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How-Tuesday: Natural Bean Jewelry

Jan 24, 2012

by lisajune

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

“Me, sexy? I’m just plain ol’ beans and rice.”  — Pam Grier

Once thought of as the seat of the soul, beans have been buried with the dead, deemed the seed of sin, grown for almost nine millennia, and eaten daily across the globe. With over 4,000 cultivar they come in coats of many colors: rich red and purple kidney, tawny intricate tans of cranberry, or the the simple stark contrast of the black eye. I’m Lisa Kraushaar of radicals — by day a mild-mannered Etsy Admin — here to show you how to make beans into beads, and focus on the legume’s more decorative values.

Supplies You’ll Need:

  • Approximately 300 dry beans, any type (Pictured above are calypso beans, black eyed peas, red beans, and cranberry beans.)
  • Waxed thread
  • Flex shaft or dremel hand tool (or any tool that drills)
  • 1mm drill bit
  • Bench pin (or another wooden surface to drill into)
  • 4 mm spherical burr
  • Super glue
  • Scissors

Directions:

1. With your bench pin at the ready, firmly secure your 4mm burr in your flex shaft or dremel. Carve a nook the size of the beans you’ve decided to use in you bench pin. This will serve as a brace to hold your bean secure when you apply the pressure of your drill.

Beans with drilled holes. Expect some bean dust!

2. Replace the burr with your 1mm drill bit in your flex shaft. Pinch the bean firmly parallel to the direction you’ll drill your hole. Hold it securely in the nook you’ve carved in your bench pin. Place your drill at the desired entrance of your hole and apply firm pressure against your drill bit and bean. At a gentle speed, push your drill through the length of the bean.

Hold your flex shaft firmly, but without a stiff wrist. In the event that your drill skips away from the bean, a loose wrist will give you the flexibility to pull away before nicking your fingers. You can brace your drill wrist against your bench pin for greater control.

Repeat step 2 until you’ve drilled holes through all of your beans.

3. Unspool about 2 1/2 yards of waxed thread. String your beans until you have about 6 ft. of beaded cord. The wax thread will be stiff enough to string your beads without a needle. If the tip of your string becomes frayed, twist or snip it back into a point. If you have any problems stringing your bean, blow air through the hole of the bean or clear it out with a needle.

4. Firmly tie both ends of your beaded string twice. Apply a small amount of super glue to your knot. Make sure to coat the spaces where stings some together. Let it dry overnight.

5. Snip the remaining string tight to your knot. Since you’ve glued the knot, you need not fear it will untie. You now have a beautiful string of beans that can be draped several times around the neck or wrapped around your wrist for a striking bracelet.

6. Wait for the oohs and ahhs to begin!

If you make your own bean jewelry, share a photo with us in the Etsy Labs Flickr group.

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100 comments

  • MishaGirl

    MishaGirl said 7 years ago

    What a neat concept, using beans for jewelry! I love the examples you included, very chic!!!

  • TheMillineryShop

    TheMillineryShop said 7 years ago

    Wow, they look great, especially stacked like that. Kudos!

  • VoleedeMoineaux

    VoleedeMoineaux said 7 years ago

    Somehow this reminds me of preschool. Counting beans or something.

  • VoleedeMoineaux

    VoleedeMoineaux said 7 years ago

    Healthier than a candy necklace I guess.

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 7 years ago

    Haha, you can hardly tell they're beans! ..well, maybe the kidney's..

  • layracreations

    layracreations said 7 years ago

    Beautiful. I will try one.

  • TheUntamedHeart

    TheUntamedHeart said 7 years ago

    Pretty cool!!

  • RivalryTime

    RivalryTime said 7 years ago

    Beautiful items.

  • volkerwandering

    volkerwandering said 7 years ago

    AWESOME!

  • NoFrump

    NoFrump said 7 years ago

    Ooh, I love it! Natural jewelry is the best! And even better yet - grow and dry your own beans and save whatever you don't eat (or save for next year's garden) for making jewelry.

  • silversamba

    silversamba said 7 years ago

    I'd like to see the beans dipped in gold or silver ;)

  • KKSimpleRegalJewelry

    KKSimpleRegalJewelry said 7 years ago

    Very cute!! I love the idea! KK

  • prunellasoap

    prunellasoap said 7 years ago

    so fun! thanks for sharing!

  • AquaMoose

    AquaMoose said 7 years ago

    This is awesome! I have always adored the look of dried beans. This looks way better than any project I could think of, that in the end would look like a third grader made it!

