Anyone who has ever enjoyed working with beads can’t deny
the simple fact that beads have some sort of healing power. There’s just
something undeniably life-affirming and uplifting about the joy that you get
when you sit down with your beads to create something. Seeing the smile on the
faces of my students when they’ve finished a project or mastered a new stitch
is an amazing experience and one of the reasons why I love teaching so much.
Recently, Interweave’s Jaime Guthals traveled to Joplin,
Missouri, where the residents are trying to make sense of the recent
devastation caused by violent storms and are slowly rebuilding their lives. Here’s
her account of her weekend in Joplin:
the opportunity to go to Joplin, Missouri this past weekend and
volunteer in the clean-up efforts and teach beading at a special event
for victims of the tornado. With kits donated from my friends at Beading to Beat Autism,
I set up tables for moms, teens, and children as young as 5 and taught
them how to make bracelets using basic seed beads and Stretch Magic®
the aftermath of the disaster, it was such a relaxing, fun experience
for people to sit down and play with beads. Beading seems to have a
special healing power, and I think there’s something meditative about
the rhythm and ease of simple bead stringing, and the act of creating
again when everything around you has been destroyed. And since so many
people lost their possessions, it gave them a piece of jewelry to take
away and something positive to remember about the experience.
This was the first time I’ve ever taught beading to little ones, and I learned a few key things to make it go smoothly:
Use felt mats as placemats on the table so that the beads and supplies don’t roll away.
string to about 9” before the kids arrive, and place a piece of tape at
the end so their beads don’t fall of when stringing them.
kids use beading needles with a big eye and a not-too-sharp point. I
wouldn’t put them in the hands of a child under the age of 5, but the
older kids were fine with them.
the kids to pick out their own beads (I used basic size 11/0 seed
beads), but pour the beads on the mat for them. So many children would
pour too much then have to put them back in the containers, or they
would bump them with their elbows and scatter beads across the table.
piece of paper on the table with lines for different size bracelets (5 –
6” for children; 7-8” for women; 9” approx for men).
adult helpers to assist with tying the knots in the bracelets. We used
clear fingernail polish to seal the knots and finish them.
encourage the children to experiment with their bead patterning and
color combinations. So many kids started out trying to make perfect 1:1
bead patterns, but to bring out their inner artist I showed them how
other combinations, or even beads swirled together on the mat and strung
at random can be beautiful. Older children might benefit from having a
color wheel on the table to see how to mix colors and create other
interesting color combinations.
is a great craft to teach in a group because it’s easily portable, the
supplies are relatively inexpensive per person, and beading has that
instant gratification since participants can make and complete a simple
stretch cord bracelet in under 15 minutes. Kids especially love picking
out their favorite colors and walking away with that “I made this!”
expression on their faces."
If you’re inspired to spread a little beading joy, there are
probably places right in your own community where you can start. The joy of
beading is best felt when it’s shared with others!