One of the questions I am asked frequently is about Bead Spinners. Specifically, which ones are the best and what I recommend, so I figured I should just go ahead and do a full blog post on the subject.
If by chance you don't know what a bead spinner is, then my friend you need to find one and get acquainted because they are amazing. Basically, a bead spinner (aka bead stringing tool or bead loader) is a tool used to help string beads onto thread or wire.
How to Use a Bead Spinner
Bead spinners generally come with two parts: a base, and a bowl. The bowl will have a spindle at the top and a hole in the bottom. The base will have a shaft of some type that is inserted into the hole in the base of the bowl.
1. Fill the bowl with your beads, 1/2 to 2/3 full is optimal.
2. Curl your wire into a hook. Make sure the end of your wire is flat, not with any awkward cuts, which will make it harder for the beads to get onto the wire.
3. Hold the hook over the beads with the tip just skimming the top of the beads (not touching the bottom of the bowl).
4. Spin your bowl using the spindle and the beads will jump right onto the wire. My wire tip is pointing right, so the bowl needs to be spun to the left. If you are left-handed you may need to do the opposite with your wire on the opposite side of the bowl.
You might have to play a little with the shape of your hook and the angle of the wire in the bowl, but with a little practice you'll get the hang of it.
I've even gotten my spinner to work with just a curve shaped wire skimming the very top of the beads. Find a way that works best for you.
Over the last year I have been collecting and testing bead spinners from several different brands and makers so I could compare them, and also because they are fascinating little tools and I have hoarder tendencies.
So, let's take a look at my arsenal of spinners and let's talk about what works, what doesn't work, and the pros and cons for each type. I am not sure of the availability of some of these models outside of the USA. And there may be other models available overseas that are not available in the US.
1. Micro Spin-and-String:
First up is the Micro Spin-and-String (by Beadsmith). I found mine on Amazon, though I'm sure it could be found elsewhere. It is plastic and really cheap, so I figured I might as well give it a whirl. I can't find many pros for this one unfortunately.
Lots of cons though, so it doesn't get a solid recommendation from me. Firstly, the "nub" in the base that holds the spinner on is really short, and if you don't spin slowly and carefully the bowl wobbles and stops. I feel like the whole design would be better if only the nub were longer (and the hole in the middle of the bowl shaft longer to fit the longer shaft, of course). The opening of the bowl is small too, so it's harder to get wire into the bowl without bumping into the edges and slowing it down even further. It also doesn't hold many beads, because it is tiny, but if you're just working on a small project that probably doesn't matter much. It does work, though, if you're careful... It's not the greatest spinner, but it will do in a pinch. I kept it mostly as a novelty.
2. Battery-Operated Spinner
For those of you who have trouble spinning traditional spinners, or if you just don't want to have to spin yours manually, Darice makes an electric bead spinner that runs on batteries.
Pros - It comes with three interchangeable bowls - WITH LIDS. The bowls can stack on top of each other. The bowls are slightly smaller than the bowls on a standard sized wooden spinner (discussed below), but they hold a decent amount of beads. Also, it allows you to rotate clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on which hand you use to hold your wire.
Now for the cons, it uses batteries... which cost money. Get some rechargeable ones. Also, because it has a motor, it is not quiet. There is a constant churning/grinding mechanical noise. I have a hard time with constant noises and I sometimes bead while "watching" tv, so the noise was an annoyance. It's also a little bit slower than I like to spin my manual spinners.
Bottom line, I don't use mine anymore due to the noise and speed. However, most people who have one love it, so I do consider it to be a good option.
You can find it on Amazon, in craft stores (I bought mine at Joann's), and many other places. I'm not sure if this one is available in all countries.
3. Mini Wooden Spinners
Mini spinners are smaller than the standard sized bead spinner (which is discussed below) and therefore holds less beads. But that's not a real problem. Because bead spinners work best when they are more full, a small sized spinner is ideal if you work with small sized beads or small amounts of beads.
There are two brands that offer these mini spinners, Beadsmith's Mini Spin-and-String and Beadalon Spin-n-Bead Jr. However, I'm about 90% convinced that it is the same spinner that they buy from the same manufacturer and slap their own name on it. The one I purchased was sold under the Beadalon name. Unlike the itty bitty micro spinner, these are made of wood. Some pictures show them with a round base, and some show them with a hex-shaped base. You may, like I did, buy a listing that shows a round base and get one that has a hex base, just so you know. I think the round base was the older design and they changed the spinners without changing the picture on the box. Or something. Bottom line is, I love my mini spinner. The only thing that irritates me about it is that the central "shaft" in the center of the base keeps slipping down to protrude out of the bottom, so I have to keep pushing it up. Not a deal breaker.
This little one is a very good option if you only want to buy one bead spinner. You can use it with a small amount of beads, or just refill if you're using more. Plus... Beadalon recently came out with a new product called Spin-N-Bead Quick Change Trays. These are thin plastic trays that fit perfectly over their Jr sized spinners. They come in a pack of 2 or 4, depending on where you get them. It's a great way to switch out bead colors without having to dump your beads every time. It came in handy while I was working on my recent Moth Orchid with small amounts of 8 shades of blue seed beads.
My trays came a little crinkled, though, due to poor packaging. It doesn't affect the way they function, just aesthetics. There is also a little bit of static cling that makes some beads stick to the sides, but you just swipe them off while you're removing your beads and it's not a big deal. Over time, the static disappears completely. Depending on how full your trays are, you can even stack more than one at a time on the spinner.
You may also come across these spinners with longer spindles, though I don't think they are as common, since I had to search far and wide for them. One was sold under the Beadsmith name, and the other under a company called Beadery. They are very similar with the only minute difference being in the spindle hardware, so it's possible that these are also the same spinner design, just in different production lots. I consider them a mini size because the bowls don't hold many beads - maybe a full hank, but again if that's all you're working with then it's no problem. And you can just add more beads later. I both like and dislike the tall spindle on these. On one hand, it keeps my spinning hand away from the bowl, so it feels less crowded, but on the other hand, I knock these over easier because I keep bumping the spindles while I move around.
4. Standard Wooden Spinners
The most commonly found bead spinners are these larger sized wooden bowls, and I love them.
There are two basic styles: ones with a knob at the top of the spindle, and ones without a knob at the top. What I found in my search and testing, is that the brand doesn't really matter. Just make sure to test the one you do buy to make sure it isn't a dud. Spinners should spin for a while before slowing down and stopping, but sometimes, as you often find in many mass-produced goods, you get one that doesn't spin nicely, grinds, or only spins for a few seconds before stopping. I have gotten a dud from both Beadalon and Beadsmith brands. But I own multiple spinners from each brand, and most are perfect. Just note that a little wobble isn't a deal breaker. As far as I can tell, that's fairly normal. It's only problematic if it's so bad that the bowl grinds to a halt. So, buy from a reputable dealer who allows returns, just in case.
What's great about these spinners is that you can control the speed. If you like to go slow, you can go slow. If you like to go faster, you can do that too. Just don't go too fast or beads will fly everywhere. You can spin either direction. These spinners fit around 2-3 hanks of size 11/0 seed beads (70-120 grams) in the bowl. I have several spinners in this size.
First let's look at the spinners with knobs at the top. I've found this exact same spinner under many names - Beadsmith Spin and String, Speedy Spinner (from Fire Mountain Gems), and even Euro Tool. (though it's possible this last seller just didn't send me the right spinner...). All three of these are shown below. Just like the Mini Spinners, I'm pretty sure that they are all actually the same spinner... just with different names slapped on the box, and sometimes a different colored wood, but that just tends to happen with wood I think. What I like about the ones with the knobs at the top is that they are easier to grip and spin than spinners without the knobs.
The spinners without knobs are sold under the Beadalon name. The only difference is the absence of the knob. I personally have a harder time gripping these, but I still like them because you can fit the Beadalon Quick-Change trays over the shaft. The bowls of the trays are smaller, but it still works.
5. Artisan Made Spinners
I also have a few bead spinners that were handmade by real actual people. These ones are my favorites. They don't work better, but there's a nicer feeling to them simply because of the time put into them by other people like us who like to make things with their hands (or tools).
First up is a mini sized spinner made by wood turner Jerry Ritter. I purchased mine from Amazon, though he also has a Facebook page. This little sucker spins like a dream. It's as smooth as butter. And he uses different, more exotic looking wood. I also love the heavier and wider base. He even signed the base of the bowl. His spinners are a bit pricey though, which is why I only have one, and it was a gift. His spinners are smaller than the Beadalon mini spinners, so perhaps it should be considered a micro?
Another wood turner in Russia, named Nerovny Dimitry, makes bead spinners as well (he also makes kumihimo tools). He offers both a large and mini size, and I have both. They are both wonderful. His larger sized bowl has a wider base than the factory-made bowls of the same size, which I love. He even handmade the little knobs at the top of the spindles. His mini sized spinner is similar in size to Jerry Ritter's mini. And his current prices put them in the same expense category as the larger sized wooden bowls. You can find his spinners in his Etsy Shop.
This next spinner is my absolute favorite of all my spinners - because my daddy made it just for me. He designed it with his fancy engineer computer software and carved it out of aluminum with his lathe. Mine is the only one in the whole world. It kind of feels like a trophy - probably because it's so shiny. With a bowl measuring 6 inches wide, it fits around 400-500 grams of beads. And while it is heavier, it spins more smoothly than any other spinner I have, even when fully laden with a freaking half kilo of beads. No wobble, no noise whatsoever. It's also too wide and heavy to tip over. You can see it below beside a standard wooden spinner for scale. I have named it "Beast". I might see if he would be willing to make me a matching mini or standard sized one without a spindle (since I spin it from the side anyways).
I almost feel bad displaying this one here, since it's not available to purchase anywhere. But I felt it deserved a mention just because it's special and cool.
DIY Bead Spinners
While bead spinners are very useful, they are still an expense. If you'd rather save your money for beads, you can make your own. It's not even hard.
Here's what you need:
- Small plastic bowl
- Empty bead tube (or other tube-shaped object to act as a spindle)
- flat-backed marble (some are weirdly shaped, so pick one that is nicely round)
- Plastic lid (not pictured, but something similar to a Pringles can lid)
- Hot glue gun
Pictures in the slideshow below!
1. Glue the bead tube to the center of the bowl. Make sure it's nicely centered.
2. Glue the marble to the underside of the bowl, again nicely centered. The flat side of the marble should be against the bottom of the bowl. (This marble is optional, it does work without the marble, but not as easily.)
3. Turn the lid upside down and set the spinner on top. This lid just helps keep the spinner contained in one spot so it doesn't spin around the table. You may not need it if you aren't using a marble.
Ta-da! Bead spinner!
I might spray paint mine, just for kicks. While it's not the best bead spinner, and it take a little more practice to get the hang of it, it does work. Definitely better than the Micro spin-n-bead or stringing by hand. :)
In other news... I was going to record a video this week. I have all my pieces made, my PDF companion guide made... and I was getting myself pumped up to do a video. But then my husband finally told me that my in-laws are visiting from California this week. So now we are going up the mountain to their cabin so our kids can play with their cousins. I can't exactly record video with 6 kids running around.
So I'll be working on pieces for the other master class that I'm doing this month. This one won't have a video, just a PDF, and it will be available in my shop at the end of the month. I have a lot of patterns that I'm trying to get through, and the list keeps growing. But I whittled my list down to two flowers that I wanted to make, and then let my Facebook and Instagram followers vote. The fancy gigantic Split-Tip Dahlia was the winner, so that's the pattern I will be working on! I will be formatting it similar to my recent Moth Orchid pattern. This shading is very tricky, and I don't want to overwhelm any newer french beaders (or those who don't like doing lots of shading) who want to give the design a try, so I will be making an easier coloring pattern of the petals for the main part of the pattern. Then I will have close-up pictures in the back of sample petals, along with the bead colors I used from this dahlia for those who do want the advanced shading option.
I will be publishing the rose pattern in September, though it won't look exactly like this one. I want to make some adjustments, additions, and test out another idea to add to it, which is why this one made it into my final two.
Also, just a little reminder that my website is changing. I will be under a new name with a brand new website beginning October 1st this year. More details coming later on that "fun" adventure.
