I like adding pieces of “tat” to my kit collection. I always swear I’m going to go kit light with my characters, but end up with multiple little things that go through the wash or have to be found before packing into pouches and bags and things before going to an event or away for a long weekend. I do keep trying, my OH can attest to this. We both try – we just like to flesh out our characters. Some pieces of kit develop due to taking up faith, having to carry specific tools of your trade, kit “upgrading” as insignia/heraldry is added etc.
This time I’ve chosen to add a second holy symbol in the form of actual prayer beads, modelled after the Anglican prayer beads I bought over the summer. So if you’re interested in making something similar, or just piecing together a beaded chain necklace, then look no further.
I have found that the first thing I think of, picture in my mind, when I hear the word prayer beads are Roman Catholic Rosaries. I don’t often talk about my faith (maybe I should), or my life outside of LARP and crafting, but I was unaware and therefore unfamiliar that whilst prayer beads are not an Anglican tradition they are still a tool that can be used to help guide prayer or “mindfulness” to God. If you’re not interested in reading more about my discovery of Anglican prayer beads and the spiritual connection I now have with mine, then skip down to the kit making below. Otherwise please feel free to read on …
Anglican Prayer Beads
This summer (2015) I was lucky enough to take part in a choir holiday – a choir trip that took us out of our diocese for a few days to go and sing in the Cathedral at Ripon. It was choir holiday season (hence we took a holiday and why I got several weekends worth of events in) and the Cathedral Choir were also on their break – therefore the Cathedral permitted some choirs to come and fill in for them. There were lots of rules to respect the traditions of the Cathedral and to see that we, the visiting choir, would represent part of the Cathedral to the visitors who would be around. This in itself was a bit eerie – imagine doing choral rehearsals with complete strangers wandering in, sitting down for a listen, then getting up and wandering off. I could wax lyrical about the building, the stained glass, the acoustic, the warmth and welcome we recieved from the Cathedral ministry team, the music we sang, the holiday itself – but I won’t.
What I will say is how moved I was to be there, and to be a part of what we did. It was the end of a long choir year and I know I was beginning to feel a bit burned out. Being somewhere new, in a familiar Yorkshire setting with the Yorkshire Rose flying proudly over people’s allotments; or growing wild in people’s gardens along the road I walked each day to and from the Cathedral; and being able to sing and enjoy the gorgeous acoustic that was just so different to our usual one; was wonderfully relaxing. So relaxing in fact that I found myself having a bit of an emotional wobble one afternoon and took myself off for a quiet sit down to catch my breath and just be still. Those of you who know me know how hard being still can be for me. However, back to my point. In the shop at the Cathedral I found a selection of prayer beads which caught my eye as I perused for something to remind me of the visit. I had never seen prayer beads in an Anglican setting before as I said earlier, and there was one set in particular that caught my attention. I’ve been learning to listen to my “ooo shiny” instincts, so I settled on purchasing this item with the thought that it would make a nice momento.
I’ve jazzed it up with some artistic photography using some red velvet cloth as a backdrop to show you all, but the first thing that caught my attention were the spirals and beads. There was just something about it that made me want to pick is up and touch them, something that still does make me want to pool the chained beads in my hand and stroke them. I’m also a sucker for things Celtic (ask my OH) so the Celtic Cross is more aesthetically pleasing to me compared to the plain crosses some of the other ones had.
Just look at these details – the grain in the beads (I’m assuming they’re wood but the designer does use natural stone too) and the silver elements. As something to look at and admire as a piece of artistic design it’s something I enjoy looking at. As something to be used as a guide to meditation, prayerfulness and “mindfullness” it is tactile and comforting and whenever I hold it I think back to the Cathedral with its airy spaces, uplifting acoustics and the music we made there. Music is a great part of my worship – its always been how I’ve connected to Church life; and the seasons of the musical calendar are how I discern the changing seasons of the Church year as a whole. So perhaps this is why these prayer beads mean so much to me – because they connect me back to a time where music was the whole reason for being in that place. As well as reminding me that, when I was having a bit of a wobble because I was tired and I’d done too much (yet again), I was able to find a place of stillness to gather myself and listen in that beautiful building of airy spaces and light and a sense of joy. But back to actually using prayer beads.
The beads I got helpfully contained a little sheet which explained the symbolism behind them (and for other Anglican prayer beads from the designer can be found here) and ways in which to use them. There is no right or wrong way to use them, though to summarise and paraphrase the pamphlet written by butterfly beading in 2011- there are 33 beads divided into 4 “weeks” of 7, 4 cruciform beads signifying the cross and an invitation bead. These can represent the four seasons of the year (spring, summer, autumn and winter), the seven key feasts (the “weeks”) of the year and the total equates to the years of Jesus’s life. Praying through the beads three times for the Trinity equate to 99 beads, with the cross acting as the 100th bead signifying the fullness of creation. I find this a pretty cool bit of number play, but that might just be me. There are suggested prayers that can be said, but the long and the short of a suggestion (there being no right or wrong way in using these prayer beads) is that the prayers start with the cross, moving to the invitation bead, and then anti-clockwise around the chain with prayers said along each bead and a different one at the cruciform beads.
