Gift Idea: DIY Painted Wooden Bead Necklaces

Dec 7, 2016

We love making homemade gifts, and as many people are aiming to simplify their holidays and minimize the amount of stuff they own, a gift that’s sweet and from the heart is often best. These DIY hand-painted wooden bead necklaces fit the bill perfectly. They’re small and inexpensive to make, but creative, beautiful, and heartfelt at the same time.

Here’s what you’ll need to try this project at home:

  • wooden beads in various sizes and shapes
  • acrylic paint in various colours
  • paintbrushes
  • faux suede cord or upcycled t-shirt string (stay tuned for details on this below)
  • a thin wooden dowel or skewer with the sharp end cut off
  • cotton swabs
  • black permanent marker
  • clear sealant or Mod Podge (optional)

A rainbow place mat with materials on top: two bowls of wooden beads, cotton swabs, paintbrushes, a variety of paint bottles and colourful thread

Let’s get started, shall we? First up, invite your little one to do some painting. While painting beads can sometimes be tricky for little hands, we have two methods that we use regularly and love. The first, and simplest, is the half and half method. Lay out an old painting rag, hold a bead with one hand, and paint just half of the bead before setting it down on the unpainted side to dry. Then once the first half is dry, paint the second. Easy peasy, right?

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The second method is slightly more involved, but it’s also our favourite. For this one, you’ll need some wooden skewers or dowels, and a plastic paper tray with holes along the sides or a shoebox with slits cut along the top. To set up a little bead painting box, just slide a few beads onto each dowel and then thread the dowels across the box or tray, and into the holes or slits. This setup minimizes bead handling, and makes the painting and drying process a breeze. Whichever way you do it, you’ll probably want to give your beads two coats of paint for full coverage.

A little girl painting a bead gold with racks of beads drying in the background

Next, once your base coat is completely dry, invite your little one to add some decorative touches to just some of the beads. A black permanent marker is great for adding stripes, teeny dots, and mini hearts; a cotton swab makes bigger polka dots a breeze, and another coat of paint on just half of a bead yields beautiful results too.

A child decorates a painted bead with a black permanent marker

Once your decorative touches are dry, you can add a coat of clear sealant or Mod Podge to all of the beads – or not. Doing so will simply give the paint an added layer of protection and a more polished finish.

A colourful bowl of painted and decorated wooden beads

Now it’s time to thread the beads onto a cord of some sort. We love the colourful faux suede cord you can find at craft stores or dollar stores, but this time we went with our other favourite option – cotton string made from old t-shirts! Making your own t-shirt string is super simple. First, take your tee and cut strips of fabric about an inch thick or less. This step really doesn’t have to be perfect, so don’t worry too much about wobbly lines and crooked cuts.

A shirt with a ruler on top and scissors to cut along the ruled line

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Next, give the fabric strips to your little one to pul, pull, pull! There’s no right or wrong way to do this job – the more you pull, the longer and thinner your string will be in the end, so continue pulling and stretching until you like what you see.

A child holding onto each end of the fabric strip and pulling

Alright, with all of the parts made, it’s time to put everything together. First, invite your child to pick the cord and beads he or she wants to use.

The bowl of painted and decorated beads sits beside a child as she picks which ones she wants to put on the fabric strip

Then thread the beads onto the cord. Depending on the thickness of the cord and the size of your beads, it may be helpful to use the end of a thin wooden dowel or skewer to help push the string through.

A child using a wooden skewer to help push the fabric strip through a wooden bead

When you’re done, tie off each end of the string with a simple knot and secure the two ends together using a double knot.

A completed wooden bead necklace with a black and white striped cord and black, blue, red, white and gold beads

And voilà! Beautiful necklaces that would make perfect gifts and stocking stuffers.

A child wearing two completed and colourful DIY hand-painted wooden bead necklaces

Article Author Jen Kossowan
Jen Kossowan

See all of Jen's posts.

Jen is a teacher, blogger, and mama to a spirited little lady and a preemie baby boy. She's passionate about play, loves a good DIY project, adores travelling, and can often be found in the kitchen creating recipes that meet her crunchy mama criteria. You can follow Jen on her blog, Mama.Papa.Bubba, and on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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