I remember making these beads myself years ago, but have seen them again recently online while researching this article. They are being made commercially by some jewelers located in Kampala, Uganda, called Mzuribeads. According to the information I have seen, the jewelers are paid a living wage for their products, which are sold worldwide.
These women make a beautiful product. I know from my own experience in trying to make these beads that they require time, patience, and experience to perfect the technique. The Mzuribeads women have perfected how to make these beads. Selling the beads themselves and the jewelry they make with them is a livelihood for many women in areas that have few opportunities for income and so supporting these women by buying their products is a good thing to do. (I don't get any benefit from this link, by the way. I just think you should know about them.)
But you are here wanting to learn how to make the beads yourself as a project to do with kids. Here are my directions:
Used magazines, used wrapping paper, advertising flyers, etc.
Procedure for Making the Beads:
- Take a sheet of wrapping paper (the thicker the better) or a colorful page from a magazine. Using a ruler, measure along the top width, making a dot with your pencil at one inch intervals (or 2 cm if you are using metric). If you are using wrapping paper, you will want to use the side without the pattern to make it easier to see your measurements. Obviously, those using inches will end up with a slightly larger bead, but I recommend these measurements in order to simplify the process. It doesn’t really matter what the exact size of the bead is at this point. If you decide later that you want a larger or smaller bead, you can adjust your measurements to get the results you are looking for.
- At the bottom of the sheet, measure in 1/2 an inch (or 1cm), and then begin making your dots at every inch (or 2 cm).
- Draw lines from the right hand corner of the paper to the first bottom dot. Then draw a line from that dot to the first upper dot. Continue drawing lines from top to bottom dots until you have a zigzag pattern of lines on your paper. These lines will make the triangles you will use to make your beads.
- Cut off the first triangle and discard. This triangle will have one right angle which will make it unusable for this project.
- Cut out the triangles from top to bottom.
- Place a toothpick at the base of a triangle. Roll it a little to start the process and then wrap the paper around, ending with pointy end.
- With a little white glue, stick the pointy end to the rest of your paper bead.
- Coat the bead all over with white glue. For a more professional look, you’d want to use varnish or clear nail polish, but for children, the white glue will be sufficient and a lot less toxic.
- Let your beads dry. When they are dry enough to handle, string them on some fishing line or strong thread. (Dental floss may work, too.) An alternate method would be to stick the toothpicks wrapped in paper into a styrofoam block. These are sometimes used for packing electronics or other fragile items.
- Let fully dry for a couple of days.
You can use your beads to make necklaces, bracelets, and other jewelry. They would also look nice strung on a cord and hung on your Christmas tree. Kids will love using them to make presents for their families and loved ones.