Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Jewelry beads, handmade at home from recycled paper, are beautiful, easy to make, and a great green idea. Here’s how you can make your first paper beads in just a couple of hours. You’re sure to be delighted with the results, and soon you'll be making beads in all shapes and sizes for different projects.

You don’t need a lot of materials, just pull out these things that you’re sure to have at home:

- Full color pages from magazines, junk mail or thin paper posters
- Scissors (regular ones or use wavy cut craft scissors for even more attractive beads)
- Regular black ballpoint pen
- Ruler
- Needle or plastic toothpick
- Paper glue
- Clear varnish, even clear nail polish or watered down white glue (2 parts water to 1 part glue) can be used
- Small paint brush, like the kind used for watercolors
- Fishing wire or plastic thread

To begin, take out some of your full color pages. The colors in your pages will be the same for your beads, so go for a predetermined color theme or let the beads be just any random combination - this, of course, according to your patience and supply of color pages.

Next, put the paper you’ve chosen on a flat surface and take out your ballpoint pen and ruler. Place the page vertically, like you were going to read it. Mark a long thin triangle this way - 1 inch-long base in the top corner of your page and a half inch-long point along in the bottom. Take your ruler and draw the 2 lines that connect the base and point. The triangles that you draw will be regular ones (the two sides have exactly the same length). The next triangle will have a 1 inch base at the bottom of the page and a half inch point at the top of the page. Continue making these triangles until you fill up the entire page. This way you will use all the paper and have only a minimum of waste. Cut out the triangles and lay them out flat.

OR: Forget all this measuring, make your first triangle, cut it out, and roll it. If you like the result, make a heavy carboard template of the same triangle for all the rest of them. That's what I finally had to do because I ran out of patience. If you don't like the shape of the first one, try making another triangle with different dimensions. The one that looks best for the project you have in mind will be your template.

The beads that you make with these triangles will be oval shaped and slim. If you want a longer oval bead, simply increase the length of the base of the triangle to 1 and a quarter inches or more. For a smaller bead, decrease the base of the triangle to 3/4 inch. If you want a small rounder bead, you need to draw the width of the base and point to be 1/2 and 1/4 inch, respectively. (The smaller beads are harder to roll.) You can choose any combination of widths for the ends of your triangle strips, just remember that they'll look better if the base and point differ by at least a quarter inch. (Tube beads can be made using completely rectangular strips, instead of triangular ones).

Start rolling the paper strip tightly around the needle or toothpick beginning with the base of the triangle. Use your nails to hold the paper firmly as you roll. Put a tiny bit of paper glue at the end of the rolled strip. (A little brush might help you to avoid too much glue, which can have bad results.) Hold the end of the strip firm for a few seconds to dry the glue. Make as many beads as you need for your project.

The final step to the process is stringing and varnishing the beads. String your beads on the wire or thread. Once fully strung, start varnishing carefully with the little brush and give them at least two coats of varnish. Be sure that the varnish doesn’t leak in and block up the holes. Leave the beads drying for a day or two.

Use your paper beads to make some beautiful pieces of jewelry. You can find lots of interesting bead projects with an Internet search. These projects tend to be simple and are great for gifts.

The first project that I did was to make a beaded safety pin brooch. Here's how I did it. All you need for a brooch is one large-scale metal safety pin (usually called blanket pins), some smaller safety pins, a few dozen small paper beads, needle-nose pliers and a flat-head screwdriver.

Depending on the size of the large safety pin, you may need 8 - 10 or more smaller, beaded safety pins. (For variety, I used the beads first mentioned above in a mostly beige and yellow color and some shorter ones in a black, green and red motif. I cut out the shorter beads with the same template as the longer ones, using the same point but a truncated base and starting with the page in a horizontal rather than a vertical position.)

Open a small pin, slip all the beads on - whatever number that fits, and close the safety pin. Use the needle-nose pliers to pinch the end of the safety pin so it will not pop open later. Keep doing this until all the safety pins are beaded. (I alternated the longer beads with the shorter ones).

Now you are ready to put your beaded pins on the larger safety pin. Open the large safety pin and use the screwdriver to pry open the coils at the end of the pin.

Slip the loop of the first beaded safety pin onto the large one. Pull it down to the loop at the base of the large pin. Pull it around the loop and up the backside of the pin. Repeat this until all the beaded pins are in place.

Use your pliers to tightly close up the loop. You can now fasten your beaded safety pin onto your shirt, hat, purse, etc.

I use my safety pin brooch to hold together the front and backsides of my over-sized shopping bag. By the way, I made my own reusable shopping bag and carry it with me in almost all my outings. That way I'm not tempted to come home with plastic bags. The shopping bag is another easy handmade project that I’ll tell you about at a later date.


Anonymous said...

I am going to try the beads. Since I am severely challenged when it involves crafts/artsie stuff, I may be a bust. If I am sucessful, anybody can do it.
Remember my patio weekend project? I worked for two weeks and still had to hire help to finish it.

Helen Lone Loon said...

Susan, do you have any pictures of the paper beads you made and or the finished projects?
Helen Lone loon

GrandmaS said...

Helen Lone Loon, I'll see that some pics get to you. Thanks for your interest.