Thursday, June 23, 2016

Making a Mala with a Tassel - DIY Instructions

Mala with Tassel - DIY Instructions

Malas are Buddhist prayer beads used for meditation. Traditionally 108 beads are strung and hand knotted in between each bead. A central bead named Guru Bead and a tassel are often added to Malas. These elements, the 108 beads, the marker beads, the Guru bead, and the tassel, all have a symbolic significance explained at the end of this post. 

Material & Tools Needed

Mala with Tassel - DIY Instructions

• 108 Beads
The 8mm Mala shown on this tutorial is made with mostly 8mm beads, the marker beads are a bit larger than the other beads. The beaded part is 96 cm/38 inches long. The tassel and Guru bead add another 15 cm/6 inches. I used a larger oval Turquoise bead as the guru bead and added an amethyst bead above the tassel for color contrast. 

Here are some of the choices:

- All 108 beads are 8mm in diameter. 

- Or  104 8mm beads + 4 marker beads. The marker beads can be a different size, or have a different texture, or feel. 

- All 108 beads are 6mm in diameter.

- Or 104 6mm beads + 4 marker beads. The Mala shown on the right below, is made this way with 8mm marker beads. It is 76 cm/30 inches long and the Guru bead and tassel add 13.5 cm/5.25 inches. The male on the left is shown in the step by step of this tutorial. 

Mala with Tassel - DIY Instructions

The beads can include round and faceted gemstones, wood beads such as ebony, seed beads, metals beads, or a mix. For this Mala I chose a mix of round and faceted gemstone beads. 

• The Guru Bead
Larger bead, can a carved buddha bead, in between the 108 beads and the tassel. 

• The Cord
Although silk is more traditional, if you are using gemstones and planning on wearing your Mala, bonded nylon is a better choice. It is more durable than silk... and due to its 3-ply twisted cord construction, it does not stretch as much as braided nylon cord (Chinese Knotting Cord). 

C-Lon Bead Cord for 8mm beads - For stringing the beads, and knotting between each bead. 

C-Lon Fine Weight Bead Cord Tex 135  - Recommended for 6mm beads. With the 6mm beads consider using C-Lon Fine Weight Bead Cord Tex 135 instead of the standard C-Lon Bead Cord Tex 210. The knots between the beads are a bit more delicate and the Mala drapes better. 

Knots between 6mm beads. Top with the standard C-Lon Bead Cord Tex 21 doubled up.
Bottom strand is made with the C-Lon Fine Weight Bead Cord Tex 135 doubled up.
My next 6mm Malas will be made with the finer cord. 

Chinese Knotting Cord or Silk - For the tassel.

Tweezers - For knotting between beads.

Sharp Scissors - For cutting the C-Lon Bead Cord and trimming the tassel

Beeswax - For stringing beads onto the C-Lon Bead Cord. Optional - wire needles or big eye needle.

Fray Check - Optional if all the cords do not fit through the Guru bead.

• Bead Tray - A bead mat or towel will work too

Tapestry Needle - Size 22 or 20. To pull the cord through the tassel center

Chain Nose Pliers - Or any utility pliers to pull the needle through the tassel center.  

Step 1 - Laying the Beads


Mala with Tassel - DIY Instructions

Lay out the beads. The small blue arrow at the bottom is where the Guru bead and tassel will be added. 26 6mm beads are laid out on each side, plus one 8mm marker bead for a 27 beads segment. Do that twice for a total of 54 beads on each side. The red arrows point to the 8mm marker beads. The blue arrows at the top is where the beads will be loaded onto the cord. 

I placed an extra amethyst bead below the Guru bead. I may or may not use it in between the guru bead and the tassel. I added it to the 6mm Mala, but not the 8mm Mala. It added contrast with the Teal tassel, but was not necessary for the French Lilac tassel. 

Step 2 - Stringing the Beads

Cut two lengths of C-Lon Bead Cord 235 cm/96 inches long. Stretch the cord between your hands. This will remove the 10% stretch of this cord. Make an overhand knot with the 2 cords together right at the center with 117 cm/48 inches on each side. 

(Use the Fine Weight size for 6mm beads.)

Make self needles at both ends of the double cord with the beeswax by shredding the ends of the cord with the blade of the scissors, then adding beeswax. Do that a few time until you have a nice point, and cut the end of the point at an angle. Refer to this post on how to load beads onto cord for step by step instructions on how to make a beeswax self needle. 

Mala with Tassel - DIY Instructions

Load a first group of beads. Start at one of the top blue arrows. Knot between the beads with overhand knots. Use tweezers to keep the knot against the bead and use your left index finger and thumb to keep the knot on place when pulling the tweezers off. 

Mala with Tassel - DIY Instructions

Then tighten the knot. You can separate the two cords to do the final pull on the knot. 

