It’s Mardi Gras! I’m coming to you today with a fun Fat Tuesday DIY — homemade Mardi Gras beads! This post might be a little late, but you can make them tonight and wear them tomorrow and pretend they were thrown to you during a parade, right? I won’t tell. Or perhaps you’re enjoying a snow day today? All the better.
A few years ago, I visited New Orleans with a group of friends and I learned it’s bad luck to pick up Mardi Gras beads off the ground. (That’s ironic, because that’s where they really seem to end up. Or in tree branches.) Technically, you’re supposed to earn your beads by catching them and it can become quite a game among friends. Catching them from a krewe’s parade is said to bring good luck for the coming year. And yes, perhaps sometimes there is a risque factor too.
Historically, the throwing of Mardi Gras beads stems from Rex, the king of the first daytime Carnival in 1872, who was also Russia’s Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff. He tossed beads in the royal colors to people who exhibited the beads’ meanings: purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power. The beads were originally made of glass, so they were dangerous to be thrown, but now that we have plastic and manufacturing, the sparkly beads are ubiquitous. And they come in every color, shape, size and finish.
This homemade version is super fun and I love that each bead is unique. I first came across paper beads like this in South Africa (where my mother is from). Some African craftspeople make beads from others’ trashed magazines, newspapers and catalogues, and they are what inspired me to try making these paper Mardi Gras beads.
These beads would be a lovely gift or just a fun activity for a rainy — or even a snowy — crafternoon. Click through to learn how to make them! // susannah
Click below to learn how to make these fun Mardi Gras beads!
- scissors, X-Acto knife
or paper cutter
- Make the beads. Go through the magazines and pick out pages with the colors you want. Once you make the beads, you’ll primarily see the colors at the top and bottoms of the pages. The colors in the middle of the page don’t matter as much. Text will be distorted, so really just look for color. Pages with primarily one color will make the best beads. Tear or cut out any pages you like and set aside.
- Pick a page to begin with. Using a ruler and a pencil, mark every inch along the top of the page. Along the bottom of the page, mark every 1/2 inch. If using scissors or an X-acto blade, draw light lines with a pencil connecting the marks to make long, skinny triangles. Download the template here or click the image below.
- Next, line up the wide end of one of the paper strips with the wooden skewer and roll the paper around it very tightly between your fingers. Apply a spot of glue to the tip of the triangle and press it to the bead for around 10 seconds or until the tip stays glued down. Add another drop of glue if needed.
- Apply a layer of varnish such as Mod Podge and allow to dry. Slide the bead off the skewer. Repeat process until you have lots of beads.
- String the necklaces. Slide the beads onto the string until you reach your desired length. Mine were about 32 to 34 inches. Tie the ends of the string together and trim any tails.
- Note: Note that different shapes and lengths of paper will yield different sizes and shapes of beads. If you want your beads to be uniform, cut the paper into identical pieces. If you prefer irregular shapes, you can cut your triangles more freely.