Saturday, 10 December 2011

Bead & Craft Books and how to get yours free.. or cheap(!) this Christmas...

We've just taken delivery of some lovely new bead and craft books. They're deliberately not ALL beady - I like to look at other crafts and some of the most original creations come from those clever peeps that 'fuse' techniques together. Ok - I'm not convinced that a knitted oil painting is the way forward, but knitted earrings or rubber stamped jewellery components are probably a go go!

All the books are £10 or less, and the smallest saving off list price is 29%.. the biggest is a whopping 60% saving!

And that, my cows, is not all! To celebrate our first 'real' (ie not through Amazon stores!) book range we have a great offer on. The offer runs strictly until midday on Tuesday 20th December 2011 (this is the last posting day for Christmas delivery) but if we run out of books we'll have to stop early, so please order as soon as you can!

To give you maximum choice and flexibility, this isn't just a FREE BEAD BOOK offer... what you get is £5 off *any title* in the book section. Lots of the books are £5, and the most expensive are £10. You can choose any title and get a £5 discount.

This is how it works..

  • Shop on - you can shop in any section - new items and clearance included, but you need to spend at least £15 (excluding p&p)
  • When your total is £15 or more, visit the new bead and craft book section and select any book. If you want a 'free' book - just choose one that is priced at £5
  • Go to the checkout and use code books4xmas and your £5 discount will appear

If you check out the book section you'll  see there are lots of titles for beaders, scrapbookers, card makers and we've not forgotten candle making and knitting! These are all brand new books and would make a lovely treat for yourself for Christmas, or give one to a creative friend for inspiration.

We can offer these amazing discounts because we commit to large quantities. You can really help us to continue the offers by sharing this offer on your Facebook pages, on Twitter or in your craft groups. More customers mean we can source better deals as our buying power increases. Please 'spread the word about the herd' - it means a lot to us

Best wishes Georgie, Hannah & the Christmas Packing Elves

Friday, 25 November 2011

Ribbon & Button Beady Angels

I made some homely little angels - some with heart button wings and others with organza ribbon wings - I hope you like them! The instructions are below. These are quick and easy to make and are a nice Christmas project for children (you'll need to do the crimping and gluing with younger children)

I'm going to use mine to decorate special gifts,  but they're also great for a 'table tree' or hung in windows, or even on cards.

Flatnose or Chain nose Pliers
Scissors or Snippers


  • Cut approx 20cm thread and thread on 1 crimp, 2 3mm beads and another crimp
  • Get the crimps as close as possible to each end of your thread and squash them flat
  • Trim any excess thread
  • Push 1 3mm bead against each crimp (these are the angel's feet)
  • Fold the thread in half - make sure the angel's feet are level, a wonky angel just won't do!
  • Thread a 1 crimp, 1 3mm bead and a floral cone over both threads (see pic)

  • The crimp and 3mm bead hold the angel's body (the cone!) at the right distance above the feet. Measure around 3cm from the top of the feet, depending on how tall you'd like your angel and then squash the crimp flat
  • Push the cone and bead down into position. 
  • Thread a daisy spacer, 8mm bead and another daisy spacer.
  • Thread on the final crimp and squash flat
  • Either tie on a scrap of ribbon and snip the 'wings' into shape, or glue on a heart button
  • Your homespun angel is finished!
Other Ideas
  • Make Snowmen with a similar method - an 8mm white pearl for the body and a 6mm pearl for the head! These also look great in Crystal AB Czech firepolish, but do make sure your thread is clear or they look a bit odd!
  • Fairies are another variation - an acrylic flower makes a fairylike 'skirt' 
  • Pretty up the button wings with a bit of glitter
  • Stitch your homespun figures to a wide ribbon and drape along the top of a mirror or window.
  • Use silver thread for easy extra sparkle
  • Loop the figures onto bookmarks for stocking fillers and thankyou gifts.
Hints and Tips

  • It's tempting to try and make these from the halo down - don't do it! It's much easier to start with, but then it is impossible to get the 'body' crimp in the right place. Always start with the feet :-)
  • If you have too much hanging loop left, thread on a crimp to make the loop the right size, squash it and cut off the excess - no one will know :-D

Friday, 11 November 2011

A beaded bridal bangle for Rosie

I made my friend Rosie a beaded tiara for her wedding a couple of weeks ago (photos of that soon - she's on her honeymoon and I didn't get a pic of it DOH!) and she requested a bracelet.. 'something plain, maybe a stretchy pearly elastic bracelet'. I blinged  a stretchy bracelet up as best as I could, but I realised that a wedding dress REALLY needs far more beady bling than you would imagine(!)

So, without telling her - I beaded up a looped bangle, in a very similar design to the tiara, and gave her the elasticated bracelet she'd requested (which was nice - but a bit plain!) and the sparkly blinged bangle  below - and said she could decide, and I wouldn't mind which she chose. (I was prepared to *really* try not to mind that she prefered the plain one!)

I didn't need to pretend - because the bangle won her over and she looked gorgeous. It *looks* quite complex, and I'll admit, does require a bit of 'wiggling' when you start up, but once you have the hang of the twisty groups of 3 beads, it's ok :-)

A beginner can manage it,  but it's probably better for a 2nd or 3rd go at a wired project. 

If you'd like to have a go - here's the materials list and instructions. I'd love to see your versions too!

