Reported by Heather Strenzwilk
Anyone who visited the toy department of a craft store has probably seen Perler Beads. I never gave them a second thought until family friends (and their children) showed me over 100 pieces of finished artwork, dozens of shaped pegboards, and a huge bin of Perler beads. My daughter and I immediately joined in the fun. Within a few weeks, we were proud owners of 11,000 assorted color Perler Beads, assorted shaped pegboards, an idea book, E-Z Tweezies, and a bunch of finished artwork.
Perler beads are completely non-toxic cylindrical shaped beads which are made in the USA and are available in over 30 colors. To create artwork, simply slip beads over the pegs on the pegboard to create a design. When finished lay the special parchment paper on top of the design and use a warm iron in a circular pattern for 10 seconds to fuse the design and allow to cool. Remove the parchment paper, flip the design over, re-cover with the parchment paper and fuse the reverse side of the design.
The designs above were created by my 8-year-old daughter. The sailboats, candy cane and flower are her original designs.
Interested? Michael’s and JoAnn’s have starter kits in their $1 sections. The kits contain a small reusable pegboard, pattern, parchment paper and beads. Many holiday kits are available and prices are deeply discounted after holidays.
It is a pretty simple process but there is definitely a learning curve. This is what I have learned:
- Before the design is ironed the beads are very loose. Bumping or tipping the pegboard will cause beads to dislodge necessitating some repair work before ironing.
- The directions say to use a “medium” setting on the iron. My iron does not have a medium setting and it took me a few tries to find my optimum setting.
- It generally takes me more than 10 seconds to fuse the top side of my design. I often peek under the parchment to make sure that the entire design is fused. If it is not, beads will come off when you flip it over. Take your time. I usually leave the parchment on the piece when I flip it so if a piece is loose it has a better chance of staying in place for the reverse ironing.
- The ironed pieces tend to curl a bit on their edges as they cool. Try leaving the parchment on the piece and put a heavy book on it so it will flatten as it cools.
- When ironing for children (and I recommend this), it is beneficial to iron for some extra time to melt the beads a bit more on one side. Children will want to handle their creations, and that way their creation will be more sturdy. The downside is that the finished design might not be so pretty on the extra melty side.
- If beads break off the finished piece (and they are somewhat brittle and fragile), you can try to realign the piece and re-iron it. Personally, I haven’t had good results with that method. Instead, I use a good clear craft glue to stick it back together. The beads are cylinders, so it can be difficult to get the pieces aligned properly. Be patient!
Everyone has their own way of organizing their supplies, but a popular way is to sort beads by color and store them in a bead organizer case. I sorted our 11,ooo bead bucket over several days while watching movies and found it very relaxing. Those who don’t want to sort can come to my house (ha ha, not really), or order beads in single color packs. A bead bucket offers a wide assortment, and is perfect for a beginner. My friends and I tend to use more black beads, so we order those in bulk.
One tool that I HIGHLY recommend are the E-Z Tweezies. They are bright green plastic and come in a two-pack. E-Z Tweezies are very easy to use and are lightweight. They are perfect for picking up a stray bead in my bead box. I also use them to place beads inside a design or to remove a bead from the center of a design. I’ve seen kids as young as 4 using them effectively.
Above I am using E-Z Tweezies to create designs on the large 6×6 inch clear board and alphabet/ number board. Some of my beads are stored in a bead holder.
Originally, the reusable pegboards were brightly colored and came in small and large sizes. Recently, Perler has marketed clear boards which allow you to follow a pattern under the board. There are online sites and software where you can create custom designs to be printed. Last year, Perler came out with 6×6 clear square pegboards which are interlocking to create larger 12 inch x 12 inch artwork. There is also a large circle and smaller shapes such as animals, flowers and transportation. The shaped pegboards are great for kids or people who want to stick with a traditional design. I reach for the small hexagon and large circle most often for free-form work.
More advanced artists have turned shaped templates into all sorts of creations, often having nothing to do with the original shape. For example, I used the small hexagon to create the purple flower and owl above. The Pop Tart is based on a sample I saw in Idea Book II. Perler Beads has an online gallery which is updated monthly and it is packed with creative ideas from artists of all ages. Be sure to check out these Retro Video Game Coasters on Craftster!
Perler beads, parchment and some styles of pegboards are available at chain craft stores such as Michael’s, Jo Ann’s and AC Moore. Many E-Bay sellers offer single color beads in bulk and hard-to-find in the US Hema pegboards. Hema beads (available in Europe) are very similar to Perler beads, and their uniquely shaped pegboards can be used with Perler Beads. The full line of Perler products (including idea books and E-Z Tweezies) are available online from Perlerbeads.com and KoolStuff4Kids.com. I have ordered from KoolStuff4Kids and my order arrived quickly. There’s also a TON of Perler Beads and accessories at Amazon: Perler bead supplies on Amazon, and if you buy them through that link, you’ll help support Craft Critique!
- Over 30 colors of beads which include glow-in-the-dark, neon and metallics.
- Basic supplies are available in any chain craft store.
- Small trial kits are available for $1.00
- Some of the pegboards are are not available in stores and must be special ordered.
- The finished pieces are brittle and can be prone to breakage.
If you want to try Perler Beads, try a starter kit for $1 which will include everything you need but an iron. The finished product is a bit brittle and can break easily but it can be repaired with glue or be re-ironed. It is a fun craft and good for one person or a large group. Follow a pattern or be creative and make your own design. I rate it 9/10.
Have you tried Perler beads? We’d love to see your projects! Leave us a link in the comment section so we can check you out!
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