Making Malas – A Tutorial

Malas are Tibetan Buddhist prayer beads strung with 108 beads.  The necklaces/bracelets are traditionally used to help keep count while reciting or repeating a mantra.  I am neither Buddhist nor Tibetan but I love the look of Malas and a few years ago started making them for myself and friends.

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As I start gearing up for the holidays and begin making presents for friends and family, I have pulled out all my beading supplies and thought I would share my Mala Making methods.

Recommended Materials:

108 beads (best if 5mm or less)

Bead Cord with a self threaded needle (I typically use No 10 in a color to match the tassel)

Needle nose tweezers

Embroidery thread to make a tassel or a premade purchased tassel

Needle

Scissors

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To begin your Mala, make a knot near the end of the Bead Cord and begin threading your beads.  In between each bead, tie a knot while using the tweezers to pinch at the top of the bead.  This will make the beads and knots fit tightly together

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When all 108 beads have been tied on the Bead Cord, tie the two ends together into a circle. You are almost done!

Next Decide if you want to make your own tassel or attach a premade tassel. I like to do it both ways. Over the year I have been collecting vintage Turkish Tassels and repurposing them on Malas.  I use a strong nylon thread to attach them to the beaded loop.

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If you choose to make a tassel, grab some embroidery thread and your beaded loop.

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Cut one looped end of the embroidery thread and tie it in the middle to the beaded loop using the left over Bead Cord.

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Grab one loose thread on the right side and wrap 5 times around all of the threads

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Using a needle pull the loose wrapped thread through the top of the tassel and pull down hard to tighten.

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Repeat the wrap and thread pull through with a loose thread from the left side of the tassel this time wrapping in the opposite direction.  Dampen the end of the embroidery thread and trim to desired length.

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Enjoy your Mala!

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17 thoughts on “Making Malas – A Tutorial

  1. Hilary, these are the beads I’m referring to: the red, black, white and the ones hanging together with tassels at the top.

  2. so sorry to bother you again Hilary but I have just 2 more questions: are the garnet beads faceted and what size are the beads?

    Many thanks again!!

    1. No worries. The garnets are faceted and they and the labradorite are 6mm beads (I like this bead size best for malas wrapped into a bracelet) and the lava and Howlite beads are 8mm (if you go any bigger, you won’t fit 108 beads on the beadalon string). Good luck and let me know how it goes.

      1. You’re a sweetheart Hilary. I can’t thank you enough! You’re my inspiration!!! Karen

  3. Hi Hillary, I wrote to you a few weeks back about your amazing malas. You mentioned that you used red faceted garnet. Is that the real garnet or glass beads that are garnet colored? I have some old textiles with Moroccan tassels like yours. Did you cut yours off from existing textiles to use on your malas? I know you mentioned using nylon cord to attach but how do you do that if there isn’t a lot to work with at the top of the tassel after it’s been cut off?

    I must say, you certainly are a ‘doer’ and I can’t believe you take the time to help people, such as myself, with tutorials and answering relentless questions like mine! Many, many thanks for your help. Karen

    1. Hi Karen. The beads I used were real garnet but the beauty of this bracelet/necklace is that it would look great with almost ny bead. I did cut the tassels off of old fabric remnants. Using a big needle, I pulled the nylon thread all the way through the beads down to the threads of the tassel then back up and tied to the mala itself. Hope that helps.

  4. Thank you for the malas tutorial! I’d like to know how you put the smaller beads on the tassel, please?!

    1. Hi Chrissi, for the premaid tassels, I used a big needle and threaded heavy duty thread through the center of the tassel around the bead necklace back through the tassel then tied. For the tassels made out of embroidery floss as shown on I used the end of the bead thread to tie it on. Make any sense?

  5. So you attached your turkish tassel after you had already strung and tied the mala? Is the heavy duty nylon string hidden under the metal piece above the tassel? and do you go down vertically through the center of the tassel or horizontally through the top? Thank you I really love this idea. ❤

    1. The nylon is hidden by the metal and stringed of the tassel. Yes after finishing the mala and toeing it off, with a heavy needle I pulled the nylon up vertically through the tassel around the mala back through the tassel and tied it off. Hope that helps.

      Hillary

  6. Great tutorial! I have just started making malas myself. I use only natural gemstone beads, and high quality beading cord. I will use your tutorial with the beads I have purchased from http://www.615supply.com to make a high quality necklace.

    Thank you so much for this article

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