If you’ve ever seen one of my Dragonfly Danglers when you’ve visited my stall at a craft fair, and wondered ‘how does she do that?’ – you’re about to find out!
I’m not a big fan of giving away trade secrets as I don’t particularly fancy having my products copied, so I’ll start off by saying that the purpose of this tutorial is to show people how much work goes into these Dragonfly Danglers. By all means use this tutorial to make one for yourself or as a gift, but please do not make them for commercial purposes.
I buy most of my beading supplies from Charming Beads, either through their website or their Amazon Marketplace store. They have an amazing selection of beads, crystals and other jewellery-making supplies; you’ll struggle to look at it all without buying something!
To make the dragonfly danglers you’ll need the following materials:
- Polymer clay in at least three colours (I use Fimo but you could also use something like Sculpey)
- Small metal beads (for the eyes)
- Iridescent glitter
- Acetate sheets
- Outline relief paste
- Glitter spray (or spray mount and the glitter you’re using on the bodies)
- 0.4mm silver coloured craft wire
- 1mm-thick nylon rattail thread in any colour of your choice
- For the pendant: I used a lucite leaf, a lucite flower and a Czech crystal bead, plus an eye pin. You could, if you prefer, use a large crystal or bead, or even fashion a ‘picture’ using a combination of craft wire and crystals (I do this sometimes, if I have plenty of time to spare, but it’s pretty time-consuming)
- A selection of beads in different sizes – the more sparkly, the better! You’ll need a large, ‘fancy’ bead too (like this one for example)
You need quite a few tools for this job…
- A baking tray, covered in cooking/wrapping foil
- A cutting tool for the polymer clay
- A craft drill with a 2mm (ish) bit (I use a Dremel 3000)
- A biro or pencil
- A piece of paper
- A Sharpie pen
- Turps (white spirit/turpentine substitute) and some kitchen roll, for removing the marker pen
- A safety pin or dressmaking pin
- A wooden skewer
- Wire cutters (unless you don’t mind wrecking your scissors!)
- A beading mat (not essential but stops your beads rolling off the table)
- Jeweller’s pliers
Make the dragonfly bodies
Break off equally-sized chunks from three different colours of polymer clay. Roll them into long, thin ‘noodles’ of equal lengths, and twist them together. Fold the twisted noodles in half, in half again, and in half again. Roll them together into a thick sausage, and then roll this into a thicker noodle (about the width of your little finger). You can do this several times if you like; the more you roll the clay, fold it and roll again, the better the marbled pattern will come out.
Use pea-sized pieces of the clay, rolled into balls, to make the head and middle section, then a longer piece to make the tail (the overall length of a dragonfly will be around 4cm). Push the three pieces together firmly (without squashing the two smaller pieces) and taper the tail into a point by rolling it between your fingers.
You’ll need four dragonflies in total. You can use the same mix of colours for all four, or do as I do and make each one in different colours.
Place the dragonflies onto the foil-covered baking tray and push the eyes into the heads firmly (I use 4mm silver-coloured metal beads). Dab your finger into your pot of glitter and smear it over each dragonfly body.
Bake the dragonfly bodies in a preheated oven at 110 celsius for 30 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and leave to cool. When the bodies are completely cooled and the clay is firm, use a craft drill to make a 2mm hole in the middle section of each body.
Make the wings
Place a dragonfly body onto a blank piece of paper and draw the wings out around it (the body helps you ensure you’re making the wings the right size). This piece of paper will be your template for making the acetate wings. I also draw a ‘back strap’ joining the wings, which acts as a guide when piping the wings onto the acetate.
Lay a sheet of acetate over the template and, using a Sharpie or other similar semi-permanent marker, draw four sets of wings.
Flip the acetate sheet over, and use outline relief paste to draw the wings over the marker guides. It’s really important that you remember to flip the acetate over, otherwise you’ll never get rid of the permanent marker and your wings will be ruined. If you’ve used a ‘back strap’ on your template or the marker guides, don’t pipe these on with the outline relief paste – they’re just there to guide you.