In my last post I shared pictures of a custom Orchid plant that I made and mentioned that I was going to be publishing the pattern soon. I finally got it up! It took longer than I anticipated. It's 22 pages long and has 96 pictures. That's a lot of pictures and pages for a single pattern. In fact, my book, Christmas Collection, was 111 pages and had somewhere around 450 pictures. So, this one pattern is close to 1/5th of my book in length. But it also took longer because I had to remake one of the larger petals for better close-up pictures... and there are eight colors you guys. That's not easy to do. And I was already "done". You know that feeling? When you finish something, and you're done and you close this box in your brain where that project was, but then you have to reopen it and make it again... it's not my favorite thing. So I had to kind of pump myself up for it.
Okay, details. The flowers are around 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) wide. The plant itself is approximately 18 inches (45.7 cm) tall - not including the pot. The pattern is set up so the blue shading in the example is optional. That type of shading in the blue one is very complex. I wish I could give exact bead counts, but there's too many variables that will change how many beads you use that it's just not possible to do that and get good results. For one, beads aren't always the same size. Even if they are all 11/0, beads made by different manufacturers, and even different lots from the same manufacturer, may be slightly different in size. Secondly, French Beading isn't like bead weaving, where if you do the stitch correctly it will look exactly like the pattern. Each artist has their own "technique", or uses a different tension on the wire that can affect the size, shape, and look of the finished pieces. It also affects how many beads and how much wire is used. This is why I always recommend that you purchase extra materials for your project. It's also why you should cut extra wire. If a pattern tells you to cut a 12" length of wire... well you might use 14 inches, or 11 inches... French Beading is not an exact art form. So unfortunately, giving exact bead counts just won't work well and will cause more frustration. However, in the back of the pattern I have a special section with what I hope will be helpful notes about how I accomplished that type of shading. There are close up pictures of the petals, as well as pictures of the beads I used.
You'll also find that each petal in the pattern is made in pure white. I've done this to help you plan your own shading patterns. Caren Cohen taught me a wonderful way to plan shading patterns. Make the petal once in a single color, then scan it on your copier, print it out and color it. Now, this also won't give you exact bead counts for your second petal, but it can help you get a good idea, and help you decide if you actually like your shading pattern before you make it out of beads. So, you can print those pages from the pattern and color them.
So, for anyone wanting a copy of this pattern, it is available in my Pattern Shop!
Alrighty, so, I did something else this week that was completely unplanned. While I was pumping myself up to remake a petal for pictures, I decided to go ahead and make a completely different tutorial. This is a free one, because it's just a simple variation of Continuous Loops that I used to make a French Beaded Bezel around a stone that didn't have a hole so I could use it for a flower center. This is an idea that sprouted in my brain several years ago, and thanks to my One-A-Day project, I finally had a chance to test it.
I did put the tutorial in PDF format, though, because I find that all the pictures from my blog get lifted and posted elsewhere.
Download your free copy here. The PDF just teaches the flower center, not the full flower. It's intended more to teach an idea that you can alter as needed for whatever type of stone you're bezeling, though it will teach you exactly how to make a beaded bezel around a 12mm Swarovski Rivoli. :) Enjoy!
Okay, I realized after typing the above paragraph that I haven't updated here about my One-A-Day project since... February... (yikes!) so here's a picture dump to get me caught up!
And now I am on to pink flowers for July! After that I will still have 5 months worth of work to do... so I'm going back around the colors to make leaves and whatever else I need to fill in areas and whatnot. It's already around 18 inches wide, so I imagine it will get a little bit bigger. It's just going to be a huge color wheel wreath, that's for sure.
So I've been doing lots of fun stuff for this project, so I will be pulling some of these flowers out to show you some weird ways to use or embellish French Beading techniques. But that will be in other blog posts because this one is already way too long.
As for what I'm doing next... well I'm doing secret Spring Collection work... and I'm doing more work for my relaunch (on my new website) that will hopefully be happening in a few months. I've got a really great "something" that I'm working on for that and I can't wait to show you!
Happy Beading everyone!
I promised you guys a video demonstration of Scallops, and I've finally managed to get a semi-decent one made. Yay!
Making videos is something I've wanted to do for a long time, but it's a difficult thing for me to do. I'm pretty shy, and public speaking is pretty far outside my comfort zone. I'm known to break out in hives, or forget how to speak altogether (no, dear church congregation, I'm not speaking in tongues, just having a panic attack). My husband has been laughing at me (in a nice, supportive way of course) as I walked around the house rehearsing what I was going to say in this video, and even miming the hand movements. The first day of recording was a complete disaster. I was so nervous my hands were shaking through the whole thing, but it got easier and easier. Though beading through a camera lens is actually hard, and I had to practice beading and talking at the same time because it turns out I don't naturally have that kind of coordination... I had to keep pulling the leaf off to the side or up close to my face so I could actually see what I was doing. And then there's the issue of getting my camera to stay focused. So, I've done the best I can and I hope that the video will help someone. This was not an easy project for me, but now seeing it finished is a personal triumph. That's what art does for the artist. It helps us grow, sometimes in ways we don't expect. When I started making French Beaded Flowers about six years ago, I certainly didn't think that I'd end up making videos (or even patterns and tutorials at all, for that matter) to help teach people about this beautiful art.
Blah, blah, blah. Enough of that. After much self-inflicted torture, I am pleased to present my very first video tutorial in which I demonstrate the French Beading technique called Scallops.
I have just set up a YouTube Channel, and so far this is the only video there. I probably won't be able to add more tutorial videos until next year, since I'm working with all my might to get my first book published near the end of November, and then we are getting into the busy holiday season. So, we'll see what my schedule looks like after that. But I am definitely doing more. Some will be part of my Technique Guide series, and others will be projects as well. :)
Alrighty, so there are the basics of Scalloping. Let's continue on and talk a little bit more about this wonderful technique. I'll show a couple of fancier ways to use Scallops, and talk about bead counts.
I've just shown how to make single Scallops, and now that you know the basics, you can apply the same methods to make stacked scallops and tipped (or winged) scallops.