Materials - these are the absolute most you need, for a 6" bangle - exact quantities depend slightly on your spacing, and preference:

30 6mm Czech fire polish beads (we used aqua) 
30 6mm Jolie Vache pearls (we used white)
20 6mm silver stardust beads
24 ga non tarnish silver craft wire 
1 looped bangle

Wire cutters
Chain nose pliers
Flat nose pliers (not essential, but handy)


  • Start off - hold the wire against the bangle between 2 beading loops. Ideally, you use the beading loops to secure most of the 'triple groups' of beads (see pic) as this stops the beads twisting on the bangle - so bear this in mind when you position the first wire and bead.
  • Wrap the wire tightly around the bangle 2 or 3 times and squash it flat with your flat nose pliers to secure against the band
  • Slide on one stardust bead and position it on the band.
  • Pull the wire tight and then wrap the wire around the band twice - as tightly as you can
  • You should be close to a beading loop. Thread on 3 firepolish beads and curve them into the triple group pattern (see pic) bringing them into a tight loop as close to the band as possible and then twist the wire together at the base of the group to hold.
  • Position the triple group flat against the band and if you are on top of a loop, wiggle into position covering the loop and then thread the wire through the loop before winding round the band twice. (if you're not near a loop, then lie the group flat and then wrap the wire round the band twice
  • Slide on one stardust bead as above method
  • Slide on 3 pearls and repeat the triple group.
  • Continue this pattern - stardust - triple group czech - triple group pearl  around the bangle
  • As you get nearer to the end, adjust your spacing so that the pattern is correct. It fits on almost exactly, but this will depend slightly on how you space the beads.
  • Once the bangle is beaded, wrap the wire around the band 3 or 4 times and squash the wire flat with pliers to secure. Check there are no sharp ends to snag dresses(!) If there are, squash the wire again. 

Enjoy :-)

Friday, 21 October 2011

Release your Inner Witch this Halloween...

I hope you like my latest creation - I've been playing with some giant hibiscus flowers and Jolie Vache pearls to make a funky Halloween hair slide - perfect for a party, or maybe a bit of 'trick or treating'

If you're more 'Hula Girl' than 'Witch' -there's another colour scheme idea below.

Easy to make, and no tools, so give it a whirl tonight. Suitable for beginners, and takes less than 30 minutes.



Cut a manageable amount of nylon - about 18"
Thread it through the first loop on the haircomb and tie it to itself in a square (reef) knot, leaving about 2" on the tied end
Thread on a hibiscus and then a pearl.
Thread back through the hibiscus and pull tight against the haircomb
Wind the nylon around the haircomb and then over the petals if needed to secure the hibiscus in place.
Repeat with the other 2 hibiscus
Weave the nylon thread in and out of the haircomb teeth as near the top as you can manage, working back to where you started
Tie the end to the 2" length you left at the beginning. Tie a reef knot and pull really tight.
Secure with a dot of clear nail varnish or a dab of glue.
Snip the ends very closely once the varnish or glue is totally dry
Wear :-) Enjoy admiration!

Have a great weekend!

Friday, 30 September 2011

Butterfly Ball set - Easy Choker & co ordinating Drop Earrings

Butterfly Ball set - Easy Choker & co ordinating Drop Earrings

This feminine set is easy to wear and dresses up or down. It's simple and quick to make too.


  • Chain nose pliers, flat nose pliers, round nose pliers and cutters
Beads & Findings:


  • Cut the chain to fit your neck - the completed necklace will sit just on your collar bone (this is usually about 16"!)
  • Attach a 5mm jump ring to each end of the chain
  • Attach a lobster clasp to one jump ring
  • Try on the necklace and adjust the fit if necessary
  • Cut a short length of chain (mine was 21 links long) and attach a jump ring to each end
  • Attach one butterfly charm to one jump ring
  • Close the lobster clasp and hold the necklace up to locate the central link
  • Attach the other jump ring on the end of the butterfly chain to the central link
  • Cut a very short length of chain (mine was 3 links long) and attach a jump ring to each end
  • Thread a Fimo bead onto an eye pin, trim to size and turn a loop. Attach the loop to the chain length.
  • Attach a 5mm jump ring and a butterfly to the eye pin loop
  • Count 7 links along the necklace from the butterfly dangle and attach the fimo bead chain
  • Cut another piece of chain (mine was 10 links long) and attach the other Fimo bead and butterfly, following the 2 steps above
  • Count 7 links along the necklace from the butterfly dangle (opposite direction - see pic!) and attach the fimo bead chain
  • Check the fit - the butterfly dangle should drape from the hollow of your throat.

  • To make the earrings, cut 2 pieces of chain (mine was 40 links long) and attach a 5mm jump ring to each end.
  • Attach a butterfly charm to each end of the chain
  • Hook the 15th link onto an earwire
  • Repeat for a pair!

If you'd like to receive all the findings and beads you need to make this set for FREE - then place an order over £5 (excluding postage) this weekend at and we'll send you your free items automatically. Hurry though - this offer ends at midday on Monday October 3rd 2011

Friday, 23 September 2011

Cute Cluster Drop Earrings


Here's a quick and easy - but really effective - earring pattern. I made mine with plated findings and lightweight acrylic bicones, but it would easily 'upscale' with sterling silver jump rings and Swarovski bicones if you're an uptown girl!

Tools and Supplies:

4 7mm jump rings

4 5mm jump rings

2 ear hook wires

6 4mm acrylic bicones (2 in each of 3 colours)

6 head pins

2 pairs chain nose pliers (or 1 flat, 1 chain, or 1 jump ring tool and 1 chain)
Round nose pliers


  • Thread one bicone onto each headpin and turn a loop
  • *Open 1 7mm jump ring
  • Thread on 2 5mm jump rings and 1 ear hook
  • Close 7mm jump ring, ensuring ends are tight and snug!
  • Open 1 7mm jump ring
  • Thread on 3 bicone loops (1 of each colour)
  • Thread the 7mm jump ring through both 5mm jump rings and close the 7mm jump ring
  • Repeat from * above - but thread on your bicones in the opposite order to ensure a pair of earrings when worn!

Wear, and enjoy the admiration :-)

Friday, 16 September 2011

Adventures in Chain Maille

I love the look of chainmaille, and today was the day I decided to give it a try! The picture above is my first attempt ever - it's a Helm (parallel chain) bracelet and I'm feeling really pleased with myself :-)

Chainmaille is a series of interlinked rings - and there are hundreds of patterns. Helm pattern is a relatively simple weave, perfect for a beginner like me. I must say it was quite addictive and very satisfying - it reminded me a bit of knitting. I also found my mistakes easier to correct than my knitting errors(!)

There are a few methods for producing Helm but this one was the one that I found easiest.

I used the gold rings in my design because I thought it would be easier to see where my rings were supposed to link. I really like the effect though! I will be doing some more chain maille for definite.

