Saturday, July 16, 2011

How To Make Your Beaded Flowers Look Lifelike

It's a shame to see beaded flowers that are very well-made but still look stiff or too artificial. There are a few things an artist can do to help make their beaded flowers look more lifelike. As with everything else, it's in the details.

You don't necessarily have to use exactly the same shade of beads in every flower on a spray. Take a look at some roses from the same bush. They can be different shades. The flowers that are just blooming can be lighter; the ones that are dying can be a "dustier" shade; and the ones in their prime can be a more robust color. Also, sometimes a flower can pick up stripes, spots or colored edges as it ages. Take some time and explore this idea.

Of course, living flowers don't have any wire in them. Beaded flowers should show as little wire as possible. For dense flowers with a lot of layers, this means covering each layer of stemwires with a row or two of tape. This way, the inner rows of petal wires won't show through the finished wire.

Also consider using wire that's colormatched to the beads. There are many colors of wire available now, so matching should be easy. If you're using transparent beads, you can even create slightly different shades of flowers by using different wire colors. This color will show through the beads.

Here's a fun idea: Don't cut your top basic wires short. Leave them long. Add beads to them, fold them down the back of the petal, and twist the wire in with the other stemwires. Voila! No visible top stemwire at all. This is especially useful if you are making a pin or hair decoration. The wearer's hair or clothing will not get caught in a top wire that's been cut off, because there won't be any end there.

Lastly, be sure to keep your finished flower stems slim. You can do this by reducing the bottom wires to 2 instead of 3 when you're making petals that require a bottom loop during construction. It may not sound like a lot, but you'd be surprised how much wire you can delete if you use this technique with a dense flower. If you're just learning how to make beaded flowers, be sure you learn this technique.

For all the materials you'll need, including lots of colormatched wires, please visit my new Amazon store at

Happy beading!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Don't Be Afraid To Make Mistakes

I have had a number of students that I have taught to make beaded flowers. I've taught personally in several states, and my tutorial DVDs have been sold all over the world. Many students have also emailed me asking for guidance and advice on my patterns or on general techniques.

There have been many common threads among these students, of course, but there is one that stands out. Many of them were hesitant to try a new technique because they were afraid to make a mistake.

For example, one time I was beading with a group of friends. We had all found each other on the Internet. We were delighted to find that we lived fairly close together, and we decided to get together for a Beading Day.

Instead of cutting off the top basic wire, I was leaving it long and beading it, then twisting it into the regular stemwires of a petal. One of the beading ladies had never heard of this technique, and was fascinated. She was afraid to mess it up, though, and I could see her indecision. If she didn't do it correctly, she was afraid she'd have to undo her whole petal.

Another time, a student emailed me, nervous about a fairly complicated technique. I wrote back and took her through it step-by-step.

What I learned when writing my own patterns is that mistakes are part of the process. In the U.S. we're programmed to try to be perfect the first time we do something new. It's ingrained in us from an early age.

Once I was writing the Magnolia pattern, and found after I'd made a lot of petals that the pattern was wrong. It didn't look like a Magnolia at all. What did I do? After grinding my teeth a little, I cut all the petals apart. All that wire and all that time was "wasted." I hated to do it, but if I hadn't done it, the flowers would have been wrong forever.

And you know what terrible thing happened?


Nobody yelled at me, I didn't get a big red F on a test paper, and no one criticized. I just re-strung the beads, rewrote the pattern, and came out with a much better result than I would have had. The time wasn't wasted after all. I learned to take more time and be sure my patterns were right before plunging into a big project.

So - be patient. If you're just learning, pretend you are your favorite teacher from school, who was patient and kind. Nothing bad happens if you have to undo a petal, or a lot of petals. It's just metal wire and glass beads, and like nature, they are patient teachers.

Enjoy the learning process and relax.

More posts soon!

Please visit my new Amazon store at for all your beading supplies.

My beaded flower Hubpage

My beaded flower Squidoo lens

My website at

My Etsy store

Saturday, June 25, 2011

What Do I Need To Make French Beaded Flowers?

There are a few basic items an artist needs to produce beautiful French beaded flowers. Here's a short list to help you on your way:

1. The tools. The most essential are a ruler, a wire cutter, and pliers. If you're not going to be working at a table you should also have some kind of lap board.

2. A few colors of seed beads. Have one or two colors for the flower, and some green for the leaves and other green flower parts. Czech beads are fine and inexpensive, but you can also use Miyuki or Toho beads. If you're really adventurous you can work with beautiful Swarovski beads too.

3. Spool wires and stemwires of the right gauges. Spool wire can be 24 or 26 gauge, stem wire can be 16 gauge. For larger flowers, also get lacing wire, 32 gauge.

4. Floral tape to cover all the stem wires.

5. Non-hardening floral clay to plant your flowers in.

6. Moss to cover the clay and make the arrangement look like it's growing out of soil.

7. Don't forget the beadspinner! This one tool can save you hours of painstaking stringing work and a lot of sore muscles.

You can get all these items and more at my new Amazon store at

Thanks! Happy beading!

Monday, June 20, 2011

How Do I Finish My Beaded Flower Stems?

The stems of a beaded flower are usually the last thing in the arrangement that you think about. Most artists, especially beginners who want to learn how to make beaded flowers, focus mainly on the flowers and the techniques of creating the flowers.

In order to make the arrangement look its best, the flower stems have to be handled correctly. Sloppy or poorly-finished stems can ruin an otherwise beautiful arrangement or bouquet.

Once you have finished the construction of the flower, it's a good idea to take lacing wire and tightly wrap from the flower head all the way down to the ends of the stem wires. It's a good idea to pinch the petal and leaf stems together tightly just before you make this wrap, so that the stems will be as narrow as possible.

It might take some practice to find the right tension to put on this fine wire, but the results are worth a few mistakes early-on. It's never a bad thing to compress the stem very snugly.

Next, wrap the stems with floral tape. You can buy it online or find it at many craft shops. Floral tape is a waxy tape that becomes sticky when it's stretched. Many flower-beaders cut this tape in half to make their wrapping very fine.

Start the tape positioned snugly right under the flower head. Wrap once or twice completely around the head. Now angle the tape slightly down, keeping all wires well-covered. Wrap all the way down the flower stem, overlapping the tape edges slightly, remembering to stretch the tape before wrapping. You will know if you have stretched the tape enough when it becomes lighter in color. Tear it off at the bottom and wrap the raw edge around the stem.

Virginia Nathanson recommended wrapping stems with floral tape, and she usually used green or brown in her books. You don't have to restrict yourself to greens or browns, however. Floral tape now comes in a wide variety of colors. White tape is very nice if you're doing a bridal bouquet.

Do you want a different look? Some flower beaders paint the taped stems with acrylic paint. This paint is also available in craft stores. If you want a very polished look, use ribbon or embroidery floss.

Embroidery floss is a wonderful way to cover the stems of a very special arrangement or bouquet. Floss comes in cotton or silk. Separate the strands of the floss and lay them closely side-by-side. Using four to eight strands at once, wrap the flower stems just as you would with tape. When you're finished, secure with floral tape. It takes a little practice, but the results are really breathtaking.

More posts coming soon!

Please visit my site at
My beaded flower Hubpage
Get my tutorial DVDs at my Etsy store

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Resources For A Beaded-Flower or Jewelry Artist

Just a few decades ago, getting all the beads and other materials you wanted or needed for your beaded flower, bead jewelry projects, or even kids' friendship knot bracelets was a bit of a challenge.

Why would that be so? Well, some colors of beads were available only at certain times of the year, such as some pinks. This would be due to weather conditions where the beads were produced; sudden popularity of a certain color of beads in the clothing industry; the relative slowness of the ordering and shipping processes before the Internet; and other factors.

The Internet has radically changed the way that millions of people do business, and ordering and fulfillment can occur very much faster than before. Artists no longer have to depend on a local art or craft store, or an expensive specialty store, for their raw materials, and they don't have to take the time to travel to these stores. The closing of stores such as these could seriously deter the artist, too.

Beads are available from more global sources, as well. Previously, most beads used here in the U.S. were shipped in from Czechoslovakia, but now we have easy access to the exquisite Japanese beads as well.

We don't have as much control over the weather, however, so some bead colors may still be scarce at certain times of the year.

With a few clicks of a mouse, an artist can now buy everything they need for their projects and have them sent right to their door. Sources are centralizing, as well, so an artist needn't click all over the web to find what they need. A very popular central source for UK beaders is jillybeads, for example.

Basic visual French beaded flowers instructions and demonstration in making beaded flowers can be hard to come by. To fill this need, I have produced two tutorial DVDs to teach you how to make beautiful beaded flowers, even if you're a raw beginner. Please feel free to visit my own site at to purchase my bead flower tutorial DVDs and my own patterns. The purchase page is here. You can also get them from my etsy store, here.

Purchasers are welcome to email me at any time for clarification of techniques or patterns. I am devoted to helping everyone learn how to make beaded flowers!

Thanks! New posts coming soon.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Can I Learn How To Make Beaded Flowers?

French beaded flowers are an art that originated centuries ago in Europe. They were originally made by farming peasants who had nothing to do in the wintertime. Virginia Nathanson was one of the first authors of French beaded flower patterns in the U.S.

When people first see a beaded flower in-person or in a photo, they can be bewildered by the complexity of what they’re seeing. All the tiny wraps, the tape, the sheer number of petals and leaves can be daunting.

Although at first it may seem confusing, it’s not that difficult to learn how to make French beaded flowers. The materials are much easier to get now than they were in previous years. The basic techniques are simple to learn, and just take a little practice to get right.

It is possible to find French beaded flowers instructions free on the Internet. Patterns that aren’t free are usually very inexpensive. You should not have to pay any shipping costs if the writer of the patterns will email the patterns to you. Also, many authors are available to answer your questions by phone or email.

If you or an artist you know is interested in learning how to make beaded, don’t hesitate. This art is very gratifying, and produces gorgeous and impressive results.

Please visit my website at for more information and my tutorial DVD's and my own patterns

My Hubpage

My Squidoo lens

My original Youtube video

My Etsy store

Saturday, May 28, 2011

What's A Bead Stringer?

A bead stringer, or beadspinner, is a tool used by bead artists to quickly and easily string beads on thread or wire. Basically it's a bowl with a hollow dowel through it, having the dowel supported by a pike on a stand.

What's this kind of tool used for? Well, beads are sold by bead shops loose in bags, in vials, or strung on hanks or master hanks. Getting the beads onto a length of thread or wire can be a tedious job if done by hand, especially if you're using Swarovski beads or other odd-size or odd-shape beads. The bead spinner or bead stringer makes short work of the project.

Personally, I make beaded flowers, which can take up to thousands of beads to complete. Even a smaller project, like friendship knot bracelets, can take so many beads that stringing by hand can be a real roadblock. In this age of automation, even a low-tech tool like a bead stringer makes sense and is a great investment.

Many artists have also made their own bead spinners out of materials that are readily available for less than the cost of a commercially-produced spinner. You may have everything you need at home right now. You can google the instructions for this project and make your own spinner in an afternoon's time.

How do you use a bead stringer or bead spinner? If you are doing beaded flowers, you will have to know how to use beading wire. Pour your beads into the bowl of the spinner. Open your spool of wire, and make a hook out of the last two inches of the wire. Dip the open end of the wire into the beads, and hold the end just under the surface of the beads. Slowly begin to spin the tool. It will take some practice to find just the right spot for the wire, and the right spinning speed.

Once you have found the right combination, you'll be delighted to see the beads onto your wire.

If you are doing a project where the beads have to be put on string, simply thread a needle with your string, and use the spinner in the same way.

Having a bead spinner will make your bead projects go 10 times faster. Search for "bead spinner" and you'll find several places to buy one, or the instructions to make one. Happy beading!

Please visit my website at for more information and to purchase my tutorial DVD's and my own patterns.

See my store at etsy

My Squidoo lens

My Hubpage

See my own videos on Youtube

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Where Did Beaded Flowers Come From?

Beaded flowers are fascinating. No matter what style you prefer, flowers made from tiny glass beads strung on ordinary wire are intriguing pieces of art. But where did they come from? Who were the first beaded flower artists? Read on for some hints.

The art of making flowers out of beads is many centuries old. Although there is very little documentation on the development of this art, research has shown that the first primitive bead flowers may have been made as early as the 1300's in Germany, when steel needles and wire were developed.

In the ensuing years as the craft spread across Europe, different methods were developed: the Victorian method, also known as the English or Russian method, and the French method. The main difference is that in the Victorian method, which is similar to modern bead jewelry-making techniques, the thread or wire passes through each bead twice or more, and the wire passes from row to row on the sides of the piece; in the French method, the wire passes through each bead only once, and passes from row to row in the center or on the bottom of the individual piece.

One of the reasons that flowers are associated with churches has to do with beads. In the thirteenth century a form of prayer using a string of beads was instituted by St. Dominic. The string, called a rosary, consisted at that time of 15 units of beads. Each unit contained 10 small beads, preceded by one larger one. A prayer was recited at every bead. The word "bede" (sp) is Middle English for "prayer." Because of the length of the original rosary, it became customary to pay someone, usually a resident of an almshouse, to recite the prayers. These people were referred to as bede women or men, and it was they who made the first bead flowers.

The craft was handed down through the centuries and came to be associated with the church and its decorations.

The French used bead flowers as funeral wreaths. These wreaths were called "Immortelles," and ranged from 3 feet to 4 feet in height. They would be left at the grave of the deceased. Since they were made on metal wire and were exposed to the weather, most of these items were destroyed within a year, but a few examples remain today. Occasionally you will see one on Ebay.

Not only are there bead flowers mounted on the frame of the Immortelle, but the frame wires are wrapped in beaded wire as well. Wires strung with beads might have been coiled or braided as well before wrapping onto the piece. The whole surface of the Immortelle would be wrapped over with wire strung with thousands and thousands of beads.

Once an Immortelle disintegrated, leaving only a pile of beads, the beads would often be recycled into other projects.

In Venice in the 16th century, middle class and poor women made bead flowers for churches, banquet tables and parade floats. At that time, someone could walk down the streets of Venice and see women sitting outside every door, making ornaments out of wire and tiny glass beads.

At one time Venice was a center for the actual production of beads. According to one source, at one point all the beadmaking activity in Venice was moved onto the island of Murano. Murano glass vases and other items are still treasured today.

Around the Napoleonic era (1768-1821), Italian and French peasants who tended the vineyards in the summer were recruited to work with beads in the winter. They would be assigned to embroider the ball gowns and jackets of the court nobility with beads. Imperfect beads or beads that would not fit over the needle were saved and made into flowers. These imperfect beads may have been strung onto wire for the flowers with horsehair or human hair. These flowers were used to decorate church altars, and were carried by altar boys for Easter and Christmas.

In Victorian times, royal European brides often wore wreaths or circlets of bead flowers and carried bead bouquets on their wedding day. The custom was for the bride to abandon the fancy hair styles of the time, and wear her hair simply, straight down her back, and adorn her head with a floral wreath. If she were getting married at a time of the year when fresh flowers were unavailable, bead flowers were an excellent solution.

Getting materials for beaded flowers is much easier now than it was in previous centuries. Some popular suppliers are Jillybeads, Shipwreck Beads, and Paramount Wire.

I hope you enjoyed this post. The history of beaded flowers is a long, convoluted and global story. Come back for a future post on the history of beaded flowers in America.

Visit my website for more information and to purchase my own instructional DVDs and patterns.
Visit my Hubpage