Mala with Tassel - DIY Instructions

Continue, loading either one bead or a small group of beads at a time, then knotting in between. 

Mala with Tassel - DIY Instructions

Loading one bead at a time and knotting seems slow, but it is easy. I find it easier and faster to load the beads in small groups, then knotting in between. If you are not sure about the bead layout, loading all the beads at once and on both sides is best for design purposes, but tying the overhand knots between the beads is a bit more awkward as all the beads need to be pulled though the overhand knot before it is tightened.  

Mala with Tassel - DIY Instructions

Here the first side has been done. 54 beads have been strung. Now load and knot the other side, starting at the top arrow. Two 8mm marker beads will be next to one another and will mark the back of the Mala. 

Step 3 - Joining at the Guru Bead

Mala with Tassel - DIY Instructions

Join the ends together and load the Guru bead onto the 4 cords. Add an overhand knot after the bead(s).

If the Guru bead hole is not large enough to accommodate all 4 cords, here are some options. Ream the hole with a diamond reamer until it can accommodate the 4 cords. Or use only one cord from each side. Add a drop of Fray Check on the final knots. Let it dry. Cut one of the cords on each side off and load the Guru beads on the remaining 2 cords. 

Step 3 - The Tassel

Make the tassel > Go to Tassel Tutorial, but wait to trim it until it is in place. You can even get it in place onto the C-Lon Bead Cord prior to wrapping the neck. 

The Tassel Tutorial shows how to make the tassel for the 8mm Mala step by step. This tassel here shown below is made with Chinese Knotting Cord Size E (0.4 mm in diameter) wrapped 60 times around a cardboard box lid 24 cm/9.5 inches around. The finished tassel, once trimmed is 10 cm/4 inches long. 

Mala with Tassel - DIY Instructions

Using a tapestry needle size 22 or 20, pull the C-Lon Bead Cord though the tassel center. Do it one cord at a time so not to disturb the tassel top. If needed, use pliers to pull the needle through. 

Mala with Tassel - DIY Instructions

Load a 'stopper' bead onto the C-Lon Bead Cord. I use a 6mm ebony wood bead with a hole large enough to accommodate all 4 cords. The beads will be right under the tassel skirt.

Mala with Tassel - DIY Instructions

Make an overhand knot and tighten it against the bead, blocking the tassel in place. Then trim the tassel as shown in the tassel tutorial. 

Mala with Tassel - DIY Instructions

A Mala can be made in an afternoon or evening. The processes, choosing the beads, stringing beads, knotting in between the beads, and making the tassel can become a form of meditation. The gemstone beads chosen for the Mala are also important as gemstones have subtle energies that can be felt and should be honored while working on the piece. 

These Malas are made with the following gemstones:

Amethyst - Give strength. Helps healing. Increases intuition and helps overcome addictions.

Blue Goldstone - Man-made with copper. Protection stone. Good for meditation. Symbolizes light found in darkness. Good for long distance healing. 

Hematite - Grounding and protection stone. Calming. 

Turquoise - Helps promote clear communication from the heart. Relieve stress. Protect from pollution. 

Lepidolite - Known as the peace stone. Promotes calm and acceptance. Good for the heart chakra. Brings hope in dark times by bringing a sense of balance and calm. 

I hope you will find this tutorial helpful. I got a number of questions after writing the tassel tutorial about how to attach the tassel to the strung beads. Making Malas is very enjoyable and I plan to make more in the future. Many variations can be made. I have worn the larger Mala for several months now and it is doing very well. I have not noticed any stretching between the beads, although the knots seem to have relaxed a bit. The bottom of the tassel has flared a bit as the braid has opened, and the very tips of the tassel seem a bit lighter. I do not find it to be a problem, it looks good. The Mala  feels good on. And yes, I look forward to wearing the shorter one just made for this post. Namaste! - Marion


108 - The number 108 is considered sacred in Buddhism and Hinduism. This number represents 108 energy lines that converge to form the heart chakra; 108 Hindu Goddess names; 54 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, each with a feminine and masculine side (Shakti and Shiva) and 54 times 2 equals 108.

Marker Beads - Often marker beads are added to Malas. They have either separate textures or a different diameter than the other beads, but in most instances they are counted in the 108 beads. When crossed while meditating they are there to remind us to stay focused, as a wake up call or gentle reminder. 

Japa Meditation - From Sanskrit. Meditative repetition of a mantra or a divine name, a practice found in Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism. The mantra or name may be spoken softly, enough for the practitioner to hear it, or it may be spoken within the reciter's mind.

Guru Bead - The center bead represent the teachers we had along the way or the teacher within. Out of respect one must stop at the guru bead and if you want to continue with the meditation counting beads, turn around to continue counting in the opposite direction. It is a good place to reflect on the intentions of your practice.

