Lesson Seven: Lacing
TERMS TO REMEMBER:
I recommend working through Lesson Six: Basic Frame, before beginning this lesson on Lacing.
Photos 1 & 2 show a leaf that is unlaced. Even if your technique is perfect the rows of beads will separate, leaving the leaf or petal looking unkempt. Shaping the leaf into a more natural leaf shape with bends and twists and folds creates a disastrous mess.
We fix this problem with Lacing. Simply put, lacing is sewing across a petal or leaf with a thin gauge of wire.
Lacing is one of those techniques that many French Beaded Flower artists love to hate, and hate to love. Why? Because it can be a real pain in the you-know-what, or more likely, a pain in the fingers.
However, it vastly improves the appearance of flowers by keeping the rows nice and tidy, and by allowing you to shape flower components into more natural shapes without getting a tangled mess of beads and wire.
Each artist has their own set of rules for when to lace. Here are mine:
- Lace anything that is 11+ rows wide. (Sometimes you can get away with not lacing until 13+ rows… but I really like the extra security.)
- Lace anything that is over 2 inches (5 cm) long, no matter how many rows.
- Lace any piece that will endure a large amount of shaping (bending and molding pieces into natural shapes).
- For long petals and leaves, lace once for every 2 inches along the Basic Row.
For this exercise, make a Basic Frame leaf in any shape that is at least 13 rows wide. Use 30-32 gauge (0.2 – 0.25 mm) copper core wire to lace. I recommend using a color of wire that closely matches the beads, if you can find it. I will be using a mismatched color so you can see it more easily in pictures.
- To begin, cut a length of 30-32 gauge wire that is approximately 2 1/2 times the width of the leaf. Fold this wire in half.
- Insert the wire into the front of the petal, with one wire end on each side of the Basic Row (Photo 3).
- Pull both wire ends all the way through to the back of the leaf. (Photo 4). The center fold in the lacing wire should “catch” between two beads on the Basic Row.
- Cross the wires on the back of the leaf so they switch places (Photo 5).
5. Select one of the wire ends and insert it between the first and second rows of beads (Photo 6). Pull the wire all the way through to the front of the leaf.
6. Insert the end of the same lacing wire into the front of the leaf, between the Basic row and the first row beside it (Photo 7). Pull the wire all the way through to the back, making a complete loop around the first row of beads on the first half of the leaf. Check the front of the leaf to make sure the wire is tightly between two beads. If you are familiar with sewing or embroidery, this is very similar to a back-stitch.
7. Repeat, skipping over a row with every loop of the lacing wire until all the rows are sewn together. If you’ve done it correctly, the lacing wire should only show on the back of the leaf. (Photo 8)
TIP: I find it very helpful to use my thumbnail to mark the petal just below the lacing line. Not only does this pinch and hold the rows together while you lace, but it also helps guide the lacing wire between the correct beads (Photo 9).
8. When you reach the outer edge of the leaf, wrap the lacing wire twice around the last row of beads to secure it (Photo 10). Then use wire cutters to clip it close against the leaf. If there is a tiny tail of wire left, fold it down against the beads with pliers or a fingernail.
9. Repeat with the other wire end to lace the other half of the leaf. (Photo 11) I tend to flip my petal upside-down to lace the second side because it is easier for me if I move right-to-left.
Photo 12 shows the back of the finished petal.
Most of the time you will lace straight across a petal or leaf. You may not get an exactly straight line because the beads won’t always line up nicely, but at least try to keep the lacing line somewhat straight.
Photo 13 shows the front of a petal made from the same pattern using a matching color of lacing wire. Notice that the lacing wire does not show on the front side of the petal. Only the back.
Note: You can also lace from one side of the leaf to the other side, instead of starting in the middle. But I, personally, find it harder to hold the piece and all the rows while lacing that way.
Other times you may need to lace in a v-shape, especially near the top or bottom tips of a leaf/petal. Photo 14 shows an example of a leaf with a v-shaped lacing line. Sometimes my patterns will have dashed lines like these to tell you where to place the lacing wires.
This is done exactly the same way as regular lacing, just lace at an angle.
When making very long or very wide petals and leaves, it can be difficult to get the rows of beads to line up nicely. For these pieces, it is very helpful to lace them while you make them, rather than waiting until you have all the rows finished. Lacing during petal construction is called Lace-as-you-go. Some French Beading artists choose to lace all of their pieces this way, no matter the size.
After wrapping on the third row, add in the lacing wire(s) exactly as you would with regular lacing (Photo 15). I am using three lacing wires with this leaf. Then lace all the rows you already have.
After that, lace rows as you add them on, instead of after finishing the leaf. Photos 16 & 17 show lacing a row before I’ve wrapped the working wire on a frame wire. I carefully measure the beads needed against the side of the leaf, and loop each lacing wire around as I come to it. To do it this way you will need to hold the new row of beads in place and maintain tension to avoid gaps forming between beads. However, for shorter pieces that you need to lace-as-you-go, you can carefully measure out the beads needed for the full row and wrap at the Top or Bottom Wire, then go back through and loop all the lacing wires around it. Just as long as you lace the row before adding another row.
© 2018 Lauren Harpster of Bead and Blossom. This tutorial, the written instructions, and photographs are copyright protected. Do not upload them onto any other websites or print them for personal gain. My tutorials may not be used for teaching classes. If you wish to share this tutorial, please do so with a link.