I  used 36 7mm silver jump rings, 38 5mm jump rings and 17 7mm gold jump rings, plus a triangle toggle clasp to complete the design so that it fitted my own wrist. All the findings are available from

I hope you feel inspired to give chain maille a try!

Best wishes

Friday, 9 September 2011

Autumn Flower Girls.. & a JellyRoll Bracelet

Hi Beady Peeps!

The bead barn overfloweth with sparkly things this week, so if you're in need of Autumnal Inspiration, have a look at the new things we found here

Our new Official Packing Goddess (Hannah)  has set to work, which left lucky old me with some time to make some pretties this week.

First up is a project for you. It's a pretty hairband for flower girl, or even as the finishing touch to a party outfit. It's quick to make, very comfy to wear (this is very important when you are trying to persuade a small person to wear a beaded hair band!) and I think it looks great! I've called it Autumn Flower Girls because I designed it with my friend's wedding in mind.

If you've not tried wiring beads before, this is a perfect first project to try. Here goes!

Tools and Supplies:

  • Cut 2 loops of memory wire and then trim them so there is a 5cm gap in the circle
  • Cut 65cm of craft wire and fold in half to locate the centre
  • Place one loop of memory wire on top of the other and line up the ends roughly (they're trimmed later, so you don't need to be exact
  • Ensure that the memory wire loops are on top of each other and not twisted, or resting inside each other *very important!* as this gives the whole piece its structure
  • Fold the middle of the craft wire over the middle of the memory wire base and wrap around firmly 4 or 5 times.
  • Working to the right, wrap the craft wire around the memory wire loops firmly to hold them together. Aim for tight neat wraps, about 5mm apart. Finish 2cm from the cut end of the memory wire loops.
  • Repeat, working to the left.
  • Now cut *ONE* of the memory wire ends back by 1cm. Using chain nose pliers, fold the long end back so that it touches the cut surface. Squeeze to flatten and neaten
  • Wrap the craft wire over the join and to about 5mm of the end. Wrap tightly and closely. Snip off the remainder and squeeze flat with chain nose pliers.
  • Repeat with the other end.
  • Your base is now complete!
  • Cut another 65cm of wire and fold in half to find the middle
  • Again, find the middle of the base, and wrap the middle of the craft wire round - you should have two 'ends' - one for each side of the design.
  • Start with a 3 flower cluster: Thread on one lucite trumpet bead, one 2mm spacer and then pass the wire back through the trumpet (see pic)

  • Hold the trumpet flower and spacer close to the base and pull the wire through tightly.
  • Wrap the wire round the base once
  • Repeat for 2 more flowers
  • Wrap the craft wire just underneath all 3 flowers together and then use your fingers to arrange the 'bunch' - keep the wire quite tight.
  • Wrap the craft wire once round the base
  • Thread a 6mm bicone and hold it tight against the base. Check the position is how you want it (I suggest aim for parallel with the base) and then wrap the craft wire back around the base to hold the bicone.
  • Repeat with a second bicone
  • Repeat the pattern twice more so that you have the centre flower 'bunch' then 2 bunches on one side with 3 sets of 2 bicones - finish with 2 bicones
  • Here's a closer look at the pattern:

  •  Repeat for the other side
  • Once complete, continue to wind the craft wire around the base and trim off - give it a good squeeze to flatten the wire and hold tight

    The second piece I made, is really simple, but looks fab! - I've called it my JellyRoll Bracelet:

    If you don't want to bother with a toggle clasp, this would also be great on Elasticow - because there are a lot of beads, please double it up though, and secure your square knot with a dot of nail varnish.

    I made it by threading 8mm Jolie Vache pearls in mercury alternating some lovely rhinestone rondelles from a mix pack and finished with a triangle clasp. I used Berkley fireline to thread, but tigertail would be fine too - whatever you prefer!

    Have a lovely weekend, and I'd love to see your versions of the Flower Girl project, so don't be shy!

    Best wishes

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Create your brand - check out your buyers - and price it right!

In this post I'm going to take a look at 'branding' and give some pointers on designing the right jewellery for your customer base. We'll also take a quick look at pricing. Phew - quite a lot for one post!

Branding.. branding is what makes 'you', you. It's not something that is only relevant to 'big' companies - big companies do it because it works! If you are stuck for an original theme, think about how you would like to come across to your customers:

  • Quirky

  • Friendly

  • Artistic

  • Ethereal

  • Modern

  • Homespun

  • Classic

  • Edgy

There's no right answer - and those bullet points are just to start you thinking about your business image. When I started madcowbeads my list was.. friendly, zany & memorable. A herd of cows running a bead factory seemed suitably random (and we're in a converted cowshed!) - and I know that it has made the web address really memorable! Once you have thought about your brand, carry this through to your craft stall, your website, any stationery you have, your labels, bags and giftwrap too.

Branding doesn't need to cost loads of money. In most cases you don't need a glossy brochure or a company car(!) and in most craft businesses, being 'too slick' can be detrimental. Here are some effective ideas I've come across:

  • Get small labels printed with your business details (I use Stick these labels on old fashioned brown parcel tags . The ones I saw had thin gingham ribbon instead of the string! These made fabulous business cards for a hand crafted business

  • Decide on your business colours and co ordinate your gift wrapping service (tissue paper is particularly effective, and inexpensive) and your craft stall table cloths

  • Buy plain Kraft card boxes, and use your little labels inside - much cheaper, and nicer than paying for hotfoil printing! Finish with a ribbon in your company colours

  • Consider a 'uniform' for Craft fairs - what could you wear to promote your new brand?

Your intended customers will also affect your branding, so do think this through well. A burlesque theme could be dramatic & very successful in the right setting - but it's not going to be that appropriate at school fetes, where a sparkly fun approach is more likely to draw in the buyers!

