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Make It : Dyeing Beads at Home

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I'm Amy Conway, editor-at-large for Martha Stewart Living Magazine.  The Crafts Dept. asked me to share this bead dyeing project with you...

On any given day, you’ll find one or two MSLO staffers wearing long strands of wooden beads in muted shades of blues and greens. Silke came up with the idea for these boho-chic necklaces for a story in Living, and when she sold them at our holiday crafts fair, we all bought them!

Silkes beads

My good friend Marni admired my beads and wanted some of her own, so we decided to spend a day making the necklaces with our daughters, Virginia (age 6, mine) and Ava (age 5, Marni’s). I ordered the beads—about a thousand of them!—from craftparts.com, and Marni bought leather cord and RIT Dye from Michaels. (By the way, if you love these beads but don’t have time to make them yourself, Silke sells the necklaces at her online store Eklis).

Our girls LOVE crafts, and despite the sophisticated results, the project was perfect to do with kids. It was a glorious sunny day, so we set up in my backyard, with cooled dye in beach pails. I had intended to follow Silke’s dye “recipes” exactly, but we ended up improvising, dipping the strands into one color, then another. It’s not an exact science, and that’s what makes it so much fun.

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We divided the beads by size, and Virginia started stringing them onto floral wire.

1 We divided the beads by size, and Virginia started stringing them onto floral wire.

I brought out wooden spoons from the kitchen, but the girls liked poking and stirring the beads with sticks from the yard, which worked just as well!

2 I brought out wooden spoons from the kitchen, but the girls liked poking and stirring the beads with sticks from the yard, which worked just as well!

We didn’t time any of the beads in the dye. We just took them out when they looked good. Virginia found tongs handy for removing the beads from the dye.

3 We didn’t time any of the beads in the dye. We just took them out when they looked good. Virginia found tongs handy for removing the beads from the dye.

The beads dried on old towels. The purple was a little bright, so some of these went back into a gray dye bath, which mellowed them out.

4 The beads dried on old towels. The purple was a little bright, so some of these went back into a gray dye bath, which mellowed them out.

We bought natural-colored leather cord and dyed the strands.

5 We bought natural-colored leather cord and dyed the strands.

Ava shows off some strands!

6 Ava shows off some strands!

The necklaces are gorgeous. We made about twenty strands, for our mothers and as teacher’s gifts—and for ourselves, of course!

Comments (11)

  • I remember this article! The results are stunning. What a fun way to spend the day!

  • I tried dyeing beads once before and it was a disaster, after reading this, I am sure to try again. Thank you.

  • What size opening works with the standard leather cording? I saw this on the show as well and have been thinking about it since. Thank you!!!

  • Questions, did you get the "Craft" beads or the rounded wooden? What sizes? Aprox how many beads per necklace?
    I really really want to try this!
    Thanks!

  • I am the Grammy who was one of the recipients of the bead necklaces and I love them!

  • What a fun project! I'm curious if you ran into any challenges with the dye from the beads rubbing off on clothing or skin as they're worn? Do you have to seal the beads with anything? I love the natural matte look of the wood.

  • wow!! love those beads!

  • I actually did this project and it was much easier - if a little messy - than I thought it would be. I think the key thing here is to finish the project well with beautiful cord and a silver clasp if you can afford it. I also did one strand of grey beads that had three orange beads in the centre and the contrast was really nice. I always get great comments when I wear them! thanks for the project.

  • Crafter Comment:

    Hi Amy-
    Silke and Amy used the same beads from craftparts.com. Item numbers BE2030, BE1050, and BE1030.

    Hi Shea-
    No need to seal the beads, but you can use a matt or glossy spray sealant if you're concerned.

    Hi Jenneifer-
    Silke recommends 2mm cord. The hole needs to be bigger than 2 mm.

  • [...] - Beaded Necklaces How-to, The Crafts Dept Blog [...]

  • [...] 1. Beads  [...]

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