3 Easy Ideas for Making Large Hole Polymer Clay Beads

I've found a new appreciation for polymer clay bead making these last few months, and I'm lucky that the lovely folks over at Polyform Products have agreed to supply me with a steady stream of free polymer clay bead making projects! This free bead making project was designed by Suzanne Anderson of Yikes Studio for Polyform Products, and I'm pretty smitten with it.

Large hole beads are a hot trend right now, showing up on things like sari silk, leather cord, and even industrial-looking ball chains. String a few of these handmade beads on a piece of colorful dyed silk ribbon for a unique gift, or use them on pens, letter openers, and keychains for fun beaded accessories!


  • Polymer clay: 2 blocks of pearl, 5 assorted colors
  • Polyform large hole bead inserts


  • Pasta machine
  • Acrylic roller
  • Tissue blade
  • Nonstick surface
  • Dedicated toaster oven and bead rack for baking

Making Your Base Beads

Find a nice harmony of colors that you enjoy. The colors that are used in this example are turquoise, fuchsia, pearl, wasabi, Spanish olive, and silver. A little bit of pearl and translucent clay has been added into each during conditioning to give a subtle glow and sparkle.

Condition your polymer clay both before and during mixing by running it through the pasta machine.

Roll up balls of clay in your desired sizes and colors. Create a few polymer clay balls using the pearl clay so that you can create metallic beads, too.

3 Ideas for Decorating Your Polymer Clay Beads

Decorating Idea #1: Spiral canes.

Make your spiral canes by cutting out and stacking two or three colors directly on top of each other. Run the stack through the pasta machine to achieve your desired thickness.
Create a "jelly roll" by tightly rolling up the stack from one end to the other. Reduce the by vigorously rolling it between your fingers, starting in the middle, and work your way out to the ends.
Slice very thin pieces off the finished cane and apply to a finished ball of clay. Roll vigorously to incorporate the spiral cane into the bead.

Decorating Idea #2: Skinner blend appliques.

Cut a thick slice off of a finished Skinner blend, and roll it through your pasta machine on the thinnest setting. Cut shapes out of the thin clay with a tissue blade.
Apply these thin shapes carefully to your polymer clay bead and roll vigorously to incorporate.

Decorating Idea #3: Blended stripes.

Cut off a thick slice of your finished Skinner blend and choose another color of polymer clay that contrasts with the colors of your Skinner blend. Run the slice of Skinner blend through your pasta machine at the thickest setting, and the piece of contrasting color at a thinner setting.
Place the two strips of clay together and roll them to remove any air bubbles. Pass the whole piece of polymer clay through the thickest setting on the pasta machine.
Cut the piece of clay in half and stack the two pieces on top of each other, alternating the layers to create stripes. Compress slightly and cut again, stacking the new pieces to create stripes. Repeat until you have a healthy stack of colored polymer clay stripes. You can reduce it if needed for your particular bead application.
Apply to your beads in very thin slices by rolling vigorously between your palms to incorporate.

Using the Large Hole Bead Inserts

Now that you've made and decorated your polymer clay beads, it's time to use the large hole bead inserts and bake them!

Use the drinking straw to create a hole in your polymer clay bead by gently pushing and twisting the straw through the center of the bead.
Remove the straw and place the metal bead hole into each end of your bead. Reshape your bead around the large bead hole insert as needed.

Carefully shape the polymer clay up over the sides slightly to hold the large hole bead inserts in place, and reshape your polymer clay bead again.

Finally, bake your polymer clay beads according to the package directions.

Fun stuff! Now that you've made an army of these beautiful large-hole polymer clay beads, you need some new beading projects to use them all up — and lucky you, all beading projects are on sale right now in the Beading Daily shop! Choose from thousands of bead making and jewelry making projects, all at 30% off through October 11, 2012 at 11:59 p.m. MST. (Another great reason to stock up on beading projects: the holidays are just around the corner, and you know you need to start working on those holiday gifts for teachers and co-workers, right?)

For more surface embellishment ideas for your large hole polymer clay bead making projects and instructions on how to do a basic Skinner blend, head on over to the Beading Instructions blog! A special thanks to Iris Weiss of Polyform Products for sharing this free tutorial with us!

Bead Happy,


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Bead Making, Beading Daily Blog
Jennifer VanBenschoten

About Jennifer VanBenschoten

Born in New Jersey in 1974, I escaped to the Adirondacks for the first time in 1995, making it my permanent home in 2000.  I have been interested in beads, buttons and making jewelry as long as I can remember.  It's probably my mother's fault - she was a fiber artist and crochet historian, and whenever she ordered supplies from one mail order source, she would order a huge bag of assorted buttons and beads for me and my sister!    

9 thoughts on “3 Easy Ideas for Making Large Hole Polymer Clay Beads

  1. Please tell us where to obtain the inserts. I have been looking for them for several months, they are not available in our local stores, and an online search has proven unsatisfactory.

  2. I got a catalog today that shows some metal inserts for beads. The url is
    http://www.orientaltrading.com and the inserts are called “Rings for Large Hole Beads.” The description reads: When a large hole bead loses its metal ring, don’t toss it! Fix it with these! Metal (50 pcs. per unit) 9mm with 4mm holes. $2.25 per unit. Hope this helps someone! It is the first I have seen them for sale ANYWHERE.