Samhain Decoration Idea: A Skull Bead Garland

A bit of my new Samhain Garland

A bit of my new Samhain Garland

This garland was the bane of my existence for a solid twelve months.  It started back when I first visited my coven sister V. in March 2012.  During that visit, she took me to Shipwreck Beads, in Lacey.  There, I came across these dyed magnesite skull beads, which had been mismarked at $2.49 for a strand of 22 beads (others of that size were $4.20).  I bought four strands and decided that I would make a garland with them, but I wanted the skulls to be interspersed with Samhain-colored orange and black beads.  Unfortunately, Shipwreck didn’t have any bright orange beads that weren’t plastic or seed beads, so the skull beads languished in a drawer until November 2012, when I visited a Gem Faire in Tacoma.  I miraculously found some orange-dyed stone beads and black wooden round beads from a vendor there, and picked up some stringing supplies at Shipwreck later that week.  Thus began my real frustrations.

It became very apparent after stringing my first foot that I would need to knot between each bead.  Due to the fact that most of the garland is made of stone, it is quite heavy, and the force of a train of beads slamming into each other on a loose string meant that the beads might get nicked up or split, and a lot of friction would be put on the string.  Eventually, that string would break and I’d have a huge mess to clean up.  But knotting was hard. I was using the method shown in the video below, but after about 20 beads, I realized it was very laborious to string one bead down 17 feet of cord (I wasn’t sure how long the finished garland was going to be, so I made sure to get a lot of cord). In order to keep the cord from tangling, I tried to wind it around a pair of spools, but that got very tiresome very quickly. So I took a break and loosely strung all the beads I was going to use onto the length of cord.

This worked out quite well for a couple of feet, since I could use the “short” end of knotted beads to slide through the loop and form a knot. But the short end didn’t stay short for long and once I got to about 5-6 feet of knotted beads, I realized it was taking up to 10 minutes to slide down one bead and tie one knot. Very often, I’d create a tangle, or–worse–get everything in line but end up tying a knot too far away from the bead and then waste a lot of time trying to pick the knot open again.  I soldiered on for another couple of weeks until I managed about 7 or 8 feet until, frustrated, I boxed up the entire project and set it aside until the middle of March 2013.

At this point, I brought out the project and set it up on my bed. With some fiddling, I realized if I kept a couple feet of ’empty’ cord between the stream of loose beads and the stream of knotted beads, I could essentially leave both these streams in two compact heaps. All I need to do was twist the empty middle into a loop, pinch the crossed of the strands with one hand, while using the other to simultaneously hold the loop open while gliding the bottom of the loop under the heap of knotted beads. Thanks to sitting on a soft surface, the loop would slide under cleanly and not tangle up in the beads. This would essentially give me a huge, loose knot. It was a simple matter of sticking a pair of tweezers into that loop right in front of the bead and then tightening the loop to create a knot. In the time it took to watch three episodes of West Wing, I finished knotting the garland.

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The finished garland is a whopping twelve feet long, and it weighs 1 pound and 3.125 ounces.  I think it looks nice just wound around objects on my altar, but it could also be draped above the altar or around it.  I could also heap it into a glass bowl or drape it onto different items like framed photographs of my ancestors.  It’s the cord of life and death that links us all together.

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