Posts Tagged ‘beads’

a-maize-ing necklace

one of my favorite things about autumn are the beautiful, variegated ears of maize that grace the farmers markets. their jewel-like colors are always inspiring… and this year they inspired jewelry. ūüėČ

if it were not for crow rooster crow, i wouldn’t have known it was possible to bead with corn, but i saw this supercool idea for making an indian corn necklace and had to put it into action.

N was thrilled to help pop the kernels off the ears of corn. she spent an entire day (off and on) working on one of the ears. this is a great task for little hands, unless you have one of those weird ears of maize where the kernels are sharp. (we had one of those and it so wasn’t possible for her or me to pluck that one.)

after all kernels were off the cobs, it was quite satisfying to even just play with a huge bowl of the seeds. this material alone makes a colorful filler for an autumn sensory box for toddlers and up.

the next step was to soak the kernels in water to soften them a bit so they can later be punctured by a needle. i chose a handful of the seeds to soak, as i wasn’t ready to use them all at once. (we ended up with zillions!) the blog where i saw this idea said this may take “a few hours” but i soaked ours for about 24 hours (only because i didn’t have a chance to get back to them until a day later.)

i chose some random thread and a needle from my sewing stash, and drained the water from the kernels. then i began to string them onto the thread. it was easier than i thought it would be.

the white part of the kernel is easiest to pierce.

pardon these dark rainy-afternoon photos

stringing the necklace was very satisfying. while N couldn’t use the needle and thread herself, she sat beside me, cheering me on excitedly as she watched her necklace take shape.

the idea is to make this as easy as possible… use a LONG piece of thread so you can just tie it together after the strand is long enough to go over your little one’s head. i didn’t have too much forsight on this one, so my thread was too short, and i ended up having to put a clasp on this necklace so she could take it on and off because it lacked a bit of length. luckily, i’m a beader and had those things on hand, but it would have been easier had i thought about this in advance, so i’m telling you now so you can learn from my mistake.

once it was complete, N was thrilled to try it on. she said it looked like “what a hula dancer would wear in the fall.”

we have so many more jewel-like kernels that i’d love to make a multi-strand harvest necklace for myself, and perhaps a bracelet for N.


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autumnal art

with the autumn equinox just behind us, my thoughts are turning to colorful leaves and acorn hunts! i thought it might be a nice time to revisit the artistic endeavors that last fall brought in our home. click on the names below to see the complete tutorial for each:

windblown trees

leaf rubbings

some felted wool acorn cuties

a leaf mask

yarn pumpkins

and one of my favorites… autumn leaf garland!

we did a lot of fun halloween crafts last year, too… but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. for now, enjoy the refreshing air, pinecones, bright leaves, and acorn treasures the season brings! crisp, fresh autumn art coming soon! stay tuned!

happy autumn!


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bottle cap art magnets

i recently realized that we recycle so many plastic juice (and otherwise) bottle caps, so i figured i should start saving some to see what art comes from them. the first (of likely more projects to come) are bottle cap magnets.

yep, this has traditionally been done wit metal bottle caps from glass bottles, but we honestly don’t buy anything like this in our house, so i’m using the plastic and large metal ones we’ve got. ¬†first i used some elmer’s household cement to glue little round magnets to the backs of the caps.

i let them dry overnight.

the next day, i used 1.5″ and 1″ hole punches to crop selected pieces out of some of N’s art work to “frame” in the caps.

i mod podged both sides of the art so that it wouldn’t get soaked when it was coated in the next step. from this i learned that next time i’ll “laminate” the art with contact paper or clear packaging tape on both sides.

(who knew that cats like to lick mod podge?!? place up high to dry!)

next i glued the art down to the bottom of a few of the caps. i coated the top of it with this great stuff called dimensional magic, which is like a thick resin or clear casting medium. you can find it on¬†amazon, though i couldn’t find it in my local craft or hardware stores. i found some helpful tips for using dimensional magic on this web site.

after each was coated, N helped me drop some seed beads and sequins onto the wet medium to give the bottle caps some bling.

looking foggy through the wet dimensional magic

we let it dry overnight… and then some, as the thicker ones were still tacky after 12 hours. i learned that the art that she had painted with acrylics and watercolors got smeared by the dimensional magic, despite the mod podge coating, which is why next time i’ll laminate.

unfortunate blurry painted dragon & bunny

the pencil and crayon drawings came out really great.

now we have art holding up the art on our fridge!



