Beading for Boys

Attention Beading Men: This post does not refer to you, not one bit.

I asked a knitter friend recently what she thought knitters like to make most for the men in their lives. She said, "Oh, come on. Most knitters would rather spend the time making something for themselves!"

I suspiciously think this sentiment rings true for beaders, too. Oh, beading's got a bigger instant-gratification factor than knitting does, so it’s not always about keeping the goods to ourselves. It's an easy thing to whip up a simple bracelet here for sister, a necklace there for mom, and maybe a pair of earrings for teacher.

But coming up with anything, well, manly? Very tricky. Especially here in the Midwest, where I seem to be surrounded by men who are more concerned with the permeability of their ultra-lined heat-activated snow boots than accessorizing.

Oh, yes, there are some sculptural things I think the men in my life might like to put on a shelf to admire. You know, the really cool, crazily technical, pull-your-hair-out-until-it's-perfect-because-it-takes-30-hours-to-make things? Well, I don't know about you, but I figure those projects stay home with momma.

Of course it depends on the man. For instance, I had a bead party at my brother's cabin in the wilds of Wisconsin last summer. He said he'd like to learn how to bead, too. So I told him to belly his 6' 4", 240-lb body up to the table, and what did he make? A delicate ankle bracelet made of bare beading wire and stone chips–for himself! Looked great with his size 14 feet–I think the thing was about 16" long. It didn’t last through the weekend, though. Waterskiing + large man + ankle bracelet = disaster. At least he knows how to make another if he wants one.

What kind of beaded gifts do men really like? As I point out, I think it depends solely on the man, so it’s hard to generalize. But I can share a few I’ve made and given. Some have been successful, some not so much.

Successful: Keychain made with 16mm leopard jasper rondelles and Bali silver. This was an engagement shower gift for my little brother, John (who, by the way, has not made an ankle bracelet for himself, yet). After seven years he still carries it.

Not so successful: Elastic-strung bracelet with small wood and Greek ceramic beads for a third brother, Jim (there are four of them). He’s even bigger than the ankle bracelet guy, so elastic was a stupid choice. It exploded a day later. He liked the beads, though.

Successful: Carnelian and metal clay rosary for my son's First Communion. He still has it hanging over the door to his room.

Not so successful: Heishi shell and hemp necklace for said son on his sixth birthday. "It’s too itchy!!" Weird kid. It was made with linen.

Successful: Square-stitched bookmark for my nutty professor (a.k.a. husband). He uses it as he plows from book to book.

Not so successful: Walking staff with beaded embellishments. This was created at a macho-girls' camping weekend, where at one point we foraged for sticks, peeled the bark off, shaped them with knives, cured them in the bonfire, and ran around the campsite screaming our heads off. (Yes, the weekend was a great tension reliever. Highly recommended.) When I got home, I carved a groove around the staff, added a peyote-stitched band, and gave it to my husband for Father's Day. I think he knew this was a re-gifting of sorts, so it was left in a corner for a long time until the kids found it very useful for exploding water balloons.

Successful: Brick-stitched coin purse for an old art professor of mine. He incorporated it into a beautiful sterling silver and found-object necklace. Come to think of it, I wish he would have given it back!

I’m sure many of you have ventured into this tricky territory. Share your thoughts on the website. What worked? What didn't? We're all dying to know!


Bead Star Contest Update: The Bead Star FAQ has been updated–check out the answers to new questions about polymer clay, non-jewelry entries, chain maille, and more! Deadline for entries is May 6. See the complete rules for details on how to enter to win great prizes, including having your design featured on a magazine cover.


Jean Campbell writes about beading and life every Wednesday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Jean, please post them on the website. Thanks!


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