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Posted by Ali on December 03 at 09:42 am

It’s officially “the holiday season” and a lot of us will no doubt be eating a lot of leftovers. This post is about a different kind of leftovers – leftover beads.

My definition of leftovers is (a) beads that are remaining after a planned project has been completed, or (b) components that didn’t get used or are from an item that is broken or lost. I never seem to use all of the beads I buy for making a birthday or Christmas gift, I always seem to lose one earring out of the pair and I also have a habit of buying funky pieces that don’t end up getting used. All of that is about to change…. I hope.

Here are some great ideas (I think) that I have come up with so that these treasures don’t go to waste:

  • Share your beads with friends or a group.
  • Create a simple (or difficult depending on the recipient’s experience) project and put together a homemade bead kit to give as a present.
  • Make a funky/unexpected piece of jewelry – throw everything leftover in a baggie, shake it up and start stringing.
  • Make a charm bracelet out of those lone earrings. I recommend a heavier duty chain, like the Tiffany chain bracelets that were so popular when I was in college. Also, I would go with an antique finish on the chain, with all of the different metals and stones that could be in your lost earrings you probably don’t want to use a chain that will look shiny and new when the earrings or other parts probably don’t.
  • Make bead chain.  If you are familiar with rosaries, then you know what I am talking about. A couple different ways this could be done:
  1. Just use your leftover beads along with a decent gauge wire (not too thin or your chain will break). If the beads won’t fit on the wire, I would recommend not using them in the piece rather than using a thin wire that could potentially break on you.
  2. Use a combination of your leftover beads as described above, but instead of linking each bead together using wire, add in leftover bits of chain in random or consistent lengths in between the beads.  This will add great movement and interest to the strand.

How do you use leftover beads? What would you think of an easy way to swap beads & supplies online?

Read the comments (or add your own)

  1. Happy Chick aka Harriet
    Happy Chick aka Harriet says:

    Very good ideas!!! And yes, I would be interested in doing some swaps. ;)
    I already trade some beads with my beading group. There are 3 of us who meet about 2-3 times a month. If we have an overstock of a particular item, or just some we want to trade, we bring them along.
    I also do some sharing or swaps with my sister. :D

  2. No Photo
    Andrew M says:

    I like the homemade bead kit idea, that could be a fun holiday gift.

    Are there any charities that accept craft supplies as donations to re-use or distribute to the needy or children’s groups?

  3. No Photo
    Mary - Sweet Chick says:

    Girl Scouts would be a good group to give unwanted orphan beads or homemade bead kits to. My friend is a troup leader and they are always looking for projects for the girls.
    Very often the they take the results to nursing homes and share their creations with the residents. Both parties enjoy the benefits!! :-D

  4. doktordesigns
    doktordesigns says:

    Ali, thanks for picking up on the orphan bead theme and offering so many great ideas.

    I love the Girl Scouts idea…I wonder if we could pick a couple of troops (does someone have suggestions?) and make a mass Limabeaders donation (since one beader’s beads won’t keep a whole troop busy!)

  5. No Photo
    Chicky Zee aka Alice says:

    I take my left over beads and make jewelery for Birthday giftand Christmas gifts.This summer for oury family reunion my niece asked me to donate a necklace for all the ladies at the family reunion .It turn out great .Now I am making jewelry for some of those family members.Great idea Ali!!

  6. Bonnie R
    Bonnie R says:

    I have been doing small school associated craft shows and they traditionally have customers who want ideas for their own crafts. So, I started offering my leftovers, unwanted, misguided purchases as buy a scoop or per strand. They have gone over very well and since most of these shows attendees are not willing to pay the price for a good piece of jewelry, it gets rid of those beads I don’t want to store and lets others get a great buy. (they get to see and touch before buying) The nine year old girls getting their 1 scoop then 2nd scoop are so cute. And generates interest in my booth and advertises the good pieces for those who may later on want to buy them. At $30 for a booth the scoop thing covers the cost of the booth and everything else is extra.

  7. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    Bonnie, that’s an awesome idea!

  8. Chicky Suz aka Susan Z
    Chicky Suz aka Susan Z says:

    Bonnie, that is an awesome idea! I have a show ( last one of the year) coming up Saturday at my local high school, I will see if I can get it together before then. If not, I will do this next year for sure!
    This is coincidental as I used all my little extra wrapped loop beads ( earrings, charms ,dangles etc) yesterday morning and made a very funky colorful charm bracelet. I am getting alot of compliments on it!!

