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!