Tips for Making Your Own Fabric Beads, Plus Kristal Wick Interview

Oct 31, 2008

Fabric Beads, Take Two

A few years ago I tried to make beads from ribbons.  Sounds pretty easy, right?  Cut a piece of ribbon, roll it up, and glue it.  What could possibly go wrong?  (How much time do you have?)  My beads came apart at the seams and they were easily squashed.  I couldn't figure out how much ribbon should overlap on the seam or what type of adhesive I should use.  It's safe to say I was very intrigued when I saw Kristal Wick's new book, Fabulous Fabric Beads.  Here was an artist who made and sold fabric beads for a living--if I still couldn't figure out how to make a good fabric (or ribbon) bead with this book, then I would just give up!

My First Successful Fabric-Covered Beads

Spooked by my earlier ribbon bead experience, I chose to follow the instructions for the "basic" fabric bead.  The book includes many other possibilities--wooden beads covered with fabric, resin beads, quilted and cross-stitched beads, leather beads (great possibilities for men's jewelry!), and fabric beads embellished with wire lace, hammered copper, and crystals.

For my bead, I used strips of a commercial batik fabric that I bought at a fabric store.  But if you love fabric and want to design your own, you'll definitely want to check out the first part of Fabulous Fabric Beads where Kristal shows you all sorts of ways to create surface designs on fabric.  Using step-by-step photographs and instructions, she shows you how to use bleach pens, stencils, salt, foils, and many other techniques.  This might be old hat to you quilters on the list, but I was amazed by all the different ways to embellish, dye, or color fabrics!  Preview and buy a copy of Fabulous Fabric Beads.

I made a few beads following the instructions and was happy to find that this was much better experience than my earlier attempts.  In fact, I felt so confident about my fabric beadmaking skills, that I even embellished one with a leftover seed bead scrap.  I'm already planning my next fabric bead project--leather beads that I can use as spacers with some denim lampwork beads and silver for a Western-style bracelet.

Here are a few hints from Kristal that helped me:

  1. No need to prewash your fabric, but if it's wrinkled, then iron it first. 
  2. If you have a rotary cutter, use it.  It wasn't bad using scissors, but then, I was only making a few beads.
  3. Wait until the bead is dry before you touch it.  (In an earlier part of the book, Kristal writes this in all caps:  WALK AWAY FROM THE BEAD!)  I would suggest that you work on your beads and then immediately go out to dinner so that everything will be dry when you return.  (Feel free to forward this to your loved ones, so they can see that you didn't make this part up!)

An Interview with Author and Artist Kristal Wick

I love the story of how Kristal Wick came up with the idea for her silk beads.  She had been selling dichroic jewelry on the side while working as a technical writer.  Her customers commented on how heavy some art jewelry earrings were, prompting Kristal to search for a lighter alternative and turn her idea into a new full-time job.  Kristal has some great advice on combining colors, as well as a terrific story about how she tranformed a mistake into a bestselling product.  She is proof that you can live your dream!  Read the full interview


New Project
Firecracker
by Jamie Hogsett

These handmade silk beads pair up brilliantly with novelty eyelash yarn. You can buy fabric beads to use in this necklace or make your own following the instructions in the book Fabulous Fabric Beads by Kristal Wick.  (Or take a class with Kristal at Bead Fest Santa Fe in 2009.)  Large fire-polished beads add sparkle and weight to the necklace.  This project was free on Beading Daily until November 17, 2008.  Instructions are now available in the store.

Designer Jamie Hogsett is also teaching at Bead Fest Santa Fe in 2009.  View her classes and sign up.


Michelle Mach shares free projects every Friday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Michelle, please post them on the website.


 


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Comments

JanG@25 wrote
on Oct 31, 2008 2:49 PM

I love the look of fabric beads, as well as fibers in strands, but what about keeping them clean?  If you wear them against your skin, the oils will eventually stain the fabric -- won't they?  I've had clients ask for stone or glass so they can wear the jewelry with anything they choose and not worry about dirt.  Any ideas?

maggiebarker wrote
on Nov 1, 2008 1:51 AM

I've made some beads from handmade silk paper.  Although they looked OK, I just felt that they looked too different or too unusual to wear out.  How do you get more confidence to wear what you have made?

Margaret

Debra Gibson wrote
on Nov 1, 2008 7:18 PM

Hi Michelle!

My husband bought me the book Fabulous Fabric Beads, by Kristal Wick for my birthday, and I had  to write you about the book ! It's everything you hoped for and more since I have loved her work for so long and  could'nt afford to buy all her beads I thought if I only knew how I could make my own and incorporate them with my own work. I am a polymer clay artist and love vintage styled pieces and Steam Punk. ! This book is the most wonderful colorful book I have ever read! It's written so easily and  the steps to successfully make your own fabric beads are so fun! It alllows you to spread your creative wings and fly !! I love you Kristal Thank You so much!!

Loretta@15 wrote
on Dec 29, 2008 10:03 AM
I love Kristal Wick's book, "Fabulous Fabric Beads". I made my first necklace and was very critical of my finishing, and was not going to show it around. I did decide that I would take it with me on our Thanksgiving visit to my daughter's and get some imput as to what they thought about it. My daughter's MIL was there and wearing an outfit in the exact same colors as my necklace. The next day she asked if I would consider selling her the necklace. She just loved it. I told her I appreciated her imput and that I wanted her to have it as a gift from me.. I now feel better about using the fabric beads and can't wait to get started on some more.
nlevine2 wrote
on Sep 18, 2009 12:54 PM
I've bought the book and made several necklaces using Kristal's crystal-clear (hee hee) directions. But there is one problem I'm having that I'd love to get help with. How do you keep the ends of the fabric beads from unraveling, after you roll up the fabric (on its piece of double-stick backing)? I've tried applying jeweler's glue to the ends of the pieces before rolling them up, but that resulted in an unsightly bump. Same deal with a commercial product I found in the sewing department called "Frey Check." This problem has stopped me from trying to make any more fabric beads. But I still collect the fabric. Batik "gently used " men's ties from Good Will are my latest find.
lrandazz wrote
on Sep 21, 2009 7:28 AM
Still trying to figure out how to make my beads harder. I've used the glue recommended in Kristal's book but still, my beads are still squishy in the middle. Any recommendations? Please!
Afrik1959 wrote
on Mar 27, 2011 10:30 AM

I like this pearl:)