Let's start with stacking. Stacking scallops refers to building scallops on top of each other to make thicker, larger scallops. To do this, first make the base scallops on each side of your leaf/petal (Figure 1).
Then go back to the first side and add your next scallop at least one bead above the top of the base scallop. (Figure 2)
Wrap back down to the Bottom Wire, and repeat on the opposite side of your leaf. (Figure 3)
In Figure 4, I've completed the leaf by adding a second set of stacked scallops, setting the base scallops on both sides of the leaf before going back and adding the second scallop over the top.
You can stack as many scallops as you want, however, because all of the scallops are set into the same outer row, you will need to either burst a few beads in that outer row (very carefully with a set of pliers), or preferably, plan ahead and short yourself a few beads on that outer row to make room in the row for the extra wires that will need to go between beads. (Figure 5) If you don't leave this space, your row will bow outward (it will still bow outward a little even with the space, but it is greatly reduced when you short yourself a few beads), and eventually you will just run out of space and won't be able to get your wire between beads to set the scallops.
If you get a little fancier with stacking scallops, you can use scallops to create really interesting texture on a leaf by bouncing back and forth. Let me show you what I mean by "bouncing back and forth". In Figure 6 I've got a single scallop made on the side of my leaf.
*Notice that I've shorted myself two beads at the bottom of the first scallop row. Keep this extra space at the bottom of the leaf.
Now wrapping back down, instead of wrapping at the Bottom Wire, we will set another scallop further down that outer row. (Figure 7)
Then, bounce back up and set a scallop below the first. And back down to set a scallop below the first lower scallop. (Figure 8)
Repeat this bouncing back and forth as many times as you need to reach the Bottom Wire. (Figure 9)
After which we wrap around the Bottom Wire and repeat the entire process on the opposite side of the leaf. (Figure 10)
Winged (or tipped) Scallops
Now let's give our scallops some wings. (The effect is very similar to the shape a Loop Back would make, but you don't need as many lacing wires.)
First, I've set my scallop. (Figure 11)
Next, add more beads to my wire, but instead of wrapping straight down, we will use our thumbs to pinch a little "wing" into the tip of our scallop. (Figure 12)
And we continue on as usual with our scallops, the only difference being the pinched tip. (Figure 13)
I'm going to go ahead and admit that I dislike bead counts, but unfortunately they are kind of necessary for patterns that use Scallops. Why do I dislike them? Because all size 11/0 seed beads are not actually the same size. Some brands are taller and some are shorter, and some types are just very irregular in size and shape (which is just a whole other mess), and this difference in bead lengths can affect bead counts and alter the finished shape of your petal. When you're only making a few scallops on each petal, this size difference in beads probably won't distort your shape, or if it does, may not be a big enough deal to need fixing. But when you're working with petals with lots of scallops, those tiny differences can add up with each scallop and the shape will be more prone to changing from the original.
Basically, take the counts with a grain of salt, and pay close attention to the shape of the leaf/petal in the pattern, making adjustments to the bead counts as needed.
One new idea that I've had to help the patterns be more accurate is to make the pictures in my patterns life-sized, so when the pattern is viewed at 100% size, you can lay your leaf/petal down on top of the picture to help measure out the scallop placements (Though I still include bead counts on the picture if they are needed). I've only done this in my recently published Ball Dahlia pattern so far. I'm not sure if this was helpful to anyone or not, but I do plan on continuing to do this whenever possible.
And there we have French Beaded Scallops!
Most beaded flower artist tend to make their flowers life-size, so I thought having a "tips" post on making miniature sized flowers would be fun and different. However, I haven't made very many miniatures myself. Most of my work tends to be on the other end of the size scale. So I contacted my friend Suzanne Steffenson (who was also the co-designer/author for Beaded Berry Collection) who specializes in making miniatures, to see if she would be willing to write up an article for your enjoyment and edification. We are very fortunate that she agreed!
Earlier this year I published a free pattern for Miniature Roses, and I've had so much fun seeing so many others use that pattern to make flowers. Suzanne also used that pattern, but with smaller beads. Basically, she made miniature miniature roses, and mounted them on a tiny doll sized tiara meant for a dog!
In this last picture you can see the comparison of my red miniature rose next to her miniature miniature roses. Just look at the perfect blend of colors! And the Victorian Beaded Butterfly is a wonderful touch.
She says the only alteration she made was to add an extra of the smallest petals on the inside. Bead counts and rows were the same as the original pattern, which is a rare occurrence when making miniatures.
And here are a few more samples of Suzanne's work, all miniatures made using beads smaller than the 11/0 seed beads that we see used most often in French Beading.
And now on to the article!
"Thinking small - Making miniature beaded flowers"
By: Suzanne Steffenson
Although Helen McCall wrote a book on making miniature beaded flowers, and other authors of French beaded flower books have included some patterns for making miniatures, most of these patterns use the same 11/0 beads used in life size flowers. The “miniature” designs are simplified versions of their life size cousins, and accordingly, some patterns lack detail and charm. But what if you make a miniature flower like a good piece of dollhouse furniture, where detail – construction, coloration and scale -- is as precise and as intricate as the full sized version? There is no magic formula for taking an existing pattern and sizing it down from 11/0 beads to 15/0s, but there are steps you can take to produce lovely miniatures.
I recommend starting with 14/0 and 15/0 Japanese beads. Aside from having hundreds of colors and finishes, they are inexpensive, readily available, and relatively uniform in size. Czech beads are made in smaller sizes, but because 16/0 and smaller beads are no longer being made (making them harder to find and more expensive), this article is based on 14/0 and 15/0 beads.
The size of the bead holes is very important. If the original pattern calls for a fringe or Victorian technique, etc., make sure the bead holes will allow more than one wire to pass through. Some smaller beads will accommodate two wires and some will not.
I generally go down one wire gauge when working from an 11/0 pattern to a 15/0 miniature. I find 26 or 28 gauge wire usually works well with a basic technique, and 28 gauge for continuous loops. 30 gauge works well for fringes and lacing. But there are exceptions to every situation. If the gauge is too heavy for the bead size, it will be difficult to get good technique, twists and wraps, and if the wire is too flimsy, your flower won’t withstand being moved or shaped. If I’m working on a flower with a lot of petals, I sometimes use a lighter gauge for the inside petals and a heavier gauge for the outside petals, just to make a sturdier flower. Also, when working with smaller beads and smaller components, weight is not the issue it can be with bigger flowers. I use silamide (strong, waxed beading thread) instead of wire to lash the petals together or to a stem wire.
