As I (this is Carrie writing) mentioned in the Earth Day episode of Glitter, Glue and Gluttony, I learned to make paper beads in elementary school…at least I think I did. When I relayed this story to my friends no one remembers making paper beads as a child. However, I have fond and vivid memories of sitting at my little desk at Colfax Elementary making paper beads and stringing them into necklaces…again, at least I think I do. I mean, I learned to make them somewhere…and I am pretty sure it was in school. But when everyone last one of my friends stared at me like they had no idea what I was talking about when I said, “you know paper beads like you made when you were a kid in school” and claimed never having made paper beads in school I started thinking…
Did I dream it? Which is cool…but why did the knowledge of how to make paper beads come to me in a dream and not the plans for some amazing money making invention, or the winning mega millions lotto numbers, or the cure for cancer. Why paper beads?
Maybe it was an alien abduction? Was this information given to me by aliens from another planet when they abducted me and took me off in their ship for medical experiments? I do have some unexplained scars. Maybe it was after the aliens did their probes and discovered human beings were sad and simple beasts that they felt sorry for us and gifted me with the amazing advanced alien knowledge of paper bead making. Will paper beads save mankind?
We may never fully know where this paper bead making information came from but I will share it with you good people of earth, for the good of mankind. Use this knowledge for good instead of evil.
What you will need:
- Paper – I like to use magazine pages, junk mail like Victoria’s Secret catalogues, or wrapping paper from gifts I have received. It is a nice way to get colorful beads while recycling and reusing things that already exist in the universe. Also it is really cool to make beads out of used wrapping paper because it is a great way to remember the lovely gifts people have given you. You can also use plain old white paper from your printer…it is even better if you are recycling old school papers or non-sensitive documents.
- Scissors or a paper cutter of some kind – Depending on the number of beads you are making there is usually a lot of cutting to make the triangles so use something that you are comfortable with or enlist the help of your children, farm hands, or indentured servants.
- Glue – I like to use Aleene’s Fast Grab Tacky Glue because it holds on contact and dries quickly. Also as Cher says, “who doesn’t like a fast grab?” But you can use any glue that dries clear or Mod Podge.
- Toothpicks – I find toothpicks the easiest to use because they are small and easy to handle when you are rolling up the triangles of paper on them. You can also use bamboo skewers or Q-tips with the fuzzy ends cut off.
Let’s make some beads:
- Cut the paper into triangles. The size of your bead is determined by the width of the base of the triangle. If you want smaller beads cut triangles with a smaller base. I find that anything less than a ½ inch is more difficult to roll into a nice bead, but feel free to experiment. If you are going to make bracelets smaller beads work best. Also, the longer the length of your triangle the fatter the bead will be. You can measure out your triangles if you want to be precise and have beads that are of equal size…but I just eyeball it. I really like the organic look of beads that are slightly different. Totally your choice and both look amazing!
- Place your toothpick at edge of the wide end of your paper strip with the design or color you want on the outside. Roll the paper onto your stick slowly and evenly making sure to smooth the paper as you roll. Try to keep your edges even.
- Dab the paper with glue as you roll it. It does not take a lot of glue to hold it but it makes it easier to handle and keeps the bead from unraveling suddenly. Keep doing this until the entire triangle is rolled up. Make sure to use liberal amounts of glue at the tiny end of the triangle. You may have to smooth away excess glue with your fingers so keep a damp towel on-hand.
- Take the bead off the toothpick and let dry. Keep rolling more beads.
You can also make a different kind of bead that can be used as a charm or pendant.
- Cut a strip of magazine page or piece of paper into a strip 2 inches in width and 8 or more inches in length. Again, I just eyeball the measurement but you can be all “measurey” and use a ruler if you would like.
- Fold one of the corners in half way and crease. Continue to fold the strip this way until you have folded the entire strip. Then fold the strip in half. Using a toothpick roll the strip around the toothpick making a coil. Glue the end with fast grab glue.
- Glue a finding with a loop in the end to the back of the coil and let dry. Make sure the loop is extended above the coil so that you are able to string it.
- You can also glue the coils together side by side to make a larger pendant.
You can also make a pendant out of a picture, design, or letters in magazines, wrapping paper, etc.
- Cut out the desired design, picture, letters, words, etc.
- Cut a piece of cereal box or other stiff cardboard slightly bigger than your design.
- Paint the back of your design with Mod Podge.
- Place the design, sticky side down, on the cardboard and let dry.
- Paint the top of the design with Mod Podge. If you want to get fancy you can add fine glitter to the Mod Podge and/or a drop of acrylic paint to give it a translucent hint of color. The paint works best on lighter colored paper. Let dry.
- Cut out the design.
- Glue a finding with a loop in the end to the back of the coil and let dry. Make sure the loop is extended above the coil so that you are able to string it. Let dry. I like to cover the finding on the back of the cardboard with a piece of duct tape for added strength.
Once your beads are dry you have several choices:
- Use the beads as is. If you have used magazine pages then your beads are already beautiful, colorful, shiny, and ready to string. They make pretty jewelry as they are.
- If you used wrapping paper, plain paper, or you want to snazz up your magazine page beads you can use Mod Podge to seal the bead and make it harder and shiny. If you really want to get fancy you can add fine glitter to the Mod Podge and/or a drop of acrylic paint to give it a translucent hint of color. The paint works best on lighter colored paper. Just leave the bead on the toothpick, paint with a thin layer of Mod Podge and stick it into a cardboard box top, Styrofoam block, or even an apple and let them dry. Have fun experimenting!
Let’s make some jewelry!!!
The sky is the limit as far as what you can do with your beautiful paper beads…necklaces, bracelets, earrings, you name it! Have fun!
I like to use simple cord to string my necklaces because it is easy to work with and very sturdy. No cord lying around the house? Use dental floss…no one will know, but you might want to refrain from using already used floss, gross! Depending on the length of your necklace you may need to use clasps or findings that can be purchased at any craft store. I try to reuse clasps from old jewelry. I use stretchy cord to make bracelets and there are many to choose from at the craft store. It is easy to use and there is no need for clasps or findings.
I like to use glass, wood, or plastic beads alongside my paper beads…I think it makes it more interesting and fun. I regularly raid my jewelry cabinet and also look for clearance jewelry at stores and used and vintage pieces at garage sales and thrift stores to take apart and use to make new jewelry. I recommend you lay out and plan your piece before you start stringing.
There are a wide variety of findings available to make interesting earrings out of your paper beads. I recommend a field trip to the jewelry-making aisle of Michael’s to look at all of the cool stuff and get ideas.
Paper beads are easy and fun to make! This is a fun craft to do with kids! It is very inexpensive! And because it is a great way to make beautiful and original jewelry out of things that already exist in the universe, it is a perfect craft to do while celebrating Earth Day!!!
Watch the entire Earth Day episode of Glitter. Glue and Gluttony here: