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Dress up a Western belt buckle with a plethora of pearls

Turn a Western buckle into a pearl- bedecked beauty perfect for summer

06/08/2011 5:01 PM

06/13/2011 2:37 PM

Got an old Western belt in your closet that has seen better days, but it has too much sentimental value to donate?

No need to keep it coiled up on the floor anymore. By adding a little bling and pearls, you can a give the tired, two-steppin' belt a fresh look for summer -- and all those "cowgirl chic" parties you get invited to year-round.

I take my homemade pearl belt with me everywhere -- my toothbrush, deodorant, pajamas, jeans and the belt make up my primary checklist for road trips. I don't know why, but this miracle accessory just makes everything work. It can be casual or dressy. It works in summer and in winter. I like it peering out from under an untucked shirt and framing a shirt tucked in when I need to be more tailored.

A blinged-out belt is easy to make and worthwhile, as a lot of the handmade, artsy belts can be expensive when found in retail shops. Here's how to make your own.

Materials

First, you'll need a belt that has a large metal buckle. Usually Western belts are ideal, but any type of belt with a large buckle will work. If you don't have one that you are willing to change, you can usually find Western trend belts at discount stores like Marshalls, Ross and even Walmart or Target.

A sneaky trick, too, is to look in the men's section for Western belts with bigger buckles. It doesn't matter if the belt has a design, because you can go right over the design or work around it and incorporate it into your look.

Next, you'll need an E-6000 glue, which is found at craft stores like Michaels and is wonderful for gluing to metal.

A mix of white/off-white faux pearls is essential. At the craft store, you'll find a variety of faux freshwater pearls, round pearls and some off-white or cream faux pearls. You can find a package of simple round pearls and then add a few individual strands of the freshwater and slightly tinted off-white or brown pearls to your stash. It's best to stick to a monochromatic white/off-white pearl look for a lighter, more summery look. If you can find them undrilled (without a hole in the pearls for beading), that is ideal. However, if you can only get the ones with beading holes, that's OK, too. You just will want to position them on the belt with their drilled holes not showing as much.

A small package of rhinestones that are flat for gluing.

A set of flat-end tweezers that you don't mind designating for craft work, because they will end up sticky with glue; or, look for beading tweezers at a craft store because they work really nicely for placing the gems neatly into the buckle.

Instructions:

1. Lay down some newspaper on a workspace so you won't drip glue everywhere, because the E-6000 brand is powerful stuff. Work in a well-ventilated area in case you are sensitive to the glue fumes. If it's a nice day, work outside.

2. Open the packages of pearls and lay the pearls out on a tray so you can see what you have.

3. Lay out the belt buckle and start gluing on a few larger pearls, spacing them out. Fill in the spaces with smaller pearls and add rhinestones as you go.

Option: I like to add little flowerlike clusters of rhinestones so they can be seen on the belt really well. You put one stone in the center and add a few stones around the center one to create this glitzy floret. Use the rhinestones to help fill in spaces between the pearls.

4. Keep using your bead tweezers to place the pearls all over the buckle. Mix up the types of pearls and clean up any glue strings as you go. It's a collage of pearls, so there is no science behind it. Put them all over and keep filling in the spaces. I glue some pearls on top of pearls that were in the first layer.

5. After the buckle is full of pearls, let the belt dry for two or three days so that the pearls cure into the glue and nothing gets shifted. Also, the glue odor will fade in a few days. If you are using another type of metal glue, follow your product's directions.

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