Start by working with a full-size pattern that you like. Roses are fun to miniaturize as are simple patterns for daisies, lilies, and iris. Some patterns are written with bead counts and some are written with measurements. Start with the biggest components – usually the leaves and petals. Make a full size component (leaf, petal, etc.) in 11/0s using the author’s recommended bead count or measurement. This will provide you with a sense of the overall shape and size of the component. Take the beaded component and make an outline of it on a piece of paper to more clearly see the proportions.
When working with smaller beads, even one or two beads or one row can make a big difference in the proportions of the component. I have had rare occasions where I have been able to take the original 11/0 basic bead count and use that same count with 15/0s. If this happens, by all means celebrate. But more often look at the full-size component and reduce the length of the basic measurement by approximately 65-70%. If the Basic Row is given as a bead count, you must first convert that length to inches or cm before making the size reduction. If the full-size component is an unusual shape (like a one bead basic) or shorter (less than one inch in length), a smaller percentage reduction may be more successful than a larger one. A very small basic of one or two 11/0 beads will be the same in a size 15/0 miniature and you will probably need to decrease the rows to maintain the overall proportions. Plan on making one or two samples to determine the best ratio.
Using the 11/0 pattern as a guide, begin adding rows to the 15/0 miniature. With most miniatures, you will have to reduce the number of rows by at least two, sometimes one, and sometimes more than two. Likewise for continuous wraparound loops. When you finish your 15/0 component, place it next to or inside the outline of the 11/0 component. Be critical. Is the miniature version the same shape? Too long? Too wide? Or, horrors – TOO BIG? Your next attempt will be much closer.
After you have a 15/0 bead count for the petals and leaves, use the same process to determine the 15/0 measurements for smaller components like centers and sepals.
I do not usually reduce the number of components (petals, leaves, etc.) when miniaturizing a standard pattern. To do so would simplify the design when I’m going for the same level of detail as the larger version. Likewise with coloration. I put a lot of effort into shading and putting as much color detail into the flower as you might see with a life-sized version. Because you may not have as many rows or “space” to work with, make sure you edit colors carefully.
Another important aspect of creating a miniature is to give credit where credit is due – acknowledge the author of the original design and then humbly take a bow for your miniature interpretation of that design.
At last, the tricky part. The pattern you have chosen to miniaturize may include a technique that doesn’t work well with 15/0 beads. It may be a technique for a center, sepal, stamen, or leaf. There are some techniques, which shall remain nameless, that I don’t like to use with 15/0s. The easiest solution is to substitute a different technique. I call it “frankensteining” –combining a component from one pattern with a component from another pattern. Look at the flower files on Facebook FRENCH BEADED FLOWER group (must be approved to join first, if you are not already a member) and other online resources, glean ideas from books and patterns, and ask other members of our French beaded flower community.
I've been quiet on purpose this time. The last couple of months I've been working on a rather large project, probably one of the largest things I've ever made (if measuring by mass) but I can't post pictures here yet in case someone sees it before they are meant to see it... and it's killing me!!!
What I can post is this picture of a Ball Dahlia I made recently... I will be publishing this pattern soon. I was hoping to have it ready this weekend, but as I was editing pictures I realized I'd forgotten to take pictures of some of the pieces, so it will take me a few extra days as I'll have to remake them... but it's coming soon!
Custom Bouquet Project
What I'm currently working on is a custom wedding bouquet! Here's a little slideshow on how that's going so far
Super excited to see this one finished! I'll be mixing in some raspberries, strawberries, and lavender with what I've already finished. Then the groom's boutonniere will be made with purple pansies. :) I love making wedding bouquets. They're just so much fun. I'll have more updates on this project later.
(Also, just a little reminder. If you are working on the Blueberry pattern from the Beaded Berry Collection and are having trouble finding beads or other pieces for the Blueberries, let me know and I can hook you up! I bought them in mass for the pattern packet project and I have plenty left over.)
A Little Mini Tip
Since I've been so busy, I haven't had much time to put together more tips for you guys (I have a whole list of ideas that I want to get through, they all just take time), so I've just got a little one for today regarding Continuous Loops, and any other technique that has lots of twisting.
Some patterns call for hundreds of loops, and if you've ever done it you know how badly it hurts. It is the worst. Your little fingertips get so sore. Sometimes I get blisters. So, I recently found these little rubber finger guards, and I love them. They are made for guitar players, so they came as a set of 20, 1 for each finger on each hand. But I only need the thumb and forefinger for one hand, so I have an extra set for when these wear out.
What I love most about them is that the fingernails are open, and I use my fingernails to help measure and separate out beads for each loop. The first kind I used were rubber thimbles, but didn't have the open fingernail and it made it a little more difficult to make loops the way I'm used to doing them.
It does take a little practice to get used to them, as they make your fingers a little thicker so it feels different while making the loops. I'm not sure if they will fit everyone, but I thought I'd pass it along anyways. They work with making tiny little twisted fringes as well.
If these don't work for you, there may be something similar that does. I know of one lady who uses bandaids to protect her fingers, but I think we all know by now that I can't do anything simply. And I think these rubber ones have more cushioning and grip than bandaids.
This is the link to the ones I purchased off of Amazon (not an affiliate link)
So that's where I've been, where I'm at, and where I'll be for the next little while. I am going to be publishing my Asiatic Lily pattern at the end of August. It got pushed back as my previous massive project took longer than expected.
One of my most favorite parts of French Beading is the design work, making a brand new flower from scratch. The whole process excites me. For me, at least, if it's not challenging, then it's not fun. So, when deciding where to begin with the new Tips segment on my blog, I thought it would be nice to start where I usually start when I make flowers - with the initial Design. You gotta know what you're making before you can make it. Consider this first post as an introduction to how I design flowers.