  • edguardodeevinchsski

    edguardodeevinchsski said 7 years ago

    These are so cool! Love the idea. May have to try it out someday. :)

  • shipwreckdandy

    shipwreckdandy said 7 years ago

    I'm kind of surprised the directions don't include using any kind of light sealant or fixative on the beans, or at least a mention about the possibility of sprouting if they are exposed to moisture. Many beans sprout very easily, like mung, kidney and pinto beans, and the process of drilling it likely will not remove enough of the inner active, live material. The common beans, nuts, and seeds used for commercial beadmaking are naturally quite hollow or otherwise processed so they are deactivated. Just wondering if the author or anyone making these for sale can weigh in on this dynamic?

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 7 years ago

    Such a good idea!

  • ashleymarn

    ashleymarn said 7 years ago

    Great idea! how creative! I love these

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 said 7 years ago

    shipwreckdandy says: "... at least a mention about the possibility of sprouting if they are exposed to moisture." HA! Could just see a necklace starting to sprout! Just struck me funny.

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage said 7 years ago

    Very nice and looks easy. Thanks for the info!

  • AmberGypsySky

    AmberGypsySky said 7 years ago

    now that is cool

  • stepbackink

    stepbackink said 7 years ago

    Real cute love those bracelets.

  • LiddoKiddo

    LiddoKiddo said 7 years ago

    So cool... Love it!!

  • BagNoir

    BagNoir said 7 years ago

    Fantastic idea!!!!

  • preciousowl

    preciousowl said 7 years ago

    Wowl! What a great idea! I love the natural patterns and colors.

  • matesrubbish

    matesrubbish said 7 years ago

    well, i know what i'll be making this weekend! thanks for the detailed instructions!

  • lisajune Admin

    lisajune said 7 years ago

    Thanks guys! Shipwreckdandy, you pose a good question! I tend not to use sealant to keep the project non-toxic. I haven't had any problem with beans sprouting, though if you're working in a particularly humid/wet climate it could be more of a concern. If you want to use a sealant, I'd recommend a spray sealant to allow a more even application. After wiping the strand clean of dust, you'll want to drape the beans and apply to both sides of the strand to avoid sticking to surfaces before they dry. You'll probably want to apply 2-3 coats. I'd recommend using a clear matte acrylic finish or varnish similar to this Krylon product: http://www.krylon.com/products/matte_finish/ Even using a sealant you still wouldn't want to submerge the beans in water, if they get a bit washing your hands, you can dry them off with a towel as you would dry your hands.

  • ClickityClack

    ClickityClack said 7 years ago

    A few years ago my sister and I drilled the colorful kernals of "Indian Corn" and strung them on memory wire. Absolutely beautiful! Loved mine and wore it a lot. Unfortunately my cat thought it was lovely too and ate it! Word to the wise................don't leave your "natural" jewelry where pets, rodents or bugs can enjoy them too!

  • WayuuSusu

    WayuuSusu said 7 years ago

    I think Walnut oil may be a good non toxic sealant to use as well.

  • lisajune Admin

    lisajune said 7 years ago

    Good tip, ClickityClack. ;) Also, huh, walnut oil. Thanks for suggesting it WayuuSusu; I'm going to try that out.

  • adessojewelry

    adessojewelry said 7 years ago

    Cool beans. :)

  • PhotoKiosk

    PhotoKiosk said 7 years ago

    Cool!

  • elleestpetite

    elleestpetite said 7 years ago

    What an awesome idea. They're naturally beautiful.

  • LAccentNou

    LAccentNou said 7 years ago

    Love the organic look!

  • pepindor

    pepindor said 7 years ago

    Love making bracelets and necklaces with beans... I also use all sort of other nuts and seeds. Peach pits for example are fun to use and you get to dye or colour them the way you want... :)

  • gemagenta

    gemagenta said 7 years ago

    They look gorgeous! I love the project!

  • changeitup

    changeitup said 7 years ago

    About to go to the pantry and check what beans I have,....

  • greenboat

    greenboat said 7 years ago

    Revealing my age, but okay... I made bean necklaces when I was a teenager in the '60s. Having no access to a tiny drill, I soaked them overnight as if to cook them, and then used a needle and thimble to string them. Let them dry (and shrink back to size) before securing the ends, and seal with matte fixatif. Also... for a bit of lovely perfume, use peppercorns and allspice berries along with the beans. I used whole cloves, in the '60s, but don't advise it... they'll dye your fingers brown!

  • mharmon

    mharmon said 7 years ago

    Very clever! For those who worry about the beans sprouting, here's a good cure for that... heat them in the oven. Or, those beans you used as pie weights? Use those. Cooking them in the oven creates a chemical change to them the pretty much inhibits/prevents them from sprouting (so I've been told anyway), so they're great to use for crafts because they shouldn't be used for food because they'll be rancid. The down side to this is that the same chemical change that keeps them from sprouting can also make them smell funny...

  • feltstories

    feltstories said 7 years ago

    i use to do this with my little girl

  • lalalandglass

    lalalandglass said 7 years ago

    These necklaces would also come in handy if you were stranded somewhere without food! A great source of protein! lol!

