Thursday, November 10, 2011

How to String a Mala

A mala (or japa mala) is a set of prayer beads used in Buddhism and Hinduism to count mantras, or chants. They usually consist of 108 beads, or a divisor of 108. (27 is a common one, where 27 x 4 = 108.) Occasionally other numbers are used, as well.

Stringing a mala can be difficult, as they usually contain what is often called a guru bead - a bead with three holes - two on the sides, one on the top. However, with the right materials, and a little practice, it's not so hard.

Malas can be made from many materials - sandalwood, or other wooden beads, lotus seed beads, glass, or gemstone beads.

You'll need...
Thin metal wire, I used 28 gauge for a 10mm guru bead.
Appropriate cord - for small bracelet styles, you'll probably want to use an elastic cord, although a silk cord with a special sliding knot is also an option. For this I am using elastic cord.
A small pair of jewelry pliers.
1 guru bead and topper
However many beads you wish to include on your mala

We'll start with stringing the guru bead, the bead with three holes.
Begin by cutting about 4" of wire. Fold the wire in half, and at the fold form a small hook.

Push the hook gently through one of the side holes, with the hook facing up. The hook should poke up a bit through the top hole, and can be pulled out with the pliers. This step may take a few tries, and may require some experimenting with what angle and how large to make the hook.

Separate the metal at the hook just a bit to form a slim hoop. Slip a length of cord through the hoop, and tighten the hook back up.

Pull the hook and cord back through the bead. The next step is fairly simple, all you need to do is string the rest of your beads on the cord coming out from the side of the guru bead.

Next we get the metal hook back out. Push the hook down through the top hole and out the other side.

Again form a small loop at the hook, and set the cord through it. Pull the cord through the top hole.

Now you can string the final bead. If the hole is small, you may want to use the metal wire again. Slip the bent end through the top of the bead, put both ends of the cord through the loop, and pull it back through the bead.

That's it! Now you just need to tie it off with a secure knot, and cut the extra cord off. Don't cut too close to the knot - leave at least a half inch of cord coming out to give the knot some wiggle room.

Instead of cutting the cord, you can add some charms or small beads on each bit of cord, as in the first picture.

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