Beautiful beads from a surprising source

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Last summer, I was sitting outside on a restaurant patio, enjoying the sunshine and a pre-dinner drink. A friend complimented me on my necklace, asking if the beads were Murano glass. She was shocked when I told her they were handmade, from magazine pages.

Paper beads are easy to make, and simple enough for children to tackle. Long, skinny triangles of paper are wound tightly around a base, secured with glue, then glazed or varnished to make them durable and shiny. That’s it.

The necessary supplies are minimal.

You need pages from a magazine or a flyer, a ruler, pencil and scissors. As well, you’ll need white glue, a glue stick or Mod Podge. Clear nail polish can be used as varnish, as can Diamond Glaze, which is found at craft stores. Mod Podge also works well.

The only other supply you need is something to wrap the paper around. I recommend a metal skewer. Kids may find a straw easier to manage. As you’ve likely guessed, what you wrap the paper around determines the diameter of the hole in the bead. You can even use a toothpick.

To prepare the paper, cut it in two different ways. First, cut rectangles about an inch wide and at least eight inches long, then cut those in half on the diagonal. This give you two long, right-angled triangles. Alternatively, you can cut an isosceles triangle, an inch wide and eight inches long, with the point in the middle.

If you want thicker beads, cut your triangles longer. The proportions are up to you, but do use a ruler and pencil to measure and mark your cutting lines.

As you get comfortable with the process, you can experiment with both the width and length of your triangles. Necklaces and bracelets made with beads of different widths have great eye-appeal. Including store-bought beads with your paper ones when you make your jewellery is also attractive.

To create your first bead, place the wide end of the triangle against your skewer and start to tightly roll it around. After about three turns, dab on some glue and keep rolling. You can add more glue as you go along, if you wish. I don’t bother.

When you get to the end, glue the point down to secure. Gently remove the bead from the base. A slight twist (rather than a pull) works best, to ensure the bead doesn’t come apart.

Once you have a bowl full of beads, it’s time to finish them off with a varnish. That will make them sticky, so I suggest placing them on a piece of wax paper or baking parchment to dry.

When they’re dry and shiny, you’re ready to make a bracelet, using elastic (available in the jewellery section at most craft stores). Just wrap the elastic around your wrist, cut and string on the beads, tying the ends of the elastic together when the bracelet is full.

And you’re done. You’ve recycled paper, and made something beautiful to wear.