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French Beaded Flowers - A Brief History

Beaded flowers have been crafted for centuries, but like many other crafts through the ages, it's early history was not well documented. The techniques were passed through families, each generation teaching the next. The French beaded flower technique is only one of several, and it is not exclusively French, but is believed to have been born in France and in Italy, enjoying great popularity throughout Europe for centuries. It differs greatly from what is known as the Victorian beaded flower in that the wire passes through the beads only once, and the beads are strung on wire and wrapped, not woven.

There was vast production of beaded flowers in Venice during the nineteenth century, and in Victorian times beaded flower sprays and wreaths were often used as wall hangings and memorial wreaths. In the 1800's a popular women's magazine showed patterns for French beaded flowers. Many of the vintage arrangements can still be found, and one can see in the basic components techniques still used today.

During the 1930's American families decorated their homes with French beaded flowers imported from Europe, but it wasn't until the 1960's that the technique itself became popular. Most accounts tell of Virginia Nathanson, a former vaudeville performer, purchasing an arrangement of these beaded flowers, then taking the flowers apart in order to learn the techniques for making them. She taught herself the craft and eventually produced several books of instruction and patterns. With the publication of books by Virginia Nathanson, Virginia Osterland and others, crafters learned to create these lovely flowers, and the technique flourished through the 1970's. Patterns from these books are still used extensively today.

Currently, creating French beaded flowers has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity, and with the availability of new instructional materials and patterns, we are seeing lots of interest in learning to make them. The basic techniques are quite simple, although practice is required to become proficient in the craft. Uses for these beaded beauties are many, and they are found often in weddings, as jewelry and displayed as home decor. Traditionally the style of the flowers is quite realistic, following nature's own blossoms in the garden. Today's modern crafters, however, enjoying the availability of glass beads and materials in a vast array of colors and textures, are producing more contemporary designs with a fresh and whimsical style.

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