When designing your items, you need to consider your sales venue and the type of customer this may attract. If you are running a stall at your local fete, then it would be sensibly to assume that your market is families with young children. Think about what they might buy, and what their budget might be. It would be safe to say you'll do well at this type of venue with smaller, cheaper items that aren't 'time heavy' to make - things like bookmarks, keyrings, zip pulls, stretchy bracelets etc. It's a good idea to have plenty of these available, and then perhaps a few more expensive and eyecatching items to display too.

Acrylic beads and buttons are perfect for these type of items and venues - they are light, pretty and hard to break. They're also really inexpensive, so you can conserve your margins, and offer really tempting prices!

Talking of prices... I know that some crafty folks find it difficult to price their work, so I hope the ideas below help your quandaries!

If you are in business making jewellery to sell, then you need to make a profit! That sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised! Work out the cost of the 'raw' materials and then add an element to cover your 'making' time, and things like pliers, which wear out and need replacing out of your profits! If you attend fairs, there is the cost of the stall, your fuel and wear & tear on your vehicle. Plus you probably need to buy a coffee, or some lunch while you're at the fair. This all adds up and needs to be accounted for.

Here are a few 'easy fixes' to keep your costs down!

  • Draw out a design and make variations of it - with different beads, or in different finishes - this way the 'design time' is lower

  • Use acrylic beads for cheaper items - they look great and don't break!

  • Think about 'economising' without adversely affecting the design - for example, a beaded necklace with a fancy design at the front could have a plain seed bead or 'noodle' side and back - or use suede or ribbon

  • Check your 'assembly time' - if you take ages crimping, don't make items that require tigertail and crimps. Concentrate on what you do quickly and well.

  • Design with one lovely focal and use seed beads as fillers as money savers that still look great

  • If buying online, factor in the postage. Many companies (including the madcows!) charge one shipping rate, so get organised and place one order to minimise your costs here.

If your items are selling really fast, do consider that they may be worth a little more :-) Pricing is your decision, but as a very general rule, charge at least 3 times your 'raw material' costs. On high value designs with branded crystals, or intricate work, a guide would be 6 or 7 times your raw material costs - and the sky is the limit with your handmade, designer one offs!

My personal observation is that many people underprice their work. Why not try charging a little more - you could be pleasantly surprised - and it's easier to have a sale, than it is to put prices up!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Creating Attractive Displays for Craft Fairs

Following on from last week's post, here are some ideas for setting up your stall!

Jewellery, by it's very nature, is pretty 'flat' - so just laying out your wares doesn't work that well. It's hard to attract customers if they have to look down at a table of items - however beautiful they are! Your stall is your 'shop window' so why not go to town!

You can spend a fortune on plastic display items - those fake hands and heads(!), but why not think a bit laterally and upcycle some items? Your display is a powerful way to get customers over to you, so have a think about who you are trying to appeal to.

If your items are for children, then think about how you can get them to take a look. I once saw a cute painted mini chest of drawers (Ikea sell them as desk organisers!) with cuddly toys sat around and sticking out of the drawers. All the toys were wearing the items that the stall holder was selling, and sitting around leaning against the drawer unit. The seller also had a shelving unit painted to look like a dolls house, and she had pinned items to the edges of the shelves. The whole stall was three dimensional and fun.

For a more 'grown up' display, think about how you can display items so that your customers can look 'up and around' . How about a patio umbrella decorated with fairy lights? Hook your creations under the canopy and round the edges using crystal string, or fishing nylon as a 'washing line'. If there is room, run some lines from your umbrella, to the wall, or edge of your unit.

I have seen lots of props put to good use - bicycles, bird cages, tailors dummies, 'junk' furniture, coat racks.... The limit is the size of your car! Have a look in charity shops for interesting teapots, trays & lamps to 'stage' your makes.

Another successful use of space is to buy cheap pin or cork boards and cover them with a dark cloth. Hang these on the wall behind your stand and pin on bigger pieces.

If you have no time because your craft fair is tomorrow, don't despair! Here's some quick fixes to help you avoid 'flat table' syndrome:

  • Grab the mirror off your dressing table, give it a clean and take it with you!

  • If there is room in the car, take a floor lamp, preferably one with a shade - and display your items on the shade

  • Cover different sized empty cardboard boxes in wrapping paper (or even plain white paper) and arrange your jewellery on them

  • Have a look in your cupboards for any vases or china that could be used as props.

  • Use 'tupperware' type containers *underneath* your cloth. Sellotape them to the table and then drape the cloth over. (The cloth may need securing with picnic clips) Instant hills and valleys :-)

The above tips will have your stall looking amazing - but there are a couple of other tricks to try too:

Firstly - while I know you want to wear your trusty jeans and a jumper, consider wearing a special 'fair outfit'. No, I'm not suggesting you go as a pantomime cow... but do have a think about what you could wear. If your designs reflect a time, for example 50s retro, then co ordinating your outfit adds to the sense of the occasion.

Secondly - provide an 'extra' service. Remember that if your stall is busy, other people will come over to see what is going on! A service provides the opportunity to 'create a crowd' - if you have a helper, consider offering things like 'pick your beads & we'll make you a bracelet' or offer to swap pierced ear wires for clip ons. If you're on your own, you can still offer gift boxes and organza bags. Get your customer involved in choosing the packaging too. These services add value, without costing you anything, and mean that people are more inclined to browse, or wait at your stall. While they're waiting, other people will be curious, and come over too! It's true - I don't know why, but it definitely works. These extra services are really useful if you are nervous about talking to people, they give you an instant 'something' to talk about, and are a bit more original than 'Can I help you'

I hope you can put these display tips to good use. Next week we'll look at pricing your makes & take a closer look at your image and growing your brand.
Have a restful weekend!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Autumn Craft Fairs

If you make jewellery to sell, then this time of year is 'ramp up production' time for all the forthcoming Autumn and Christmas Fairs. I don't want to be the one to bring this up, but there are a limited number of weekends available between now and Christmas!

Here at , we are often asked for advice about Craft Fairs, so here are some pointers. Do feel free to add your own top tips!

There are lots of Fairs and Markets and the number of events will steadily increase between now and Christmas, so happy trading!

