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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
Here are some examples of beaded bookmarks I've made: