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 They were originally made by farming peasants who had nothing to do in the wintertime.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.

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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!

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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.

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