  • ThomasHaskettArtist

    ThomasHaskettArtist said 7 years ago

    They look quite tasty :)

  • Funkheart

    Funkheart said 7 years ago

    Great Idea! I need "tool" help. I am currently into crochet and sewing, some knitting... I want to buy the basic tools needed to do things like this... Is there a recommendation for "start up tools" to take up this creative direction? I have never seen the "flex shaft" it looks like I need one..what does it attach to? Any advice or links? thank you in advance

  • exclusivehats

    exclusivehats said 7 years ago

    Fantastic idea!!!!

  • ThePattypanShop

    ThePattypanShop said 7 years ago

    Love it! Great idea!!!

  • destroymodernart

    destroymodernart said 7 years ago

    could be quite fun if they sprouted...? Is that wierd?

  • glusk

    glusk said 7 years ago

    great idea! when i was a teenager i got my dad to drill holes in cherry seeds for me and made a bracelet out of them. thanks for bringing back that fun memory.

  • STELLAMARINAbyEnrica

    STELLAMARINAbyEnrica said 7 years ago

    What a great idea! I had already thought of using some hard seeds I found on a tree here in Costa Rica (I need to find out what type of tree it is), to make some jewelry or deacorations, so now I can use the same method shown here with the beans. Better still, I think these seeds will last longer than the beans! ;))

  • MyveraLinen

    MyveraLinen said 7 years ago

    Great idea! Love it!!

  • AlpineGypsy

    AlpineGypsy said 7 years ago

    Woooh! COOL! Heidi

  • SusiesBoutiqueTLC

    SusiesBoutiqueTLC said 7 years ago

    Beautiful looks great. Thank you.

  • ToastDesigns

    ToastDesigns said 7 years ago

    I made bean necklaces way back in the 1960's. Rather than drilling, I simply soaked the beads until they were soft and then threaded them. For a beautiful natural color effect, i saved the water from the black beans, added food color, and soaked light colored beans in it. I also varnished the colored necklaces to avoid staining clothes.

  • ToastDesigns

    ToastDesigns said 7 years ago

    BTW your necklaces are beautiful and very inspiring!!!!

  • theroyal

    theroyal said 7 years ago

    nice

  • thepurplehawk

    thepurplehawk said 7 years ago

    I would love to try this sometime :D I'll have to figure out a different way to drill the holes tho :\

  • montanagirl

    montanagirl said 7 years ago

    I love how the calypso beans look. Maybe I'll put some in my summer garden.

  • NDMStudios

    NDMStudios said 7 years ago

    Very cool idea :) Thanks for sharing!

  • FunkyFriendsFactory

    FunkyFriendsFactory said 7 years ago

    wow!!! that's amazing :)

  • metalicious

    metalicious said 7 years ago

    What fun! Thanks for such a cute tutorial!

  • RetroRevivalBoutique

    RetroRevivalBoutique said 7 years ago

    I say old bean, what a fine tutorial! (^__^)

  • Iammie

    Iammie said 7 years ago

    Great idea!

  • chykara

    chykara said 7 years ago

    Awesome idea. The bracelets and necklaces look great too!

  • thevicagirl

    thevicagirl said 7 years ago

    What a fun task. I was afraid it would look bad, like kindergarten, but alas, it is pretty cool.

  • driftforever

    driftforever said 7 years ago

    super cute!

  • KAPARA

    KAPARA said 7 years ago

    Something fun to do with my boys. Thank you so very much for that idea!

  • WinchesterLambourne

    WinchesterLambourne said 7 years ago

    When I was little, my grandma would buy big batches of white beans from different farmers, and they always had a few colored ones that were very rare. I'd spend hours going through the sacks of white ones, finding and collecting all the odd ones out - purple, green, black, orange, speckled, red, etc. LOVED them then, love them now. :D Glad to see others share this interest!

  • KMalinka

    KMalinka said 7 years ago

    I made the necklaces from apple seeds. It was fun!

  • tascha

    tascha said 7 years ago

    I love it!!!

  • VintageAndSupply

    VintageAndSupply said 7 years ago

    Thank you so much for sharing! LOVE! I am so going to try this w/ beans!

  • AdrienneLojeck

    AdrienneLojeck said 7 years ago

    love this so much! also, would make great gifts for vegetarians: not only do we eat beans, now we can WEAR them too! thanks so much for this tutorial!

  • MariaHelenaDesign

    MariaHelenaDesign said 7 years ago

    I use large liana seeds that I got from a trip to Cuba. The seeds are large, super soft to the touch and shaped like hearts. It's no wonder the seeds are called 'coeur de la mer' (sea heart) :)

  • junecharters

    junecharters said 7 years ago

    Lovely jewellery, great tips on 'preserving' ... wouldn't have thought of that. I'll be looking at vegetables in a different way from now on. I can imagine the randomness of the bean will make it even more unique.

