The Beads of Our Lives and a Giveaway!


I’ve always loved beads.  I think most girls do.

The first beads I admired were my mother’s pop-it beads. Remember those?  A big 1950’s fashion item. You could pull them apart and snap them back together to wear in various lengths. Perfect for babies who like to grab onto their mother’s necklaces  No trouble with breakage; the necklace just popped open.  I wish my mom had saved hers, so I could wear them to entertain my grandson next year.

When I was six, I got into stringing beads from kits. The kits contained bright colored plastic beads shaped like ziti, and plastic string we used to call “gimp.” I made some great necklaces for myself and my dolls.

And then came hippie beads. Tiny beads that we either strung ourselves onto wire or bought as necklaces pretty cheap in funky shops. And if you’d didn’t like the long strands, you could always wear a choker.

Next for me, came fancy beads, pearls one Christmas from my great-aunt. They lay nestled in a blue velvet box, and she let me know right away they were the real McCoy.

But the necklace you see above is for one of you. Those gorgeous beads were made by Ugandan women out of recycled paper Yep, paper. Check out  the colors!

The necklace, purchased at my church’s Christmas bazaar, came with a tag that reads, in part:

Many of the beaders are HIV + mothers or war refugees, and all are suffering from extreme poverty. BeadforLife pays the beaders fair trade prices for their work. Because of their work with BeadforLife, their beads become income, food, medicine, homes, school fees, and hope.

You can learn lots more about BeadforLife, including how to host a BeadforLife party at home or with an organization, here on their website.   Watch this video to see how the women make the beads.  Many of these women, before becoming beaders, sat for hours in the hot sun and crushed rocks by hand. The quarry wages, as well as the working conditions, were miserable. 

You can shop directly for the beads at their online store.  Prices are great. Celebrate beads, colorful,joyful, hopeful beads, as you support BeadforLife!

Giveaway: For a chance to win the BeadforLife necklace above, say you’d like to win by posting a comment or shooting me an email by Sunday, April 29 at noon EST. The winner will be chosen at random using an integer generator.

29 responses »

  1. Please enter my name. That necklace gorgeous… And for many reaons. If I win I will enjoy sharing the history behind it and the courage and beauty of the women who made it!!


  2. Memories…. I too remember beads through the ages, including the pop beads. The hippie beads I had were a long string of watermelon seeds. Remember those? 😉

    Thank you for the links to BeadForLife. I know I will enjoy finding out more and sharing with my readers. These ‘free trade’ groups are a must for survival. When I shop, I shop either Made in USA or Free Trade groups like this. Nobody else needs my money. Thanks for sharing, Barb.

    Oh yes, and I would absolutely love to receive these beautiful beads. 😀

  3. I remember buying bead necklances or clip-on earrings for my teachers when I was in elementary school. Thanks for the Bead for Life info & the chance to win.

  4. the necklace is beautiful. Hard to believe it is from recycled paper! Glad to see you are supporting these noble hard workers and sharing with us readers! Please count me in for the drawing… thanks!!

  5. Those are beautiful beads and I’d like to get my hands on them. I’m a beader. The kind of beader who dumps harvested beads from wherever into a dish and randomly goes until reaching the desired length, then ends it. And repeats until space on the clasp is gone, the beads are gone or the thrill is gone. My favorite necklace is one that I take off before I weigh in at the doctor’s office; yes, its that dense/heavy, but I love it. Thanks for bringing this organization to my attention.

    • All for the fun of the colors and the stringing! I used to love it too, and perhaps should return. I have tried taking off ALL my jewelry at home before I step on the scale, even my rings!

    • Oh fun. You’ll be an expert on our family, not that we send forth any great expertise!! Thanks for reading.

  6. Oh, yes! I remember pop-it beads! Though I had nearly forgotten them until you mentioned them just now. Ha! I loved them when I was little. They WOULD be fun to use with a baby, wouldn’t they? As long as they’re not a choking hazard. Or maybe their weird shape makes them safer. (Can you tell I have a toddler who still likes to stuff things in her mouth?)

    • They really must have been a choking hazard. A different age, I guess. When I first joined our church, thirty years ago, they had choking hazards all over the nursery, and that was in the eighties! Of course I’m the one who trusted her 18 month old with pennies to throw into the fountain. A half hour later, she was choking (She kept one clutched in her fist–I had no clue). One of the most terrifying moments of my life. Cliff picked up the stroller and bammed it down and the penny flew out. (I’ve read that jolting the child is the wrong thing to do.) But happily, Laura is fine. I still have trouble thinking about it.

      • Oh, wow. That sounds absolutely TERRIFYING! My daughter got a hold of a few chokables when she was little, and it was so scary. I took a CPR class when I was nine months pregnant (not the best time to kneel on the floor, do chest compressions on a dummy, then try to stumble to your feet again). Despite the class, I still get a little crazy when I think of having to actually perform CPR, chest thrusts, etc.

  7. Enjoyed this pop-it bead post! Every Christmas after the extended family crowded into grandmother’s apartment, my parents would drag us to see other, distant relatives, when all we wanted to do was go home and play with our new toys. The year pop-it beads were “hot” for Christmas (1959 or so), we entertained ourselves during the dreaded visit with their ropes and ropes of pop-it beads. Fast forward to 1996 when we were cleaning out that family’s next house after they all eventually had passed away – I was amazed that there were rings of pop-it beads on some of the door knobs. I took some home as a keepsake!

  8. Those are lovely! I’ve seen them before, but never knew where they were from. I love jewelry with a story and a good cause!

  9. I love pieces of jewlery with a story, and Bead for Life’s jewlery definitely has a story to tell!

    I found out about Bead For Life about a year ago now. I have hosted some parties myself to help these beautiful and strong women of Uganda. Whenever I wear my Bead For Life jewlery, I always get compliments which makes for great conversation!

    ** This jewlery makes a great graduation gift too. Many friends at my party last spring bought those $5 single strand bangle bracelets as a small gift to go along with the “standard” check given to many high school/college grads.

    I always love new jewlery, so count me in on the giveaway 🙂

    • Fun you’ve hosted parties! Thanks for your comment, and you’re right about a graduation present. The jewelry seems to be admired by younger and older women, not always the case, that’s for sure.

  10. The beads are lovely. I’m fascinated by all things made with paper. Oh, yes, and I DO remember my mom’s pink pop up beads. I wanted to play with them in church, but they made a little “pop” sound when you pulled them apart, so that was a no-no. Thank you for the chance to win.

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