Sunday, August 23, 2009

How to make fabric beads from scraps

I'm still obsessed with fabric beads. This is very odd since I usually spend a few days working on something and then go on to another project. Perhaps it's because I was presented with a challenge that I couldn't resist. There is nothing I like more than a challenge.

The other day, one of my online friends, Shauna, mentioned that she had tried making fabric beads following directions she had read on the Internet. She was quite frustrated since her results were less than stellar.

The technique involved taking scraps of material, fibers, threads, etc. and washing the collection in the washing machine or by hand and then drying everything in the dryer where the material/fibers would get tangled. The instructions then said to take a small amount of the tangled material, roll into a small, tight ball, pin in place to hold everything together, and then stitch the material until a tight bead was formed. Once this was done, the bead could be embellished with seed beads.

After following the directions, Shauna lamented, "My material didn't clump up. It just made a mess in the washer." I felt badly for her, and since I was stuck in the house while Hurricane Bill deluged northern NJ with rain, I decided to try my hand at this technique.

Here is my simplified version of how to make beads from scraps of fabric and thread. I like "simple" don't you? I also like to recycle. It makes me feel patriotic and noble. I'm not adding to the landfill. I'm not increasing my carbon footprint. I'm creating something from nothing. Oh what a good girl am I!

I decided to bypass the washing and drying steps. First of all, it saved time. Second of all, it saved water and electricity. I'm getting greener and greener by the moment. The goal of the washing and drying step was to get a tangled mess of frayed fabric.

I accomplished this by cutting some odds and ends of fancy fibers into 12 inch pieces.
I then ripped some scraps of fabric into very, very thin strips. The goal was to have lots of threads hanging off the fabric. To be honest, when I was all done making the bead, I could hardly see the frayed edges because I had sewn the bead so tightly. The trick is to have the material in very thin strips (as close to 1/4" as possible.)
Next step was to intersperse the fibers and fabric .....
and then roll the whole thing up into a ball.
Next, cut off a small amount from the fabric/fiber ball.
Rather than pinning the fabric/fiber into a bead shape, I used a temporary adhesive spray (used by quilters to hold paper pattern pieces to fabric) which did a lovely job of holding the fabric pieces together while I formed the ball. Note: It didn't make the fabric sticky as I had feared.
Knowing that I would need to attach my bead to a chain using a jump ring, I inserted a wire through the material before I stitched the bead. Once the bead was tightly sewn together, it would have been impossible to get the wire through the bead. I am so proud of myself for having figured this out before I made my bead.
Working my way around the bead, I used colored thread to stitch the strips of material tightly together. This way if my stitches showed, I could claim it was part of the design.

After the bead was stitched tightly, I had fun embellishing the bead. I used metallic threads of various colors which I wrapped around and stitched through the bead. I finished up by sewing small beads all around the bead. I have to admit, it was a labor-intensive project and took a couple of hours, but the results were worth it.

And I have the satisfaction of having met the challenge.


  1. Well this is just about the coolest thing I have ever seen. Aren't you the clever one. I love this bead. You going to have to teach me your wonderful techniques.

  2. great bead! You're an environmental genius. Now I want to go make fabric beads...

  3. You are indeed a clever girl!! I LOVE this bead and this technique! And again I appreciate your photos and step-by-step tutorial. The outcome is so colorful and unique - these would make lovely earrings and bracelets and necklaces!
    Your sense of humor is always so wry and fun and appreciated!!

  4. Why you clever girl you!!! Way to go! need to send the bead to me so I can see it close up. My eyesight is getting worse, you know. lol

  5. Clever Judy!... very clear instructions and great photos of the steps...the bead is beautiful and I could see a necklace of two of these beads flanking a slightly larger...

    Judy...your made this technique sound simple...I am sure it takes some fine manuvering with the needle and thread...all I can say is....Judy's Clever!

  6. Getting greener by the second, lol! That bead looks wonderful and I now need to make some! sigh...thanks, Judy! :)

  7. I think I can do this!!!!! I just love your beads!!!!!! Clever!
    Thank you SO MUCH !

  8. Thanks - that looks like good fun!

  9. What great instructions! Thanks! Love you!

  10. you Jersey girls are so talanted...great bead and looks to be a fun project!


  11. This is so incredibly cool! I'm going to have to try it out myself. I have a jar full of scraps that will come out today!

  12. OMG! i love this bead!!!!
    have to try this one... =)
    i just need some fabric because i already got the wire ;).
    thanks for the easy step by step!

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  14. Very creative, I am impressed and am going to make some of these.....thanks for sharing

  15. It has been a great support, thanks a lot, now to make fabric beads from scraps is quick with your recommendations. Thanks

  16. I read the same instructions you had and I was hesitant to place scraps into my washer or dryer. But your technique is so much easier and what a great bead you created. Thank you for sharing

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