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Arctic cuff

Create a story in a bead-embroidered cuff
Arctic cuff
A plastic toy animal plus carved and cast sea creatures make for a cohesive cuff.

Most of my work includes animals and nature, and I’m always looking out for interesting and unusual components to use in my designs. Gem and mineral shows are great places to start, but you can find elements to include in your beadwork anywhere — even in the toy aisle. With a little bead embroidery and a dash of imagination, you can put your own treasures to good use when you create a story with beads.


Bracelet 7 in. (18 cm)

  • plastic toy animal
  • 18–25 6–25 mm assorted cabochons, stones, buttons, metal pieces, and animal shapes
  • 1–2 g 2 mm bugle beads
  • 2–3 g 9/0 three-cut seed beads
  • 15/0 seed beads
    • 5–10 g color A
    • 1–2 g in each of 3 colors: B, C, D
  • 2-strand slide clasp
  • nylon beading thread, size B
  • beading needles, #12
  • Aleene’s Thick Designer Tacky Glue
  • bottle or drinking glass
  • 7 x 3 in. (18 x 7.6 cm) cardboard
  • 2 x 2 in. (5 x 5 cm) fur or leather scrap (optional)
  • jeweler’s saw with blade for cutting plastic
  • paper for pattern
  • ruler
  • sandpaper, 60 grit
  • scissors
  • small drill
  • toothpicks
  • two-part epoxy glue
  • 8 x 8 in. (20 x 20 cm) Ultrasuede


Arctic cuff a
Photo a

Bracelet base

1. Holding the plastic animal firmly on your work surface, saw the head off at an angle (PHOTO A). Drill a few small holes about 1⁄16–1⁄8 in. (2–3 mm) from the edge, and sand the back of the head to remove the rough edges.

2. On a piece of paper, draw a straight line that is 7 in. (18 cm) long, or the desired bracelet length. Draw a perpendicular line through the center. Lay out your components, placing the animal head on the center line and arranging the remaining elements around it. If you are using scraps of fur or leather, cut them to the desired shapes. Draw around your design to make a template (PHOTO B). If you have a digital camera, take a photo so you can remember the placement of your components.

Arctic cuff b
Photo b
Arctic cuff c
Photo c
Arctic cuff d
Photo d
3. Cut out your template, and trace it onto a piece of Ultrasuede. Mark the center lines (PHOTO C).

4. Mix a pea-sized amount of epoxy glue, and use a toothpick to spread it on the back of the head. Glue the head to the center of the Ultrasuede. Allow the glue to dry. Using a comfortable length of thread, tie an overhand knot at the end of the thread. Sewing up through the back of the Ultrasuede, tack the head to the Ultrasuede, sewing through the drilled holes (PHOTO D). 

5. Using color A 15/0 seed beads, work a round of beaded backstitch around the head. Sew through all the beads again to snug them up against the head.
Arctic cuff e
Photo e
Arctic cuff f
Photo f

6. Mix another small amount of epoxy, and glue your two largest cabochons to the Ultrasuede. Using 15/0s or 9/0 three-cut seed beads, work a round of beaded backstitch around one or both of them (PHOTO E), and sew through all the beads again to snug them to the components, as in step 5. 

7. Continue gluing one or two components to the Ultrasuede, working from the center toward the edges, and working one or two rounds of beaded backstitch around each component as you go (PHOTO F). End and add thread as needed. Leave enough room between components to work beaded backstitch between them, and keep your beadwork inside the lines of the pattern. Sand the backs of your components as needed to create a good bond to the Ultrasuede. If you are using scraps of fur or leather, use Aleene’s Thick Designer Tacky Glue to glue them to the Ultrasuede, allow it to dry, and tack down the edges.

Arctic cuff g
Photo g
Arctic cuff h
Photo h
Layer components as desired, gluing where possible and tacking them to the Ultrasuede through the beadwork (PHOTO G). 

8. Fill in spaces between the components with beaded backstitch using 2 mm bugle beads, 9/0s, and 15/0s in colors A, B, C, and D (PHOTO H).
Arctic cuff i
Photo i
Arctic cuff j
Photo j

Wrap the embellished Ultrasuede around a bottle or drinking glass (PHOTO I). This will show you how it will look on your wrist and may reveal more places to embellish. Fill in the vacant areas with more seed beads and/or layered components (PHOTO J), and end the thread.


1. Trim the Ultrasuede about 1⁄16–1⁄8 in. (2–3 mm) from the edge of your beadwork, taking care not to cut any threads. 

2. Trace the Ultrasuede onto the cardboard. Cut about 1⁄8–3⁄16 in. (3–5 mm) inside the lines so the cardboard will be slightly smaller than the beadwork.

Arctic cuff k
Photo k
Arctic cuff l
Photo l

3. Trace the embellished Ultrasuede onto the remaining Ultrasuede, and trim it so they are both the same size (PHOTO K).

4. Bend the cardboard around the bottle or glass so it curves (PHOTO L). Using Aleene’s Thick Designer Tacky Glue, glue both pieces of Ultrasuede to the cardboard, leaving the edges unglued. Making sure the cardboard maintains its bend, let the glue dry.

Arctic cuff m
Photo m
Arctic cuff n
Photo n
5. Sew the clasp to the backside of the beadwork or to the cardboard (PHOTO M), and end the thread. Glue the edges of the Ultrasuede together, and trim any excess Ultrasuede to make sure the back piece aligns with the embellished piece. Let the glue dry.
Arctic cuff Figure 1
6. Cut a 2-ft. (61 cm) piece of thread, and tie an overhand knot at the end. Sew between the front and back pieces of Ultrasuede, and bring the needle up through the top of the embellished Ultrasuede, hiding the knot between the two pieces. Pick up four As, slide them close to the Ultrasuede, and sew down through both layers of Ultrasuede. Sew back through the last A added (FIGURE, a–b). Pick up three As, slide them close to the last A, and sew down through the layers of Ultrasuede. Sew back through the last A added (b–c). Repeat around the edge (PHOTO N). When you reach the last stitch, pick up enough beads to fit between the last A added and the first A added, and sew down through the first A. End the thread.
  • Keep a few extra components on hand, as you may find that brainstorming your design works better as you go. 
  • I like to use the cardboard from the back of memo pads or notebooks; it’s thick enough to be sturdy yet thin enough to cut with scissors.
Arctic cuff design alternative
Design alternative
Any animal can be used for this piece, just be sure to use components that complement the animal you are highlighting and contribute to the story that you are trying to tell.
FIND MORE: bracelets , embroidery , leather

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