Bead Fancies (from Needlework Economies edited by Flora Klickmann)

The fashion of the present day runs towards beads in every colour and design, and although the making of beads is not exactly a needlework economy, it is a dress economy, and that is very nearly related to needlework.

I have been very successful in making all sorts of articles for ornamentation – from beads, sealing-wax, broken china, a little gold paint and some glue, not to mention a little grease and a knitting-needle.

I began my home-made bead-making from necessity, because I was unable to find any beads to match a particular frock I very much wanted a string for. Also, in hunting everywhere for them, I found that the really artistic and barbaric ones ran into a great deal of money, especially if they were large.

Now, I wanted an odd shade of blue, which was really no shade at all, because the material was old and had faded to the beautiful tint which it now possesses. I could not procure any tint that were even remotely like it, and so my idea of making some for myself was born.

To begin with, I bought for six-pence a large box of assorted beads, such as are sold for children to string at kindergarten.

Sealing-wax is an Essential

At a stationer’s I bought up a whole lot of broken sealing wax for a very little money, purchasing at the same time, two good sticks, one of gold and one of silver. These I carried home and sorted as best I could into shades of different colouring.

You will be surprised to find what a lot of different tones there are to be had in sealing-wax, though, when buying, be careful not to be taken in by the outside of the stick! I bought what I thought was a beautiful shade of lavender, but fortunately was told by the assistant that it was really a dark blue, which had been in the window and faded! Blues will often fade mauve, and reds will become pink. But you will easily avoid mistakes by looking at the box which gives a description of its contents.

Broken China the next Requisite

Having secured what I wanted at the stationer’s, I next looked through the china pantry and kitchen cupboards to see what I could find in the way of broken china and glass.

I turned out quite a nice little heap from here, and then went to the tool-house, where I had a little store, which I had dug up out of the garden.

I never can understand where all the broken china comes from which is always to be found in every garden when the earth is turned up. I have a small basket full of all sorts of odd pieces in bright blues, reds and yellows, which appear to be chips from plates or saucers. I should think it would take a generation of families, and their tea, dinner and breakfast services, to account for the quantity and colouring I have by me.

All this china I washed carefully in soapy water, rinsing in very hot clear water, and drying whilst still hot. By this means the china and lass keeps its shine, and if set in the sun for a little while it will greatly improve the lustre.

Next I sorted the colours, and then, with the aid of a wooden hammer and a piece of felt, I cracked the china into tiny pieces. Be careful in doing this to put the coloured side of the china downwards, and lay on a piece of felt, with another piece on top. Hit gently, but firmly, and where the piece is cracked insert a nail or strong pin in the crack and hit with the hammer. The cracks will split and will leave a nice edge, which is very useful for sticking in the sealing-wax. Break the pieces as small as possible, but leaving the colour to show on one side. If you smash at the pieces they will powder and be no use at all.

Whatever odd beads you have, or old pieces of coloured paste and imitation stones – which are often to be had in old buckles – spangles and bugles, all are grist to the mill. I have also used broken pieces of pebbles and stones which I found amongst the gravel, and which were broken by the roller, and which, when chipped very fine, displayed really brilliant colouring. Pieces of flint with a sparkle of mica look beautiful.

Making the Beads.

Having completed this collection, I turned my attention to the bead-making, and I began in this manner:-

I started with a set of six large beads in blues for my chain. I chose the largest beads in my assorted box, irrespective of colour and shape. Taking one of these I slipped it over the end of a steel knitting-needle, using one large enough to hold the bead tightly. This needle I first greased with a rag on which a little lard had been rubbed. This prevents the sealing-wax adhering to anything but the bead.

Next I lit a taper, and, using blue wax, I covered the bead roughly with it, turning the knitting needle in my hand, so that the hot liquid ran round it. This I plunged into cold water.

Before proceeding, I would like to say that great care must be taken not to smoke the wax when a taper or candle is used; if you will heat the wax in the centre of the flame, you will find that the colour does not become blackened.

As soon as the blue wax has cooled, without hardening, I splashed on some of the gold, and, turning the bead rapidly in the flame itself, the gold mingled with the blue, so forming a sort of marbled effect. This I also plunged into the cold water.

Then I chose a brilliant yellow wax, and, heating it in the candle flame, I squeezed the tip into a sharp point.

This, in turn, I heated, and dabbed it at regular intervals round the bead to form spots. While the spots were still soft, I pushed into the centre of each one a tiny piece of broken china, in a pure turquoise shade, pinching the wax to cover the rough edge.

Do not use the fingers to the sealing-wax more than can be possibly helped, as touching it takes away the glaze.

I made three beads similar to this design, and three in a paler shade of blue, with the same yellow spots, but using pieces of dark red china instead of the turquoise. These I strung with a three-inch length of small yellow beads (which I bought at the same shop as the box of beads came from, and which were also sold for children’s kindergarten work) between each large one, and the chain, when finished, looked truly beautiful. It certainly enhanced the beauty and value of the frock for which it was made.

Making Fancy Buttons.

To match the chain I made four buttons, used to fasten the shoulder-pieces of the bodice, in the same colours and the same design.

To make these, any old buttons that have shanks to them will do, but have shanks they must, as there is no other means of fastening them. I had four old brass buttons, with flat, shiny tops. With an old knife I scraped the face of each so as to make it rough, as the wax adheres better to a rough surface.

I used a piece of cardboard – piece of an old box – and cut four small slits in it large enough to slip the button-shanks through. On the other side I slipped a burnt match into the shank of each, and by this means the buttons were quite firm and did not wobble about.

Then I covered two with dark wax, and two with light wax similar to the beads, scraping away any wax which had overflowed on to the cardboard. Before it was cold I pressed a tiny ring of the small yellow beads round the immediate edge, finishing off with a spot of the yellow wax in the centre of each, and a scrap of broken china in the centre of that, again.

I found the buttons a little rough on the edge, but, with the aid of a nail file, I rubbed them fairly smooth, and they did not notice when sewn on the frock.

I have made buttons and buckles galore from old oddments, using up different coloured beads in an inlaid fashion.

A most effective way is to cover the surface of a button with a thin layer of glue, and to lay the beads on in a design like a mosaic. This is a really beautiful way of decorating buttons, and a very pretty opaque look can be given by sprinkling the beads, while the gum is still wet, with a little of the flitter used in pen painting.

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