Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chinaberry Beads

The coolest thing about being a crafter (ok - ONE of the coolest things) is that there is always something new to learn.  

My latest lesson occurred quite accidentally - the best lessons do, no?

I had just gone on a day trip to Charleston with my mother and two of her friends.  When we returned, we were talking to her friends' neighbor about our trip and we mentioned the sweetgrass baskets uniquely characteristic of that area.  She asked if we'd seen any chinaberry beads and - while we were not completely sure - we thought that we had not.

A fellow crafter, she was anxious to share.  (Yet another cool thing about the crafting community.)

She went back into her camper and emerged with a handful of necklace and earring sets.  I was immediately intrigued.  We all were.  This project appealed to me for several reasons.  First and foremost - I am a Cheapy McCheaperson and the prospect of making something cool out of something free is right up my alley.  Second - I really enjoy natural substances - wool, wood and stone pop instantly to mind.  Third - it was a shared project.  

We couldn't wait to get started.

The first step was to find a source for chinaberries. Which we did.  They look like this on the tree.

They were picked then soaked in a bucket of water where we rubbed the outer berry off. 

That felt exactly like it looks like it would feel, by the way.  But getting a little dirty and doing a little squishing was fun.  The price of art.

Then we further cleaned them with a little bit of netting.  We tried other methods, but this seemed to be the most efficient.

Then we dried them and drilled a hole through them.

They could be used just like this - in their natural state - but most folks choose to dye them.  Rit dye, food coloring, natural dyes (beets, teas, etc...) can all be experimented with.  

The end result looks like this:

The woman who introduced us to the craft gave me these earrings.  Because crafters are the coolest people.

Is this not the best souvenir to take home from my vacation?  A new craft (and a new pair of earrings) unique to the place where I'm visiting.

I have a pretty good idea of what I'm going to do with my beads when I get home.  Watch this space.  

(Big thanks to my fellow crafters, my mom Nancy Hunter, Kent and Caryl Roach, and Alice - who gave me the gift of a new craft as well as the earrings and I don't even know her last name!)


  1. For replacements, though Cherry Laurel (Prunus caroliniana) grows wild in central.Shrubs For Sale

  2. i drill holes the same way but I use vise grip locking pliers.