Kaleidoscope Cane, Pillow Beads for Making Cool Jewelry Projects

Kaleidoscope Pillow Bead

Just Because Kaleidescope Beads Look Complicated, Does Not Mean They Are All Difficult to Make:

The polymer clay kaleidoscope cane design on the pillow bead in this photo has a fairly complex pattern. To a non-polymer clay person, making something like this out of solid blocks of clay, would seem like an impossible task. But not for you…

Although these kaleidoscope canes appear complicated, they are actually fairly simple to create. In fact, this design was made using odds and ends and left-overs from other cane projects. If you look carefully, there are pieces of a gerbera daisy flower cane, a rose cane, and a bulls eye cane along with a lime green leaf cane and some black clay as an accent color.

What makes a kaleidoscope cane work is its triangular blocks of repeated patterns. You can pretty much take any patterned cane or collection of canes and shape them into triangular lengths. Then arrange these lengths together to form your kaleidoscope cane.

For the design to work however, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • When combining old canes to make kaleidoscope canes, make sure they are of all the same firmness otherwise the cane will not reduce evenly.
  • ‘Test drive’ the pattern by laying the sections on a mirror to see how the mirror image will appear. Keep turning the sections and combining in different ways to get new patterns.
  • Don’t forget that the colors and patterns of the original canes will become more concentrated as they are reduced. To get a sense of how the cane might look after reduction, use a pair of binoculars facing the wrong way to see what the cane will look like super tiny.
  • You may want to have canes with bolder images or brighter colors included in your kaleidoscope.
  • Imperfect canes you made as a beginner can look fantastic in these types of ‘combined’ kaleidoscope canes… one more reason to never ever throw away polymer clay projects that didn’t turn out quite as planned.

So tell me, are you interested in learning how to make polymer clay kaleidoscope canes? I can put together a video course on it if I get enough people interested. Let me know…

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor

  1. Cindy Lietz, 03 November, 2008

    Have you tried to create a kaleidoscope cane on your own? How did it turn out?

  2. Tina, 04 November, 2008

    I made a kaleidoscope cane recently, but the lines did not all line up so I am now trying to figure out what to do with this big cane I made. I like the colors and can not wait to try my next one!

  3. Cheryl, 05 November, 2008

    Yes please do a video on kaleidoscope cane’s.

  4. Cindy Lietz, 06 November, 2008

    @Tina: One thing you can do to minimize the mistakes in a cane is to reduce it, cut it into lengths and recombine them. Sort of make a kaleidoscope out of a kaleidoscope. Always check both ends to make sure they are lined up correctly and not twisted. Thank you for your comment!

    @Cheryl: This is one of the canes I plan on making a video for, so stay tuned!

  5. Lupe Meter, 10 November, 2008

    I recently made a Kaleidoscope cane and it turned out okay, but I also had some crooked lines, perhaps I didn’t let it sit long enough. I’m not sure what else to use the cane for besides the pillow beads. Left over scrap clay from the cane was great to use for other type beads and I came out with some nice looking beads with array of colors. That is why I like playing with clay, nothing is ever wasted! But yes, I would like to see your technique, so I would be interested in seeing a video of that.

  6. Cindy Lietz, 12 November, 2008

    Perhaps you’re right Lupe about it setting longer… the clay may have also been a little too soft or the canes were a little twisted before putting them together.

    You can make lots of different style of beads other than the pillow bead shape with a kaleidoscope cane. Pretty much anything you would make with another cane you can make with one of these canes.

    I am hoping to get a kaleidoscope cane video made soon… only so many hours in the day!

    Thank you for your comments Lupe!

  7. Lisa Taylor, 24 December, 2008

    Hi, I would love for you to do a video on kaleidoscope canes. I tried a couple of times, each time they turned out just OK but they just didn’t have that special look that makes them look complicated to make. Thank you for all you do for everyone. I’m glad I found your site.
    Lisa Taylor
    ClayPlay Pals list owner

  8. Cindy Lietz, 28 December, 2008

    Hi Lisa! Thanks for your suggestion! I have thought about doing some videos on making kaleidoscope canes since they can be a little tricky to get to look right.

  9. Myra Loret, 04 March, 2009

    Hi Cindy
    I would absolutely love to see a video tutorial for your version of a kaleidoscope cane. And I would also love to see one on the pillow beads. I have tried numerous ways of making these but cannot get them to look right.

  10. Cindy Lietz, 05 March, 2009

    I have been thinking of doing a pillow bead tute Myra. Thanks for the reminder!

