Blast into the Past + Pincushion Protea Pattern

For this month’s blog post I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the flowers I made in the first few years of my French Beading journey. I think it’s important for beginners especially to see how the pros start out. We are all a bit messy in the beginning. It’s part of the learning process. The more flowers you make, the more your technique improves, and the neater your components and assembly become. If your flowers turn out perfectly with perfect technique and perfectly tidy stems the first time you try, you are some kind of unearthly being.

I started making French Beaded Flowers a little over ten-ish years ago. My first flowers were actually made into accessories. I made some hair combs, a butterfly pin, some shoe clips, and other such things. I spent forever looking for photos of these projects, and could only find a couple of them. My technique wasn’t solid. There are some gaps between rows, and some wire showing at my top and bottom wires because I didn’t cover them completely, but this is entirely normal for a beginner. You can also tell that my photography has improved in leaps and bounds since then.

The first flower that I actually put on a stem wire (and not an accessory) was this rose. I worked from a pattern for this, and it’s one of the few times in my entire beading career that I used someone else’s pattern. I decided pretty quickly that I didn’t like other people telling me what to do, and that it was more fun and rewarding for me if I did my own thing.

This project is kind of hilarious to me now. I’m not very good at reading instructions. I’m a face-paced person, and it takes too long for me to decipher instructions that other people have written. My own instructions make perfect sense to me, others’ do not. I’m more of a photos kind of girl because I can make sense of those and dissect them quickly. Well, there were no photos in this pattern. Just words, so it might as well have been Greek.

The pattern said to use 26 or 24 gauge wire. I used 26. Should have gone with 24. I reduced to one bottom wire when I shouldn’t have and my petals are really, really floppy. If I shake this thing, they wiggle everywhere. Since it was floppy I tried to use glue around the wires, which just made it worse. One of the petals is hanging on by a little string of glue because it’s wire is broken. But I did lace them, so I think I should get extra points for that. It’s not particularly straight lacing, but still functional. Overall, my technique isn’t terrible. I’d already improved. Fewer gaps between my rows, better coverage of those top and bottom wires, though some are slightly lop-sided due to top wires bending sideways while wrapping (also a common occurrence for beginners, and sometimes for experienced beaders.)

Now the assembly is the absolute worst part. The pattern was referencing some sort of “assembly wire” that must be wrapped around the stem to attach the petals. The only wire I’m seeing is the wire sticking out of the bottom of the petals. I did not realize that this “assembly wire” was supposed to be a separate wire. So I just wound the petal wires around the stem. This left my petals very unsteady, wobbly, and weak. Plus, created a lot of wire bulk and prevented me from assembling the layers of petals close together.

And to top it all off… the pattern said to mount it on a 16g stem wire. At the time, I did not know what kind of wire. But since the petals were made from copper wire, I just assumed that I was supposed to use copper wire for the stem too. Some of you may know why this is a problem. Copper wire is softer than the steel florist stem wires that should be used in flowers. It can’t support the weight of the rose, so I have to keep it in a tall vase or the rose just droops.

So… in many ways, my first rose was a FLOP. Haha.

I used to keep this rose in a crystal vase, because even though it was flawed, I still love it. But over the years it has become too fragile. It needs to be taken apart and reassembled. Which is going to be a problem because I freaking glued the petal stem wires with super glue.

I don’t think I’ve shared images of this project ever, anywhere. My mother asked me to make something to go on the wall for my grandma.

So I made a rose (can’t remember if I used the same pattern as before, or a different one, or my own) and mounted it on a macrame frame with a beaded mesh thing behind it for support. This piece was recently returned to me after my grandma passed away this summer.

Can’t get over how the center petals look like a duck yelling.

And for those who don’t know, Bead and Blossom used to be called “Lauren’s Creations.” So if you see any photos of beaded flowers floating around with that name on it, it’s me.

I also made some standing sculptures with some kind of rose. Might have been the same pattern from before, or altered. But I definitely made and assembled it better. I do still have lumpy stems from a slightly sloppy assembly though. That’s also common in beginner flowers. I also made a pink one just like this, but can’t find the pictures.

I wish I could re-shape them to cup the petals better around each other, but I don’t have this piece anymore. There’s so many things I would change about my earlier projects now that I know more, but that’s all part of the process. It’s something we all go through.

Then there was this black and white lily, which was my own design. That one sparked a few more lily projects, including a couple more standing sculptures. For the one with the daisies, I added Ruffles around the edges of some of the petals to turn it into a daylily – that sculpture was a gift for my mom.

I also made some potted plants like these Primroses and Pansies. Both were my own design and I remember being so proud of them and that I’d figured out my own way to make those heart-shaped petals on both the primroses and pansies. I believe these two pieces were a year apart. Look at how much my technique had improved!