There are so many ways to go about making flowers. Some people like to follow patterns made by others, while some like to make their own patterns. Some artists prefer to make realistic flowers using the simplest method possible, while others love complexity. And yet others choose to make fantasy flowers that bloom completely from the imagination. Any way you go about it, I believe seeing the process behind the design is important, or at the very least, interesting. Even if you normally make flowers from other designers' patterns, you may find yourself needing to make your own design if you can't find a pattern you like for the flowers you want to make.
If you are like me, you like to make your flowers as botanically correct as you can within the limitations of beads and wire and your own skills. (Of course, you don't have to make flowers this way, it's just a personal preference.) And there are certainly limitations. Even the smallest beads will produce a petal that is thicker than a petal on a natural flower. This means that you may not be able to have as many petals, stamen, and other parts as a natural flower without making it look bulky and awkward. We emulate and mimic flowers, and we can usually get pretty close! But you should not expect to reproduce every flower with exactness.
To produce a flower that is as botanically correct as possible, you will first need to study that flower. And I mean really, really study it. Usually, my studying process takes just as long as the actual making. I don't like to design from memory, because memories are imperfect. They fade or get mixed in with other memories. I did this once with an Iris (pictured right) in my earlier years with French Beading, and while the flower was easily recognized as an Iris in shape and form, I missed the mark on a few details (like the missing crests and abnormal stamen). So I highly recommend studying the flower from a variety of sources.
This is the part where science and art overlap.
The absolute best way to study a flower is to get your hands on it and take it apart. Or, if massacring innocent flowers upsets you, at least measure each piece and photograph the flower and it's parts from all angles.
Pictured below are wild Sunflowers (a variety called "Little Sunflower") that grows along just about every road and freeway here in Southern Utah in the Summer and Fall. Sometimes driving down the freeway you can see whole fields full of them. Last year I collected these flowers while on a walk with my boys near our home. (I've learned since that it may be illegal in some areas to collect wild flowers, so do check your local laws before doing this!) If you cannot collect them, then take a camera and measuring tape with you and photograph them in their natural environment so you can study further at home. Or if you are fortunate enough to have drawing skills, make a sketch.
We also go on hikes in the mountains nearby, and there is always a plethora of wildflowers to enjoy.
Finding samples is harder for me because I do not, yet, have much of a garden. I tend to kill all the flowers I plant. I'm also fairly shy, so going up to my neighbors' houses and asking if I can clip a sample of their Poppies or Lilacs is not something that's very comfortable for me.
Online Pictures and Illustrations
Because no one on earth has every variety of every flower and plant known to mankind growing in their garden (or their neighbors' gardens), it is highly likely that you will also need to rely pictures that others have taken. (Thank heavens for the internet! But do be respectful of the copyrights of others, who the photographs belong to.) Before making a flower, I have likely studied dozens of images of the flower, if not more.
If you follow me on Pinterest, maybe you've noticed that I pin a lot of flowers. However, most pictures on Pinterest are made to be pretty to attract attention and drive traffic to a specific website. Most of these images will show only the face of the flower. But I still regularly search Pinterest for flowers because it introduces me to new species of plants and different varieties. Then I take my search off Pinterest to find the details.
You will want pictures of the face of the flower, the backside, the profile, the petals, the leaves, the buds, the stamen, sepals, and every other angle you can imagine. I also try to find a picture of the plant in a pot, and a picture of a person holding the flower, if possible. Do a google search for "daffodil petals", for example, and you will often find pictures of the petals separated from the flower. You can do this for sepals and leaves and buds as well. This will give you a really good idea of the shape you need to make your individual parts. Search online nurseries, gardening websites, and even wikipedia.
I also really love to look through botanical illustrations. You can find many of these online. The artists who make these drawings are also trying to make them as botanically correct as possible. They usually only include a small sample or clipping of the flower or plant, so it's easier to see details than a picture of a live plant or bush with a tangled mass of leaves and branches. Thus they are a well-loved resource for me. Some will have just the small flower sample illustrated, while others have the flower sample, and drawings along the side that depict petals, stamen, sepals, etc. They are simply fantastic.
And, while you're out there browsing the world wide web, take a stroll over to YouTube to see if you can find time-lapse videos of your flower blooming. Not only are these fascinating for flower lovers, but they also let you see the flower in every stage of its life.
While online pictures are wonderful and easily accessed world wide, nothing quite replaces the substance of a book. After the internet got me addicted to botanical illustrations, I started collecting books of them so I can hold them in my hands. Some of my favorites contain artwork by Pierre-Joseph Redouté. I highly recommend his work. Here are the books on Botanical Illustrations that I have in my library (not all are Redouté), and I do recommend every single one of them. (I found all of these below on Amazon, by the way.)
I also have a few Encyclopedias of flowers, and these are a great resource. Not just for pictures, but information on the plant, too.
I've heard of others using seed catalogs for pictures and information.
Another resource that shouldn't be overlooked are the books and patterns written by other designers. Now, I'm not saying to copy their designs, or change a few numbers and call them your own. I mean to study the construction methods and techniques that they use to achieve certain results and figure out how you can utilize those in your own work.
While I'm searching through images, I always ask myself questions about the flower to make sure I'm observing all the details.
- How many petals does it have? Are they all the same size, or are some larger? How are they arranged? (Not all follow the strict "over-under" layering pattern that we see so often with french beaded flowers.) Do they lay flat? Are they curled, crinkled, folded?
- What texture do the petals and leaves have? Silky? Waxy? Translucent? Velvety?
- How thick is the stem? What color(s) is it?
- Do the flowers grow one to a stem, or in multiples? If multiples, how, and where, do they connect together?
- Do the flowers heads stand upright? Or do their stems bend below the flowers to show the face? Do they cascade? Do all flowers on the plant face the same direction?
- How do the leaves connect to the stem? Do they each have their own little stem, or do they connect directly to the main flower stem with no space between leaf and branch? Are there multiple leaves on a branch or just one? Perhaps both? If multiple, how are they arranged? Sometimes leaves are directly across from each other on a stem, sometimes they are staggered. Sometimes they are only on one side of the stem.
