Before you take your recycling out to the street this week, you may want to rescue a few things for a cool craft project! Did you know there are some really amazing ways to reuse your empty food boxes and old magazines ? It’s relatively simple to use them to create some unique paper beads that you can craft into jewelry, key chains, or even a beaded curtain if you’re feeling really ambitious!
This is an easy enough craft that my 6-year-old was quite successful at making her own beads and stringing them onto a necklace herself, so if you’re looking for a kid-friendly crafty activity, paper beads are a great option for kids about 5 and up. (My 4-year old tried making the beads, and had some success with the paper version, but the cardboard was a little too stiff for her little fingers and fine motor skills.)
To make the beads, you’ll need just a few things:
- Printed paper or cardboard, such as empty cracker boxes or magazine pages
- A wooden skewer or toothpick
- Mod podge and a paintbrush
- A ruler
- Scissors or a paper cutter
- A pen
To begin, you’ll need to deconstruct your food box or carefully tear your magazine pages out. I used an empty Cheez-It box. I like the bright colors!
If you use paper or magazine pages, your beads will be smaller and thinner, like the one on the left. If you use printed cardboard, your beads will be chunkier, like the one on the right.
Once you’ve taken the box apart, trim off the flaps so you’re left with just the flat middle rectangles.
Use a ruler to make marks across the box at 1cm, then every 2cm from the first mark. On the other side, make marks at every 2cm.
Draw from the 1cm mark to the bottom corner (you will discard this piece), then draw triangles from the next 2cm mark to the bottom marks, until your cardboard looks like this.
Trim along the lines with a paper cutter or scissors.
You will end up with strips that look like this.
Take your skewer or toothpick in one hand and a cardboard strip in the other hand, and start wrapping the cardboard around the skewer just until you’ve covered the skewer.
Hold it there and use your brush to apply a thin layer of Mod Podge to the rest of the cardboard strip, then wrap the strip tightly around the skewer until you get to the very end.
Paint an additional coat of Mod Podge over the whole bead to seal it, then let it dry. Congratulations, you just made your first paper bead! (Wasn’t that easy?)
(Note: You may also use clear nail polish or water-based polyurethane to seal the beads and make them shiny. I tried each of these methods and was just as happy with the look of the ones sealed with glossy Mod Podge, and less supplies is better in my book!)
Repeat the process until your fingers feel like they’re going to fall off you have a whole pile of pretty paper beads.
To make the beads into a bracelet or necklace, you’ll need:
- Your finished paper beads
- Clear stretchy beading string (.5mm)
- Small seed beads
- Medium spacer beads
I chose to make a bracelet, so first I measured my wrist and determined that I needed my bracelet to be about 7 inches long. Measure out enough beading string and then add a few inches to give yourself plenty of extra string to tie the ends off. I used a 12 inch piece.
Wrap a piece of tape around one end of your string, so that you can easily string the beads on without them falling off the end. Then measure from the end of the tape to the length you want your bracelet to be and make a mark on the string with a pen or Sharpie, so you’ll know where to end your beading.
Choose spacer beads that are large enough that they won’t go through the ends of your paper beads. This will depend on what you use to make your paper beads. Since I used a wooden skewer, my bead holes were pretty large, so I chose beads slightly wider than the holes in my beads.
Start with your spacer bead, then add a paper bead and another spacer. Add seed beads next. I added 10 seed beads which covers about a half an inch. You can add as many or as few as you’d like, just make sure you’re consistent so that you have even spacing between the paper beads. You’ll want to end with seed beads to complete your pattern.
Tie off your bead string tightly with a square knot.
Here is what my finished bracelet looks like!
There are so many possibilities with these beads. You could use book pages, sheet music, maps, greeting cards, catalogs, wrapping paper, etc. to make the beads. Different types of paper will give different types of looks!
Here’s what my daughter’s necklace looks like. (Notice you don’t have to have the seed beads or spacer beads, you can just string the beads like they are.) She was so proud of herself, she couldn’t wait to wear her necklace to school and show her friends and teachers!
Have you made some paper beads? I would love to hear about your paper bead making adventures!