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Hand-dyed pearls lariat

The Roaring Twenties call to mind tasseled pearl strands wrapped ’round the neck and sweeping the hemlines, like this lariat made of hand-dyed pearls

About three years ago, I found dyed plastic pearls at my local bead store and quickly did some experiments to see if I could dye them myself. I was amazed to learn that I could easily create low-cost pearls in a profusion of colors.


Lariat 93 in. (2.4 m)

  • 2 13 mm or larger faceted round focal beads
  • 10–12 9 mm flat round beads
  • hand-dyed plastic pearls 
    • 282 5 mm
    • 100 4 mm 
  • Swarovski crystals
    • 10–12 6 mm diagonal-angled cube crystals
    • 16 5 mm round crystals or beads
    • 52 4 mm bicone crystals
    • 73 3 mm fire-polished beads
  • 3–4 g size 8/0 Japanese seed beads in each of 2 colors  
  • 9 6 x 4 mm square spacers
  • 12 4 x 4 mm spacers
  • 2 magnetic clasps
  • 6 bead caps 
  • 2 10 mm soldered jump rings
  • 14 crimp beads
  • 14 crimp covers to fit crimp beads  
  • flexible beading wire, .010
  • disposable plastic container, to be used for dyeing only
  • package of Rit dye, powdered
  • paper towels 
  • plastic fork or spoon
  • rubber gloves  
  • rubbing alcohol
  • tape  
  • crimping pliers
  • flatnose pliers
  • wire cutters 

Editor’s note: There are infinite ways to modify the stringing patterns for the lariat and tassels. You can vary the beads and colors you use or the lengths of the flexible beading wire. You can even leave out the magnetic clasps.


Hand dyed pearls lariat Photo A
Photo A

Dyed pearls

Dyeing pearls is simple and requires few materials. Go to for information on creating custom colors. Always use rubber gloves when working with liquid dye mixture. 

1. Pour one package of powdered Rit dye into a disposable plastic container, then slowly add 1 cup (0.2 liter) rubbing alcohol. Use a plastic fork or spoon to stir the mixture. Not all of the dye crystals will dissolve, so there will be some residue at the bottom of the bowl. 

2. Place the plastic pearls into the liquid dye solution. The length of time you leave them in the solution determines the intensity of the color (PHOTO A). Remove the pearls from the solution, rinse them in cold water, and use a paper towel to dry them.

Hand dyed pearls lariat Photo B
Photo B
Hand dyed pearls lariat Photo C
Photo C
Hand dyed pearls lariat Photo D
Photo D
Hand dyed pearls lariat Photo E
Photo E


For the lariat, use only the 5 mm hand-dyed pearls.

1. Leaving a 1-in. (2.5 cm) tail, tape one end of a 2-yd. (1.8 m) piece of flexible beading wire.  

2. String a 6 x 4 mm square spacer.

3. String 20 pearls, then string a 4 mm bicone crystal, a 5 mm round crystal or bead, a bicone, a 9 mm flat round bead, a bicone, a 6 mm cube crystal, a bicone, a 5 mm round, and a bicone (PHOTO B). String another 20 pearls. 

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 twice. 

5. String a bicone, a 3 mm fire-polished bead, a bicone, two pearls, a square spacer, two pearls, a 9 mm, a cube, a 5 mm round, a pearl, a 9 mm, a cube, a 5 mm round, and a pearl. 

6. String a bead cap, a pearl, and a bead cap (PHOTO C). String five pearls, half of an embellished magnetic clasp, two pearls, half of a clasp (PHOTO D), five pearls, a crimp bead, and a pearl. Tape the end of the wire.

7. Remove the tape from the other end of the wire. Repeat steps 3–6 to string the other half of the lariat. 


For the tassel, use only the 4 mm hand-dyed pearls.

1. Cut three 22-in. (56 cm) pieces of flexible beading wire.

2. Center all three wires on a 10 mm soldered jump ring.

Hand dyed pearls lariat Photo F
Photo F
Hand dyed pearls lariat Photo G
Photo G

3. Keeping the ends even, string a pearl, a square spacer, a pearl, a bead cap, a focal bead, and a bead cap over all six strands (PHOTO E). It may be hard to get all six strands through some of the beads, but it should be possible.

4. Combine a random mixture of size 8/0 Japanese seed beads, fire-polished beads, pearls, and 4 x 4 mm spacers. 

5. On one of the strands, string 6–7 in. (15–18 cm) of beads. String a crimp bead, an 8/0, a pearl or crystal, and an 8/0. Skip over the last three beads strung, and string the tail back through the crimp bead and the next several fringe beads (PHOTO F). Gently pull the wire to snug up the beads. 

6. Crimp the crimp bead, and trim the excess wire. Position a crimp cover around the crimp bead, and use chainnose pliers to gently squeeze it closed. 

7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 with the other five strands to complete the tassel.

The fringe pattern described above makes a single strand. If you wish, you can cross pairs of fringe through a 6 mm cube or 9 mm flat round bead left over from the lariat. To do so, string the same length of beads on two of the wires. Pass both wires through a cube or 9 mm. Continue stringing assorted beads on each wire (PHOTO G). 

8. Repeat steps 1–7 to make another tassel.


1. Remove the tape from one end of the lariat. String the end of the wire through the jump ring on one of the tassels, and go back through several beads on the strand.  

2. Snug up the beads and crimp the crimp bead. Trim the excess wire. Cover the crimp bead with a crimp cover.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 to add the other tassel at the other end of the lariat.

FIND MORE: necklaces , stringing , pearl , crystals

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