I also made some candle rings – one fall themed and one Christmas themed. A Clematis corner thing to hang on the wall, and a cherry bonsai for my husband. All my designs. There’s lots more things I made in the first few years of my beading journey, but I think this is enough for now.

Pincushion Protea Pattern

Last year I made a big tropical wedding bouquet that combined sweetheart roses, dendrobium orchids, pincushion protea, Hawaiian ginger, areca palm, monstera leaves, and some little blue flowers. Last year I got the sweetheart roses, areca palm, and Hawaiian ginger flowers published. And now the Pincushion Protea is finally finished! This one is available as a PDF. I was considering a video class, but decided to focus my recording time on a different video series (which I’ll have more info on later). The PDF does include both types of leaves shown and all of the shading patterns in the pins and stamen thingys.

This PDF teaches a new technique that I haven’t taught on my website yet – one that I am calling Split Continuous Loop (SCL). Whenever you see the “Split” term in French Beading, it means a wire loop somewhere is getting split apart at some point while making the piece. This particular modification of the Continuous Loop technique Splits each loop apart. The result looks similar to a Loop Fringe, but since it’s made on a 24g wire instead of a 28g wire, it produces stiffer and sturdier fringes.

I was taught a similar technique several years ago by Barbara Rose Keute, who used a simpler version to make some chrysanthemums. I altered what she taught me to add more support and security to the unit as a whole and at the ends of the loops. After I made my first pincushions last year, I spoke with Fen Li from the Bead Flora Studio to see if she had seen this technique anywhere before. I know she learned from older books than I did, so wondered if she had seen it in those. Turns out that she had also developed something similar, but wasn’t using any particular name for it.

Naming techniques can be a challenge. I like to stick to more traditional nomenclature most of the time (or at least what I consider to be traditional nomenclature), but that means some words are reused over and over and it can get confusing. For example, there is also a Split Loop technique, which opens up the bottom loop on a Basic Frame in order to make a V-shaped notch at one end of a petal. But some people shorten Continuous Loops by saying Loops instead. So Split Loop and Split Continuous Loops might sound like the same thing to people who call Continuous Loops… just Loops.

I don’t think it’s likely that you’ll get every artist and designer in the world to agree on technique names. We all have our own ideas of what’s best, and at least for me, the words I use help me relate to my artwork. For example, I absolutely hate the Beehive name and it irritates me to use it. Why on earth did they not just call it a Dome? That seems much more fitting to me, since there’s really only one formation of rows that would look anything like a beehive, but the exact same technique can be used for other dome shapes that look absolutely nothing like a beehive. And further, I see domes as a sub-shape that can be made with a larger technique family, which I like to call Bent Basic Frame – because you are Bending wires on a Basic Frame. But domes aren’t the only shapes you can make by bending frame wires. Oh well, I guess that’s why pictures in patterns are so important.

Watch for another announcement in a couple weeks regarding an upcoming bead-along that I’ll be teaching on Facebook and here on my website!

Happy beading!
– Lauren

6 thoughts on “Blast into the Past + Pincushion Protea Pattern”

  1. You have been a blessing to me Lauren. I taught myself years ago with very little info to fall back on. Looking at your past work hit home as I recently dismantled one of my first large projects and what a revelation to how far I too have come, but it was my first so I salvaged it. All my first items were flimsy due to using 26 gauge wire which the material I was finding was recommending. Also, my daughter told me the things I have made for her are her most valuable possessions (not counting my grandchildren of course). That by itself is worth all the work. Keep up the good work, I am always happy to see what you come up with and have bought several of your patterns.

    1. Lauren Harpster

      Thank you so much, Lucy! I’m glad you were able to salvage the pieces from the project you took apart. Are you planning to reuse them elsewhere? I’m torn between taking that first rose apart to re-assemble it, or leaving it alone in it’s original state for personal history purposes. I’m pretty sure I tossed some of my first projects, and now I’m sad about it. I hope one day my children will treasure my flowers like your daughter treasures yours.

  2. Roses were the first thing I made without a pattern. Mine have come a long long way from those first ones! I didn’t know about lacing in the beginning, so those early ones look crazy to me now. It is really fun to look back now and see how my techniques have evolved. Like you, I really prefer to make a flower by looking at a real one. But patterns are great for picking up new techniques!

    1. Lauren Harpster

      Hi Deanne! It really is fun to look back! I keep looking at all the leaves in the projects I shared and wishing I’d laced them, too. Though, back then I probably wouldn’t have finished a project that needed that much lacing. There’s lots of things I would change, but, I’ll just try to focus on the joy I received while making them instead. I collect books for techniques and construction methods, and for their historical value as well. It’s been a little while since I’ve had time to read through them, though. I wonder what new bits of info I would pick up on nowadays.

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