Lesson Six: Basic Frame
TERMS TO REMEMBER:
- Basic Frame (BF)
- Top Wire
- Bottom Wire
- Basic Row
- Working Wire
- Round Bottom (RB)
- Pointed Bottom (PB)
- Round Top (RT)
- Pointed Top (PT)
- One Bottom Wire
- Two Bottom Wires
- Three Bottom Wires
Basic Frame (sometimes abbreviated as BF) is the most commonly used French Beading technique. As you get further into French Beading, you will see that many techniques will build off of Basic Frame.
A Basic Frame petal or leaf begins with a Basic Row of beads in the center of the leaf or petal. When counting rows, the Basic Row is row number 1. All of the other rows are wrapped around it. Each pass over either the Top or Bottom Wire of the frame (the two axis points of the frame) counts as another row. Most of the time, a Basic Frame will have an odd number of rows.
There are two axis on a Basic Frame – the Top Wire, which is above the Basic Row, and a Bottom Wire, which is below the Basic Row. Just like with Continuous Wraparound Loops, the shape of a Basic Frame changes depending on the angle of the wraps.
- To make a leaf or petal with a Pointed Top (PT), wrap at the Top Wire at a 45 degree angle.
- To make a petal/leaf with a Round Top (RT), wrap at the Top Wire at a 90 degree angle.
- To make a petal/leaf with a Pointed Bottom (PB), wrap at the Bottom Wire at a 45 degree angle.
- To make a leaf with a Round Bottom (RB), wrap at the Bottom Wire at a 90 degree angle.
Photo 1 shows the four basic shapes that can be created by mixing and matching the angles. These leaves were all made with a 9 row Basic Frame, 10 bead Basic Row. The only thing that changed is the angle I wrapped the rows.
Left to right: Pointed Top – Round Bottom, Pointed Top – Pointed Bottom, Round Top – Round Bottom, Round Top – Pointed Bottom.
Make 1: 9 row Basic Frame, 10 bead Basic Row, PT RB.
- Reduce to two bottom wires.
Translation: Make one leaf. Use the Basic Frame technique with 11 rows total. The Basic Row will be 10 beads long. The leaf will have a Pointed Top (45 degree angle) and a Round Bottom (90 degree angle). After we finish the leaf, we will reduce the number of Bottom Wires to two.
For this exercise, use 24 gauge (0.5 mm) copper core wire and size 11/0 seed beads.
1. String all of the beads onto the spool of wire.
2. Make a small loop in the end of the wire. This acts as a stopper to prevent the beads from sliding off.
3. Count out 10 beads for the Basic Row from the spool and slide them toward the end of the wire. Leave a small length of wire above. This will be the Top Wire.
4. Make a loop in the wire below the Basic Row by crossing the wire over itself directly below the Basic Row (Photo 2).
TIP: While making the loop, cross the wire over the front pointing in the direction you would like to start wrapping. For example, I wrap left to right, so I cross the wire over pointing left. If you want to wrap right to left, cross the wire over the front pointing right.
5. To finish the loop, pinch and hold the frame right where the two wires cross with one hand, then twist the the loop below (Photo 3).
TIP: If you are wrapping left to right like me, twist clockwise. If you want to wrap right to left, twist counter-clockwise. This keeps the wire crossing over the front of the Bottom Wire, which results in less wire showing below the Basic Row in the finished leaf or petal. If the wire crosses over the back instead, there will be a little bit of wire that you won’t be able to cover with beads and it will show in the finished leaf.
Photo 4 shows the finished Basic Frame. Take note of the “anatomy”.
- Right in the center is a row of 10 beads. This is the Basic Row, or row number 1.
- Above the Basic Row is the Top Wire (also called the Basic Wire).
- Right below the Basic Row is the Working Wire. This should still be attached to the spool and strung with beads.
- Below the Working Wire is a twisted double wire which is the Bottom Wire. This will become the leaf/petal’s unit stem wire which will attach it to the flower stem.
- Below the Bottom Wire is the loop, which will also be part of the petal/leaf unit stem wire.
Now that the Basic Frame is set up, it’s time to wrap some rows on the leaf.
6. Feed more beads down the Working Wire until they are flush against the frame, directly below the Basic Row. Fold the beads up directly beside the Basic Row toward the Top Wire.
7. Measure the beads needed to reach the Top Wire. The pattern tells us to make a Pointed Top. Cross the Working Wire over the front of the Top Wire, making a 45 degree angle with the Top Wire (Photo 5).