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beaded name bracelets

we’ve done some bead crafts before, but N wasn’t ever as into diligently stringing beads as she was today… when my self-proclaimed beader went to WURK.

we got out our trusty alphabet beads to make a baby bracelet for a newborn friend (and a big sis bracelet for the newly-minted big sis.) we like to mix these with our mish-mashed bead collection on stretch cord to make funky trinkets as gifts.

we’ve also used these same combos to make allergy-alert bracelets – remember? N picked out some beads she loved, and we also made her a name bracelet for herself today.

(knitted sweater a la my mom)

as i was working on the baby bracelet, i noticed that N was rooting through the letters, and had picked out a stash of beads and was stringing them happily on the other side of the table. honestly, this wasn’t going to be a blog entry craft until i saw what was going on.

it wasn’t until i was finished with the baby bracelet that i realized what she was doing – too sweet!

customized jewelry is quite a perk of having a 3-year-old who can spell the names of her family members.

batgirl, the beader

i proudly sported my mommy bracelet all day long!

way better than silly bandz, yo!



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lasting impression necklace

a while back i posted a blog about making impressions of natural objects in sculpey after a nature walk. it was one of my favorites…

since we discovered that sculpey is fairly toxic when baking, i decided to try this out again, but this time using crayola model magic. N and i wanted to make a farewell gift for two of her sweet friends who are leaving the state, so what better thing to give than a piece of the bay area? so, impressions from the redwood tree in our yard. we pressed a leaf and a tiny pinecone into two pieces of model magic, and fashioned it into a droplet form, poking a hole through the top with a wooden skewer.

then we let it dry for 24 hours, and strung it on a leather cord along with a few earthy wooden beads we had in our stash. and there you have it – our ode to california farewell gift.



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beaded suncatcher

there’s a window in N’s playhouse outside that gets amazing afternoon light… it was begging for some prismatic suncatchers!

i found these cool crystal pieces from an old chandelier ages ago at an antique flea market for maybe a buck each, if that. they seemed like perfect little rainbow-making charms to drop from the bottom of each of our three light-catching strands. because we used nylon bead cord, i just tied a knot to the little loops at the end of the chandelier pieces, and added beads from there. (if you use bead wire, you can rig it like you would the end of a necklace.)

being a formerly avid beader, i have a stash of bead string and wire around the art room, as well as plenty of random cheesy plastic and glass sparkly beads that little girls like to play with. if you head to michael’s or check on, you are likely to find a large pack of plastic sparkly beads for a few dollars. mirrored pieces are nice, too, but i didn’t have any for this.

one night, after dinner, N and i made a bowl of the most colorful and reflective beads we could find. (because we did this in the evening, the photos look darker. sorry. i’m not a fan of using flash.) N had plenty of fun just putting her hands in the bowl to feel the beads – like a tiny sensory table.

she searched for treasures to thread onto our bead cord.

we made three strands of totally random color order and all different lengths.

we tied loops in the top of them so that the next day we could hang them from nails in the wall of the shed-turned-playhouse above the window.

they’re already making rainbows all over the walls in the afternoon sunshine… love it!



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decorated frame

just a simple little thing to share… one of N’s oldest (well, he’s 3 years young) so, i should say longest friends is celebrating his birthday this month. for a gift, we decided to make a fun little frame commemorating their friendship. (they now live on opposite coasts of the country and haven’t been able to see each other in a while.)

N watercolored an ikea wooden frame with her favorite color Рpurple. then we collected various trinkets, buttons, shells, her sculpey creations, some shrinky-dink designs, and other findings from our art cabinet, and set out to glue them onto the frame once it was dry.

N drew and wrote a cute little card for him, and we framed a picture of the last time they hung out together.


