As promised in my last blog post, I am posting a DIY tutorial on how to make a hand-knotted mala.
In case you're interested, you can learn more about malas in my last post A Guide to Understanding Mala Beads and Their Six Essential Components.
First let me say that there are several different ways to make malas - this is just how I make them. There are really quite a number of tutorials on the internet showing different techniques. But here is how I do it!
- Thread - I use nylon Tuff-Cord #5. It's strong, doesn't fray and is easy to work with.
- Tassel - you can make your own or use a ready-made one. In case you want to learn how to make your tassel, I plan to do another DIY tutorial on tassel making so stay tuned!
- Beads - for this mala I am using 54 agate gemstone beads (8mm size.) Malas can be 108, 72, 54 or 27 beads. Most malas use either 8mm or 6mm size beads.
- Guru bead - Guru beads should be a different type of bead than the other beads or can just be a larger one or have a different shape. I used a 12mm tourmaline gemstone bead for my guru bead. Note that you can also purchase beads that are actually called Guru beads - they are two-piece bead sets - but I prefer to simply use a larger or different shape bead for my designs.
- Marker beads - these are optional. If using them they should be a different size or shape than your regular beads. I am using two 10mm agate beads.
- Fabric scissors - for cutting thread.
- Round nose pliers - for making your knots. You could also use tweezers if you don't have round nose pliers.
Two other items to have on hand are a dab of glue and optional seed beads. Use the glue for securing your final knot. My favorite glue for this project is E-6000 Fabri-Fuse. There is also an E-6000 Fray Lock which I have not tried but is supposed to be great for securing knots. The seed beads are optional, but I like to place one seed bead on each thread above the guru bead just for accent.
1. Cut a piece of thread. The length of thread depends on both the number and size of your beads. For this 54 bead mala with 8mm size beads I cut a piece of thread 65 inches long. Here is the typical amount of thread I use for different size malas with 8mm size beads:
- 108 beads - 120 inches
- 72 beads - 90 inches
- 54 beads - 65 inches
- 27 beads -35 inches
2. Slide your tassel onto your thread. Make sure you have equal amounts of thread on each side.
3. Slide your guru bead onto both pieces of thread all the way down to the tassel.
4. If you choose to use the two seed beads above the guru bead, slide one onto one piece of thread, then add your first 8mm bead. If you don't want to use the seed beads, just slide your first bead to just above the guru bead.
5. Make an overhand knot above the first 8mm bead.
6. At this point, I like to go ahead and add a seed bead and an 8mm bead to the other piece of thread along with a knot. Then I have my two working sides of the mala ready to finish.
I like to make a double knot meaning I make one overhead knot, then repeat making a double knot - so that the knot is a bit larger and more prominent. That way the knot does not slide into the bead hole hiding the knot - I like to have each knot visible. This is optional, however and also depends on the thickness of your thread as well as the size hole of your beads.
Now many people have difficulty making a knot that slides all the way down to the bead. Each knot should sit flush against the bead without a gap. Here are some helpful tips on making a nice neat overhead knot:
Loop the thread around your index and middle fingers:
Then grab the loop with your thumb and index finger:
Using your opposite hand place the tips of your round nose pliers through the loop and grab the thread just above the last bead - getting as close as possible to the bead:
Then while continuing to hold the thread above the bead with your pliers, use you other hand to grab the end of the thread just above the loop. Pull the loop closed - you will find that by holding the thread with your pliers just above the bead you will be able to make the knot slide right to the bead so you don't have that big gap:
Now you have a nice neat knot right next to your bead:
Trust me, making knots becomes easier the more you practice. I recommend practicing with some inexpensive cord initially until you get the hang of it . If you want to see more details on making knots, watch this short video:
7. Now that you're a pro on making knots, begin working on one side of the mala. Add another 17 beads plus a marker bead making a knot after each bead. Repeat this on the other side of your mala so you have 18 beads plus a marker bead on each side:
8. Now add nine beads onto one side of your mala making a knot after each one. On the other side of the mala, add just seven beads - you'll see why just seven instead of nine in a moment:
9. Add one bead to each side of the mala. Then make an overhead knot by tying the two loose ends of thread together:
10. Now just snip the thread off down close to your knot, then add a dab of glue:
About the glue: A dollup of glue will secure your final knot so it does not come loose. I use E-6000 Fabric Glue because it is super strong and really holds. If you use this glue, you will want to let it set about 24 hours before handling it to make sure it is good and dry.
After that you are ready to admire, use and enjoy your mala!