  • Top Tip - go as a visitor to the more expensive venues. Check out the crowds, and the amount of sales. Ask other stall holders how they got on. Sometimes exclusive venues are well worth the cost of a table. I live very close to a few of these type of sales and they are always packed with people trying to buy nice Christmas presents. Quite often these venues also charge your customers to come in - so they're high quality leads for you, and motivated shoppers! You can offer (and charge for) additional services at more expensive venues - giftwrapping, personalisation, bespoke items for example. If you do take a stand, do consider making some 'demonstration' items while you are at the show - it's a talking point for your customers. Here's some premium venues nearby to the mad cows, but they take place all over the UK, so just 'google' :-) :

Westonbirt Arboretum Westonbirt School Charity Fair Mary Howard Sales

  • Top Tip - contact organisers before booking a table. There are lots of people selling jewellery and organisers may restrict the number of jewellery stalls. Before booking, see if they have a place for you. If it is a fair that you really would like to do, ask to be put on a waiting list. Sometimes organisers will also have a 'short notice' list - this means that if someone drops out, you can be called the day before with the offer of a stand. Ask the organisers how many jewellery stands there are. If there are lots of other jewellers, visit the fair first. How different are your items? Can you offer something different in terms of style, price or type of items? For example, there may be several stalls selling bracelets and earrings, but could you carve a niche with bagcharms, keyrings and brooches perhaps? SouthWest Fairs are definitely worth a look for Gloucestershire/Wilts/Somerset venues.

  • Top Tip - share with a friend. If you have a friend who makes things too, why not exhibit together? This means you needn't worry about covering the stall if you need the loo, or a cup of coffee. It's also good company and will help your confidence if this is your first show. However - a word of warning... chatting behind your stall results in no sales and is easily done. There is plenty of time to talk to each other at other times, so be very careful to be friendly and talk to all your customers. If you chat to each other, customers will often not want to 'interrupt' to ask about any items.

  • Top Tip - write a list! On the morning of the show it will be early, you may be nervous and you have LOTS to do. Write a checklist, and just work through the list. It will keep you calm, and make sure everything gets packed into the car. Here's a few pointers for your list, but you will need to add your own 'essentials' - check what is provided by the venue as you may not always get a table and a chair!:

Mirrors; Extra lights & extension cable; Plain cloth; Display stands; Stock (yes, it has happened!); Cash tin with a change float or money belt; calculator; bags; giftwrap; appropriate clothing and shoes (it may be COLD. You may have to stand up all day with a smile!) Food / drink.

I hope these tips have got you thinking about your Fair Campaign this Autumn. Next time we'll look at displaying your makes, pricing and talking to customers.

Have a great weekend


Friday, 22 July 2011

Fimo, Pearls & Noodles.. what more could a beady girl need?

The very long awaited mini fimo bead mix is now back in stock - one of my official favorites!

I'm off to a Christening on Sunday and I was lucky enough to have a little spare time this afternoon, so I made myself the little bracelet pictured above and a very blingy pearl & fimo lariat necklace here:

The dress I'm planning on wearing is really plain - so I think I'll get away with wearing both!

If you'd like to give them a try, here's the instructions:

Noodle Bracelet:


Fireline Jewellery Thread (or any other stringing material - I just really like Fireline!)
Fimo Mini Beads

2 Jumbo noodle beads

1 Bali Clasp

9 Mini Daisy Spacer Beads

2 4mm jumprings

2 silver calottes

4 2mm crimps

You'll also ideally need chain nose & flat nose pliers, or 2 pairs chain nose - and a pair of scissors


Cut a length of Fireline to fit your wrist, plus 1" just in case :-)

Thread on 1 calotte & 2 crimp beads close to one end of the Frieline.

Squash the crimps flat with your flat nose pliers and then carefully close the calotte over the crimps. Ease the calotte loop over the calotte shell to secure.

Open a 4mm jump ring and thread it through the calotte loop. Attach one half of the Bali Clasp to the jump ring.

Thread on one daisy spacer, one noodle bead and another daisy spacer.

Thread on one fimo bead and one daisy spacer. Repeat this another 5 times.

Thread on one noodle bead and another daisy spacer.

Check for fit. (If you need to make the bracelet longer then remove the daisy spacer and noodle and add one more fimo bead and a daisy spacer.)

Thread on one calotte and 2 crimp beads. Double check the tension of the piece - it needs to move, but not have big gaps when worn

When you're happy, squash the 2 crimps flat and close up the calotte. Ease the calotte loop over the shell to secure, then add a 4mm jump ring, and the other half of the clasp.

Pearly Lariat Necklace

A long time ago, someone told me that ladies wore pearls because they flattered the skin. Being 20 something and immortal(!) I dismissed this very silly idea... but 20 years later, I find that it's true. The lustre of pearls, glass ones, or otherwise, does seem to bounce light away from the funny wobbly bit that has mysteriously appeared under my jawline... I'm not one for the classic 'knotted pearls' though - so this lariat necklace uses the flattering pearls with some fun Tibetan silver and more funky fimo.

You can make this any length you like, but longer is better as the end that threads through the donut loop hangs nicely if it is a bit longer - mines 30" in total. Just experiment as you string up!


Fireline, calottes, jump rings, crimps mini fimo mix and daisy spacers as above - if you've made the bracelet, there are plenty of beads rings & calottes left over for this project too!

2 packs Floral bead caps (you need 28)

1 2" eye pin

1 28mm donut connector

28 12mm Jolie Vache pearls

1 daisy charm

This lariat needs you to make one wrapped loop, so you will need chain nose pliers. Flat nose pliers would also be helpful.


Cut a long piece of Fireline - around 34"

Attach the calotte using the method described above, threading the eyepin onto the calotte loop before easing it over the calotte shell

Using the donut as a guide, make a right angle bend in the eyepin about 10mm from the eye pin loop. Put the donut into position and bend the pin around the donut.
Between the eyepin loop and the donut, wrap the wire around twice to fill the gap and secure the donut. Snip the end tightly and make sure that it's tucked away and not sharp.

Thread one floral beadcap, one pearl, one daisy spacer, one pearl and one beadcap. Next thread one fimo bead, one daisy spacer one fimo bead, one daisy spacer and one fimo bead. Repeat the pattern to the length required and check that you're happy.

