One of the delights of crafting is to make something with someone specific in mind. I wanted to design a necklace for my godmother Phyllis and so ventured to Beadazzled, a bead and jewelry shop off Dupont Circle.
Entering Beadazzled is like walking through my imagination's vision of a bazaar in Marrakech with beads displayed from all over the world: brown-and-white batik bone beads from Kenya, indigo "evil eye" glass beads from Turkey and elaborately carved red lacquer beads from China. Collections of smaller beads -- stone, plastic, glass and metal -- gleam like candy dishes on a long counter.
The array is overwhelming, but Kathleen Manning, Beadazzled's assistant manager, advises novice designers to "start by picking a centerpiece, or three major beads that you really like, and match them up" with later selections. The choices need not be expensive. "Some of our silver beads from India [with] really nice detailing on them are six or seven dollars," Manning says. "That would make a pretty centerpiece with some glass beads and easily come under $15 total."
Phyllis loves Asian art and dresses in pastel colors. With these preferences in mind, I selected three soft green jade beads etched with circles, evocative of early Chinese stone carvings. Then I spied cylindrical agate beads. Although it looks brown at first glance, agate has undercurrents of rose, purple and gray, which blend well with the jade and cued other bead choices. "If you're working with natural stones," Manning says, "you have more options because there are more harmonious colors in nature -- like an orange leaf against the blue sky outside," an appealing contrast. But "an orange glass bead next to a blue glass would look too jarring," she says. Manning suggests that if you work with many colors, "you don't want to have too much variety in shapes."
To avoid design mishaps, Bedazzled lends costumers a bead board -- a felt board with a large U-shaped indentation -- so they can plan their masterpieces and determine how many beads they will need to make a necklace a particular length. To string the necklace, thread a sewing needle with non-stretch nylon, a light yet strong string made for beading. Next tie a lobster-claw clasp at the end of the string, knotting it twice for a secure hold. After stringing the beads, tie the other end of the necklace to the clasp. To hide the knots, dot each with clear nail polish and slide the neighboring bead over the knot. When dry, snip away the excess thread for a neat finish.
"It's very gratifying to see someone wear what you create," Manning says, an affirmation not only of your untapped artistic skills but of your knowledge of the recipient's style and interests.
BEADAZZLED -- Three locations: 1507 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-265-2323; www.beadazzled.net; open Monday-Saturday 10 to 8, Sundays 11 to 6. 501 N. Charles St., Baltimore; 410-837-2323; open daily 10:30 to 6. Tysons Corner Center I, McLean; 703-848-2323; open Monday-Saturday 10 to 9:30, Sundays 11 to 6.