8. Wrap around the Top Wire. As you bring the Working Wire back to the front of the leaf, angle it down, making another 45 degree angle with the Basic Row (Photo 6). This completes row 2.
9. Feed more beads down the Working Wire and lay them flat against the other side of the Basic Row, pointing toward the Bottom Wire.
If there are gaps between rows of beads, they will show in the finished leaf. Place the rows as close together as you can without making them bunch up on top of each other. Don’t be afraid to pinch the rows closer together to mold the leaf.
10. Measure the beads needed to reach the Bottom Wire. The pattern tells us to make a Round Bottom. Cross the Working Wire over the front of the Bottom Wire, making a 90 degree angle (Photo 7).
11. Wrap around the Bottom Wire, maintaining a 90 degree angle as the Working Wire crosses back over the front (Photo 8).
The leaf now has 3 rows of beads.
NOTE: I rotate my piece while I’m wrapping rows so I am always working at the top, which is why Photos 7 and 8 are up-side down. I find it is much easier to wrap this way.
NOTE: It is very important to keep the Top and Bottom Wires of the frame straight while you wrap rows. If you allow the wires to bend, the leaf will end up lop-sided. If they do bend out of place, gently pull the Top and Bottom Wires in opposite directions at the same time to straighten them.
12. Feed more beads onto the Working Wire from the spool and continue wrapping rows until you have 9 total, or 4 rows on each side of the Basic Row (Photo 9). Remember to wrap at a 45 degree angle at the Top Wire, and a 90 degree at the Bottom Wire. Make certain to keep track of which side of the petal is the front, and which is the back. The wire wraps and the top and bottom wires should only show on the back side.
13. After completing the required number of rows, “tie off” the Working Wire by wrapping it twice below the last row on the Bottom Wire. These wraps should be tight and close together. (Photo 10).
14. The pattern tells us to “reduce to two Bottom Wires”. To do this, simply use some wire cutters to carefully remove the Working Wire. Clip it very close to the Bottom Wire (Photo 11).
15. Twist the two remaining Bottom Wires together approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) below the leaf. Leave the rest untwisted. Cut the loop open and trim the wires to different lengths (this will help keep the flower stem tidy during assembly). Clip the Top Wire short, approximately 1/4″ (6 mm) (Photo 12). Then fold it down against the back of the leaf.
The front of the finished leaf is shown in Photo 13.
Photo 14 shows the front of a larger petal. Photo 15 shows the back of the same petal. Notice that the Top and Bottom wires, and all the wire wraps are visible only on the back of the petal.
Different sizes of petals and leaves require a different amount of support to prevent them from drooping. Obviously, smaller pieces won’t need as much support as larger, heavier pieces. Reducing the number of stem wires helps keep the flower stem thin.
- Reduce to 1 Bottom Wire – for very small parts that don’t need a great deal of support. To do this, remove the Working Wire, then separate the wires in the loop and carefully cut one of them just below the wraps in the “tie off”. Leaf with 1 Bottom Wire shown in Photo 16.
- Reduce to 2 Bottom Wires – shown in the above tutorial, for small or medium pieces.
- 3 Bottom Wires – Heavier medium to large sized pieces will need 3 Bottom Wires to prevent them from drooping. To do this, simply twist the Working Wire into the two Bottom Wires. Try to twist them smoothly. Any lumps in the petal or leaf stem wires with show in the finished flower stem. If needed, untwist any twists that are in the two Bottom Wires before twisting the Working Wire in. This helps keep it smooth. A leaf with 3 Bottom Wires is shown in Photos 17 & 18.
As you advance in French Beading, you will find yourself making extra large petals and leaves that require even more support. For these you will need to add in Unit Support Wires.
From time to time you may come across a pattern that tells you to Reverse Wrap at the top or bottom wire. This is a simple modification of the Basic Frame where you wrap around the specified frame wire by crossing over the back instead of the front. This will leaf the frame wires and the wraps exposed on opposite sides of the petal. Look at Photos 19 and 20. They show two sides of the same petal. On one side, the Top Wire and wraps are exposed. On the other side, the Bottom Wire and wraps are exposed. This technique helps conceal frame wires when both sides of the petal would be visible in the finished flower.
Petals and leaves that have 13+ rows will need to be laced – or sewn across with thin wire – to keep the rows nice and straight. Many times I will also recommend lacing with just 11 rows of beads, though other designers generally don’t. Learn all about Lacing in Lesson 7.
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