Secure the calotte using the method described above. Attach one 4mm jump ring and finish with the daisy charm.

Wear and enjoy!

Have a lovely weekend! :-)

Friday, 8 July 2011

More Quick Makes for the Impatient

Welcome to July. The rain is raining a LOT in Long Newnton today. It must be the Summer..

In between making sure the stock control 'thing' for the madcowbeads website was behaving itself today, I whipped up some really quick projects. Same rules as last time - no specialist tools, only cheap things, less than 5 components, all under £1.

Anyhow - hope you like the bead project ideas. I did think that they might be nice for teacher presents, or end of school keepsakes. :-)

Bookmark - perfect bead project for newbies, kids & the impatient!


What you need:

Squiggle Bookmark Blank

Beads & Charms (I used lilac fimo, and a daisy) - these look better with a couple of beads rather than loads. Choose any beads you like, but remember the hole needs to be about 1.2mm

1mm wax cord

Scissors (you probably have some in your kitchen drawer)

Superglue, or clear nail varnish


Cut about 25cm of wax cord and thread it through the loop on the bookmark. Level up the ends a bit and then tie both cords together in a knot. Aim for about 1cm under the loop.

Tie a knot in one cord about 7 cm away from the first knot and thread on your bead. Tie another knot in the end and pull as tight as you can. Snip off end.

Trim the other cord to the length required and tie on the charm with a reef knot (square knot)

Make sure this knot is pulled as tight as you can. Hold it tight and dot a little clear nail varnish or glue onto the knot. Leave to dry. When dry, snip off the end neatly. Voila! One cute book mark that costs less than 70p (and that's if you don't have odd beads and charms to use)

Keyring - again really quick and easy with minimum hassle, great for beginners or kids crafts


What you need:

Keyring clip

20mm split ring

foldover end

Black wax cord

A few beads - your choice. I used a green lentil bead, 2 floral bead caps and a cute haircomb charm


If you can possibly find some flat nose pliers (even electrical ones!) then the foldover clasp part is made a lot easier. If you don't have any, then use something solid to press in the clasp - I have been known to use the edge of a marble chopping board(!)


Cut about 15 - 20cm of wax cord. Thread on your charm.
Push the charm to approximately half way along the cord and then tie both cords together.
Thread on your beads, knotting tightly between each one.
Cut the cord to length and attach your foldover end. Press down on each side in turn, making sure the end is as tight and flat as possible
Thread clip and foldover onto the 2omm ring. Alternatively, thread a split ring onto the foldover and attach to the 20mm ring. (more flexible and will last longer)

I hope these quickies give you lots of project ideas!
Have a lovely weekend
Best wishes

Friday, 24 June 2011

Fun & Friendship Bracelets - Mad Cow style

Grumble grumble - I've been mooching and looking and sniffing out bead project kits.

Chiefly to find some nice 'gifty type' things to stock at, but also, in a more general, nosey type way.

*sweeping generalistion alert!* I have to report that I found:
a) they're often not great value - cheap, badly finished beads is a consistent theme
b) the better quality ones are nice, but often unaffordable to mere mortals, wanting some prettiness to while away some spare time
c) more often than not, you need to buy tools & pliers. Which is fine if you're a beader already - but if you're an experienced beader, you probably don't need a ready to make kit... and if you're a beginner, it's becoming very costly to whip up that cute bracelet.

This got me thinking. Now, the obvious answer is for madcowbeads to produce a range of kits surely? Probably not - you see the small quantities you need for a kit mean that they're 'labour hungry' and this is what puts the price up. So - I decided to make a small 'thing' and set myself a challenge.

The 'thing' (finished and pictured above right) had to:

  • Need no tools - except things that a non beady person would have (like scissors)

  • Use no more than 5 different items - and each item had to cost less than £1

  • Be quick & easy to make

  • Look groovy

To save you time - I've put all the things you need together and called it 'Fun & Friendship Kit - madcowbeads style'. You can buy it by clicking here. The total cost is £3.07 and that makes a minimum of 3 bracelets, with heaps of hanger beads, grooved beads and about 5 metres of cord left over. If you buy another couple of packs of the lustrous focals here - you can get a total of 9 bracelets for less than £4. This will use up most of the things in the 'Fun & Friendship kit'

You could also add jumprings and charms - either directly to the cord, or using the loops on the hanger beads. A pack of jumprings & a bag of mixed old fashioned charms adds £3.49 to your total outlay - for 9 really different bracelets.

So - here's how to make the 'Fun & Friendship bracelet'

  • Cut 50cm of wax cord - a bit more if you like a looser fit, a bit less if you're a small person

  • Fold in half and cut so you have two pieces the same length

  • Tie both pieces together, wiggling the knot so it's about 8 cm or so from one end

  • Thread one bronze groove bead onto one cord

  • Pick up the second cord and tie a knot to secure the grooved bead - close-ish to the bead, but don't get too picky about that as if it's too close, your bracelet will be unbendy

  • Thread a hanger bead over BOTH lengths of cord

  • Tie another knot

  • Thread a large focal bead over ONE cord

  • Pick up the second cord and tie a knot to secure

  • Thread a hanger bead over BOTH lengths of cord

  • Tie another knot

  • Repeat the pattern so you end up with 2 focals, 3 grooved & 3 hanger beads, finishing with a simple knot at each end

  • Now... to make the sliding knot. I'm pretty good at explaining things, but not how to tie a double overhand knot (double fishermans knot, some call it.....) so, either find someone to show you - or teach yourself from this really handy & easy to understand picture guide here

  • Trim ends to suit

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Get the kids to make something for Fathers Day..

Something simple but useful - a great Father's Day gift that is easy to make.

I'm sure that Dad will be thrilled with this beaded bookmark and it's quick and easy to make for those with shorter attention spans. Best of all, it needs no special tools at all! If you're feeling flush, add a book. I find books about motor racing or vintage aeroplanes are very successful, but all Dad's are different!

