Gift how-to for Students, Teachers, Staff, Parents

It's nearing the end of another school year and you realize that there are several people you'd like to thank for their help, service, or hard work throughout the school year. So what can you give them that is meaningful, yet won't cost you a ton of money?

I love giving out my handmade beaded bookmarks. I first started making these book "thongs" (named because they fit in the "crack" of your book) several years ago after buying one for $8 in a local bookstore for my mom. Since she and I always shared a love of reading, giving her a bookmark each year for holidays was a tradition. I was intrigued by these book "thongs." Of course, the frugal side of me thought, "I could make something like this!"

STEP ONE: Supplies Needed
To make your own book "thong", the first thing you will need is cord. Waxed linen works the best: the wax allows the beads to slide easier when stringing and it won't fray as easily over time. However, elastic cord and even hemp cord will work. They just aren't as easy to work with, in my opinion.

Most craft stores carry waxed linen cord; even Wal-Mart has it in their craft/beading section. Of course, if you are making a lot and value high quality, I suggest ordering larger spools of Irish waxed linen from Basket Maker's Catalog (they do offer it by the yard, as well). There really is a difference between the quality–the wax doesn't dry out or goop up and it's easier to string beads. I've had spools that are at least 8 years old that have not dried or lost their quality. I like the 4-ply best; it seems to be the right weight to hold heavier beads and last longer. Three-ply is fine, just a little skinnier. If you use small, light beads (plastic), it would be fine.

Beads are pretty easy to find in craft stores and large local retailers. One of my favorite online suppliers is Fire Mountain Gems. They have a great selection of beads and the price falls the more quantities you buy. You can find huge bargains on bead assortments and charms. Use letter charms to create personalized bookmarks (below, I used "EHS" for our high school).

Other supplies you'll want to keep on hand are: scissors (sewing scissors work wonderfully) and clear nail polish.

Once you have the supplies you need, it's nice to use a small bowl or cup for the beads you've selected for your bookmark(s). If you've read my previous posts, you know that I love finding uses for things we may normally discard. My dog loves Cesar's dog food, but I hate throwing away those little plastic containers. So I've found tons of uses for them; one great use is for holding the beads for your current project. They would be excellent little containers for art and elementary teachers for distributing paint, glue, and other small items to students. They also stack nicely, as well. (Make sure you wash before using, of course!)
STEP TWO: Stringing the Beads
Next, you will need to cut the cord to the length you want. Most hard-back books are larger than paperbacks. I usually cut about 15 inches or so, which gives me plenty of room if I need it. If you don't have a ruler, use a book or a piece of paper as your guide and keep in mind you need enough room for your beads and to tie the last knot.
Tie a knot at one end of the cord. This will keep your beads from falling off. You will want to start with a smaller bead to ensure this. If you start with a bead with too big of a hole, it will slide right over the knot. I've used seed beads for this purpose; just make sure the next bead isn't going to slide over your first one.

String the rest of your beads on the cord. Keep in mind that putting too many on one end will be too bulky for the bookmark. I usually try not to go over 1.5 to 2 inches maximum.

When you finish stringing your beads, tie a knot at the end, making sure to get it as close to the last bead as possible so they don't slide around.
Then, you will want to do the other end. Tie another knot further down the cord. You will need to measure out how much room you need between knots; a good way is to put it alongside a book to see where you should tie it. You want the knots to hit just above the spine on each end. Books vary in sizes, so it is better to be slightly long rather than short (if it's too short, it can't be used). If I am just making these with no particular book in mind, I use a standard 9.5 inches for hardbacks, 8.5 inches for paperbacks (the width of a piece of paper).

After you tie the knot, string the rest of your beads. You can duplicate the other end or you can do something completely different. Try not to have one end outweigh the other by too much.
Tie your knot after stringing the last bead. Then you can clip the extra cord from both ends. Make sure your knots are tied tightly and clip as close to the knot as possible without actually cutting the knot.
STEP THREE: Seal the Beads
The final thing I like to do is seal the knots so they won't come unstrung or fray. A simple and inexpensive product I use is clear nail polish. Most people have this around the house (I use it to stop runs in my nylons from running further, too). If not, you can purchase a small bottle for a dollar or less at your local pharmacy or retail grocery store. It usually dries pretty quickly and if the polish soaked in, you might want to put another coat on it after it dries. It gives the knot a nice shiny quality that almost makes it look like a tiny bead.
That's it! You're done. You can stick it in the crack of a book to test it out.
Wasn't that easy? Probably the hardest part (for me, anyway) is selecting which beads to use. There are plenty of pre-made kits out there you can use, but I do think part of the fun of this project is making unique bookmarks for others.

Here are some examples of beaded bookmarks I've made:
Using the cross charms are great for making bible bookmarks. They make a simple, yet beautiful, gift idea for a religious-ed teacher, someone who is being confirmed or celebrating a first communion, or for anyone celebrating a Christian event.
Use other charms to represent other events or people (such as apple charms for a teacher, book charms for a librarian or reading teacher, flip-flops to celebrate summer, etc.). Of course, adding charms is another how-to, but a relatively simple process. And you can even make your own charms, like I have for my favorite novels:
 But I'll save those instructions for another post...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...