Fabric covered beads: a tutorial

This is my new fabric-covered bead necklace.

A while back I posted a photo of this necklace I made for my mum.  The design for that came from the gorgeous Louis Vuitton inspired necklaces made by Froo*gal here. Until I found her necklaces I had struggled to find really good ways to use the fabric beads I’d made.  They are labour intensive, especially when you need to make a lot of them, which made me reluctant to just string them into bracelets.

I’ve had a few ideas floating around my head about ways to use them and today I came up with a style that is simple, has endless possibilities, looks striking and, most importantly, shows off those time-consuming babies to greatest effect.

Here’s another design. This is simply a pink, glass heart strung onto a head pin, followed by two of the floral beads I’ve had hanging around for ages waiting for a project. I twisted the top of the pin into a loop, attached a small silver jump ring and Bob,as they say, was my uncle.

I made the green and brown one in the picture at the start of the post in almost exactly the same way except I threaded a simple silver bead cap onto the bottom of my head pin first to stop my green fabric beads falling off.

If you would like to have a go at covering your own beads, I’ve put together a little tutorial on the technique I use to cover mine.

Here’s what you’ll need.

  • Wooden beads.  I’m using 20mm beads for this tutorial although I’ve also successfully covered 16mm ones and even 12mm.
  • Fabric.  For 20mm beads I use strips of 3cm x 7cm fabric. You’ll obviously need to adjust your strip sizes if you choose different sized beads.
  • Clear-drying glue. I like Helmar’s Super-Tac because I find it is easy to work with, it dries clear, is very strong once it’s dry and is non toxic.
  • Small scissors
  • 4mm knitting needle.

First, cut your strips to size.

Next, squirt a nice, thick line of glue around the whole circumference your bead.

The bead is only sitting on my needle in that last shot for the sake of the photograph.  I actually hold it between my fingers while I pop the glue on. It looks  a bit strange sitting there doesn’t it?  Kind of like a little planet or something.

Now, position your bead in the middle of your fabric strip and roll the fabric around it, making sure the bead holes are visible at each end.  This photo shows you the position.

Smother the overlapping fabric with extra glue and smoosh it down all the way along the overlap.

Now cut a small fringe of fabric into the fabric that extends above one end of your bead.

Smother the fringe with a generous amount of glue.

Then fold each individual fringe-y bit in towards the bead hole.

I find it sometimes helps to neaten things up if you stick your knitting needle into the hole after every few flaps have been folded down.  If you’ve put enough glue on them, they can be worked around the edge almost like papier-mache. Sounds weird but you’ll see what I mean once you get glue-ing and folding.

Once all the flaps are folded, use your fingers to smooth any majorly lumpy or uneven bits and then poke your knitting needle in to neaten the edge and ensure the integrity of the hole so you can string your bead later. Yes folks, the integrity of the hole. If that phrase doesn’t enter the modern Australian vernacular it will be a great pity.

Repeat this on the other side of the bead.  And you’re done.  Allow your bead to dry or, if you’re impatient like me, just string it on wet and let it dry on the necklace.

I don’t cover mine with mod podge although I probably would if I were going to sell them.  Just for that extra bit of strength.  Apparently there is mod podge specifically for fabric now although I’m pretty sure traditional podge or any clear PVA glue would work equally well.

I find making these beads quite therapeutic.  Especially sticking the fringe bit down and smoothing them in with the needle.  It’s very satisfying.

If you do have a go at it and are pleased with your results (or even if you’re not!), do consider posting a photo to the twirling with betty Flickr pool.

Happy covering everybetty!

49 thoughts on “Fabric covered beads: a tutorial

  1. WOW…you have really honed that technique. Great tutorial with awesome photos. That blog post of mine just keeps on giving. It is has been so satisfying to have such a big response to something I blogged about 2 years ago. I hope you will keep up with my froogal posts because soon I will be starting an exciting new venture that should be of interest to anyone that loves needle arts.

