Lesson Two: Continuous Loops
I recommend working through my lessons in order. If you haven’t read through Lesson One: Tools and Materials, you might find it helpful to do so before continuing with Lesson Two.
TERMS TO REMEMBER
- Continuous Loops
- Tail Wire
- Working Wire
- Spacer Beads
- Unit Stem Wire
Continuous Loops (sometimes abbreviated as CL) are the simplest technique used in French Beading. Simply put, they are a series of beaded loops. Whenever you see the word Continuous, it means that you will be making multiple parts on the same length of wire.
The way patterns are written or formatted may differ from one designer to the next, but they will all have the same parts. Every pattern should tell how many units to make, how many loops are in each unit, and how many beads are in each loop. Some patterns may use a measurement rather than a numerical bead count. A French Beading pattern using Continuous Loops will look something like this.
Make 1: 5x Continuous Loops using 25 beads each
This means that you will need one of these CL units for the flower. The unit will have 5 petals, and each loop needs 25 beads. If the instructions said “Make 2”, for example, then I would complete the pattern once and cut that unit from my spool, then make a second identical unit on a separate wire.
For this exercise, use 26 or 24 gauge wire with approximately 2 grams of size 11/0 seed beads. Follow the sample pattern above.
- String all of the beads onto the wire, leaving the wire attached to the spool.
- At the beginning of the wire, leave a small section of the wire bare – usually 2-3 inches (5 – 7.6 cm). This tail wire will become part of the unit stem wire, which will be used to attach the unit to the flower’s stem wire during assembly. The other end of the wire, which is strung with beads and feeds directly to the spool is referred to as the working wire.
- Count out 25 beads from the spool (Photo 1).
- Form the beads into a loop, keeping tension on the beads with your thumb so gaps don’t appear between the beads (Photo 2).
- Keep your thumb in place, holding onto both wire ends below the loop of beads. Then twist the loop two to three full rotations with the other hand. This twists the wires together below the loop. (Photo 3)
- Count out another 25 beads on the working wire for the next loop. (Photo 4)
7. Leave a small 1/8″ (3 mm) gap in the wire between loops. Making loops too close together makes them bunch up on top of each other (which you may want sometimes, but generally not). In contrast, leaving too much space will make the unit too wide and the petals too far apart. Form the 25 new beads into a loop by twisting the wires beneath two to three full rotations (Photo 5).
8. Continue making loops until you have five total (Photo 6).
9. To close the unit into a circle, cross the working wire over the first loop (Photo 7). Wrap around the base of this loop once, then bring the working wire to the underside of the unit.
10. Twist the tail wire and working wire together on the underside of the unit (Photo 8). This wire is called the Unit Stem Wire.
Photo 9 shows the finished petal unit.
Closing Units With a Larger Number of Loops
You will often be making more loops in a unit. Because there are more loops, the units will need to be closed a little differently. As you can see in Photo 10 below, after wrapping the working wire around the first petal to close the unit it leaves both the tail and working wires off to the side. With fewer petals this isn’t a problem since the unit stem is still near the center, but when making units with a larger number of loops it pulls the stem wire further away from the center, which makes it harder to center the unit on the flower stem. To fix this, we need to re-position the wires so they are closer to the center.
- Cross the working wire over the first petal and wrap around it once, just like you would with a smaller unit.
- Then cross the working wire over the bottom of the unit and wrap it around a petal on the opposite side (Photo 11).
3. Fold the working wire back to the underside of the unit and the tail and working wires should be on opposite sides, as shown in Photo 12. To finish, bring both wires together in the center and twist them together to make a centered unit stem wire (Photo 13).
You may come across a pattern that calls for the use of Spacer Beads. These are beads that are strung between loops. Their primary purpose is to conceal wire that might otherwise be visible on the face of a flower, especially when the loops need to be spaced further apart. Spacer beads can be used with any continuous technique.
Simply feed the number of Spacer Beads required onto the wire and position them on the wire directly after the first loop, then measure the beads for the second loop. Because the purpose of a spacer bead is to conceal the wire, leave no space in the wire between spacer beads and loops. Photos 14 and 15 shows a continuous loop unit that uses two Spacer Beads between loops and after the last loop.
Practice making Continuous Loops until you are comfortable with them. Then move on to Lesson Three: Continuous Crossover Loops!
© 2018 Lauren Harpster of Bead and Blossom. This tutorial, the instructions, and the photographs are copyright protected. They may not be uploaded onto any other website, or printed for personal gain. If you wish to share the tutorial, please do so with a link.