Friday, February 3, 2012

Crafting for Green Week: Paper Bead Necklaces!

As you know, I loathe clutter.

Nothing makes me happier than discarding: donating, recycling, lending, or just plain tossing the stuff we no longer need or want. My battle against clutter is sometimes uphill, but I'm deeply committed to the cause.

I wasn't always this way.

I used to be a clutter-clinging, mess-creating, organizational disaster. A pack rat. Practically a hoarder. I once kept a green gummy bear--painted with clear nail polish so it wouldn't decompose--for three years because a guy I liked gave it to me in study hall.

For. Three. Years.


It took me more than half my adult life to kick my old nasty habits. I still wake up sweating sometimes from recurring nightmares about my college dorm room. For some people, being tidy is blessedly hardwired into their brains. But for the rest of us? It's a daily struggle.

E, thank goodness, seems to be learning good clutter-free habits early. She's great about going through her old clothes and toys, choosing which ones we can give to kids who need them. The one thing she's not so good at? Letting go of her artwork.

Every piece is a "masterpiece." She has freakishly accurate total recall for everything she's ever painted/drew/collaged/stickered. And even I, with my deep love for throwing things in the trash, can't quite bring myself to throw away anything my little artist created with her own hands. It'd be like kicking a puppy, or something.

A friend once posted on Facebook that her son caught her tossing one of his art projects in the garbage. "I feel like a crumb," she wrote. I feel her pain--I'd die if my kids every caught me trashing their creations. But still, E's art collection no longer fits in her portfolio. The scribbles and doodles, watercolors and fingerpaintings and sticker collages seem to multiplying in the middle of the night. They're everywhere.

So. In honor of Green Week next week, I decided to try a cute craft project that uses scraps to make paper beads. You can do this with anything: newspaper, leftover wrapping paper, whatever you have lying around.

E and I collected a pile of her art work that she agreed could be cut up for the cause. As a gesture of good faith, I dug into my own (too large, gulp) collection of magazines so we'd both be re-purposing (and clutter clearing) something we loved. We had a blast, and E couldn't be more proud of her "recycled art" necklace!

Here's how we did it:

Scrap paper, cut into isoceles* trianglesThe longer the triangles, the thicker the beads will be.
Craft glue (we used matte Mod Podge)
Yarn or string
Knitting needle (bamboo skewers or even a regular old pen will work, too)

Wind the paper triangles around the needles, spreading glue on the last inch or so to hold the bead in place. We let the glue set for a few minutes,  then painted the entire bead with mod podge to create a lacquered finish and make the beads a little sturdier.

When the beads are dry (took about 20 minutes, during which E made the remaining triangles into "crowns" for Grandma and Grandpa), string them on yarn or string.

We found that the best beads were the ones made from paper with texture...her crayon drawings and the ones with foil stickers made especially cool ones.

E loved the paper beads so much, she decided they'd look "beautiful" hanging from her bedroom walls. So tomorrow, we're getting rid of  re-purposing even more artwork and magazines to make more beads, and we're thinking of doing garlands or even a cool hanging mobile.

Which, as soon as she's tired of, will be moving on to a deserving home.
No more green gummy bears on my watch...

*Note: I ignored this instruction because I hated geometry and had, prior to attempting this craft, no freaking clue what an isoceles triangle was. For real. Try not to judge me. However, as it turns out (and my high school math teacher is laughing herself sick right now) isocleles triangles are an important element to paper bead making. In case you, like me, don't quite remember that particular shape, the definition is here.


  1. Love, love, love this, Jenny!
    That smile on E's face is awesome.

  2. Now THAT sounds like a rainy day project I should keep on hand for my kids.

  3. Someone had a great day with mama crafting. I live in clutter as well but try really hard to accept every call I get to leave a bag of something at the door for pickup. Fun post.