from newspaper column
"Doing MORE...with LESS!"
by the staff of The Mother Earth News - 1984
Centuries ago, when knighthood was reportedly in flower, noblewomen made fragrant beads of petals plucked from castle rose gardens. Strung together into rosaries, the beads assisted the devout in saying their prayers.
Today, religious rosaries are commonly composed of different materials. Yet, rose-bead necklaces still deserve attention, because they make charming, unusual personal gifts and unique craft items. What’s more, the scented chains are quite easy to fashion if the basic material - a goodly number of rose petals - is available.
To make naturally aromatic necklaces, you’ll need a few simple tools: an electric blender or a ceramic mortar and pedestal, a saucepan (preferable glass, enameled, or cast iron) a wooden spoon, and a No. 1 or 2 knitting needle or similar sharp, pointed object with which to make a hole through each bead. For materials, you’ll need nylon monofilament line and several quarts of rose petals. You may also choose to use some rose oil to strengthen the scent and a clasp to finish off your necklace.
The first step is the pleasant task of gathering rose petals. Try to get strongest smelling, "rosiest" blossoms you can obtain.
Don’t worry much about color. As a rule, darker roses have a more powerful scent than lighter ones, but there are many deeply fragrant pink, white, and yellow varieties as well. The beads will dry to a dark red, brown, or black, no matter what color the petals are.
Once you’ve gathered the blossoms, pluck off the petals (about two quarts worth) and put into the electric blender. Add ¼ cup of water for every 2 cups of petals and chop the mixture fine.
(The non-electric alternative to this procedure is to mash the petals in a ceramic mortar and then add water. This is the traditional way to do it, but a blender saves time.)
Heat the rose pulp in a saucepan over medium heat. The old recipes say to use a cast-iron pot if you want your beads to turn black. Whichever container you choose, do not boil the mixture, or its scent will be destroyed. Just stir it with a wooden spoon until it’s the consistency of clay and doesn’t stick to the side of the pan. At this point, remove the pot from the stove.
|When the fragrant concoction is cool enough to handle, work and knead it with your fingers as if it were clay. If it seems too watery to shape, remove the excess moisture by pressing a paper towel to the pulp’s surface.|
If you’re working with petals that are unscented or only lightly perfumed, put some rose oil on your fingertips just as you begin to from the beads so that the fragrance can seep into the little globes. (Rose oil can be purchased at many health food stores.) However, since in this instance the essence will be used for cosmetic purposes, synthetic rose oil, which costs about a third the price of true rose oil, would also be quite suitable.
Roll around bits of the pulp to form balls about the size of marbles, or slightly larger, keeping in mind that the beads will shrink to half their original size during the drying process. It’s possible to graduate the sizes from small to large and back again so that you’ll wind up with the rose equivalent of a perfectly matched string of pearls.
After the balls are shaped, poke a hole through the center of each one with fine knitting needle. If the newly made bead breaks apart when pierced, reshape it firmly around the needle shaft and gently pull the needle out.
Allow the beads to dry for at least two or three days, during which time they’ll shrink and darken. Roll them over daily to insure that they dry evenly. Sometimes the hole in a bead shrinks and closes up entirely. To prevent this from happening, people often string the rounds very carefully onto clear nylon fishing line before setting them out to dry and then slide them gently along the strand every day to keep the holes open.
When the beads are thoroughly dry, they will be rock hard. Polish them gently with a clean soft cloth and string them. If you’ve been able to form a large number of beads, you can make a long necklace that has balls all the way around and just slips over your head. Otherwise, you might use a necklace clasp (available from most craft stores). To preserve their fragrance, wrap the beads in a soft cloth saturated with rose oil and always store them in a closed container. You’ll be surprised at how durable these handmade beads can be.
For additional information on flower crafts and on The Mother Earth News magazine, send your name and address and ask for Reprint No. 806: "Pressed Wildflowers." Write to Doing MORE…with LESS!, 105 Stoney Mountain Road, Hendersonville, NC 28791, or in care of the Wenatchee World.
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