Sunday, 18 November 2012

Craft Fair Frenzy..

Craft Fairs run all year round, but the main 'buying season' is well underway. I hope that you have queues of eager buyers trying to give you money in exchange for your beady creations!

If you are still preparing makes for Winter Fairs - here's a few tips and ideas from the mad cows. Please feel free to add any of your own ideas in the comments section.

On a Roll - and making like mad?

Stop! Before you get into a mad making frenzy, have a think about what type of customer will be at your Craft Fair. Work out their age, what they might be looking for and how much they will have to spend. Then you can make sure that you create items that your potential customers will love to buy!

Generally, School Fairs and local shows with a low table fee tend to have a similar clientele (although there will be more children at the School Fairs!)

  • Children looking for small presents for their parents, friends and teachers. 
  • Their parents looking for stocking fillers and little tokens for neighbours. 
  • Tourists and browsers that may be tempted by an impulse buy.
  • People who have come in to be nosey / get out of the cold!
These products are idea for this typical customer base:

  • Bookmarks
  • Beaded Keyrings
  • Stretchy bracelets
  • Bag charms
  • Specs chains
  • Christmas decorations
  • Santa / elf keys
  • Wine glass charms
  • Memory wire items
  • Pendants on chains
When planning to make these items, cost out your time, and choose inexpensive beads. One large acrylic bead and some seed beads make a great impact at a very low cost. Because these items typically sell well at low prices, you need to cost them out accurately and save money wherever you can, without skimping on the quality of your making. 

Try these ideas to keep your cost low and your School Fete items flying off your stall!

  • Santa /elf key - spray old keys with hammerite or use big key charms and trim with sparkling ribbon for a great item that easily sells for £1.50-£2 - fabulous for children who are worried about their house having no chimney! You can also make 'vintage' style ribbon out of patterned fabric from charity shops. Just cut 25mm strips, fold inside out and press well before machining the edge. Use a safety pin and a crochet hook to turn the right way in! I was lucky enough to find some 'Liberty print' shirts in a local charity shop - they were a bit faded & thin for wearing - but now have a new lease of life decorating my presents this year!
  • Present dangles (see top pic above) - these are like a tiny keyring - use a 16mm jump ring, tiger tail, a few beads, crimp beads, 5mm / 7mm jump rings and one charm. These look so lovely on gift tag dangles, or even on a table top Christmas tree.
  • The little Dolls House wreath in the 2nd picture is made with a 20mm earring crimp, 4mm glass beads, seed beads and 1 charm, and the keyring is for an elf! Again, 4mm glass beads, seed beads and a key charm. Much cuter in real life!
  • Bookmarks - always a great seller, and quick to make - look brilliant with a single charm and seed beads to keep your costs low and your customer delight high!
  • Large pendants - like this one: 

These are personalised with an image - search the internet for royalty free images to print off and use. Seal the image and then apply Sakura 3D  for a glossy finish. Pictures of pets and inspirational words and messages do particularly well, but I have seen lots of different things used - you can even spread with pva, fill with beads and crystal glaze them! Add a jumpring, thread the pendant onto an organza necklace

Goddess bracelets are very popular - you'll find a tutorial here - my only comment about these is that they can be a little time heavy, so take account of this when pricing! Use a 'wow' button for a really effective bracelet that will sell for £5-£10 with 'normal' beads :-)

I hope these ideas help you with your makes for School Fetes and Fairs this Christmas.

Friday, 31 August 2012

A Walk in the Woods...

Back to School? How did that happen? I've barely worn my flip flops..

I've been playing with transparent leaves. I particularly like these ones

They're a nice big size, really lightweight and in a nice versatile mix. I made some more 'impatient jewellery' with the leaves and just a few other charms and jumprings.

What's impatient jewellery? Well, it needs to take 10 minutes or less to make, have no fiddly bits and use less than 6 different components. I don't know if madcowbeads did invent the phrase, but I'm claiming it as my own anyway... 

Here's the instructions, if you'd like to have a go!

