Thursday, July 12, 2012

Art Quilting Tips - Fiber Art Beads

Creating Fibre Art Beads from Old Envelopes - by Kathy Kinsella

It doesn't take much to amuse me . . . A friend recently gave me a stack of old envelopes that she had been saving because she knew that they were made from a product that can be manipulated with heat to become art! I don't know the "real" name of them ... I only know them as tyvek shipping envelopes.

As I was putting the finishing touches on a silk fusion art piece last week, I decided to try using the old envelopes to create some funky and beautiful beads to use as an accent. Here's how I did it . . .

These are the envelopes that I started with . . .

And the fabric paints and paint brush

Paint the envelope with random strokes of paint ... I used three colours for this project ... one of them was metallic aqua which added a bit of sheen to the finished beads.

You do not have to have the paint cover really solid and it certainly doesn't have to be perfect ... you can see that I brushed the paint on in all directions so that my finished beads wouldn't look smooth and perfect.

If you will see the inside of the finished bead, paint the back of the envelope as well. This would be useful if they have a large hole and seeing a white inside would bother you.

At this time you might choose to write on the surface as well . . . when the paint is dry, use a fine tipped Pigma pen and write across the surface (remember it will shrink and distort in the next step so don't do detailed drawings). I was using these beads to accent a piece called "Rhapsody in Blue" so those are the words I wrote on the surface.
It is now time to cut up the envelope. For this example cut pieces approximately 1" x 2.5" and wrap a piece around a wooden dowel or skewer ... the larger the dowel, the larger the hole of the bead will be. I used a 1/4" dowel for these beads.

Wrap the envelope piece around the dowel and tie it in place with cotton thread ... you can also insert bits of organza, tulle, yarn or thread as you wrap it up . . .

Now it is time to warm up your heat gun . . . CAUTION: Do this in a well-ventilated location away from anything flamable. I usually do this outside on the concrete patio ... Be careful to not burn your fingers!!!

Hold one end of the dowel (as far away from the bead as possible) and move the heat gun slowly across the surface of the beads ... the longer it stays in one area, the more distortion you will have there ... it will start to bubble and twist ... turn the dowel around to distort all sides of the beads ... stop when you've seen enough change.

Let the beads cool and then slide them of the dowel and remove the thread. (The cotton thread will not melt, but it will burn if you give it enough heat.)
. . . and you can now accent these beads by adding some seed beads or other fibres to them.
Enjoy!! I'd love to hear about the fibre art beads you create!
If you would like to see how I added these beads to hand spun yarn to accent a silk fusion art piece that I just finished ... visit my blog at

My Etsy shop is pretty bare right now as most of my art is away at an art show and sale ... but the unsold items will be back at on July 23rd.

1 comment:

whimbrella said...

Very cool! I didn't know you could paint that stuff, much less turn it into something so beautiful. Thanks for sharing!