  9. Lynn Eileen Chicky LE
    Lynn Eileen Chicky LE says:

    What fabulous ideas from everyone! I use a lot of leftovers to make earrings, rings, bracelets, knotted necklaces (string the beads in random patterns on silk bead cord and tie knots in between), & bookmarks. These have all been very popular with my customers! Wine charms would be another possibility.

    I also love the idea of a bead swap and the idea of donating beads! Count me in!!! :D

  10. Sandra Martinez
    Sandra Martinez says:

    I would love to bead swap…whenever the opportunity presents itself, I give away alot of orphan beads…or tell my friend to take what they want….they are always careful not to “take too many”…they are thrilled with their new finds and I am thrilled I could give them inspiration for a new piece or just make them happy with the gift! Can you imagine what kind of a bead stash we would have if all of us would give say 10 beads to a giant bead bag?? Gifts of joy!

  11. Alice P
    Alice P says:

    I’d love the idea of a bead swap! I’ve got a few beads hanging around that I could swap.

    I put all my leftover beads in a bowl and later sort by color family to make a charm bracelet. But I’m loving all the ideas already listed.

  12. Breezy Chick aka Bree
    Breezy Chick aka Bree says:

    This Christmas I am using my left over odds and end beads to make key rings with a drop of beads attached for my family and friends. I have ordered some cheap key rings from ebay and will attach a small strand of assorted left over beads to it, and just to make the gift more personal I will add a charm to suit the persons interests.

  13. No Photo
    Sheila W says:

    There are two ideas:
    1. String all left over beads on one continuous strand for a 36″ necklace. This sounds horrible, but the comments(people wanting one just like) will come from everyone!
    2. Glue them onto a framed peg board and hang on the wall in your workroom as a piece of art reminder of all your past projects. Who knows it may be valuable some day as the beads are no longer available.

  14. No Photo
    Sheila W says:

    Oh, another idea…..
    String them all together on memory wire and add dangle charms ie; cheerleading, horses, Christmas themes, dogs etc.

  15. Sandy S
    Sandy S says:

    I give a lot of my craft stash that I may find to my sister who is a art teacher. She shares the stash with a her church’s preschool and what she may need at school. These places reuse.. I grew up Pennsylvania Dutch Pack Rat and something can always be used somewhere else. Its in the genes… :)

  16. Steph
    Steph says:

    I’ve been saving mine and I’m hoping to make a unique necklace as Matt did last year or maybe bracelet’s or wine bottle charms. You always end up with leftovers. Great ideas.

  17. No Photo
    J PISTEK says:


  18. No Photo
    Deb D Grammy Chick says:

    So many wonderful ideas…thanks, everyone! So far, I have used some of those extra beads to make necklaces and bracelets for my 8-year-old granddaughter. She loves all the different colors and shapes. She keeps some of them, and gives others to her friends.

  19. Evelyn p
    Evelyn p says:

    I would love to do some kind of swap..that way the people that can’t afford the really nice ones could actually get some of those in a swap..and with christmas and valentines day around the corner..LET’S ALL START SOMETHING! Not kidding..who wants to start this?

  20. No Photo
    Luv2bead - Little Chick says:

    I always have so many leftover beads!! All the talk about the “Orphan Beads” has encouraged me to use them up. I’ve been making several necklaces that I would have never thought to design and earrings to match!!!!!

  21. Becca W
    Becca W says:

    I’m making wine glass charms with my odds & ends this year.

  22. Harmony on Strings
    Harmony on Strings says:

    Often times I hold onto things for a time before I decide what to do with them and by then I am sometime short a bead or two or want a couple more for earrings. How about a sort of lost and found for things no longer available. Since we are all LB devotes’ we probably could come up with such things for each other.

    I store beads by stone and try to put things back right away. When I don’t I throw in a box and have a sorting day every couple of months

  23. Happy Chick aka Harriet
    Happy Chick aka Harriet says:

    I just had a fun evening with friends last night. It was our last Bead Circle meeting before Christmas and we had a lot of fun swapping and sharing beads. My beads from LB are always a popular item, and it is fun to let others see what a great resource LB can be. The variety and quality, as well as the great buys I got on Black Monday were very popular topics! :D

  24. Lynn Eileen Chicky LE
    Lynn Eileen Chicky LE says:

    That sounds like a lot of fun, Happy Chick! :D

  25. Happy Chick aka Harriet
    Happy Chick aka Harriet says:

    I take a certain pleasure, guilty or not, from showing off my great LB finds! And we do have lots of fun. :D

  26. m mathews
    m mathews says:

    I’ve swapped with my beading group, traded with my local bead store, have let my students earn the reward of making something for mom or grandma, but so far the best has been to donate them to the nursing home – the residents love to make gifts for someone else

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