To make the Woodland Kilt Pin you need:

Open a 7mm jump ring and attach a leaf and a charm to each one
Thread onto the loop on the kilt pin and close the jump ring
Attach to your coat and wear :-)

The other 2 items are made in a very similar way:

To make the Bag Dangle, open 4 7mm jump rings and thread a transparent leaf onto 3 of them and a charm of your choice onto the 4th

Open the ring on a mobile lariat, thread on all 4 jump rings and close the ring up.
Attach to your make up bag, handbag, zipper etc and wave about with pride!

To make the Jangly Pendant open 4 7mm jump rings and thread a single leaf onto 2 of the rings. Close one ring and thread onto the other. Close the second ring. You have 2 leaves, connected with 2 rings. On the 3rd jump ring, thread on a charm of your choice and a transparent leaf and close the ring
Thread both dangles onto the 4th jump ring and then thread on a twisted ring

This looks pretty on a ribbon necklace, or wax cord,  or a pendant chain. It's lightweight and lovely!

Hope you enjoyed your impatient jewellery making. I thought these would be great projects to make for fundraisers. 

Saturday, 23 June 2012

One handed Bracelet Project

A simple but effective design combining the popular 17mm ring link and some jazzy 8mm Jolie Vache pearls

One handed? Well almost - I have one arm in a splint, so please forgive the rather ropey crimps in the picture! At least I can say the design is suitable for beginners, and easier for anyone with 2 hands!



  • Cut the tigertail into 3 pieces
  • Thread 2 crimps onto one section of tigetail
  • Wrap one end around a 17mm connector, pass through both crimps and press flat with pliers to secure. ~(or use crimp pliers) - this is the middle section of the bracelet
  • Thread on 3 8mm Jolie Vache pearls & 2 crimp beads
  • Thread on a 17mm connector. Check it is the same way round as the other connector(!)
  • Trim tigertail if necessary.
  • Loop the tigertail over the connector, through the crimps and back inside the first pearl. Press crimps flat to secure.
  • *Pass another section of tigertail through one connector and secure with 2 crimps as before
  • Thread on 5 Jolie Vache 8mm pearls, 1 grooved bead, 2 crimps and then the 't' bar section of the clasp.
  • Fold the tigertail back through the clasp and through the crimps. Make this loop a little longer to ensure you can operate the clasp!
  • Repeat from * on the other 17mm connector.
Wear and admire!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

More Interchangeables..

Another 'interchangeable' - like the button and ring ones, this is a short length designed to clip onto a leather thong. I thought pearls and leather sounded a bit odd, but the look great together! Not a twin set in sight..

This is an easy make - the only fiddly bits are the last 2 crimp and loop pieces, and I think that would have been a lot easier if I had 2 fully functioning arms today!



  • Cut the tigertail into 3 equal pieces
  • Make a loop of tigertail around one connector and secure with 2 crimps
  • Repeat on another piece of tigertail

  • Loop the third piece of tigertail through one of the connectors and secure with 2 crimps - this is the middle section of the necklace
  • Thread on 5 8mm beads and loop through the other connector. Secure with 2 crimps
  • Thread 5 8mm beads onto each of the 2 tigertail lengths, fold the tigertail round to form a loop and then secure with 2 crimps. This final loop needs to be large enough for the lobster clasp to clip on to
  • Remove the existing lobster clasp from the leather thong
  • Attach a 10mm clasp to each spring end
  • Attach the centre section
  • Wear and enjoy!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Exchangeable, Interchangeable Button Necklaces

Today I went to the doctor's with a sore wrist and came out with a splint and strict instructions to rest it... luckily I made some things last night!