    • My gosh – that’s a bit of a thrill coming from the Queen of Mod Podge herself! I wish I had podged them now! Can we pretend I did?

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  4. This is the best way I have seen it done!!! Thank you!!!! Been trying to do this for a while.

    Mine are not working as well as yours at the moment, but hopefully a bit of practise will improve…

    Thanks again!

  5. Hey can you send me an email when you see this? I couldn’t find your contact info! :)

    I love this tutorial for fabric beads!!

    Was wondering if I can include it in my free crafts ebook I’m putting together for CraftsAcademy.com (site not yet set-up, just temporary site in place for contest)?  It will be given away for free to visitors of the site to receive it to their email, not sold or displayed publicly, and I want some really great tutorials to put in there.  I’ll certainly give you credit for it and happy to even put your blog link in there too! :)

    Would that be okay? Can’t wait to hear from you!
    Thanks,
    Jenn Spencer
    CraftsAcademy.com

  6. Hello,

    Love the tutorial!
    Thanks for taking great pictures of the steps, and providing descriptive information.

    I do have one question though.
    Is it best to use large hole beads, or are the regular holed beads best to use?

    Thank you,
    Cathy

    • Hi Cathy – glad you love the tutorial. The beads I buy here in Australia really only have one size hole which I would describe as regular-sized holes I think. Large holes would make it a little easier to glue in the fringe but then might not be so good if you’re stringing them on something thin. So I think you should be fine with the regular size. They’re fiddly but worth it!
      Thanks for your comment – hope that helps.

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  8. thank you for this :)
    I have wanted to do this for a while and this tutorial is exactly the kind of direction i was looking for! ( not those rolled fabric beads or tied fabrics)

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  10. Fabulous. Thankyou! I was looking for some info on the web on how to make these as I have some lovely retro brown fabric I want to make to go with are dress I just made (for me!) and found you, so thank you so much:) Will pop back with a photo if I can find my way back to you!
    Keryn

  11. Love the tutorial…I was trying to do this a different way and shoved the knitting needle through my hand. (that hurts really bad by the way) I’m going to try this as soon as I’m healed!

  12. Hey Twirling Betty thanks for the tute, (which I found after searching for how ot make one such necklace) have added a picture of mine on Lillipilli Lane’s blog) with a link to your post:) I will add a tute of my own to share some ideas I came up with.

    Keryn

  13. Great tutorial! I was trying to make them but your tip on cutting the little strips at the end before folding the fabric in was very helpful! Thank you so much!

  14. Oh I love these. Loving epecially to find an Aussie blog. Loving the humour too :-) I am an Aussie living in India and the fabrics here are amazing. Can’t wait to put them to use! Thanks

  15. Thanks so much for this post!
    I have been searching high and low for something exactly like this to create some finished looking fabric beads. This was perfect, and here is what I was able to create thanks to you!

    http://wp.me/p1HINN-6H

  16. Great tut, you have an adorable personality! Thanks for sharing, ill def post as soon as i have a finished product

  17. Hi!
    I’ve been trying my hand at making fabric covered beads but my biggest problem is finishing it off! I close up d tube (after stringing the beads) by sewing the ends into a metal ring. I must say it does look nice but still not perfect. Any ideas please?

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  19. Hello – I know that you popped this tutorial up ages ago but just wanted to thank you so much for it. I too saw that Louis Vuitton/Liberty Fabric necklace and 100s of knock offs floating around the net and have had my Liberty Lawn sitting in my “to do” pile for a couple of months as I have experienced the shame of not getting to it, procrastination as to how to cover the beads with this ultra precious fabric and guilt over how much I paid for my Liberty! Thanks so much for giving my bum the kick it needed to get to it. Glue from Spotlight poised and ready! Thanks from South Australia xx

    • Hi Ness,
      Thanks for your lovely comment. I’m delighted to have inspired you and very much hope my tutorial does justice to your beautiful Liberty fabric. xx

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