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.
Taking the time to use the right gauges of wire will help ensure your flowers will look professionally-made, and that they'll last and look great for years and years.