Paper and Fiber and Beads, Oh My!

(With apologies for the cheesy title, I couldn’t resist.

Okay, I could resist, I just chose not to!)

Knowing I was going to make my own flowers for my bouquet flung the doors of possibility wide open, at first. What helped narrow the focus was realizing that I didn’t want just paper flowers or just fiber flowers or just sparkly beaded flowers–I wanted a mix of all of that and more. And to minimize the potential of it looking like diy-flower-soup, I decided that a unifying factor was needed to tie the disparate parts together, and a monochromatic palette fit the bill nicely.

You'd think there'd be enough here for a single bouquet, but not quite--I needed a couple dozen more before it was all said and done.
You’d think there’d be enough here for a single bouquet, but not quite–I needed a couple dozen more before it was all said and done.

Over the course of several months I made roses from crepe paper hearts, knit a variety of different flower patterns, and making some ribbon-style “roses” out of adding machine tape. Since Mr. Road Trip and I are both in accounting, it seemed like a fun way to personalize the flowers a bit more. I just snagged some printed tape after a mammoth reconciling session and cut it into varying widths to use as ribbon. I also wired some star anise pods onto floral stems and even picked up a few wooden flowers at the hardware store of all places! (They’re meant as an alternative to reed diffusers and have wicks instead of stems–you could drop perfumes or essential oils onto the wicks to add a nice fragrance to the bouquet, but I picked them up for looks alone.)

Finally, I made several French-beaded flowers to add a bit of sparkle to the bouquet. While paper flower tutorials are 10-a-penny on the Internet these days, beaded flower tutorials are a little more scarce, so I thought I include the basics below. If you’ve ever made a God’s-eye in summer camp (or have done certain types of basket weaving), this type of beaded flower is similar in construction method.

French-Beaded Flower Tutorial (woven variation)

Most French-beaded flowers I’ve made and seen completed are made as individual petals or components and laced together. That’s a bit too much start-and-stop for me, so I opted to use the less-common but more expedient woven style to make my 5-petal flowers.

Basic supplies you’ll need:

  • 24-gauge wire
  • 10/0 seed beads
  • wire cutters
  • small needle-nose pliers

First you’ve got to get the beads onto the wire. If your beads came in hanks (pre-strung), it’s pretty easy work to transfer them from string to wire, otherwise you can use  a bead spinner to quickly string the beads directly onto the wire, or just pour the beads into a shallow container and run the end of the wire through the mass of beads and pick them up that way. It really doesn’t take that long, but you want a good amount of beads strung up (a foot at least) because you won’t be cutting the wire until the flower is finished, so there’s no more adding beads if you run out without making things difficult for yourself.

From the free end of the wire, measure out 6 inches or so, fold at that point, and measure out a total of 6 6-inch strands (or 3 loops on one end and 2 loops, the start of the wire, and the beaded lead wire on the other). Wrap the center of this bundle of wires with the wire that’s closest to the spool and beads to secure, then clip the loops at each end. Pull one 3″ wire down perpendicular to the bundle (this will act as your stem) and spread out the remaining 10 ends like the spokes of bike wheel, careful that they don’t slip out of the center tie.

Do your basic over-under weave through the spokes, pulling tight every few wires (the pliers come in handy for this), for 2 rounds, just to keep things in place. It might look a little messy, but you won’t notice it in the finished flower.

jwalker_ttb_frbeadflower_round1

Now for the beads! For the first row (or circle) you’re going to slip 1 or 2 bead(s) between each of the wire spokes and wrap the working wire around each spoke–1 if you’re center section is very tight, 2 if they are naturally more spread out. So you’ll slide the bead(s) into place and then the working wire will go over the next spoke, under and around, coming out heading the same direction you started in (clockwise or counter-clockwise doesn’t matter, it’s whatever works best for you). You need to keep the working wire very taught and very close to the beads you just placed, I like to use my thumbnail to keep the wire in place as I wrap it around and then, periodically, pull it super-tight with the pliers.

jwalker_ttb_frbeadflower_round2

 

For the second round we’re going to start adding some shape to the flower other than round. Add a bead onto the next spoke and then slide 3 beads up the working wire to make an angled bit between the last spoke you wrapped and the one with the new bead on it. Wrap that spoke (the one with the new bead on it that you just “climbed” with the working wire) at a 45º angle up and then down with another 3 beads to the next spoke. Continue around your spokes, adding that new bead onto every other spoke, creating a star-like shape in the end.

jwalker_ttb_frbeadflower_round3plus

 

Same deal on the next round, though you can get a little creative at this point. You can add 2 beads to the pointed spokes, you can skip the adding and just build upon the existing shape until your flower is as big as you want it. Don’t go more than halfway up the spokes, though. If you want a bigger flower, start with longer spokes to begin with.

My favorite pattern so far is 2 rows of added-bead rounds, 3-5 rounds regular, and then 2 more added-bead rounds to produce a lacier edge in the final flower.

jwalker_ttb_frbeadflower_rounded

 

Keep increasing the number of beads between the spokes as you make successive rounds. At some point it’s going to be easier to eyeball it than count, and that’s totally acceptable. When you’ve gotten things where you want them, complete your last round and then flip the flower over.

jwalker_ttb_frbeadflower_weaveinends

 

Weave the remaining spoke ends back down the spines, heading towards the center. I’ve found it helps to do the “middle” spokes first–the ones “between” the petals, so you can tighten those areas down and make the petals stand out a bit more. Bundle the spokes together at the bottom and use one of them to secure the bundle together with a few wraps.

jwalker_ttb_frbeadflower_foldingin

 

Now the fun part! Gently but firmly fold the flowers up and in along the “between” spokes, kinda like a round accordion fold. Be careful not to overwork the wires, though, as they will break if pushed and that would be a very sad thing indeed.

jwalker_ttb_frbeadflower_spreadingout

 

Finally, pull out and flatten the petal tips to fill out the flower and form it’s final shape. My flowers all ended up in the 1 1/2″ to 2″ range, takes about an hour each to produce, and remain fairly lightweight on their own. Get a bunch together, though, and you’re dealing with some serious heft, along the lines of your average brooch bouquet or maybe heavier. To use in a bouquet like I’m doing, grab some floral stems and wrap it, along with the wire ends, together with floral tape. They also work well in hair adornments and corsages, too.

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