Valentine’s Day is generally associated with gift-giving to one’s sweetheart, and after chocolate, roses are the most popular choice of present to show one’s affection. Nothing quite compares to a rose in terms of beauty, grace, scent, and the expression of romantic love, and it’s always sad when these lovely blooms wilt and lose their petals after a few days. There is, however, a gorgeous way to preserve and reuse those petals, and that’s by transforming them into beads, which can then be used in jewelry, keepsakes, sachets, or even just as decorative accents.
What You’ll Need:
- Several large handfuls of red or pink rose petals (to create a beaded necklace, you’ll need at least half a shopping bags’ worth)
- A food processor
- A large saucepan or cooking pot (enamel, steel, or cast iron)
- A strong darning or embroidery needle
- Thick thread or fishing line
- Rose essential oil (optional)
- Time and patience
If the petals are still attached to flower heads or steps, remove them and clean them thoroughly to eliminate any grit, pollen, or random insect bits. You can place the petals in a colander one handful at a time and rinse them with cool running water, and then place them in your pot.
Add just enough water to cover the petals, and then turn on one of your burners to medium heat. Just before the water begins to boil, turn the heat down low so you can simmer the petals just until they’re wilted (about 8 minutes). Simmering helps to weaken the cellulose in the petals, which will allow them to be processed to a nice, smooth paste for forming into beads. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Once cooled to about room temperature, pour the petals and water into your food processor or blender and puree on the highest setting until you end up with a very soft, finely textured paste. The finer this paste is, the smoother your beads will be. They’ll also bind together more thoroughly, rendering them more durable and less likely to break.
Simmering and Cooling
Pour the pulp into an enamel, stainless steel, or cast iron pot. Don’t use aluminum, as the petals are acidic and react strangely with the aluminum. If you’re using dark red or pink rose petals and you simmer them in a cast iron pot, you’ll end up with very dark red, nearly black beads. Don’t allow this mixture to boil, as that will destroy the petals’ natural scent.
You’re going to simmer this mixture for about 30 minutes, twice a day, for 3 days. In between simmerings, you’ll set the mixture aside to cool and dry out a little bit. Both the simmering process and the natural evaporation will allow the pulp to condense into a thick paste that’s ideal for working into beads. The ideal consistency is that of modelling clay, so if you find that the pulp is still too wet on day 3, feel free to continue the simmering and drying process until it attains that magical clay-like texture.
*Note: if you find that the scent has dissipated during the simmering process, you can add some rose essential oil to this cooled, clay mixture to enhance it.
Rolling, Rolling, Rolling
Once the clay texture has been attained, it’s time to roll your beads. It’s important to note that these will shrink as they dry (sometimes even by about 40%), so feel free to make them a little bit bigger than you’d like the end product to be. Scoop up bits of paste with either your fingers or a dessert spoon, and roll the paste into a ball between the palms of your hands. Use enough pressure to compact the paste, but not enough to warp the beads from uniform roundness.
Set these beads on a paper-lined baking tray, and allow them to dry away from direct sunlight. In order to create the holes you’ll use to string your beads, you’ll have to poke a needle through the drying petal clay. There’s a trick to this, though: if you try to poke holes while the clay is too wet, the bead will just fall apart, so it’s important to let them dry enough that they’ll hold together during the piercing process. For beads that are 3mm to 5mm in diameter, allow them to dry for a full day before piercing–any longer than that and they’ll be too hard to bore through. Beads that are 5mm to 8mm in diameter should be pierced after 2 days, and those that are 10mm to 12mm can be pierced after 3 days.
After creating these holes, let the beads dry for 24 hours before threading them onto thick sewing thread or fishing line. I prefer fishing line because it’s slippery and firm, and can be threaded through the balls more easily. Let these strung beads dry for about a week to cure completely, but make sure that you move them along the thread a couple of times a day to keep the holes open (much like turning studs in new body piercings). If you find that the beads’ surface is a bit more textured than you’d like, you can use the finest grade sandpaper to gently, slowly smooth the surface of each bead.
The Final Product
Once the beads have cured, they can be used in craft projects, turned into jewelry, made into rosaries, or even just tucked into dresser drawers to scent your clothes. If you didn’t add extra rose oil to the paste before forming it, you can dab a little bit onto your fingertips and massage it into the beads gently.
These beads will dissolve if they’re exposed to water for more than a couple of minutes, so be sure that you don’t wear any petal bead jewelry in the shower. They’re fine when worn against skin, as a little bit of sweat (or tears) won’t harm them; you just don’t want to immerse them in any liquid. Should they happen to get wet accidentally, pat them dry immediately and let them rest in a dry place for a few days. When you’re not using or wearing the beads, store them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. These lovely keepsakes will be beautiful reminders of sweetness over the years, so be sure to give them plenty of love!
An avid permaculture gardener, locavore, and novice (but enthusiastic!) canner, Lana Winter-Hébert joins Inhabitat after spending the last decade working as a writer and event guru for non-profit/eco organizations. She has contributed to both print and web-based media for clients across North America and Europe, and is slowly plodding her way through her first novel-writing attempt. Born and raised in Toronto, she has given up city life and moved to the wilds of rural Quebec with her husband, where they collaborate on graphic design projects for their company, Winter-Hébert. Their new, rustic lifestyle is chronicled in her two personal blogs: 33 Leagues from Mount Royal, and The Green Pigeon, where she touches upon the ins and outs of homesteading and self sufficiency in the Great White North. When she isn’t writing or delving into artstuffs, Lana can be found reading, wrestling with various knitting projects, or tending her garden.