Leave the paste to dry for a couple of hours. It shrinks a little during the drying process, and darkens a little in colour. Make sure it’s fully dry and then turn the acetate sheet over and use turps on an old rag or piece of kitchen roll to remove the marker pen (you may need to rub firmly but it should all come off without too much effort).
Then, turn the sheet over again so the relief paste faces upwards, and spray the wings with glitter spray (or you can use spray mount as an adhesive and sprinkle on some fine iridescent glitter instead). Leave to thoroughly dry – spray glitter/adhesive becomes clear and non-tacky when it’s fully dry, so you’ll know when the wings are ready to be cut out.
Using scissors or a scalpel, carefully cut out each set of wings, remembering to leave the ‘back strap’ in place.
Use a pin to make a hole in the centre of the ‘back strap’, then use a wooden skewer to widen the hole. Toothpicks are a little too thin to make a decent-sized hole, so if you don’t have any wooden skewers (which are twice as thick as toothpicks) you may need to improvise.
Assemble the dragonflies
You should now have four sets of bodies and four sets of wings, all with 2mm-diameter holes.
Using 0.4mm craft wire, ‘sew’ the wings onto the bodies – thread the wire through the holes and ensure you’ve gone in front of and behind both the left and right sides of the wings, until the wire forms a kind of ‘cross’ shape.
Twist the ends of the wire together on the underside of the body, trim off anything after the first 5mm, and bend the twisted ends back along the underneath of the tail to keep them hidden.
Bend the wings upwards a little (you could use different angles on each dragonfly).
Make the pendant
You can use all sorts of things for the pendant at the bottom of the Dragonfly Dangler. If you have a large crystal going spare, use that; or perhaps a small brass bell, or a large fancy bead (or a few). The aim really is to add a little weight to the bottom of the thread, helping it to hang nicely. In this tutorial I’m using lucite (acrylic) flowers and leaves and a small Czech crystal, which I’ve joined together using an eye pin.
The eye of the pin is at the back of the leaf; the pin then goes through the back of the flower and into the crystal. I loop the non-eye end of the pin using jeweller’s pliers, to secure the crystal in place. Then, I bend the eye of the pin so that it sits flush against the back of the leaf.
Assemble the Dragonfly Dangler
Cut a 1m length of 1mm-thick nylon rattail thread and push one end through the eye of the pin. Tie it in a double knot, firmly. Lay the end along the remaining length of the thread, and wrap a small piece of the 0.4mm craft wire around the threads to secure them together. This stops the knot from working itself loose, and after trimming the excess off the shorter length of thread as close to the wire as possible, you’ll get a much neater result.
Use a large, fancy bead with a large-ish hole to cover as much of the wire as possible.
Decide on a colour scheme or two for your remaining beads. For each beaded section of the dangler I use 7 beads, but you can use more or fewer if you want. There are five beaded sections in total if you’re using four dragonflies. It helps to lay out your beads on a beading mat before you start threading them, so you can experiment with different layouts.
Melt the end of the thread with a lighter and roll the thread between your fingers, so that it takes on a firm, needle-like appearance. This will make threading the beads much easier.
Tie a single knot about 1.5-2 inches above the fancy bead at the bottom of the dangler. Thread the first of your bead sections, and secure it in place with another single knot as close as you can get it to the last bead in the section.
Tie another single knot about 1.5-2 inches above the first bead section, and thread a dragonfly from its underside upwards. Secure it in place with another single knot.
Repeat this process until all beads and dragonflies have been threaded. If you’re using four dragonflies, your layout will be:
When the final bead section has been knotted into place, form a loop with the remaining thread and knot it firmly. Again lie any excess thread along the main thread and secure it in place with wire, cutting off any excess below the bottom of the wire.
That’s it – you’ve made a Dragonfly Dangler!
Sound like a lot of hard work? Use code FLYAWAYHOME at the checkout to buy a Dragonfly Dangler for £10 instead of the usual £12. This code is valid throughout September 2017. You can use this coupon as many times as you like, and it can be used in conjunction with other offers. Sorry, we don’t deliver outside the UK.
If you’d like to have a go at winning a Dragonfly Dangler, head over to my Facebook page and take a look at the pinned post![/box]