paper perpendicular to the needle so that you end up with a nicely balanced bead and you don’t get the paper veering off to one side of the bead. Once you’ve wound most of the paper round, and you’re just left with the thin point, paste the point with some pva/water mixture and continue wrapping it around the needle until it’s all gone. You can then transfer this bead onto another needle to keep it out of the way and let it dry. Continue in this way, until you have as many beads as you need. At this point you can paint them all with a couple of coats of pva/water just to strengthen them.
If you remember, as well as my two marbled sheets, I also chose a sheet of handmade paper, but when I started to work with it I found it ripped too easily, so in the end I opted to just use the 2 marbled sheets. By all means have a good experiment with different types of paper. These beads would be great made from old magazines or the dozens of take away leaflets that seem to be posted through the door every week!
Once your beads are all dry they’re ready to use. I dug out some wooden beads to add to my bracelet and had a play around with positioning before I threaded a combination of paper and wooden beads onto a length of invisible thread. You can have fun experimenting with different combinations before you commit yourself to the final design.
As soon as you’ve made your mind up, you need to fasten off the ends. If you wanted to make things easier for yourself, you could avoid this stage by simply threading your beads through some elastic thread. You would then just need to tie the ends and make sure the knot was hidden inside one of the beads. However, if you want to be a little more sophisticated you will need some jewellery ‘findings’ (basically all the metal bits that enable you to finish off your piece and make it close and stay closed).
You’ll need a clasp, one or two small jump rings and two calottes. The calottes are tiny shell like pieces that you open out. There is a small hole in the centre of them, so the idea is that you slip the end of your thread through, tie a good few knots in the thread, then hide the knots in the clasp part of the calotte. You can simply close the two sides together to hide the knot, or you can add a dab of glue before you close it up just to make sure. You can then snip off any extra thread that’s poking out of the calotte. Once you’ve put a calotte on each end, your bracelet is secure and the beads won’t fall off.
You now need to attach a jump ring to one end and a clasp to the other end, in order to be able to fasten your bracelet. The jump rings have a small cut in them so that you can hold either side of the cut with a pair of pliers, move one pair forwards and the other backwards to open up a slight gap. Once you have a little gap you can slide the clasp through, then take up your pliers and reverse the procedure to close up the gap thereby securing the clasp.
And here’s the finished result!
If you’re interested in having a go at any more jewellery projects, there’s a great introduction to jewellery making produced by Beads Unlimited, and I’d love to see photos of anything you make 🙂