Stringing Beads for Fun and Profit

The author enriched his quality of life, attracted flocks of beautiful people to his door, and earned a tidy sum after he took up stringing beads as a craft and hobby.

| March/April 1972

Last year while on a Baha'i pilgrimage in Haifa, Israel,  I discovered the art of stringing beads. I have since used my spare time and nimble fingers to turn a profit approaching $500. I'd now like to pass on what I've learned about this skill because I know that beading is inexpensive, enjoyable, and profitable (if you have the spare time, you can turn an investment of $25 into $1000 in less than six months). And besides, if I can turn others on to stringing beads, maybe I won't look like such a weirdo.

By the way, beading offers more than full or spare-time cash. It adds a personal touch to gifts, and the work leaves your mind free for meditation. In some cases, of course, the disadvantages may outweigh the advantages: the craft gives some folks backaches and eyestrain. In any case, just because I bead and make it pay doesn't necessarily mean that you can too. To be successful with this craft you must be very patient, possess some degree of manual dexterity, not suffer from an acute case of arthritis, or have vision that's too poor for prolonged close work. With that somber note out of the way, let's begin.

Beading Supplies

(A) NEEDLES. Your needles must have large enough eyes if you hope to work efficiently. I use size 16 beading needles (14's are smaller, I believe, and 18's larger) which I buy from Tandy Leather Company. I don't work for Tandy's but I find that they have most of the supplies a bead stringer needs. Their needles range in price from 6 for 13¢ to 4 for 29¢, depending on size. 

(B) THREAD. The thinnest beading thread is No. 60, the thickest around 30. I prefer the No. 30 because the higher numbers unravel too quickly and I don't believe in selling shoddy merchandise. Tandy handles C-30 mercerized thread in 500-yard spools for about $1.25.

(C) BEADS. Beads can cost from 40¢ for one-half ounce in the 5 & 10 stores to $2.00-$2.50 a pound at Tandy's. Tandy offers ten assorted colors and, if you buy 10 pounds at once, the company discounts the beads even further. With ten pounds, you can bead for the next year and never worry about supplies. I suggest buying some of the more expensive and prettier beads (including the striped and speckled ones) to mix tastefully with the less expensive and plainer beads. What I mean is, don't use too many of the gaudy ones or your finished product will look like dimestore junk. On the other hand, don't concentrate — for economy's sake — on nothing but plain beads for that also detracts from the beauty of your handiwork. And don't ever buy a bag of mixed beads. Such "bargains" never are. If you're clever, though, you can use just about anything for beading. More on that later.

(D) BEESWAX. It's not absolutely necessary that you wax the thread you use, but if you do, you'll find that it won't tangle or unravel and your final product will be much stronger. This wax is available at hardware stores, Tandy's, or from the local beekeeper. One or two ounces will last a long, long time.

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