To make this you need 1mm wax cord a few metal beads - we used drum beads but any beads you like are fine - just make sure they'll fit on the wax cord. You also need a charm - we used a suitably manly skull and crossbones for a Dad-Pirate, one jump ring and a foldover clasp

Cut about 30cm of wax cord and tie a knot in one end and pull it very tight, snipping the end close to the knot. Thread on a bead or three, and then tie another knot. I'm sure somewhere there is an amazing technique for knotting close to other beads, so if anyone knows it, please let me know - however, the 'tie a loose loopy knot and then wiggly it into position before tightening' method works well for me!

Next, put your cord into a book to make sure the length you are planning works. If you've bought a special 'Dad book' for Fathers Day, then use that one. The top of the bookmark should hang down along the spine of the book. Tie another another knot and wiggle it to about 1cm down from the top of the book. Thread on another few beads, and tie another knot.

Still with me? Good - Cut the wax cord 4cm below the last knot that you tied. Attach your end tip or clasp. I squashed a foldover clasp into a rounder shape and used a dot of superglue to make sure it was stuck!

If you're raiding your existing beady stash rather than buying new supplies, feel free to substitute. We made some with coloured veggie suede which looked rather funky.

These bookmarks also make excellent makes for charity or fetes - they're quick to make and need only a few good value materials so they don't use up loads of valuable time and beads, while producing something really cute and saleable.

Instead of a charm at the end, you could use a cute doll bead and then just tie a knot. Remember the dolly needs to be upside down on the bookmark so that she hangs right way up in use!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Introducing the Hertfordshire School of

Joanna Mason is a great customer of the mad cows, and she runs a really innovative and creative jewellery making school too! A full four hooves up from the madcows

Hertfordshire School of Jewellery runs a comprehensive programme of jewellery making workshops for adults, from beginners to the more experienced artist.

They offer a wide range of jewellery making workshops, specialising in Precious Metal Clay and Resin Jewellery courses .

There is a friendly and relaxed atmosphere at the school. All jewellery making workshops are located amongst rolling Hertfordshire farmland less than two minutes from Radlett town centre.

All of their jewellery making workshops have just 6 pupils - so you get all the attention you require and are taught by experienced, professional artists. All courses are run in our well equipped, purpose built workshop.

Hertfordshire School of Jewellery was started by jewellery artist and silversmith Joanna Mason who wanted to share her skills and creations with local community. Joanna aims to awaken the inbuilt creativity which we all possess, endeavouring to improve mental, physical and emotional wellbeing through the creative process.

Hertfordshire School of Jewellery strives to revive and keep alive art and craft skills by encouraging artists and crafts people to pass on these skills.

For more information please see their website:
or call Joanna directly on 07946334498.

Contact details:
T: 07946334498
Address: Unit 5a Battlers Green Farm, Common Lane, Radlett, Herts, WD7 8PH


One of the attendees Sue from Herts said: “Absolutely excellent class. Highly recommended.”
Helen from Herts said: Jo is a great teacher with an encouraging and enthusiastic manner. She creates a really good atmosphere in which to work.”
Lisa from London said: To pack so much into one day whilst still having fun and being inspired is an amazing accomplishment. I would recommend to anyone!”
Bernie from Herts said: “Am surprised to come away with 3 pendants and 2 pairs of earrings all in one day!”

If you fancy having a go at something new, - contact Joanna

Meet Julie!

It's always really nice to hear from our customers.

Julie Davis 'bumped' into the mad cow herd when she won the 'star letter' spot in 'Creative Beads & Jewellery' magazine. We sponsor the letters page there, and give away a fab £50 bunch of beads findings and goodies each month.

Julie loves making jewellery and sells her work locally in art shows and craft fairs.

She sent us some pics of her latest creations - I recognise a few of those madcowbeads!

If you have some pictures you'd like to share - do send them in and we'll display them for you.

Enjoy the long weekend


Friday, 1 April 2011

Tiaras and Pearls - Rah Rah Royal Weddings!

The madcows have had a very patriotic time playing with tiaras.

Created by the lovely Steph, our new tiara is princess-perfect, in red white and blue.

This is a stylish but very simple tiara and would be a nice 'first project' for you to get to grips with the whole new world of 'wedding jewellery'

You don't have to make it in such Great British colours though - any of the Czech Firepolish mixes would look totally fab. Or, be a traditionalist and use crystal AB beads - or 4mm Czech glass pearls. I'm working on a new design using fuchsia and cream 4mm pearls, for a

'strawberry and cream' Summer theme.

If you would like the tiara instructions - just email and I'll email the project sheet back to you.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Highly Technical Progress..

I've been having a Highly Technical (note capitals) week. Madcowbeads can now be found tweeting on twitter. I appreciate that cows should really moo, but tweet it had to be!

We'll use twitter to announce new offers, pass on some really interesting stuff from manufacturers and other people of 'beady prominence'. What we also thought twitter would be really good for is a quick answer:

You can just send a query, or a nice compliment, or a request or any random comment in 140 characters or less(!) to @madcowbeads and we will be tweeting merrily together. Modern technology eh? If you don't have an account, just pop along to and get one. It's very easy - even the cows managed it!

The other Highly Technical thing that happened is that Madcowbeads have their own facebook page. It's here

We'd really like some likes! The poor mad cows are a bit lonely today, rattling around in their new, shiny, but quite empty Facebook page, so please join them.

Enjoy the weekend - rumour has it that the sun may make a brief appearance!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Glass Fusing in the Microwave

I*totally* love my Hot Pot microwave kiln. I always end up feeling like a cross between Delia Smith and Professor Brainstorm (showing my age now!) or perhaps.. an alchemist! Mr Mad Cow says I look like a witch with a cauldron - but I think he's just being mean :-)

One of the things I really like is how the colours change in the glass. A few tiny scraps of dichroic glass and a few minutes fusing and an original piece of art is produced!

It's also not completely scientific - every microwave produces slightly different results.

My top tips for using the Hot Pot Kiln are:

  • Just enjoy it - experiment - it rarely goes wrong. You may have unexpected results, but not 'wrong' ones!