Summer necklaces made of giant buttons and 16mm jumprings are quirky and fun! They're also satisfying to make - quick but wiggly(!) (you need to wiggle the jump rings about so that the buttons hang nicely)

By attaching a lobster clasp to each end of a leather thong, you can make different 'centres' and match your mood :-)

Here's the project instructions:

To make the top necklace you need:



  • Open 6 16mm jump rings and thread two rings onto each flower button
  • With the right sides facing, join the 3 buttons together by interlinking the jump rings
  • Hold up and adjust if necessary - you may find that putting the jumprings above, or below a petal will help it sit nicely
  • Add a 16mm jump ring at each end, and then a 7mm jump ring
  • Remove the lobster clasp from the leather thong (too big!)  and attach a 10mm lobster to each end of the spring
  • Attach the middle part and wear :-D

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Jewellery Making, Upcycling & Charity Shops...


Perhaps surprisingly for the owner of a bead shop, I'm a great fan of reusing beads and 'stuff' that I frequently find in the charity shops of Tetbury. 'Upcycling' is really trendy, and there is no longer any 'stigma' in secondhand - in fact it's embraced!  I am a well practiced upcycler, so I hope that some of these ideas give you new inspiration in your jewellery crafts. Do send pics of what you make - or post them on madcowbeads facebook page

The most obvious way to reuse is to search charity shops for costume jewellery and break it back down into components and beads to use in new designs. You can also change the appearance of jewellery using the tried and tested 'half a boiled egg in a plastic bag' technique to get a vintage / oxidised finish, or use jewellers paste / wax. Another idea is to use Hammerite spray paint. On the right pieces, this looks totally amazing.

My latest upcycling obsession involves Patera pendants. Patera just means a 'shallow dish' - ideal for putting 'things' into. Specifically 'things I have found' in charity shops.  Look for a style of pendant with a  3mm+ lip, as this gives lots of flexibility.

Charity shops are excellent for old annuals  - and pieces from these look really kitsch inside the patera pendant - Rupert Bear never looked so funky! Also try old maps - maybe a place that  has a special significance for you, or the wearer? These little pendants can so easily become 'memory keepsakes' with a well chosen inner - try an extract from a favourite book, a stamp, part of a ticket small coin, or even a feather or leaf.

You can also age your intended insert with tea if appropriate.

Don't finish at the book or costume section when recycling! There are some great fabrics in charity shops that you can use in your Patera pendant. All types of patterns can work. I have a preference for ditsy florals, but other patterns work just as well.

(If you buy an item of clothing to upcycle for its fabric in your Patera pendant, cut the buttons off too - we can use those later :-) Also, cut the arms of a shirt, or front panels lengthways into 30mm strips. Fold and press in half lengthways, right sides facing and stitch into a tube. Turn the right way in and voila - ribbon to wrap around and embellish your creations!)

So, armed with your choice of insert - what do you do next? Firstly, like Karen Mitchell (thanks for you input by the way Karen !) glossy finishes are easier to deal with. If you are using something porous, your glaze may change the colour of the item. You can solve this by using a fixative spray (or spray varnish, or even hairspray at a push)

You also need sharp pointy scissors, and some kind of glaze. The mad cows particularly like Sakura Crystal Glaze but Diamond Glaze or similar also works well. Be aware that some other glazes or resins do need a UV light to cure them, so do check first if you don't want to buy extra equipment.

Ok - first use the patera dish as a template and mark around the insert. Using scissors, cut inside the line and test for fit inside the patera pendant. Spray porous pieces with fixative (or test by using glaze on an offcut to see if you are happy with the result)

Once dry, use a smear of crystal glaze to fix the insert in the dish and then apply Sakura Crystal Glaze. To minimise bubbles, do not shake or stir the glaze, just apply directly to the patera pendant. Allow it to settle and then carefully pop any stray bubbles with a pin. Tiny bubbles are often best left to disperse naturally. Leave the piece for 24 hours to set and then check that the surface is smooth. If there are any rough areas (this is where bubbles have set 'on the surface') leave the piece for another 24 hours, then sand lightly, wipe clean, dry and reapply a really thin layer of Sakura Crystal Glaze.

