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How To Choose The Right Wires For Your Beaded Flowers

The wires you use for your beaded flowers will depend upon the technique you are going to use. If you will be beading concentric circles or spirals, in the French style, or going back and forth in straight rows, in the Victorian technique, your materials will differ from one technique to the other.

Let's start with the French style. In this style, the gauge of the wire you select can depend on the prospective flower's size. In miniature French style flowers, gauge 26 wire will do very nicely. Also, you can use 26 gauge wire for flowers that are a bit bigger than miniatures, but that aren't massive, dense or heavy.

In the case of Victorian style flowers, most likely you should not go bigger than 26 gauge wire. This is because of the technique used to build the petals. Wire must pass through each bead twice in this style, so the wire must be kept to a lighter gauge in order to fit.

You'll get a little more room with Japanese beads because they have a larger hole in the middle, but if you're using Czech seed beads and Victorian techniques, your wires should not be larger than 26 gauge.

Once you move into larger flowers in the French style, like peonies, dense roses or large lilies, 24 gauge wire will be much better. It's much stiffer, and will provide plenty of body for your flower to hold itself up nicely.

A large flower can use thousands and thousands of beads. These beads are made of glass, and combined with the wires, the resulting flowers can be much heavier than you'd think. You want a nice firm wire as the "bones" of the flower.

Twenty-four gauge wire is recommended for almost all flower greenery. A sepal made with this gauge wire will help hold up a slightly droopy flower. This wire is available at craft stores. A testament to its nice firm body is that you'll have to straighten out the bends from being on a paddle. That's a small price to pay for nice firm leaves and sepals for your flowers.

Speaking of firm flowers, you can get stemwire at craft stores too. Sixteen or 18 gauge wire is excellent, and it will come already cut for you. If you make an especially large or heavy flower, here's what you would need to do: Tape three lengths of stemwire individually, then tape them all together to make one large stem. Then add your flower to this master stem.

Some flowers, like lilies, require very long leaves. In this case you would want to use a stem-stiffening method. You can build a piece of stemwire right into each leaf. Tape a length of 16 or 18 gauge stemwire that is two inches longer than your basic row and leaf stemwires will be.

As you construct the leaf, hold the taped stemwire against the back of the leaf. Wrap the first few top wraps around the top of the taped stemwire. Be sure to make enough rows so that the top of the stemwire will be below the top of the leaf. This will make a nice firm leaf that is guaranteed never to droop!

There's one more wire gauge to be aware of for your beaded flowers. You will want to lace petals and leaves that have more than 13 rows. This will prevent the rows from separating. Lacing may seem optional, but take my word for it, as your arrangement is passed down the generations, lacing will keep your flowers looking much fresher.

Use 32 gauge wire for lacing. Cut a piece of wire that is three times as wide as the piece to be laced. Wrap the middle of this wire around the basic row of the piece, working on the rear of the piece. Put the end of the wire through an ordinary sewing needle and lace out to the end row, knot and cut the end off very close to the beads. Repeat for the other side of the piece.



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Types of Beads Used in Beading

If you are a first time beader, you would be amazed by the various types of beads available when you step into a bead store.

The many variety of beads would amaze you. There are seed beads, glass beads, plastic beads, crystal beads and more. You could even opt for the do-it yourself types whereby you design your own innovation on the beads itself.

Depending on the types of beads, you could pair them up to make creative and unique pieces. For example, if you are using seed beads, you can use them in embroidery or as spaces in between large beads. Alternatively you can use them on their own to make beautiful necklaces, bracelets and earrings. As they are smaller in size, you would have to use quite a large number to make each piece. The color combination is another factor which you might wish to look at so that you get an eye catching jewelry piece.

Seed beads come in both glass and plastic material. For consistency and quality, it is best to use the Japanese made seed beads. They have many colors such as pastel, normal and metallic colors. Glass seed beads are especially versatile and should be an essential in a beader's toolbox.

Glass beads are great as they come alive when the light shines on them. They reflect the light and thus become enticing and glowing. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes such as barrel shaped, heart-shaped. There are also a number of finishes to it. Some are frosted and could be used as focal points in necklaces or bracelets.

Crystal beads are beads that have gained popularity. Some reputable brands such as Swarovski crystals beads are very popular among beaders. However do beware that these beads are brittle and thus do handle them with care as the slightest hit of your pliers on them might just chip one side off. These are popular in making earrings and necklaces as they shine and sparkle.



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Bead Store Basics: Seed Beads

Before 1939 Europe was home to a thriving bead industry, particularly in what is now Czechoslovakia. Italy and France were also renowned for their glass beads, and later their steel cut beads. Unfortunately during World War II most of the factories were destroyed, and along came the Cold War. Finally, after the end of the Cold War in 1991, thousands of old seed beads were found. Today the best quality seed beads come out of Japan and the Czech Republic, and a few vintage looking styles from France as well. China and Taiwan produce seed beads, but they are not as high quality as those from Japan or Europe.

Just like world class chefs guard their signature recipes, bead manufacturers guard their color formulas as well. Each company wants to have a particular color that everyone wants, that's how you sell beads. On a historical note, there is no true black glass bead. The recipe for black glass appropriate for beading was lost during World War II and no one has been able to recreate it. Any so-called 'black glass' bead looks purple when held up to a light. Although, there certainly are authentic antique black glass beads floating around that appear to have survived history.

Bead size can seem quite confusing if one is not familiar with the three units of measurement. Some manufacturers measure beads in aughts, which refers to the number of beads able to fit into a standard unit. Others use millimeters and still other bead manufacturers use a beads per inch measurement. The most common size of seed bead is 11/0 or eleven-aught. In millimeters that is 1.8, and 20 beads per inch. In bulk form, seed beads are sold either by 'hanks' or by grams. A hank is a bundle or 12 strands of 20 inches of strung beads. Japanese beads in particular are sold in grams.

Seed beads are very often used for bead weaving, either on or off a loom. The process works the same way as regular weaving, only with beads incorporated into the weft threads. Although beadweaving on a loom was quite popular at the beginning of the 20th century, it tapered off after World War II. Now off-loom beadweaving has become the most widespread method, with bead shops offering classes in techniques from beginner to advanced.

There are several stitches commonly used to create various textures and patterns. The peyote stitch is one of the most ancient, and is sometimes called the gourd stitch. Peyote stitch is achieved by using uniform shaped and sized beads threaded together side by side in either odd or even numbered rows. Each bead is held together by the thread and surrounding beads. Another common beadweaving stitch is the brick stitch. It can also be known as the Cheyenne or Comanche stitch, as it was perfected by Native Americans. It can look a lot like the peyote stitch, but done properly the brick stitch looks as if the beads are stacked like bricks.

The nice thing about beading is the versatility. Beaders can express their own personal style through color, pattern, size of bead and even the size of the piece. The available materials for beads have grown so much since the 1930's. Now Swarovski crystal beads are available, as well as cubic zirconia, gold filled beads, Murano glass, gemstones, jade, various metals and so on. Creative beaders can make simple little pieces or fantastic three dimensional sculptures. It is all in the imagination! If you are a beginner, start with a newbie beading class and a kit. The classes are usually fairly inexpensive, and sometime the kit is included. As you learn new patterns and methods, your confidence will increase. Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries and weddings will become exciting events as you watch your loved ones marvel at their handmade beaded gift from you!



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