In addition to figuring out what the individual pieces look like, you'll also need to search for information on sizing, which will obviously vary from one variety to the next. (One variety of waterlily Dahlia may grow to 7 inches wide, while another waterlily type Dahlia maxes out around 5 inches) How tall is the flower head? How wide is the flower head? How tall do they grow? How do the leaves compare in size? You might have to dig a little deeper for this information, as many gardening websites, online nurseries, and even books will give you the plant spread and height, but not always the bloom size. If you do struggle to find the info, do a search for a picture of a person holding the flower. This will help determine the approximate scale so you can get close.
All of these details that you gather will help you decide how to make your flower. Is there a certain type or finish of bead that will best replicate the texture in the leaves and petals? (I don't always match finishes. These are beads we're working with here, why not let them sparkle!) Which technique will work best to make this shape, without making the stem too bulky? How much support will my petals need? Are the petals and leaves so large that they will require additional support wires to keep them from drooping? Will the flower be heavy enough to require multiple stem wires bundled together, or will just one be sufficient?
I hope this post was helpful or enlightening to some of you wonderful readers. It's a broad overview, and I hope to narrow the topics down as we go along. If there are any tips or resources that you'd like to share, please do so in the comments below!
As some of you may know, many French Beaded Flower artists wrap the stems of their flowers with embroidery floss to cover the floral tape used in construction. You can also wrap the stems with beads. I do have a free tutorial for how to do this here.
Today I am focusing on the embroidery floss option.
There are different types of embroidery floss available on the market. I'll be talking about two types - cotton and silk.
I've taken 12" lengths of each type and wrapped them on 16 gauge stem wire to compare them.
DMC Cotton Thread
Regular old DMC brand cotton floss can found in just about any craft store. These come on skeins that contain around 8 meters of thread (8.7 yards). They are made of individual twisted strands of cotton thread twisted together into one thicker twisted thread. This stuff is pretty cheap. Where I live a regular sized skein is only .40 cents or roughly .02 cents per foot.
To properly use this thread, you have to untwist it as you wrap so it lays flat. Though the individual threads will remain twisted.
Pros: It's cheap. It also had the best coverage of all three threads. Since it is thicker, laying it flat and wrapping a 12" length covered 2.5" of a 16 gauge florist stem wire. It is still more appealing than just floral tape alone.
Cons: It's not very smooth looking, you have to untwist as you wrap which is annoying and slows you down. It's much thicker than the other flosses, so it will add more bulk to your stems than the others below.
Soie Ovale Silk Thread
Next up is a silk thread made by the French company Au ver a soie. This thread is claimed to be some of the best silk embroidery thread on the market, so I had to try it. I purchased mine from Needle in a Haystack (here's a link to their soie ovale selection, since it was bothersome to find). It comes on a 15 meter spool, which is currently $3.35 (plus shipping) so around .07 cents a foot. I'm sure there are other sources.
Pros - It's shiny. You don't have to untwist to wrap it.
Cons - Not sure if you can see in the picture, but this stuff has tons of little fly-away threads sticking out all over the place, which I don't find very attractive. The most expensive of the three. Silk threads are much thinner than the cotton. Silk threads are measured by sugas, or the individual silk filaments, which are very fine. The 12" piece of this thread covered 1 1/4" of 16g florist stem wire.
Once I saw those little hairs sticking out, I wondered if it were a handling issue, or a thread issue. So I bought another brand of silk thread to find out.
Japanese Embroidery Silk Thread
This is my favorite. I purchased mine from JECstore for $8 (plus shipping) for a 60 meter spool (.04 cents a foot). The thread is untwisted flat silk made of 12 sugas.
Pros: No fly-away hairs sticking out, smooth and shiny and beautiful. No untwisting to wrap. Cheaper than Soie Ovale.
Cons: More expensive than DMC cotton thread. At 12 sugas it is pretty fine. The 12" length only covered 7/8 of an inch of 16 gauge florist stem wire, so you'll need much more of it to cover your stems.
Until now, I've been using mostly regular old cotton embroidery thread. The nicer silk stuff is not readily available in my small town, and trying to find a supplier was difficult for me, so I put off trying it. Last month I finally got around to it and I must say I am very pleased with the silk floss! Well, the last one I'm pleased with. I will probably be using this more often than the others.
The pictures I took are very close up, so the textures are more exaggerated than they are at a normal viewing distance. At a normal distance, they all look smoother than the pictures. If the silk threads are too much, I promise your flowers will still be beautiful with the cotton. Flossing at all is optional. Folks have been making beaded flowers for years with just floral tape covering the stems. Some people hate just floral tape, but I will repeat advice I've given before. Use what works for you. Use the best materials that you can afford. If anyone gives you grief about your flowers, poke them in the eyes! :)
Anyways, those are just a few options for flossing your stem, if you have a favorite, please share it in the comments so others can check them out!
Also, if anyone would like a little giggle. I recently ordered this square photography pop-up light box thing. It's made of translucent fabric and it folds up. Well, it's supposed to. Anyways. One of my biggest annoyances about my current photo set up is that's it's difficult to get pictures of taller or wider arrangements without weird cropping. So I needed a wider background. Silly me, I forgot that 48 inches is actually pretty large. It is 4 ft after all, duh. I even used my measuring tape to measure out 48 inches to see if that would be large enough. I guess I'm not intelligent enough to visualize very well because...
... I can fit my kids in there. Oh my gosh, and the worst part? These are the folding instructions.
It started as a small circle... I can barely even reach all the way across it, let alone grab it like that to fold it. My children are laughing at me because I can't figure out how to fold it back up. I'm laughing at me too. So now I have this huge photo tent in my living room. Nice.
Hello again my friends! I hope you all had a marvelous holiday season (whatever it is that you celebrate!) and that you are enjoying the new year. Today I wanted to share with you a new tool that has helped with French Beading.
These frames were made by my father from a design by a French Beaded Flower artist and teacher named Sheila Herson, who gave a set to one of her students - Barbara Keute. It was from Barbara that I learned of these very useful tools.
