How to Make Beaded Flowers: The French Beaded Flower Way
One of the first projects I remember editing when I started at Lapidary Journal was a design by Arlene Baker, made using the French beaded flower techniques. I hadn’t learned how to make beaded flowers or how to wire wrap beads using the French beaded flower method. In order to do the project and beautiful design justice, I needed to really get into the instructions and make a beaded flower myself. So, I bought the supplies, called Arlene (also author of Beads In Bloom) and she got me beading—the French beaded flower way. Along the way, she also imparted some of the history of this art and it was easy to see how passionate she was about this art form.
Needless to say, I was thrilled (and a bit nostalgic) to see Arlene’s book on French beaded flowers is now available as an eBook—Beads in Bloom. And it’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to read through the book and refresh my mind on this art form.
If you’ve never created a French beaded flower, I’m happy to share some basics on how to make beaded flowers. Taking a few clips from the book, I hope to to whet your appetite and get you making a flower or two-dozen!
Materials needed to make beaded flowers:
- Beads (seed beads are most widely used)
- Wire (finer gauges – 26-, 28-, and 34-gauge)
- Needle-nose pliers
- Wire cutters
- Cotton and silk floss
- Nylon cord
- Transparent tape
In the book Arlene covers all the techniques and fills in with so much experience you’ll feel like you’re taking a class from her. (excerpts taken from Beads in Bloom)
All French beaded flowers are made with beads that are held in place with wire. The wire is shaped into petals and leaves (“units”) using two main techniques, the Loop and the Basic. These two techniques, used alone, or in combination with one another, are the foundation for all other design variations and give each flower its own distinctive form and appearance.
It is important to understand the difference between a twist and a wrap and how to do them. When two wires are used to make a twist, both wires are locked together and cannot be loosened unless they are twisted in the opposite direction. When two wires are used to make a wrap, one wire remains straight and the other wire is curved around it. The straight wire can be pulled loose from the wrapping wire. A wrap is not as secure as a twist, so use the wrap method only when directed.
All roads lead to the wire knot—essential for keeping the beads on your wire.
To make a wire knot, form a single loop (without beads) close to the end of the wire. Turn the loop clockwise two or three times to twist the wires together, then bend the short end of the wire up toward the loop so you don’t stick your finger on it later.
Many of the techniques and projects stem (no pun intended!) from the single loop
To form single loops, slide the required number of beads to within 4″-6″ of the knotted end of the wire. This is a good working length for most flowers. You may increase this measurement depending upon the desired finished length of the stem. This bare wire section will be referred to as Wire A. The beaded feed wire still attached to the spool will be referred to as Wire B and the work in progress is in the middle.
Hold these beads in place and slide the remaining strung beads back toward the spool to expose a 3″-4″ length of bare spool Wire B. This exposed wire is working wire and will give you room to make the Loop. With the work in front of you, keep Wire A horizontal and extended to the left, and Wire B (the bare portion only) horizontal and extended to the right. Now make a loop of the counted beads by crossing Wire B over Wire A directly below and close to the beads (think of writing a lowercase script letter “e”). (Figure 1.)
Be sure the beads on the loop are tight. Hold them in place where the wires cross with the thumb and forefinger of one hand while you turn the Loop clockwise one time with the other hand. This action will twist the two wires together and secure the beaded Loop. That’s all there is to it (Figure 2).
The Single Loop may be left rounded or you can narrow it by gently pinching the sides together (Figure 3).
If one Single Loop is all you need to complete the unit, it’s a good idea to turn the Loop one or two times more while you’re still holding it. This action will prevent the twist from loosening when the flower is assembled later (Figure 4..
To finish the unit, slide the remaining strung beads back toward the spool to expose a length of bare spool Wire B equal to the length of Wire A. Cut the wire from the spool at this measurement. Be sure to knot the spool Wire B so the strung beads do not slide off. Pull both wires down below the Loop and straighten them. Trim both ends evenly, cutting away the wire knot (Figure 5).
Just like the versatile Loop, the Basic has much to offer in the way of interesting design possibilities. You can make Basic units that have pointed tops and pointed bottoms; round tops and round bottoms; pointed tops and round bottoms, or vice versa.
The Basic Count is the center or the starting row of beads for a petal or leaf. The Top Basic Wire is the upper single wire. The Basic Count of beads slides on this center wire. A knot on the end of the wire keeps these beads in place. The Top Basic Wire supports the beaded rows at the top of the petal or leaf. The Bottom Basic Loop is the wire below the Basic Count of Beads. It includes the portion that is twisted and the Loop. The twisted part of the wire supports the beaded rows at the bottom of the unit.
When the unit is finished, the Loop becomes the stem. It is important to keep this wire straight as you work the rows around the Basic Count. To form the Basic, slide the Basic Count of beads required for your pattern toward the knotted end of the wire. Let the remaining beads slide back toward the spool. Measure 5″ of bare wire at the knotted end of the wire. Hold it between your left thumb and forefinger at this measurement. (The Basic Count should be close to the knot, temporarily out of the way.) This 5″ length of wire will become the Top Basic Wire.
Arlene’s passion for the art is obvious, as you’ll see in Beads in Bloom, and there is so much more to this art form than I can include here. The book contains all the techniques and information you need to know on how to make beaded flowers using the French beaded flowers methods. Arlene also includes lots of first-hand tips and insight on how to approach each step. I know after you sit with your copy of this well-written book you too, will feel like you had a visit with Arlene as well as a great class!
Happy French Beading!