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Paper Beads

Alan Wagener

What You Need - How to do it - Beaded Stuff - Comments

It's a snap to make beautiful, featherweight paper beads out of old catalogs, magazines and even computer printouts. You can use the beads to make earrings, necklaces, bracelets and more. Here's How:

What you need:

Paper- any thin paper will do. Colorful cataloges work especially well. You get 10-20 beads/8 1/2in. x 11in. page.

Sharp knife- a craft or matte knife.

Straight-edge- a metal ruler, or equivalent, for guiding the knife.

Large piece of old cardboard to cut on

Bead Roller- We used a hand-drill clamped to the table, with two needles in the chuck. A variable-speed power drill would work fine too. The idea is to have a way to turn the needles smoothly, so you have at least one hand free to wind the paper into a bead. A low-tech alternative is to stick the needles into a pencil eraser, poke a small hole into the side of a cardboard box fastened to the work-table, then insert the free end of the needles into the hole and twirl the pencil in your fingers to wind the beads.

            |       |
=========----  box  |
  pencil    |       |

Glue- liquid paper glue.

Thin wire- To string the the beads on for coloring and finishing.

Color- food coloring, watercolor ink, dye, etc.

Finish- dippable gloss varnish, floorwax, acrylic medium, dilute white glue, etc.

What You Need - How to do it - Beaded Stuff - Comments

What to Do

1. Lay a sheet of paper on the cardboard and, using the knife and straight-edge, cut off a long, skinny triangle-shaped strip, no more than 3/4in. wide.

2. Slip the wide end of the skinny strip of paper between the two needles in the bead roller. Allow the wide end to protrude about 1/4 to 1/2 in.

3. Twirl the roller so the needles spin and wind the strip of paper into a bead. Use your fingers to keep the strip centered as it winds onto the needles.

4. When you get to within an inch or two of the pointy end of the strip, stop, and apply a tiny drop of glue to the end to make it sticky, then finish winding. Now you have a bead.

5. Carefully slide the bead off the needles, using your fingernail or the edge of a knife to prevent the inner layers from getting left behind on the needle.

Shape Variations

Longer beads- make the base of the paper strip wider.
Shorter, Rounder Beads- make the base of the paper strip narrower.
Symetrical Beads- Make sure to wind exactly on the center of the bead.
Teardrop-shaped beads- Favor one side of the bead.
Thicker Beads- glue two or more sheets of paper end-to-end, before cutting, so you get a longer strip to wind.


Thread beads on a piece of thin wire and dip briefly in diluted color. Let dry. Try a variety of colors and intensities of color.


Thread beads on thin wire and dip in your chosen finish, shake off excess, and let dry. One or more coats.

What You Need - How to do it - Beaded Stuff - Comments

Paper Bead Projects

Jewelry- You can do anything with paper beads that you can with glass beads (except wear them in the shower)- Necklaces, bracelets, beaded belts, and other decorations, etc.. They make exceptional earrings because they are so light.

Christmas Decorations- Paste several sheets end to end, and cut the paper strips extra-wide. You'll get very large beads for stringing to make a Christmas tree garland.

What You Need - How to do it - Beaded Stuff - Comments

Visitors' Comments:

Dear Alan,

I just read your article on Making Paper Beads, and I'd like to share 'my' experience in making them.

My Dad taught me how to make them over 25 years ago, and he primarily used comic strips from the Sunday paper (more colorful and not as dirty then), and also the Sunday newspaper magazines.

I entered several pairs of necklaces with the paper beads in a craft fair several years later, and they were judged first place in the division,and I was informed by the judge that it was a craft called the Art of Quilling.

Since that time, I have made many beads which I have used to make necklaces and earrings for gifts and to sell at craft shows. Most of the time people think they are made from wood or ceramic.

For a long time now, I have made them with wrapping paper and have found the best to be not to heavy or shiny. I also roll the paper beginning at the wide end (1") to a point 12" long on a rounded toothpick, and put a dab of glue at the point. I then string them on fish line, and spray them with hair spray which hardens them.

I use either fish line or beading thread to string the paper beads alternating with rounded pearl(4mm) beads, and oval pearl (3x6 mm) oats. My hardest problem is finding these beads in different colors.

Again thank you for your article, and for the opportunity to share with you. Sincerely,

Sister Judith Wuerl, RSM (Sjwuerlrsm@aol.com)


I would like to commend you on your paper bead information. I found it to be very informative and a good resource.

I was wondering if you have ever run across a pattern of how to put together various sizes of paper beads to make a doll that could then be used for a broach, necklace, etc. If you have, could you please share it with me or direct me to where I may find one.


Karen (Kparry2000@aol.com)


Hi there .. Some comments on paper beads from Uganda! A friend of mine from Ireland called Florence, started teaching ladies suffering from HIV/AIDS paper beading a few years ago. This was an absolute life-saver for them, as many of them have found that the funds they earn by their sales have improved their life-styles! I have picked up on the paper-beading, and assisted these ladies in the making of different shaped beads. They have learned to use paper from wrapping around water-bottles, around tins of canned vegetables, and fruit, etc. I have also taught them to paint their own paper with food colouring, water colouring, as well as acrylic paints. We have designed many mixtures of the paper beads with other beads we have made from organic materials which grow in their gardens! :-) I have emphasized excellence as being more important as regards generating sales than quantity, and this certainly works. Making the beads is great fun, and the art has spread rapidly here in Uganda - we are trying, with our group of ladies, to make items which are different, attractive, and which will enable the ladies to become self-sufficient, and also to gain self-confidence, and a return of self-worth. Tourists are purchasing the items made by the ladies, which is just great! Should you wish to have a 'peep' at our website - my husband and I are missionaries to Ugandan people: www.pearlofafrica.net or visionuganda@yahoo.com

Heather Hall


My mother recently ran across someone selling the beads from Uganda and bought two bags of them. The women who make these really do amazing work. My mom tried to make some beads and didnt have too much luck. I told her just to buy the great ones from Uganda. She has used up all her beads making all kinds of jewelry. Today she gave a bracelet to my nurse who was thrilled and ran around showing it to everyone. I am definately going to buy some of the beads now. Its great to hear a story about someone who has been around these talented women.



What You Need - How to do it - Beaded Stuff - Comments


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Copyright 1997 Alan Wagener