Beading over bare light bulbs has been done since light bulbs were first introduced. The beading adds colour, shape and form to a plain bulb and it can be reused on subsequent bulbs as a shade. The wide variety of beads now available allow the artistic crafter to transform lowly bulbs into true art pieces that glitter and shine in truly unique ways. The design you can create is only limited by your imagination. Start off with a simple net design to learn the basics of this medium.
Glue a light bulb socket to a piece of 4" by 4" scrap plywood. Glue the plywood to a turntable using construction adhesive. (Turntables are found in the kitchen section of most large stores.) Screw a large light bulb into the socket.
String six small faceted beads onto jewellery wire. Twist the ends of the wire together to form a dime-sized circle of beads. Cut off your excess wire and turn your twist under. Cut two pieces of 1/4" by 2" painter's tape. Form a cross with the tape. Find the top centre of the light bulb and place the bead circle there. Tape over the bead circle to hold it securely to the light bulb.
Measure the height of your light bulb (the rounded portion, not the stem) and divide that by four. Mark the bulb into quarters. Hold your pen evenly with your mark. Turn the turntable and continue your line around the bulb. This will give you three evenly spaced horizontal lines along the bulb.
Cut wire 12 inches long and string small faceted beads onto the wire until they fit around the bulb at the top line. Add one extra bead. Twist the wires together into a beaded circle. Trim off the excess and turn the wire end under. Position the circle on the line and secure with a few bits of tape.
Cut wire 12 inches long and string large faceted beads onto the wire until they fit around the bulb at the middle line. Add one extra bead. Twist the wires together into a beaded circle. Trim off the excess and turn the wire end under. Position the circle on the middle line and secure with a few bits of tape.
Cut wire 12 inches long and string small faceted beads onto the wire until they fit around the bulb at the bottom line. Add one extra bead. Measure from the last bead 2 inches of wire on each end. Cut the wire. Fold the wire in half and twist on itself, then bend the twisted wire to form a hook. Repeat with the wire on the other end until you have hooks on each end. Wrap this string of beads around the bottom line and hook the hooks. Secure the beads with bits of tape.
Cut four pieces of 12" wire. Find the centre of the wire. Turn the bulb so that the hooks of the bottom wire are facing you. Slip the wire under the small bead circle on top of the bulb. At the centre of the wire, twist the two ends one twist. Bring the two wires down to the second wire-beaded circle. Go between two beads with one wire on top and one on the bottom. Twist the wires together one twist. Continue down to the third wire. Go between two beads with a wire on top and bottom. Twist one twist, then split your wires and twist the ends of each wire around the base of a hook on each side of the last circle of beads. Turn your light bulb 90 degrees and repeat, except when you reach the bottom wire, simply go between two beads and twist the wire twice. Trim off excess wire and tuck it under. Turn the light bulb 45 degrees and repeat. Turn the light bulb 90 degrees and repeat. You should have a cage around the light bulb with beads running horizontally and wires running vertically.
Remove all tape and open the hooks on the bottom row of your partially beaded net. Make sure you can slide the net over the light bulb. When you finish beading, your bottom section will need to open along your split wires to fit over the light bulb. Put the net back in place and hook your hooks to finish beading.
Fill in each section of the design. Cut a 12-inch wire and string on enough beads to reach from one vertical wire to the next. When you come to the vertical wire, wrap your wire around once and string beads to the next vertical wire. Continue until you are back where you started. Twist your end wires together securely. Trim the wire and tuck it under. Fill between the first two sections with small beads. Fill the third section with larger beads.
Fill the fourth section with small beads, but start where the vertical wires split. Start your row by wrapping around the left wire and then bead as above until you reach the right-side wire of the split section. Finish by twisting that end around just the right wire. You will leave an opening so that the cover will fit over the wide part of the bulb and then narrow down to the hooks. Repeat the rows of your fourth section to preserve this split in the fabric of your beaded net.
This project is easier than it sounds and you will quickly find ways to make the cover unique with your favourite beads.
Tips and warnings
- This project is easier than it sounds and you will quickly find ways to make the cover unique with your favourite beads.