These types of things aren't sold anywhere, since they are a custom design. So, I asked my father to make a set for me. I asked him to make mine out of yard sticks so I could use the frame to measure out Basic Rows or wire easily. There are two hooks on each frame, one on the "top" and one on the "side". You can use either one depending on the length and size of the piece you are making. These frames are meant to be leaned against a table to hold them upright so you can use the hooks to hold your top and bottom loops while you measure out rows and wrap. It helps keep your top and bottom wires very straight and acts as a third hand. They are especially helpful for making large or long petals and leaves. However, I don't work at a table. I actually sit on the floor most of the time, sometimes on the couch, so I've got nothing to lean it against.
An idea was triggered by a memory of my mother using an embroidery stand to hold her cross-stitching. So, I asked my father to design and build a stand for me to go with the frames from pictures of ideas that I sent him. I gave him measurements and angles and all that, and he built me this really awesome stand.
There is a flat piece on the bottom, which goes under my legs. A clamp at the top to attach my frame (I can switch them out easily). It's even height adjustable, and I can adjust the angle of the frame. Now, one thing that was not intended was that it can actually be used standing on the floor while I sit on my couch. This was something I accidentally discovered while I was taking pictures of it this morning. I had to extend the height fully, then attach my frame in upside down and rotate the clamp hinge all the way up. Your feet can sit right on the base. It works for me because I'm short (5'2" ish). If I were taller I'd have to lean down too much. Cool huh?
Anyways, I'm sharing this to hopefully spark some ideas in ways to make beading easier. I've posted pictures of the stand elsewhere, and I've already had a bunch of messages about purchasing one. I don't believe my daddy intends to make more (at this point). But perhaps you could find a way to rig your own? The frames would be fairly simple to make, and if you work at a table that's all you'd need. You don't have to use yard sticks. I've seen others use picture frames. I bet you could use an actual embroidery stand and frames too.
I am open to custom orders now! Currently I have an order for a yellow rose, which is nearly complete. I am also working on a Magnolia project (still) and a pattern/tutorial collaboration with another Beaded Flower designer and friend. I will share more info on that once we have some teasers to show. ;)
I was asked if I would blog a little about the design work that went into my recent commissioned wedding bouquet. Just fair warning, this is going to be a long, wordy post.
Now, I don't have the knowledge to even pretend to be a floral design expert, but I hope that at least going through my thoughts will help others as they make their own designs, and so anyone who goes through all the effort of reading this whole post can gain an understanding of the amount of work that goes into something this large.
I've spent a lot of time in the last year just researching wedding bouquets, because I knew I wanted to make them, and I wanted to make them well. So I've been studying this for a long time. I've watched how florists put them together, how the flowers sit against each other. While looking at pictures of bouquet that were more aesthetically appealing I carefully took note of what types of flowers were being combined, and the effect they had on the bouquet as a whole. Naturally, there are other considerations in play with beaded flowers (weight being the prime issue), but you can learn a lot by studying fresh and fake flower arrangements and bouquets.
This particular bouquet was commissioned, so not all of the choices were mine, but I did play a large part in choosing the flowers. There wasn't any scientific reasoning with my choices. Some of it was just a feeling and I'm not sure I can really even figure out what my reasons were for choosing them.
My customer messaged me inquiring about a Dahlia bouquet with a mix of a bunch of other types of flowers, but she wasn't sure which ones she wanted. She sent me the picture to the right to show me which type of Dahlias she liked best, and the colors that they should be - light pinks and peachy pinks. She also gave me this color palette to work with: coral pink, rose pink, blush pink, peach, and some ivory.
When she mentioned coral pink, my mind went straight to Peonies, which she loved. Now, these particular Dahlias she wanted and Peonies are both large flowers, which means that when made of beads they will be heavy. That means you can't put too many of those in a bouquet together unless you have arms of steel. So, for the rest of the flowers I tried to pick ones that would be a little smaller and lighter.
There are several characteristics I kept in mind while choosing flowers: shape, size, and color. These Dahlias were large and fluffy with multiple layers of long pointed petals. Peonies are large and fluffy with rounder petals and lots of frilly texture. Roses were an easy pick. They pair well with almost any other flower, and they can be made in any size you need. My customer wanted the ruffled roses, so that's what we went with, along with one of the regular roses. Since they were roses, I figured hey, let's go with rose pink for those.
Anemones are smaller lighter flowers with a relatively small number of rounded petals and a nice dark centers for contrast, and they come in Ivory. :) Some Anemones have frilly petals and some have round, I went with round because my Peonies and Ruffled Roses both have frilly-edged petals and I wanted to mix it up.
So there were our main form flowers. With beaded flowers you can't always press flowers together and close up all the holes, so I figured filler flowers would be needed to avoid any gaps between flowers. Billy Balls are cute and pretty popular right now, and they add a new shape. When I mentioned those to my customer she came back with Astilbe and Lavender, which were perfect. They are both longer flowers, easy to make, and they take up space without being too heavy. Though it did add yellow and purple to our colors. The Astilbe we made in a light pink because there were so many other darker pinks and we didn't want those to take over.
For foliage I went with a mix. There's a large mixture of flowers, so it might be a little odd to have just one type and color of leaf. It's just more interesting with a mix. There are long pointy leaves, and short wide pointy leaves, and larger pointy scalloped leaves, and drooping sprigs of small round leaves. And 3 different colors of beads. We mixed these in between flowers instead of making a collar below the flowers to break up the pinks, and to provide a more organic texture.
I hope my scattered and unprofessional thoughts will be of some use to you. :)
Oo! I also finished my next couple of custom orders. There was this purple-y ruffled rose. This one was made with matte/frosted beads, which I don't normally use. They feel weird on my fingers. But the rose is still very pretty! My customer is using this in her wedding. :)
I also had my previous customer come back requesting more vines, which were very simple and easy to make. :)
Now with all my custom orders completed, I will put almost all of my beading energy into making Peonies. I will be taking tons of pictures of each and every piece so I can make a PDF Pattern. There will be a full Peony, a half open Peony, and a bud, along with the leaves of course. It should be available in my Pattern Shop and my New Etsy Shop for patterns by the end of the month.
Hello everyone! I am Lauren Harpster, the designer behind Lauren's Creations. I am a 28 year old wife, and a mother to three adorable little kids. I've been making French Beaded Flowers for six years now, and teaching French Beading through my website for about four years. I hope you'll join me on my blog so you, too, can Learn the Art of French Beading.
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