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nest zest

this post is truly for the birds… it’s a way to help our little winged friends pimp their nests for spring, while also using up the scraps you have cluttering up that art bin.

think of these as ornaments for springtime… to be hung outside on the trees in your yard so that birds can peck into them, between the wires, to retrieve lovely adornments for the nests they’re building. this is also a great wintertime project, especially if you are in a snowy area, as it is harder for birds to find scraps and things with which to create nests in such conditions. over the winter, i saw a nest kit made in what looked like a tiny crab pot cage in a gift shop. these can be made inside of lots of things – think mesh bags from the grocery store, little crafty bird cages, etc. i opted to come up with my own homemade version.

the first part is a grown-up (or older child) task: take some wire (i recommend 20 gauge or thicker) and wrap it around one of your child’s balls (ours was tennis ball size, but you can use any sized ball you wish.) i used one of my daughter’s squishy water balls so that i could mush it to slip it out easily when i was finished wrapping.

after you’ve wrapped it sufficiently, bring the ends of the wire to meet at the top, for a loop, and twist around it with some small pliers. then gently pull the ball out of a larger opening. once you do that, you may need to manipulate your wire back into a ball shape with your hands. you can get creative with sizes and shapes. i strung a couple of wooden beads into ours for fun.

then grab your little one and go hunting through your art cabinet/closet/drawer/bin for scraps of felts, fabrics, ribbons, raffia, moss, feathers, or anything that seems soft and strong enough to hold up to rain. think earth-friendsly and biodegradable. (no plastics, please!)

our scrappy mess

if scraps are large, cut them into little strips.

you and your child can have fun stuffing the wire ball full of these scraps. we enjoyed thinking of color schemes or themes for each one.


now just hang your little orb on a tree outside and see if it draws any feathered friends to it. days or weeks later, it can be fun to take your child out on a nest quest in your yard (or neighborhood) to find little birdie homes that include your groovy treasures. one fun part is that once the birds have emptied your orbs, you can refill them!

these make great gifts for spring birthdays, easter, earth day, mother’s day, and father’s day! just be sure to include a note with it so the recipient knows just what to do with it and doesn’t think you haven’t lost your mind by sending them a ball of art scraps.


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rose beads

here’s another one of those art activities that starts out with the best intentions, and then falls sort of flat in the end. though, it is my aim to share all of our art-experiements with you, dear readers, so that maybe you can try it with better luck, perhaps, and learn from our mistakes.


my sweet husband brought home two dozen beautiful red roses a while back. we’re not big fans of purchasing cut flowers over here (lovely as they are, they are kind of a waste of money and our cats usually just eat them, knock over the vase, and later vomit flower-parts up onto the rug.) regardless, the roses were romantic, and quite pretty for that temporary while. and husband assures me they were on sale. hopefully this blog comes at just about the time when your valentine flowers are dunzo and can begin their second life.¬†when my roses’ vibrant petals started dropping, i thought there must be something we could do with them.

a zillion things came to mind from rosewater to rose baths (but who am i kidding? i hardly soak in a bath anymore and who knows if there are pesticides on these) to potpourri (but that¬†just collects dust at grandmothers’ houses, right? gross.) so i googled a bit, and found out about rose beads. alright, cool and useful recycling, i thought. i’m a long-time beader… and maybe N will enjoy this. i figured i could make a meaningful, very personal¬†mala from these… so N happily helped me to pick off the wilted petals.

then i followed the instructions for rose beads that i found on learn to know, and ground up my limp (but not dried) petals in our food processor until they were couscous-like.

the next step was to simmer the petals in just enough water to cover them, using a cast iron pot. i don’t have a cast iron pot, so i just used a regular one. the thing i read promised that our house would smell delightful. WRONG! it started to stink. i am not sure why, but it kinda grossed us all out.

after a few sessions of boiling, we squeezed out as much water as we could (through a screen strainer) and let the pulp dry by keeping it out for a couple of days. after it was a tacky consistency, we were able to pinch off pieces of it to roll into little balls. if it’s still really wet at this stage, the balls fall apart easily, so i’ll forewarn you that your little friends with tiny fingers can get easily frustrated by this. make sure it’s kind of like paste before you begin this step with a kiddo-helper. (i regret not taking a lot of photos of this as we did it, but i didn’t really know if it would be blog-worthy at the time. honestly, i still don’t know that it is, but i do know that it was a lot of effort expended… read on…)

so we placed our rolled rose petal balls (which smelled a bit putrid, i have to admit) onto a piece of cardboard and let them dry out in the garage for days.

the thing is, i was supposed to wait until they were mostly, but not totally dry, and stick a pin or a stiff wire through them to make holes in each bead (to string it!) but i neglected to do this, as i forgot they were out there. weeks turned into months. uh oh. now we are left with some hole-less, spheres of dried rose petals… i imagine i could put sturdy beading wire through them and still string them as a mala strand or even a mala bracelet… but i may just chalk this one up to an art-gone-wrong activity. somewhat due to the stench (why?! maybe they had pesticides on them?? they were grocery store sale roses afterall…) and mostly due to my negligence in attending to them at the proper stage for piercing.

we’re open to suggestions… what should we do with these little floral orbs now?


