This is my current project. These days it is called ‘tubular crochet beading.’ Who knew? When my sweet Aunt Martha got my mother hooked (pardon the pun) on it back in the day, they just called it crocheted pearls (because they used seed pearls instead of beads).
That was WAY before Michael's, Hobby Lobby, Etsy, and online bead suppliers. Back then you had to put some leg work into your art. Aunt Martha got bored with the very limited colors available to her. I believe the choices were your basic white and maybe two or three pale pastels.
One day she came across a manufactured item with vibrant-colored pearls...pearls not marketed through any crafting company. Visiting with her next-door neighbor later, the subject of her new hobby came up, and she began bemoaning the fact that she was limited as to color when she knew more was possible, since she had an example of colors that were unavailable for home crafters.
Serendipitously this neighbor happened to be a chemist. He asked her for a sample of the kind of colored pearls she wanted. She quickly handed over what she had, and within a few days he had analyzed the coating, and told her exactly what she would need to do to dye her own pearls. If hog heaven exists, she was in it.
She began experimentation with colors following Neighbor Chemist's directions, which involved pots of boiling water on the stove, Ritz dye, and a little bit of dishwashing liquid. I think I still have a copy of the 'secret formula' around here somewhere in my mother's handwriting.
Pretty soon my aunt and my mother were mail-ordering strung seed pearls in bulk. They submerged large bundles of the strung pearls into the dye, letting them steep until they reached the optimal shade, and were rewarded with rainbows of vivid-colored pearls hanging up to dry all over the house. They even achieved a dark vibrant red and a deep navy, so they could make patriotic red, white, and blue crocheted ‘ropes.’
It was about this time that I got in on the process...my mother discovered that four hands were better than two on such a time-consuming craft. I think I was twelve or so. She started me out stringing the dyed pearls onto dental floss in whatever sequence was needed for her pattern. When I was outpacing her, she taught me how to crochet the rope.
When I saw a kit for a bracelet using this method a few months ago, I was overcome by nostalgia. I quickly ordered it and set it aside. When I pulled it out a week or so ago, I had to relearn the technique. I wish I could say it is like riding a bicycle. This has been giving me more than a few frustrating moments.
But it has also brought me happy memories of my mother and aunt…two
crazy dedicated crafters who made me what I