  • lapomme

    lapomme said 7 years ago

    This is a lovely idea, Lisa, and it reminds me so much of the bead jewelry made by the indigenous peoples of the Philippine Islands, the Aetas and the Palawanos, specifically. I always found them so beautiful.

  • PoisonApplePotions

    PoisonApplePotions said 7 years ago

    I love the cool natural look of this!

  • Tessarj

    Tessarj said 7 years ago

    These necklaces look beautiful! Lots of bean decorating ideas are coming to me now, like holiday bean garland!

  • needlenerd

    needlenerd said 7 years ago

    who knew how beautiful beans could be! thanks for sharing!

  • peshka

    peshka said 7 years ago

    So Cute! Love it!

  • sweetsarahcardsandtr

    sweetsarahcardsandtr said 7 years ago

    love jewelry like this... beautiful work

  • HeatherLucille

    HeatherLucille said 7 years ago

    Oooooh! The layered bracelets look very chic. Bean chic = new DIY fashion term!

  • apresti

    apresti said 7 years ago

    Who knew beans could be so beautiful!!!

  • LoveButtons

    LoveButtons said 7 years ago

    What a fun project! They look great. I remember making necklaces from melon seeds dyed with food colouring as a youngster. Just clean the seeds, douse them in your chosen colour(s) and let them dry, then use a needle and thread to pierce them side to side and thread them on, until the necklace reaches the length you want. Super! :)

  • NicoleNicoletta2

    NicoleNicoletta2 said 7 years ago

    so cool! and they all look so great!

  • SarahOfSweden

    SarahOfSweden said 7 years ago

    Thank you for sharing!

  • JilliansGarden

    JilliansGarden said 7 years ago

    Nice!!!!!!!!!! Looks like fun...thanks for sharing this with everyone..

  • ZenBrush

    ZenBrush said 7 years ago

    You are very patient and nice results.

  • OceanSpiritJewelry

    OceanSpiritJewelry said 7 years ago

    Wow! That is really cute. There is a way to go ORGANIC with jewelry making ;)

  • spora

    spora said 7 years ago

    Thank you for including my necklace in the "related items." I'm proud to be in this cool How-Tuesday. I would like to point out that once a seed has a hole it will not sprout or germinate.

  • blackeyedsusan

    blackeyedsusan said 7 years ago

    I just have a hard time thinking of making jewelry out of food when so many in this world go hungry.

  • jennyhoople

    jennyhoople said 7 years ago

    There ARE a lot of really beautiful bean varieties :) Flor de Junio is a pink mauve color! I wonder about the necklace eventually getting bean weevils? (Through they would look great with my job's tears seeds!) Hmm...

  • Bibaangel

    Bibaangel said 7 years ago

    Thailand is a good source of lovely seeds.The Hilltribe people decorate their textiles with them.I always bring back loads.The last time I found some wonderful ones........about 2 " long,3/4"wide,rock hard,half yellow and half black and apparently they keep away snakes........always useful .

  • NitasRugs

    NitasRugs said 7 years ago

    Wonderful idea. I love jewelry, but I'm not the glitzy type. Beans are right up my alley! I love to eat them, and now I hope to be wearing them soon. Thanks for the inspiration. :o)

  • ENVYUSINC

    ENVYUSINC said 7 years ago

    This is a very cool idea, love it

  • MinnesotaBeadGypsy

    MinnesotaBeadGypsy said 7 years ago

    I really like this. Very natural and beautiful.

  • christineirvin

    Christine Irvin from stitchesnpearls said 7 years ago

    What a great idea! This is something my daughter and I will have to try!

  • oxendesigns

    Joanne OLeary from oxendesigns said 7 years ago

    Wow, what a unique idea! Creativity on Etsy is always so inspirational! Joanne Oxen Designs

  • jenniferpickman

    Jennifer Pickman from jenniferpickman said 7 years ago

    My friend's son owns a Burrito Shop. She says this would be a great gift idea for his workers! Loved the "how-to" article!

  • pengworkshop

    pengworkshop from PengWorkshop said 7 years ago

    Interesting!! These beans are edible, right? The way you make bean necklaces reminded me of a kind of plant in my hometown. It has fruit with a shape just like those beans! And the great thing is that you don't need a drill, there is already a hole in the middle of each fruit!!! That fruit is not edible, though : (

  • nativestrandsjewelry

    Rachel from PeppersJewelry said 6 years ago

    I love the unique jewelry ideas! Thanks!

  • hawchoo

    hawchoo from hawchoo said 5 years ago

    Do you have trouble with the beans splitting when being drilled?

  • pavkaog123

    pavkaog123 from earringspvdb said 5 years ago

    https://www.facebook.com/earringsdesigner33 check out latest designs of hand made high quality earrings beaded at $7 each

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