  11. Polyanya, 04 July, 2009

    Hi Cindy – kaleidoscope canes are my all-time favourite and I have experimented a few times. Because I’m mean (heh heh) I don’t like wasting clay so am nervous of making up a large cane, but I understand that sometimes you have to start with a plate sized cane so that the design isn’t lost when reduced. Because of that my designs end up tiny and much darker than I want, I haven’t tried lightening up the canes with white yet but it is something I will do.

    I was wondering if there is a trick to blending all the different cane colours together, when I put my old canes into a kaleidoscope I find that the colours are almost too distant from each other to make a harmonious combination.

    Am I doing something obviously wrong? There is very little research material available on kaleidoscoping which is a shame as it really is my favourite.

    **PHOTOS ADDED: The following link will take you to a Spotlight Article featuring some pictures of Polyanya’s beautiful work: Kaleidoscope Canes


  12. Cindy Lietz, 04 July, 2009

    Actually Polyanya, the larger the cane is when you start, the more distortion you get when it is reduced. So unless you are selling canes and need an enormous amount of one design, starting with a plate sized cane is not a very good idea. Working with smaller canes means you don’t use as much clay and it is easier to see what it will look like reduced. Most of my original canes are no more than 2″ across and 2″ long. That gives me plenty of cane to use.

    As far as the contrast that is easier to see when you start smaller too. Since there isn’t a huge difference in size from the original cane to the reduced cane, the colors don’t darken as much. You may only need to adjust a little to get the look you want.

    One trick for making the colors more harmonious, is to add a little of one color, to all the colors in your cane. For example, by adding Gold clay to every color, they will all match together. Another way is to wrap the same color around each element in your cane. This works well with Kaleidoscope canes.

    I will be making videos on Kaleidoscope canes at some point, but until then I hope this helped a bit.

  13. Polyanya, 06 July, 2009

    Thank you Cindy it has a bit, just that I meant when I put my old canes together to make a kaleidoscope – I have mixed up some new canes following this tip and I’ve made some amazing colours! So going back to old canes, would you wrap them all in a coordinating colour perhaps? Think I’ll try it anyway and see how it works.
    I’ve just taken delivery of some Kato clay, not used it before and I ordered the pack of four saturated primary colours, lots of white and some gold so I’ll be experimenting this pm.

    Looking forward to the video tutorial!

  14. Cindy Lietz, 08 July, 2009

    Yes Polyana, that is what I meant. If you wrap each of your old canes in a color (for example black), than all the colors will be pulled together, like grout does in a mosaic.

    Let us know how your experimenting goes with the Kato clay. Also tell us if you found it difficult to condition or if they have softened the clay up a bit.

  15. Polyanya, 09 July, 2009

    Thank you Cindy, I’ll try that idea if I have any old canes left – I’ve been working on your tip of making lentil beads and using old cane slices on the edges, they make amazing beads!

    The Kato white was extremely difficult to condition, even after 30 goes through the pasta machine it was still cracking in the end I mixed it with some premo translucent, that worked. The gold was easy peasy. I made up four blobs of colour using the white and the four concentrates and then set about mixing up shades of purple and ochres. They looked great.

    I made a geometric triangle, which was then reduced and cut up and formed into a cane.

    I was very impressed with the final result. Probably the best cane I have made, with crisp clean lines and good shape.

    I would definitely use Kato again for the more intricate canework, but to be honest I’ll stick to Premo for everything else.

    I’d love to post a photo to show but I’m inept regarding computers – I’ll have to speak nicely to Mr Polyanya!

  16. Cindy Lietz, 09 July, 2009

    I would love to see photos Polyanya. Your cane sounds wonderful! Just email me a note and attach the photo to the email. At this time it is not possible to upload your photos directly to the blog, so as soon as I get a chance.

  17. Polyanya, 12 July, 2009

    Hi Cindy I will send you photos as soon as I’ve made up some beads with the canes so I can post pics of canes and then beads all buffed up with my new tumbler. I’ve been experimenting with tumbling with rocks and it seems to be working really well.

  18. Cindy Lietz, 12 July, 2009

    Sounds Good Polyanya. I look forward to receiving them.

    General FYI to everyone: I’ve recently started a “Spotlight” feature hear at the blog for showcasing project photos and stories submitted by all of you. You can read all about it in the “Jupiter Beads” link by my name above.

  19. Cindy Lietz, 07 August, 2009

    **PHOTOS ADDED: Some project pictures have just been added to a Spotlight Feature showcasing Polyanya, a member who is very much appreciated here at this supportive polymer clay community. Click on the “Kaleidoscope Canes” link by my name above to have a look.

  20. Pam, 03 September, 2009

    Yes, yes, please do a video tutorial on how to make kaleidoscope canes!!!

  21. Cindy Lietz, 08 September, 2009

    OK Pam, I’ll put it on the list!

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