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solar system strand

one of N’s little friends is totally into all things outer space. she adores planets and rocket ships, so this was the theme for her third birthday party. we decided to make her a gift that would be outta this world!

solar system on a string

N and i started by making beads with sculpey modeling clay of different spherical sizes to represent each planet. (i added a ring to saturn.) we poked holes in them with a paper clip.

sculpey beads

then we baked the sculpey in the oven while opening all of the windows. (as i read the box afterwards, i realized that this stuff is kinda toxic while baking and probably isn’t the greatest material for younger kids. N colored by a window across the house while it baked.)

sculpey beads

once the beads were hardened, we painted the planets all different colors, (and realized that at their most basic hue, many the planets almost follow ROY G BIV!) also, we opted to include pluto in the line-up for old times sake…

carefully painting the beads

after the beads were dry, we strung them onto a soft black cord (like outer space!) and made it into a very cool birthday necklace!

in a ring around the sun

in a ring around the sun



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no nuts about it

okay, so this isn’t totally a kid-made craft like my other offerings, but little ones can certainly help with this one, and should! so, unfortunately my little peanut has a severe nut allergy (nuts, nut butters, nut extracts, nut oils.) since she’s almost three and is going to (a super-allergy-conscious) preschool these days, the chances of her being in someone else’s care without mommy and daddy around are becoming greater. so i wanted to share this little idea for a safety bracelet with you all who might have kids who need something similar.

all you need are some alphabet beads to spell whatever you want (no nuts, no shellfish, no dairy, diabetic, vegetarian, OR just do something fun like your kid’s name or a fun word instead!) then find a few other random beads from your collection at home (or cheap ones in the craft store.) i used some stretchy beading cord that i tied together (as seen at the amazon link below,) but you could also use beading wire if you wanted your bracelet to have a clasp.

then enlist the help of your child to string beads onto the cord or wire. using the letter beads can help with alphabet recognition and spelling, too – bonus! while we made ours, we talked more about N’s nut allergy, to make her more aware of it. (whenever she eats something new, she already asks everyone, including me, “does this have any nuts in it?”) i recommend making your little one fully aware of their allergy so they don’t need to rely on a bracelet, but it’s a good additional precautionary measure.

then you’ve got a little safety bracelet that your child can wear to preschool, playdates, etc. where they might have snacks out of your presence. hopefully this will signal to the adults around to be mindful of what they’re feeding your child, in the event that your child doesn’t speak up right away.




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pine cone fairies

this year we are taking part in the annual crafty crow ornament swap! the theme for the year is fairy tales… you know, kings, queens, princesses, gnomes, dragons. but they had me at fairy. always do.

fairies hanging out in our tree

fairies hanging out in our tree

so N and i went hunting in our backyard for some natural materials to make fairy ornaments out of. we found tons of tiny pine cones.

thank you, trees

thank you, trees

we baked the pinecones at 250 degrees for about an hour, to make sure the critters were gone and because the sappy stuff in the cones gives them a nice shiny glow after baking. the house smelled divine! (that’s the closest we’ll come to the real christmas tree smell in our home, as we have cats.)

baking pine cones

then we decided to apply a bit of gold paint to the pinecones to make them sparkle, all fairy-like. these cones were going to be fairy bodies!



with some wood glue, we attached unfinished wooden beads to the tops, to serve as fairy heads. then i hot-glued (hot glue guns and toddlers do not mix) a golden thread and paper flower to the top of each, so the fairies had flower hats and a string from which to hang.after that, we used one of my most favorite art materials ever — garlic peels! (and a coupla red pearl onion peels, too) these make the perfect ethereal fairy wings when hot-glued to the back of the pinecone.

pine cone fairy ornaments

then we had a big fairy family to share with the ornament swap recipients!

pine cone fairy ornaments

pine cone fairy ornament

we put each safely into a small empty crayon box and wrapped them with coloring book pictures of fairies that N has colored.

coloring book gift wrap

we wished each fairy well in their new homes in new york, pennsylvania, louisiana, new hampshire, and california… and they’re off in the mail now to these new homes and new adventures! so excited to see which 5 ornaments we receive in return… we can take a peek at the flickr group for the swap to see what others made, too… how fun!


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