Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Few Thoughts on Paper Beads

Last week I decided I wanted to add a paper bead jewelry section to my store.  Paper beads were not new to me I had been making them for almost 5 years.  Every time I got my hands on some really nice wrapping paper, a glossy magazine, or received a decorative shopping bag, I was already thinking how good that paper would look rolled into some beads.  So over the past 5 years I have made some pretty interesting beads and still once a week will make some out of my latest paper discovery.

This made me interested in their history.  I already knew about a few foundations, such as, paperbeadsfromafrica.com.  The beads in this organization made by the women of Uganda are hand rolled and sold to help them care for their children and their village.  There are also other organizations which do the same.  Janice Mae, who is from the Philippines, speaks on this at her website, http://paperbeads.org/philippines-paper-beads/. In the Philippines men, women, and even children, make these beads to help build better futures.   One of the most popular organizations which helps women in Uganda is known as Bead For Life.  The paper beading their allows women to have hope for the future and to create a better environment for their youth.  You can read about their organization at http://www.beadforlife.org/en/frontpage/us.  It is so great to know that something so simple as paper beads are helping others on a global level.

Still I remained curious as to how far back in history this goes.  Several sources gave accounts of paper beads being rolled in England during the Victorian era out of long strips of wallpaper.  They were hand rolled on knitting needles and then waxed and strung on cords to create curtains and also used as room dividers.  I also found  a link to a magazine clipping which displayed a paper bead necklace from 1917 at http://thebeadsite.com/muchp-1.html.  It seems that paper beading may have resurrected itself later on in the 1920 and 30's here in the USA.  If anyone else has anymore information and would love to share it please take time to enter it in the comments below!!! I would love to hear from you.

I often get asked how to care for paper beads, and the answer is the same way you would care for any quality piece of jewelry.  Most paper beads are water resistant, not waterproof.  Depending on where they are made they have been shellacked or glossed several times to give them a wonderful high gloss shine and make them water resistant.   This means getting caught in an occasion rain storm, or wiping them clean with a slightly damp cloth is no problem, but you should not bathe or swim in them.  I have a lot of paper bead jewelry I made 5 years ago and it is still going strong!   They are usually great and make good conversation pieces.  When I wear mine and people ask where I purchased the beads, it is great to see how shocked they are when I tell them the beads are made from a paper bag or a magazine page!

Rolling paper beads can also be therapeutic.  When I make mine, I have to totally focus on keeping them uniform, so thinking about worries really goes out of my head.  I would suggest paper beading as a perfect hobby for someone who may want to take a break, and be stress free while doing something productive.  So the next time you see a beautiful high gloss advertisement, or bring home a nice paper bag, save it and make something you can be proud of! You can check out my paper beads creations at https://www.etsy.com/shop/FeithHodgeCreations?section_id=13371888

Happy Beading!


  1. Very interesting Feith, to know of the history of this art form. Wondering what shapes these can be made into?

  2. Patsy, I have made some cone shaped ones and their are their is a template that makes them look like a little bar bell!