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how to stiffen fabric beads

bjames | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

I have been making beads out of strips of fabric. I actually found a Taunton’s tutorial on this and was inspired by it. After dipping the torn fabric in diluted household glue, I roll it up on a straw, and slip it off, allowing it to dry on a sheet of plastic. Then, I decorate it with metallic acrylic paint, threads/fibers, etc. My problem is that the dried beads are not “rock hard”. I have even tried dipping them into decoupage medium… still not solid enough if I want to use these beads to embellish a handbag, or something that might need to tolerate a lot of abuse with daily wear. Does anyone have the solution? Looking forward to your expertise…


  1. User avater
    Becky-book | | #1

    How big around is the straw you wind them on?  drinking size or coffee stirrer?

    How big are the finished beads?

     could it be that they are not quite entirely dry?

    could you place them on foil or parchment paper lined cookie sheets and bake in a very low temp oven?  then brush with a sealer to keep the humidity from softening them again.

    Consider that they might not need to be rock hard to be tough enough for wear and tear?

    Just thinking out loud, hope this helps,


    1. bjames | | #2

      Hi Becky,
      This was my very first forum participation and it's so great to be able to have access to other people's information. To answer your questions: I am wrapping the fabric around stirrers so that the holes are smaller than what straws create. I never thought about baking them. I'll try... I have coated them with a decoupage medium after drying. And, maybe I really do not need them to be rock solid in order to withstand everyday use.
      Thank you so much for your input.

      1. Beth | | #3

        Have  you considered leaving the straws in place? Of course you would shorten them to fit.

        1. bjames | | #6

          Yes Beth,
          I have tried to make them with the straw remaining in the button. It is a harder finish, but I just don't like the idea of the straw inside a beautiful fiber bead. I appreciate your feedback.

      2. MaryinColorado | | #4

        I think you are risking TOXIC FUMEs and creating a FIRE HAZARD if you put these in the oven!!!  Too many chemicals to be safe after all that.  Sorry to "shout" but it sounds so dangerous.  If not, go to a hobby or art store and ask the experts, they should have a clear acrylic or something that will work for you.

        I have painted things with acrylic paints and then there is a brush on or spray laquer that you can use that is clear, comes in gloss or matte.  I think this would work well to stiffen and harden enough for your purpose.  I would test it first on scraps of course.

        I have made serger buttons by cutting triangles with the thin side really long.  Roll hem serge the edges.  Roll them up starting with the wide end, letting the decorative thread rolled hem show, and glue with fabric glue.  These also make cute pins if you add beads and such.  Mary

      3. JennyNZ | | #7

        On a new sample why don't you try using the resin that is used in fiberglass car spoilers and the like.

        It's a 2 part product, ie main liquid and then hardner is stirred together. Dip your fabric in, perhaps remove the excess and wrap.  Its worth a try if you are aiming for a "rock hard finish", would also give an illusion of may layers and a high gloss level.

        In a well ventilated area (mask + eye protection - for the vapor fumes) to speed up the dry time, use a hairdryer, and the resin goes off faster the warmer it is.

        Maybe try removing from straw when outside dry - inside should still be a bit sticky.

        I purchase it from the a marine/boating store.

        Good luck.

        1. bjames | | #8

          Appreciate your suggestion, Jenny. Will try this too. Thanks.

      4. User avater
        Becky-book | | #11

        You might try experimenting with the dilution ratio of glue to water.

        Back in the '70s we made paper beads like this and coated them with clear nail polish after they were really dry.

        Hope you can post a photo of some of your creations!!


        1. bjames | | #13

          Hi Becky,
          Thanks for your suggestion. I have experimented with different ratios of glue and water. I think that I am probably satisfied with the fact that my beads do not really have to be "rock solid" to be durable. As far as posting photos of my beads, I am fairly new to computers and do not know how to go about posting photos! I do have a digital camera, but then what?

  2. Tangent | | #5

    Hi!  It sounds like the stiffness problem is the type of glue you are using.  It gets hard, but not 'rock-hard' when dry.  This is especially true of craft type white glue, it retains a sort of rubberyness.  Why not experiment with other glues, such as the yellow 'woodworker's' glue, I know it is harder when dry and nearly transparent. Another one to try is Weldbond, it's a really good white glue.

    The beads should be able to take a fair amount of abuse even if they are not hard, as long as they are dry.  Dampness or soaking would soften them. Removing the plastic straw from the center will help to dry the beads, as will putting them in sunshine or a warm place with good air circulation.  The thicker they are, the longer it will be before the inside is truly dry.  It seems like they are fairly easy to make.  Why not design your project so the frazzled beads can be replaced when necessary?

    Hope this helps!

  3. Tangent | | #9

    Regarding using fiberglass resin....  the fumes are intense, so do this OUTDOORS, in the shade, if you try it, NOT IN THE HOUSE, or the stink will remain for ages. Heat does speed up the curing, but stick to the formula and instructions given by the manufacturer.  Too much catalyst results in unwanted effects, from crazing (fine cracks) in the finished resin, to actual spontaneous combustion when you really overdo it.  Working in sunshine really messes up your curing time as the sunshine heats the exposed parts and not the shaded parts.

    You might not be happy with this type of resin anyway, as it is hard to control: drippy like syrup, and then rock-hard when cured.  Before curing, it can be washed off with acetone (another smelly chemical that requires careful use), but once cured, nothing dissolves it. Drips in unwanted places will happen. And any little threads sticking out become nasty slivers, so you'll need to sand off the surface to ensure smoothness.  It takes a long time for all the smell to leave the cured resin.

    This type of resin is often used in a mold, which is coated with a wax or silicone mold-release, to prevent bonding to the mold. The exposed surface of the resin often has a tackyness to it that eventually hardens (could be months later) and you'd need to sand and polish it to get a nice finish.

    Try asking at a craft shop for other types of clear resin products that might be safer to use, and available in smaller quanties.

    1. bjames | | #10

      Thank you for your input. This method does not really appeal to my idea of what a fiber bead should look and feel like. I think that I am satisfied enough with the technique that I originally used with just plain household white glue diluted with water.

      1. Tangent | | #12

        Why dilute the glue?  If you use plain white glue (Elmer's, etc) it's aready thin.  Craft glue is thicker (to bond faster), but is never quite stiff when dried.  Maybe try different brands of white glue, such as Weldbond... lots safer and cheaper than epoxy or resin.

        Becky's suggestion of coating with clear nail polish, works well.  Other colors of nail polish can be used for decorative effects, too.

        1. bjames | | #14

          I like your idea of using colored nail polish to acheive other effects on my fiber beads. Thanks a lot.

  4. Teaf5 | | #15

    What about using a water-based polyurethane varnish? (Like Varathane)  Most of them dry clear and would be much harder than craft glue.  It's non-toxic and has water wash-up, but it's quite brittle when dry.  It would probably be best to wear latex surgical gloves while using it, just to protect your skin from drying out.

    Carpenters' wood glue does dry harder than white glue, but most of the ones I've used have dried to a yellow tone, not clear.

    1. thehat | | #16

      has any one tryed  old fashion wall paper past  I have taken and made a pinata out of paper and it did not break  we took a saw to it that is how hard it got it would do the same for your beads and it is cheep

    2. bjames | | #17

      Dear Teaf5
      I have heard about Varathane in the past for another project, and had difficulty finding it. The one place I was able to locate it had it in only huge cans. Thanks for your interest.

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