Friday, August 1, 2014

Hosting a Beading Party

The beading aisles at stores like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s have always been very tempting to me.

There are so many sparkly, colorful, ornate beads on the shelves at those stores; who can just walk by them?!! I can’t! In fact, I have been collecting beads for a few years now. In the last several years, I have made a lot of simple beaded napkin rings, to match particular color schemes for table settings. This past year, I got into full-fledged jewelry making—primarily necklaces and bracelets. My sons think I am a beading maniac. I just can’t stop making jewelry.

I really enjoy coming up with different combinations of beads for the jewelry I make…and making “custom” necklaces for particular outfits I wear…at really a fraction of the cost of what I’d pay for similar pieces of jewelry in stores. Basic beading is simple to master.

Recently I decided to pass my passion for beading along to friends—primarily their daughters—in the form of a beading party. I have a good friend (who has long been into beading) with a 10 year-old daughter. They came over, along with three of this girl’s friends and their moms. It was such a fun evening! I set out several trays of probably 100 different kinds of beads out on the center of our dining room table, along with supplies (clasps, beading string, etc.), and let the gals go at it. Except for my one friend there who was a very experienced beader, all of the other moms and their daughters hadn’t ever beaded before. So my friend and I were there to guide our guests into making their beaded jewelry. It really worked out well. The girls and moms were thrilled with the opportunity to make jewelry! We got to be creative, productive and socialize and talk…all in the same evening!

This beading party was a mother-daughter event. Beading parties could also be fun to do for a gals’ night out party (you might serve fancy mixed drinks and appetizers instead of punch and cookies like I did at this party I just did!), a bridal shower, or birthday party. What follows in this post, are a few tips for how you can host your own beading party:

1. The number one thing that might come to mind is, “Okay, it sounds fun, but I’ve never beaded before. How can you host such an event if you have no experience beading?” Well, you still can. One option would be to hire a beading instructor. There is large beading supply store in my city, in addition to Michael’s and Hobby Lobby, that have beading instructors on staff. A lot of times you can pay someone from a craft store an hourly fee to come out and do a beading lesson for you and your guests.

But really, you probably don’t need a beading instructor. You just need a good instruction manual. The book I recommend is called Stringing Beaded Jewelry, Karin Van Voorhees. That’s how I learned to bead. A lot of beading books mostly get into complicated designs. This book tells you actually how to get started and gives very easy-to-understand, step-by-step instructions for making necklaces, bracelets and earrings. I highly recommend it. You can get it on It’s a nice paperback book for $8.99. All you need to do is make a few pieces of jewelry on your own, and you will be ready to oversee a beading party if all your making is simple beaded necklaces and bracelets.

2. The other thing you might be thinking of is the cost. At this party I just hosted, I made it a gift to my guests. I already had a lot of supplies on hand—including a lot of extra beads I hadn’t used. I did go out an buy a few extra beads (so I could have a variety of bead colors on hand) at Hobby Lobby (when they were having one of their 50 percent off sales) and my local beading store. Also, two online mail order sources for beads that sell good quality for great prices are Bead Buddies and Lima Beads. I have bought quite a few beads from both of these websites. Honestly, though, I don’t think I spent more than $5 per person at my party—so it wasn’t too big of a total cost. Alternatively, you could also ask your guests upfront to chip in $5 or $10 each for supplies. (That amount may be more, if you’re paying for a beading instructor to come in to help all of you get started, and if you are using semi-precious stone beads rather than just glass or plastic beads.)

3. If you wanted, you could plan a specific beading project, with a particular necklace or bracelet design for your guests to put together. Maybe you would just ask your guests what color beads they wanted to work with—so you would all be making the same pattern, but using different color schemes. That way you could keep costs down and just buy specific supplies and amounts needed for the project. If your guests were paying for their supplies, you could figure out an exact dollar amount to charge for supplies per person. That is one option. The other thing you could do is what I did at this party, and just make it a free-for-all: have a wide variety of beads out available and let the guests come up with their own beading patterns and combinations for their projects. I think that’s more fun, because you get to be a lot more creative that way.

4. Invite no more people than your table allows, since you’re going to want all of your guests to be sitting around the same table. Usually that’s somewhere between 6 and 10 people. It’s just a lot easier if everyone’s sitting around the same table, working together. Keep in mind your guests don’t have to be “crafters” to enjoy a beading party. They just need to like jewelry and chatting with friends! Most all of my female friends meet those qualifications.

5. Set all the beads out on divided trays, or small, individual bowls, in the center of your table where you’ll be working. If it’s going to be a “free for all” party, have a wide variety of beads in different colors, sizes and textures. Choose both stone/crystal/plastic/ glass beads, along with wood and metal beads. Half the fun is coming up with the different combinations, so it’s nice to have a large selection of beads to choose from.

Set out a tray of findings too. Findings include the clasps, crimp tubes and beads, and jump rings. You will also need to set out the beading or memory wire you’re going to be using, and at least one crimping plier, chain nose plier and wire cutter. Guests can all share pliers and wire cutters, so you don’t need one for each person.

Of course even if you’re hosting a “free-for-all” beading party, you’re still going to have a limit. What I did was limit it to silver finish and antique silver finish. I did not set out antique gold, gold finish, antique copper, gunmetal and bronze findings and wires. That way I could just focus on silver—which most people seem to like. It would be overwhelming and way to expensive to have all of the findings, wires and spacer beads for each type of metal. It’s best to just choose one metal finish to work with for the evening.

At each place setting, set out a beading board, mat or cloth, so that your guests will have somewhere to arrange their designs. The beading boards can be expensive,  $10 or more each, so you may not be able to afford to buy one for each of your guests to use. They are nice though, because they have grooved channels to hold your beads and keep them from rolling around, and they’re marked with dimensions to help you determine how big your necklace is going to be. But alternatively, what I used at this beading party were beading mats. They’re just 12-inch or more squares of fabric where you can place your beads to prevent them from rolling around. You can get them at bead or craft stores for usually around $1 each.

6. Plan about 2-3 hours for your beading party (and probably keep it at the lower number if your guests are young; kids don’t seem to want to sit around and chat like “older” women do!). I did my party early on a Saturday evening, after my guests had eaten.

7. Don’t forget some refreshments. At the very least, serve up some type of beverage so your guests can sip while they bead. You may also want to offer some kind of snack food, such as a tray of cheese and crackers or some cookies. It should be a non-greasy snack food though. Greasy foods like potato chips are not good for your fingers when you’re trying to bead.

I’ve included a few photos from my beading party in this post. Really it was a super fun evening. If you decided to host a beading party of your own, please post a comment here to let me know how it went!

Happy beading!


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