My Thought Process
I have been making paper beads since around October 1996 and through the years never really thought about making beads with fabric. I did come across some people on the internet that were making beads with fabric but it never really interested me until I started making bead sheets with newspaper and tissue paper glued together to make a useable bead sheet. All though I liked the results of the tissue paper fused to the newspaper, the beads always ended up looking a little dark and cloudy to me. Not only that, the process had it's drawbacks.
The way I made the bead sheets with tissue paper and newspaper was to use the wasted drips from drying paper beads to fuse them together, I just let the glaze drip onto the newspaper that had tissue paper pieces on top of them. I would lay the whole piece of newspaper (about 9"x11" ) below the bead drying rack, dip my beads and hang them up and let the glaze drip on the paper, then I would lay torn pieces of colorful tissue paper on top of the dripped glaze after I spread out the glaze with my fingers. It was actually kind of a tedious process and messy as well. The result was not always the same. When I would cut the paper into strips and rolled them up, they didn't always roll easily. The layers would sometimes come apart where the glaze didn't completely saturate the papers. There were bare spots. There had to be a better way.
Then I had a Thought!
One day, as I was going through some of my fabric scraps and fat quarters I bought at Wal-Mart, for other projects I never got to, I thought, perhaps, if I cut these pieces of fabric into more manageable sized sheets, lets say, 9x12 inches or slightly less, I could lay them under my bead drying rack instead of the tissue paper and newspaper. Much easier and more colorful! Maybe even more fun! I also thought, I am not limited to using just fat quarters and scraps of cotton fabric I have in my stash. I can use any fabric from old clothes that may have stains or tears in them. I haven't tried any other type of fabric except for cotton but I would imagine that any fabric that can absorb the glaze would probably work as long as it is thin enough to fit inside the paper bead rollers I have.
So I tried it and here is what I did!
The Method I use
Learn how you can make fabric beads that mimic rolled paper beads and recycle your waste drips from drying strung paper beads that you glaze! I will also explain how you can make them if you don't want to wait until you have paper beads to glaze and want to get right to making fabric beads. This is a great project for recycling old cotton shirts, skirts, dresses and any other cotton fabric scraps you may have lying around. If you are a quilter, you can use fat quarters that you may have already in your fabric stash. I use fat quarters myself since they can be fairly cheap.
These instructions are about how to prepare your fabric for making rolled fabric beads. Once your fabric is prepared and dried, you can cut the fabric into strips, roll and glaze them just like you would any paper bead!
- White glue & water (mixed 50/50), PC-Petrifier, Vibrance or any other thin glaze you like to use to glaze your paper beads.
- Scraps of cotton fabric cut into 9x11 pieces
- Freezer paper
- Corrugated Cardboard 12x12 inches.
- Duct Tape
- Double Stick Tape
- Spray Adhesive
- Plain White Glue, not diluted
Tools Needed To Prepare Fabric
- Tools for cutting your fabric
- Latex gloves if you don't want glaze on your hands.
- Plastic container to keep your glaze in that has a large enough opening to dip your fingers or strung beads into .
Make your drying mat first.
- Cut your freezer paper so it is about 4 inches bigger going both ways, than your piece of cardboard.
- Spray your piece of cardboard, on one side, with spray adhesive.
- Lay the cardboard down onto the rough side or non slippery side of the freezer paper making sure it is centered on the paper.
- Cut the corners of the freezer paper off so you end up with a stop sign shape around your cardboard piece.
- Dry fold the sides to the back side of the cardboard to give the sides fold memory.
- Apply double stick tape to the freezer paper flaps, one at a time and fold them over the cardboard sides. Do this to all 4 sides.
- Cut duck tape to almost the whole width of each side of the cardboard and place it on the back side over the flaps of the freezer paper sealing in the edges of the paper. This will form a non skid surface on the back side of your drying mat.
Drying Mat Note: If you plan to stiffen many pieces of fabric, you will want to make several drying mats or you can purchase flexible cutting boards instead. I bought a pack of 3 at Wal-Mart for less than $4.00. You will want one drying mat for each piece of fabric you want to stiffen at one time.
Prepare Your Fabric
- Cut your fabric into manageable size pieces. I cut mine to about 8x11 inch pieces. They don't have to be exact. Just make sure they are just small enough to fit on your drying mat.
- Lay the fabric, pretty side up, onto your drying mat.
- Dip your fingers into the glaze, or pour a little in a tiny stream all over the fabric.
- Spread the glaze all over the fabric making sure to saturate every strand of thread in the fabric.
- Smooth it so it will dry flat.
- Allow it to dry overnight before cutting into strips to be made into beads.
Note About Cutting the Fabric Into Strips: You can use our All Universal Templates to mark the top and bottom edge of your fabric for cutting them into strips. I recommend printing them onto full sheet sticker paper for ease of use. No need for glue.