|The fabric beads' autumn colors were the inspiration for this necklace and earring set's design. The fabric used to make the beads was 100% permanent press cotton.|
Some fabrics are easier to work with than others. For example, silk is very sophisticated-looking but it's quite slippery. Knits, being stretchy, can pose quite a challenge because they tend to "grow" during the rolling process. Another consideration to keep in mind is whether the fabric is soft and loosely woven, or tightly woven with a bit of body to it. It's certainly possible to make beads from loosely woven fabric, but it's much easier to roll beads using fabrics that are tightly woven without much "give."
I've found some of the easiest fabrics to work with are tightly woven cottons. Not only do they roll neatly with little fuss, they take surface treatments like paint and dyes very nicely. Fraying is usually minimal. A few snips with a scissors eliminates the occasional stray thread, and the tight weave lets you maintain steady, consistent tension as you roll the bead.
However, some fabrics can fool you. Not all cottons are alike! Recently I happened upon a beautiful cotton fabric whose colors just grabbed me. In my enthusiasm, all I could think of was how great it would look made up into beads. It didn't feel quite as crisp as most of the cottons I've worked with but it seemed woven tightly enough plus it was on sale so I bought it.
Once I started cutting it, I realized this fabric was going to be more difficult to work with than I thought. The first thing I noticed was that it produced tiny fiber "dust bunnies." Uh-oh. I also noticed that it tended to stretch a bit with handling, so it was harder to keep it in a straight line as I rolled it. The edges frayed readily too, so I found myself snipping off lots of pesky threads. (Some folks like loose threads on their beads but I'm not one of them.)
|These beads, also made of cotton, were harder to make than those used in the necklace and earring set above. Their colors were quite similar but they were a looser weave and frayed easily.|
Despite these small annoyances the beads turned out okay. After painting the ends and edges with metallic gold acrylic paint, I applied a couple of coats of ModPodge to smooth and seal the surface, followed by an acrylic varnish. The ModPodge darkened some of the colors, of course, but not so much as to negatively affect the appearance. If anything, it made the colors look a little bit richer. I'm looking forward to designing a necklace with these using gold, dark olivine and ruby red beads to compliment them. What's your preference for making fabric beads? What fabrics do you like to use? And what kinds of fabric would you not recommend using?
Text and images ©2013 Lynn Edwards