Friendly Plastic Beads

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a fabulous Christmas and are looking forward to a creative 2011.

I am preparing for the next Create and Craft show next Wednesday 5th January at 9am. The focus for the show will be jewellery, and we have new kits to showcase. You are going to get a little preview today as I would love to share with you some ideas about making beads from Friendly Plastic.

 There are so many different ways to make Friendly Plastic beads but for now I will just show you how to make some simple shapes that are formed in your hand. You can do this with just a heat gun, needle tool, teflon or other non stick mat and a dish of cold water.


For this bracelet I cut  7” sticks of Friendly Plastic into 8 equal parts, it helps to do all the cutting at the start then it is easier to get them all the same size.  1/8th of a stick makes a bead about 12mm diameter.


The basic principle is to heat a piece of Friendly Plastic colour side down on a non stick surface (the smoother the better) until it is soft, then curl the edges into the middle with the help of a needle tool. The image here is using different colours to the finished article because I forgot to take photos as I went along! When all the background colour is concealed roll the bead in your hands to achieve the shape you want (they do not have to be round). Pop it into cold water to harden for a few moments (the exact timing is dependant on the temperature of the water and the size of the bead and will vary from 5 to 30 seconds approx). The aim is to cool the outside but leave the middle soft, this allows a needle tool to make the hole without distorting the shape of the bead. My thanks to Mylene Hillman at Mill Lane Studios in Australia who persevered with this technique and showed us all that it is possible to make holes in beads without drills.


The finished bead needs to be coated with a protective sealant to prevent the colour degrading with wear. I use a number of finishes – spray sealant available from DIY stores, paint on varnishes and occasionally 2 part resin such as Envirotex (this is much more time consuming but the finish is fabulously glossy). Tip for supporting beads whilst drying the varnish is to use cocktail sticks and a bit of old packaging foam to stick the supports into.


Assembling the bracelet or whatever you choose to make is really entirely up to your taste. I wired individual beads with bead caps (they come in the kit) using head pins (also in the kit) onto a chain (in the kit), twisting the wire back on itself to make it really secure.


This variation involves making cube shaped beads as well as round ones and adding in a load of stuff from my Bead And Bits collection – odd charms, buttons and bought beads. I keep adding to my Bead And Bits collection by visiting my local charity shop and asking for broken jewellery items that I can recycle. It is amazing what you can get. It is also worth raiding your stash of papercraft or textile supplies for buttons and charms.


You can see from the colour of the beads that many of them are not one single Friendly Plastic colour – I have created my own designs using a variety of methods, all incredibly simple. It is a great way to use up scraps and small pieces of Friendly Plastic to make one off beads which work really well in this beaded charm bracelet. The following examples are stages of and designs for making beads ( in different colour ways to the bracelet) but you can still see how it is done.


By colour co-ordinating my scraps I can vary the bead design knowing that they will all go together despite each one being unique. The addition of bought beads or found objects makes the hand made beads stand out even more.


If the beaded charm bracelet is not your thing then why not go for a simpler design. This bracelet still uses the co-ordinated unique Friendly Plastic beads but this time I have made them into cylinders formed in my hand with the hole made using Mylene’s method and wired each one into a segment that is then linked to another segment using left over links from the chain in the Beaded Charm Bracelet kit.

The little wire curlicues are made from wire and some round nosed pliers that I have bashed flat with a hammer to make sure they do not uncurl.

 This method of making beads is one of soooo many that you can use with Friendly Plastic, and over the year I hope to introduce you to more bead making ideas. Do let me know if there are any particular things you want to see (bead making or otherwise) and I will endeavour to include them either here on on the website.

I was planning on introducing some video tutorials on the website, but it might take me some time to get them up and running. The alternative is downloadable pdfs with colour step by step images. I am acutely aware that there are many people out there who would like to do a class but can’t travel to the proposed venues for whatever reason (living in America is small hindrance to attending a UK based class!) so another plan that Linda Peterson and I have is for me to do some classes on her Craft Tech University to give as many people as possible the opportunity to try out some of my ideas. When I have something more definite to tell you I will let you know.