Tassel - Represents enlightenment, oneness as all the strands are connected together, connecting all to the divine, a symbol for prana and consciousness.

Meditation with the Mala -
The Mala beads are used to keep count of the mantras in Japa meditation. Recite your mantra on each bead, going around the entire mala until you get to 108 repetitions of that mantra. A separate mantra can be made when crossing over the marker beads. 

References & Links

Monday, June 6, 2016

Sweet Spot - Installation by Shawn Causey and Mark Daniell done with C-Lon Tex 400 Bead Cord

Sweet Spot - Installation by Shawn Causey and Mark Daniell

Bonded nylon used to be made for the upholstery industry. In the 70s, I would go south of Market Street in San Francisco to an industrial sewing machine shop. In their warehouse I would find dusty boxes of bonded nylon #18 thread. Several of my friends and colleagues had the same exact shopping experience in the East Coast…

Now C-Lon is the major player in the bonded nylon field. C-Lon is a bonded nylon made for the beading industry. The colors range is larger than ever before, and now the upholstery industry buys from us (the beading industry).

Occasionally, someone dreams up of an unusual use for this type of cord. And that is exactly what Shawn Causey and Mark Daniell did with "Sweet Spot" - an installation made with C-Lon Tex 400 Bead Cord and wood platforms reminiscent of tables holding lengths of cord from the ceiling to the floor.

As you walk around the installation, the overlap of the hanging cords changes and colors flicker as shown in videos taken of the installation at Gallery 924 in Indianapolis in April 2016 > Video

Sweet Spot - Installation with C-Lon Tex 40 Bead Cord by Shawn Causey and Mark Daniell

The Process - Making 'Sweet Spot'

This piece was made with the help of 80 volunteers who spent about 500 hours handling the cord - The cord performed very well.

In addition to the concept, it took somewhere around 960 spools of C-Lon Tex 400 Bead Cord to create this installation, several SuperMax Thread Burners and a few extra tips to finish the ends.

C-Lon Tex 400 Bead Cord and SuperMax Thread Burner

About the Cord Choice

When asked about their choice of cord, Shawn and Mark said; "We chose the C-Lon Tex 400 Bead Cord for the piece because of it's durability, color choices and sheen. The cord has been good to work with. Our only real issues with the material have been that the cord is indented from where it overlaps on its spool, and the total amount of cord on each spool was not the same."

As to the overlap indentations on the cord, I wish they had asked about this. My recommendation would have been to iron the cord off the spool. It removes any marking left by the spooling process. I use an iron on a polyester setting and run the cord under the iron fairly quickly otherwise it will melt the nylon cord.

Shawn and Mark responded: "We tested burnishing and discussed the possibility of light ironing. In the end we decided it was an unnecessary step since those small indentations aren't noticeable in the diffuse light we use on the piece. And over time we know they will smooth out."

As to the amount of cord on each spool, I hope the variance was less than 10% up or down - Yardage on industrial spools usually has a 10% allowance.

Shawn and Mark responded: "We didn't account for a 10% variance on the length of the cord. That's good to know for next time. About a fifth of our spools were up to 10% short."

About the Thread Burners

The artists said: "The thread burners worked well. The tips are delicate and we went through a lot of batteries, but we were burning a lot of thread!"

Yes, they went through a lot of cord, 960 spools is 37,440 yards… and not that many tips unless they ordered some from a different source…

There is 19 miles of cord in the piece, with enough length in each cord stored in the upper compartments to extend the piece 2 stories high. 19 miles equals 34,770 yards, 104,310 feet.

Sweet Spot - Installation with C-Lon Tex 40 Bead Cord by Shawn Causey and Mark Daniell

Sweet Spot moved to the Art from the Heartland Exhibit at the Indianapolis Art Center, Indianapolis, from June 10th to August 6th. The piece was awarded Best in Show by curator Mindy Taylor Ross.

It will travel next to Grand Rapids this fall to compete at ArtPrize. Sweet Spot won a big prize. Congratulations!

Sweet Spot is on the Move > Check out the Current Exhibit Schedule
We try to keep up with this installation location, so keep checking. 

> More about Shawn Causey
> Sweet Spot on ArtPrize - More pictures.

I was very happy to supply the C-Lon Tex 400 Bead Cord and the SuperMax Thread Burners for this project. Now I just wish 'Sweet Spot' would tour nationally, so I could get a chance to see it in person in California sometimes. If you are interested in any of the supplies mentioned above, here are some links below. - Marion

> C-Lon Tex 400 Bead Cord available in 112 colors
> SuperMax Thread Burners and comparing Thread Burners, Zappers and Sealers