  • Keep a 'firing journal' of firing times and results

  • Precut glass shapes - particularly the circles and hearts - mean you will waste less if you are not confident cutting curves. They are more expensive than sheet glass, but remember there is no cutting waste at all.

  • Start with small pendants. Leave earrings for a while, unless you like the 'asymetric' style - it's quite difficult to get matching pairs.

  • Using a black base with dichroic (see picture) gives a really rich glow

Hot Pot have made two short films about using the microwave kiln and cutting and preparing glass for fusing and also some useful tip sheets - you can access them from the Hot Pot site here

Happy fusing!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Quick tricks with Chain

You can of course, just add a pendant.. but here's the low down on our chain and some things to do with it!

Chunky Chain - this is a great all rounder. If you're on a budget and can only buy one type of chain, buy this one. It's 99p a metre and really versatile. Here's some quick ideas:

  • Cut the chain to length and add 2 split rings and a toggle clasp - you'll get 6 charm bracelets or 3 necklaces for £2.97 - with toggles and split rings to spare! Use headpins to attach some beads. I used a mix of 'orphan beads' that were very lonely in my bead box to jazz up some jangly new jewellery

  • Use chunky chain to add structure to your piece. Our free St Patricks Day necklace project (pictured) used chunky chain as a base to hang wired beads and knot connectors - providing a reliable structure. It's also much less time consuming than wiring together your whole design - handy if you're making jewellery for resale. If you'd like a free copy of the necklace project, just email and we'll send you the sheet straight out.

  • Use elasticow to make a stretchy chain bracelet - thread the elasticow through the chunky chain as if you were sewing running stitch. When your bracelet is long enough, fasten the elasticow with a square knot and a drop of superglue. Using pliers if necessary, close the last two links of chain together. This also works well with hammer chain for a chunkier look.

Hammer Chain is extra chunky with 11mm links that have a textured finish. The size of the links means that it is ideal used in a threaded design. From 50p per metre.

  • Thread the hammered chain with firepolish beads, metal daisy beads and Czech pearls for a complex look that's really easy! To get started, thread a 10mm bead (I used a cocoa pearl) onto monofilament then thread on the first chain link, then add beads and loop through the chain links at regular intervals - every 2-3 beads works well. The secret of this stringing work is to pay great attention to the tension of your threaded beads - check regularly to make sure that the beads and chain hang well.

  • Hammer chain can also look surprisingly delicate and girly. Stephie used it laced with Sof-suede in icecream pastels for a fresh twist

  • Another idea is to use 2 or 3 links of chain between strung beads on a long necklace. The chain gives texture and originality to a plain design

Our finer chain comes on 5 metre spools for £3.96 per spool. This chain is strong for its weight, but will not hold heavy gemstones or loaded 'gypsy' style bracelets.

  • Fine chain is perfect for detail - Stephie used the gunmetal version to great effect in this Gothic style necklace which was featured in Creative Beads & Jewellery magazine. The 'swags' of chain hang down from the main body of this original necklace, giving a very intricate and detailed look.

Have a great weekend :-)

Friday, 18 February 2011

What's the best glue for ....?

I get lots of queries about glue. What sticks what to what mainly. So - this blog post aims to demystify the sticky world of bead and jewellery adhesive.

The answer to the title question is, irritatingly enough, 'it depends' so, before you click through and buy lots of craft glue , read on!

It depends on your materials, it depends on what you are trying to achieve and it also depends on your skill level.

Here is the madcowbeads guide to glue: :-)

Super Glue gives an instant hold and a very strong bond. The bond is inflexible, so over a long time it does become brittle and may crumble. Superglue will also stick your fingers together very quickly, so be careful! The instant bond means that you need to be very accurate as there is no time to make adjustments.

It's not particularly washable - although you'd think the opposite if you've ever tried to get it off your hands!

Despite these issues, superglue has one fantastic application when beading. It is absolutely unbeatable at holding a square knot tight -particularly in elastic cord . Nothing beats it. And for this reason alone, it deserves a place in your craft drawer. Unless you never use a knot on your creations!

Jewel Bond from Crafters Pick is a specialist glue. It gives a permanent and washable bond on fabric and other porous materials like feathers, leather or suede.

It glues any decorative embellishment,sequin, embroidery or even rhinestones, and dries totally clear. Once dry, it remains flexible and doesn't crumble or degrade. It leaves no mark on almost all fabrics - the main exception being silk, where you need to be a little careful of marks.

E6000 is an industrial strength craft glue. It's probably the most versatile and popular of all the adhesives I sell. It's quite thick, which makes it easy to control, and also has a five minute bond - which is great for those last minute adjustments.
E6000 adhesive does need a few days to cure completely, and once cured, it gives an ultra strong, flexible bond. It is suitable for non porous surfaces, particularly glass and metal, so it's very popular for bonding glass fused cabochons and pendants onto bails and pads.
E6000 is not as suitable for porous surfaces, and it particularly hates polystyrene and nylon - they just melt!
E6000 is a powerful, professional glue for crafters. Like most adhesives it is toxic if ingested and should be kept away from children.

GS-hypo fabric glue works well with paper, fabric and textiles - any porous surfaces. It comes with an ultra fine tip which makes it very suitable for precision work. GS-hypo fabric is a trusted international adhesive that is useful in mixed media creations.

Henriettas Gum Arabic is such a handy thing! It's not very well known, but is incredibly useful if you work with tiny holed beads. It turns any soft thread into a beading needle by coating the thread and stiffening it. You can also use it to seal knots, but do waterproof the knot with clear nail polish after using gum arabic as it is water soluble.
Diamond Glaze from JudiKins is a water based adhesive that leaves a glossy glazed finish. It's perfect for creating lockets, or sealing paper based creations with a tough 'glasslike' finish.
You can also add dyes, paint or glitter to diamond glaze, or thin it with water to give a varnished effect. It is very popular at the moment, used with heart frames to create personalised pieces
As an adhesive, it is one of the few that really works to glue non porous materials to porous materials. It sticks metal to paper - which means that scrap bookers and card makers love it!
Happy sticking!