Making Prayer Beads for LARP
Having used my own prayer beads outside of LARP got me thinking about my last attempt of making prayer beads for a previous character. They were made in the style of a Paternoster but I wanted to try something different. My last set, modelled by the Lady Miriam, were hung from her belt. Embroidery floss snapped, crochet wool snapped – so I ended up using elastic to withstand whatever abuse it was clearly suffering. I think the problem was that it would be caught whenever I knelt and then was pulled when I stood up and the constant motion as it hung from my belt and caught in other pieces of kit was just too much. I hope that by making these new ones out of a set of chained beaded links and being carried in a pouch might help it last longer.
When I was looking at making my fealty collar I found Kaleothina’s SCA blog and her post on roman wirework jewellery. I used this tutorial as a basis of making the chain of beaded links, as well as some simple jewellery making techniques. With a bit of patience you could create the full chain over the course of an evening.
Using metal wire, and especially cutting it, can lead to sharp edges and flying bits of metal. Be careful when trimming long ends when working as these bits tend to ping off in various directions. If in doubt, wear eye protection and put some form of covering down on your work station (I used a piece of white paper) so you can spot any wayward flecks of metal.
- A collection of beads
- Smaller beads (optional)
- 5 or so different beads to mark the “cross” points or breaks in section (optional)
- Pendant, cross, holy symbol or “focus” to hang from the bottom
- Wire (copper, steel, silver or gold plated) – I used 22 swg copper wire (approx 0.7 mm)
- Wire cutters, round or chain-nosed pliers, flat-nosed pliers, bent-nosed pliers (optional)
- A pattern of how it goes together, rough sketch or something to copy (optional)
Making the Prayer Beads
To start I counted out all the beads I wanted to use and sorted them into four groups. I had 33 beads in total – 28 mixed brown beads, 8 of which were wooden beads I’d liberated from another piece of jewellery that was too unique to be used in that form again (and I like those beads); and 5 beads that would break each section and connect the circle to the pendant.
I also straightened lengths of the copper wire and cut 33 pieces of wire to 3″ lengths. I used the 22 swg wire as I felt comfortable wrapping the wire to form the loop, though the thicker 18 swg wire had a pleasant feel and weight to it.
Following the tutorial I made a right angle bend approximately 1″ along the wire and bent the first loop. Holding this loop with my flat-nosed pliers I wound the wire round it three times and trimmed the end before flattening it against the coiled wires using my chain-nosed pliers – this is so the sharp edge wouldn’t catch on skin or clothing or damage the bead. I strung the bead on, grabbed the wire with the flat nosed pliers and then grabbed the wire with my chain-nosed pliers. Using these two pliers together gave me a rough estimate of space I needed to leave myself. I bent the wire at a right angle, shaped the loop, took hold of the loop with the flat-nosed pliers and wound the wire again to finish off the loop. Any long ends were trimmed and I tidied up my wrapping to make the first of my beaded links.
I didn’t get many pics of this whole process as holding pliers and taking pictures with only two hands is difficult. However I have included a few more below to highlight a few things I found on the way.
You can make each link separately and join them all together with jump rings, however I was concerned about the piece pulling apart at these points, and I wanted to try the roman wirework technique in kaloethina’s tutorial. Each link is made connected to the last and you gradually get a long chain of beaded bits to manhandle. I found that by making the bend and loop first, then hooking it onto the last link (as above) I could grip the join with my pliers as I wound the wire securely in place before threading beads and continuing on.
As you can see above I had to add smaller beads to either side of the wooden beads. These act as stops to prevent the bead sliding over the wire wrapping. An alternative could be using metal beads as “caps” or wrap the wire back over your wrapping to make an effective stop. Adding caps or stops increases the amount of wire you need to start with, but the latter would use the most. I decided to add small beads to accentuate the golden lines on the wooden bead, or to complement the metal bead, and don’t mind the necessary change I had to make to my original plan.
Once I’d finished chaining my beads together I closed the loop by building a link into an already linked chain and continuing on. This is why there are two beaded links appearing to hang below the closed chain loop, to which the pendant will be attached.
The pendant was one I’ve had in my kit box for a while, having used it as a previous character. I chose to use a different style of symbol for my current character, but like the pendant and still wanted to use it somehow. By attaching it to the chain with two jump rings (because I really don’t want it to fall off!) I could swap the symbol on the end of the prayer beads if I choose which will allow me to keep this item versatile.
You can see in the close-up the mix of beads and caps I used to form the chain, as well as taking advantage of that piece of cloth and gorgeous autumnal sunshine.
Overall time to make – an evening.