Saturday, June 28, 2008

Beaded Stars or Mandalas

These beaded stars or mandalas are easy to stitch. Make earrings, as shown, or use them as pendants or small ornaments. You can adapt these instructions to make stars of other sizes or with more/fewer points.

Skill Level -- Suitable for beginners, although previous beading experience is helpful.

Time Required -- 15-30 minutes per star.

Beading Thread - e.g., Nymo D or B
3-4 mm Beads
Size 11 Seed Beads
Wire Cutters or Thread Nippers

These instructions will make a 7-point star, but you can easily adapt them to make stars with other numbers of points. The number of beads in your starting row will give you a finished star with the same number of points. You can also work with multiples of this number. For example, I could use 10 smaller beads as a starting row for a 5-point star. For outer rows, which have more seed beads, you could substitute bugle beads. You will still want a seed bead for the point, to protect the thread from cutting, to give sharp points, and as points for adding new rows of beadwork or for attaching your star to jewelry. Have fun and feel free to experiment!

Cut approximately 1 meter or yard of your preferred stringing material. I used white nymo size D, but other threads or fine wire are suitable, too. If you like, wax or condition your thread with Thread Heaven (I left my thread unconditioned). Thread your needle and string on 7 silver size 11 beads. Slide them down to within about 6 inches of the end and run your thread back through the first bead or two, to make a circle. Alternatively, you can tie them into a circle, but if you knot the thread, leave it very loose to make room for more beads. Leave the thread tail - you will weave it into your beadwork later to strengthen it.

String a 3-mm or 4-mm bead (oval crystals work well too). Skip 3 silver beads and run your needle through the 4th silver bead.

Add 1 matte blue bead and run your needle through the next silver bead. Add 1 matte blue bead, run the needle through the next silver bead, etc., until you have completed the circle. (I pushed the 4-mm bead to the side to make it easier to see the beading, but it normally sits in the center of the circle.)

When you reach the last silver bead (added a total of 7 blue beads), run the needle through the silver bead and also up through the next blue bead. You have just completed a 'step-up', which puts you in place to add the next row. You want your thread tension to be loose enough to allow the beads to lie flat. I normally use a very tight tension, so I find I need to periodically loosen up the beadwork while making a star. Add a rainbow blue bead, run the needle through the next matte blue bead, add a rainbow blue bead, run the needle through the next matte blue bead, etc., until you have completed the circle.

As you go through your last matte blue bead, step up through the rainbow blue bead. This time, add 3 silver beads, go through a rainbow blue bead, add 3 silver beads, go through a rainbow blue bead, etc., until the circle is completed. The silver beads should start to form little star points.

When you get to the last rainbow blue bead, pass through it and step up through the next 2 silver beads. (You always want to come out through the point bead - a good thing to keep in mind if you find yourself so excited that you keep making the star bigger and bigger!) Before you go any further, you need to think about the ultimate use for your star. If it is to become an earring, look at your earring finding so that you can see how your star will fit on its loop. For very small earring loops (attachment points), you can string the earring finding onto your needle, just as if it were a bead. Alternatively, you could attach a jump ring onto the star and then attach the jump ring/star to the earring loop. For larger loops, complete the star and then simply open the loop, slip the star in place, and close the loop. For this row, our last, add 5 matte blue beads and pass the needle through the point (second) silver bead. Add 5 matte blue, pass through the 2nd silver beads, etc., until the star is completed. (Note that you always use odd numbers of beads to make points. If you wanted a more rounded shape, as for making a flower, you could use an even number of beads.)

At this point, you could simply tie a knot and trim your threads. My preference is to pass through the outer row (no beads added) a second time to reinforce the stitching and stiffen the star. In fact, I keep stringing through various rows until I either run out of thread or can't stand it any longer, and then I cut the thread. I thread my needle onto the tail thread and run it through a few rows before cutting it, too. I didn't do this for these stars, but if you really want to accentuate the points of the stars, you can skip under the point bead as you go around the star a second time (in other words, pass through all of the beads except the point beads). If you are making earrings, make a second star. Did you know you just successfully used the techniques of peyote (gourd) stitch and netting? You did! Congratulations! If you would like your star to be even more stiff, you can dip it in Future floor polish or a similar acrylate and hang it to dry. This also works well if your beads have the sort of finish that would rub off.

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