Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Perler Beads Tips

I love Perler Beads! When my children were young, we would do them together. Now that they are grown and married, I do them alone! But now that I am a grandmother, I have hopes of more Perler days with small hands. Whether you do Perlers with small hands or you like doing more complicated projects, I thought I would share some tips I have learned from my experiences with Perlers.

These make great tools for school projects or just something to have fun with, making frames, centerpieces, magnets, jewelry....there are no limits for Perlers! Parents should always help children with Perlers and do the ironing portion of the creation.

First, unfold the ironing sheet and iron it before using it! The creases in it will not totally go away, but you won't transfer that crease to the fused beads like you will if you just unfold it and put it over a design and iron.

If you don't have much experience with Perlers, you might want to begin with one of the playsets, like the Garden Frenzy set I have below. It comes with a play scene, all the beads and pegboards you need. You can be creative and make your own play scene for your creations. Notice how they have designed platforms or feet so the creations can stand, huh?

You can create your own designs directly on the pegboards or you can plan them out. Below, I show how you can place a grid over a design and work from that as a pattern.

Another option is to sketch out your designs on graph paper. Make notations of color changes you want to have in your design.

Once you have created your design, the ironing or fusing process is something that might take a little practice to get the amount of fusing the way you want it. Notice the bunnies below. The one on the left has been ironed a little too long. The one on the right is very uniform. The secret is to iron on one side and then flip the pegboard over and place another ironing sheet over the backside of the design and iron on that side also. If you only iron on one side, in order to fuse the beads, they will be over ironed on that side. By fusing on each side, you can fuse less and have a nicer looking fusing job.
If your design is large, after fusing on both sides, you might want to place the warm design under a flat surface, like this EK Success Glass Mat in the photo (that has the grid on it). That will keep your design perfectly flat. If you want your design to have some curvature or dimension, carefully pick up the warm design still between the two ironing sheets and shape the design the way you want it. You can place the design over a bottle of fingernail polish or something similar and allow the warm fused piece to droop down and add dimension.

Below are some of my favorite items to use with Perlers. I like to have a craft or travel iron that is dedicated to my Perler supplies. It is lighter, so there is less chance of too much weight being placed on the design while fusing. Also, if I forget to add the ironing sheet and make a big mess, it was not on my household iron. Yes, it has happened!
For gluing three dimensional pieces together, I like Beacon's Quick Grip all-purpose permanent adhesive. It also comes in handy if you have a bead or two break off of a design. You can refuse them or you can just glue them on.
For a tray to place my beads in, I like Inkadinkado's glitter tray. It has an opening on one of the corners, so I can quickly pour them back into the bag or container from which they came. If I am traveling with beads, I like a container that has a lid that will close or lock down like the one in the photo.
I love the clear large square pegboards as you can look through them to read patterns (no grid counting!) and you can hook them together and make a creation as large as the number of pegboards that you have! Shaped pegboards are fun too and I enjoy the challenge of making them work for items other than what they were intended!
Chenille stems or pipe cleaners make a great compliment to Perler beads. They are great for stringing beads (where no fusing is done) as they don't slip off. A black pipe cleaner was used below to make the antennae on my shaped butterfly. I also like using rhinestones (either K & Company scrap booking embellishments or Jolee's Hot Fix Crystals) on my designs. I have also sewn on my designs as you can see the similarity between cross stitch patterns and Perler patterns.
The EK Success Glass Mat was mentioned above, but it is also a good surface to work on and if you need to move your creation, just pick up the glass mat and place it in a safe location until you can get back to it.

To speed up the placing of the beads, I try to pick up two at a time. Shake your tray of beads and find any "snake eyes" or beads right next to each other. I prefer working from beads that are all one color, but if you buy kits or mixed bags, this might be more difficult to find two of the same color forming snake eyes. Gently shake your tray periodically and you will usually find some snake eyes starring back at you!

Below is an example of using the clear pegboard over a pattern. There are pages of designs on the Perler website and you can print the designs and place your pegboard over them.
From that website, you can go to all the brands of crafting materials sold by EK Success Brands, so you will find the Inkadinkado tray and EK Success Glass Mat (as well as the rhinestones and crystals) by clicking on those brands.

If you have never tried Perler Beads, I hope this might stir some interest in you to try them. They are great fun!
If you do "Perler", and have tips of your own, I would love to hear them. The website also has a place where you can download your own designs, so consider doing that!

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