Sunday, March 27, 2011

DNA Double Helix Bead Weaving Earrings

I've been wanting to bead a double helix for years, and it's taken me that long to figure out how to do it.  My idea was to make it look like the classic visual representation we see of DNA, with bars running down the center, like a twisted ladder.  I also wanted there to be enough beads so that I could color the base pairs using different colors of beads.
I experimented with using bugle beads for the ladder rungs, and seed beads for the molecules. 
Once I succeeded in beading a double helix, I fiddled with the sizes of the beads to give the design visual texture.  I also made a couple samples trying to better simplify the weave.  In all, I made eight different test samples to perfect my design.  I found that turning corners is the hardest part of the design.  Good tension is also really important or the helix wont stay firmly twisted.  Certainly, DNA is a lot more complicated that what I've done, but still I'm happy with the result. As you can see in the photo below, the beadwork is still flexible.
After figuring the technical aspects of the weave, I set out to find interesting ways to color the base pairs.  Thankfully, Cindy Holsclaw of Bead Origami came to my rescue, and pointed me to some useful tables on Wikipedia.  So, in the process of beading, I'm learning all kinds of stuff about ensymes and the organisms that produce them. Yeah Chemistry!

The coloring of the base pairs in the earrings just above and below comes from the enzyme PpiI, which is found in the microorganism Pseudomonas putida, which is a safe strain of soil bacterium, and is the first patented organism in the world.
Check out the earrings section of my Etsy shop for more photos and information about purchasing these pieces.


  1. As a scientist myself...this is pretty cool!

  2. Thanks Cheri. Be sure to check out the video on how to make them and the latest post I wrote on them about groove and twist.

  3. Being a chemistry and biology geek, I may make them in silver and wear them to my prom. These are fantastic!


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