Why not wear your finished pendant on a leather thong ? You could also wrap the thong with your upcycled 'ribbon strips'

I've also had great success using cuttings from charity shop books with blank glass cabochons - you could also use wrapping paper, photographs, pictures, instructions for games... you get the idea! Personalised cabochons are really easy to make and look AMAZING!

Choose your backing and use the cabochon as a template. Cut out with really sharp scissors. To complete the cabochon you need a glue that doesn't bubble, ages well without yellowing and dries absolutely clear. The best choice for this is Hasulith or E-6000 - they are both a very similar formulation. Madcowbeads stock Hasulith because it is a bit cheaper, and we don't think it smells as horrible!

Apply a thin layer of Hasulith to the flat side of the cabochon and stick on your backing paper. Rub with a squeegee or small sponge to make sure it is really well stuck and to get rid of bubbles.

To finish - either apply a few layers of varnish, or glue into a cabochon mount or frame. Once that's all set and secure, fix on your finding of choice! The bigger cabochons look great with a flat pad bail as a pendant and the smaller ones can be fixed onto ring bases

Lastly... remember I said keep the buttons! I have been known to buy garments just for their buttons... For a quick and cute effect, use Hasulith to attach them to these lovely bobby pins or if you have a button stash, pick a couple of co ordinating ones,thread them together with a contrasting thread and use as a cabochon on a ring base. Quirky, quick and fun! My kind of makes...

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Easter Bunny Bonanza

These very cute Easter bunnies are a fab way to use up orphan beads. They were designed for by Linda Jones from

You can download the project sheet here

Have fun with the beaded bunnies this Easter!

Happy crafting

Friday, 9 March 2012

Free Bead Project - Butterfly Suncatcher

This lovely butterfly suncatcher was designed for by Katie Boyer of Bojanglies -

You can view and print this free project here

Katie used a Czech Firepolish bead mix, and stardust beads - choose your favourite colour combination here

For a budget piece that still looks amazing - try using our 'cut crystal' acrylic beads - click here to take a look at these lovely sparkly beads at an unbelieveable 99p for 100!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Funky Loops - a fun FREE project from the cows..

This beautiful loopy bracelet was made for by Claire Pearcy of
It's really satisfying to make, and suitable for beginners / improvers.

It's easy to make co ordinating earrings and a necklace using this simple but effective technique

Ring the changes by making one with gold rings and neutral tones!

View and print off your totally FREE project here

Happy beading!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Charmed Life Bracelet

This weeks' project is really original! It's made for by Veronica Tinkler.
Alongside designing some super feminine jewellery, Veronica also teaches jewellery making. So, if this free project leaves you inspired, have a look at Veronica's  website:

The 'charmed life' bracelet looks intricate, but is suitable for improvers, or even beginner jewellery makers if you have some crafting experience. So, don't be shy - give it a go!

The chainmaille weave is very versatile and will work with lots of different size jump rings. You could try it in the jumbo 16mm size for a chunkier look. It's a great twist on a charm bracelet.

All materials from 

You can view, download and print off the free instructions here


Saturday, 28 January 2012

New Beady Projects for Instant Viewing!

Well, first I must apologise for my absence.. Sorry!

I've been putting 2012 beady plans together, and in the meantime - forgot to update this blog for 6 weeks. Oops! I hope I am forgiven.

As promised, we've assembled some great designers for our new free bead projects, and also a really convenient way for you to receive them. Gone are the days of emails with attachments, or trying to read instructions off the blog while you bead - you can now access the project instantly, and download, or print off at your leisure!

So.. with no further ado - here's the first project. Designed by the lovely Janet Sherret and called...

Heart of Ice necklace

This multi strand design is suitable for beginners / improvers and shows off a great technique to make any large focal bead work as a pendant! Using a mix of 4mm Czech fire polish beads, spring cone caps and a matte frosted focal heart. All materials are available from

This design would also look amazing with a 20mm round flat focal  and a mix of amber toned Czech beads.

You can view and print off this project here - 

This is the first in an ongoing series, drawing from the wealth of talent amongst our customers and friends. 
Please let me know what you think :-)