On Making Miniatures

Introduction

Most beaded flower artist tend to make their flowers life-size, so I thought having a “tips” post on making miniature sized flowers would be fun and different. However, I haven’t made very many miniatures myself. Most of my work tends to be on the other end of the size scale. So I contacted my friend Suzanne Steffenson (who was also my co-designer/author for Beaded Berry Collection) who specializes in making miniatures, to see if she would be willing to write up an article for your enjoyment and edification. We are very fortunate that she agreed!

Earlier this year I published a free pattern for Miniature Roses, and I’ve had so much fun seeing so many others use that pattern to make flowers. Suzanne also used that pattern, but with smaller beads. Basically, she made miniature miniature roses, and mounted them on a tiny doll sized tiara meant for a dog!

Picture

In this last picture you can see the comparison of my red miniature rose next to her miniature miniature roses. Just look at the perfect blend of colors! And the Victorian Beaded Butterfly is a wonderful touch.
She says the only alteration she made was to add an extra of the smallest petals on the inside. Bead counts and rows were the same as the original pattern, which is a rare occurrence when making miniatures.

And here are a few more samples of Suzanne’s work, all miniatures made using beads smaller than the 11/0 seed beads that we see used most often in French Beading.
And now on to the article!

“Thinking small – Making miniature beaded flowers” 

By: Suzanne Steffenson

Although Helen McCall wrote a book on making miniature beaded flowers, and other authors of French beaded flower books have included some patterns for making miniatures, most of these patterns use the same 11/0 beads used in life size flowers.  The “miniature” designs are simplified versions of their life size cousins, and accordingly, some patterns lack detail and charm.  But what if you make a miniature flower like a good piece of dollhouse furniture, where detail – construction, coloration and scale — is as precise and as intricate as the full sized version?  There is no magic formula for taking an existing pattern and sizing it down from 11/0 beads to 15/0s, but there are steps you can take to produce lovely miniatures. ​

Beads

​I recommend starting with 14/0 and 15/0 Japanese beads.  Aside from having hundreds of colors and finishes, they are inexpensive, readily available, and relatively uniform in size. Czech beads are made in smaller sizes, but because 16/0 and smaller beads are no longer being made (making them harder to find and more expensive), this article is based on 14/0 and 15/0 beads.
The size of the bead holes is very important.  If the original pattern calls for a fringe or Victorian technique, etc., make sure the bead holes will allow more than one wire to pass through.  Some smaller beads will accommodate two wires and some will not. 

Wire

I generally go down one wire gauge when working from an 11/0 pattern to a 15/0 miniature.  I find 26 or 28 gauge wire usually works well with a basic technique, and 28 gauge for continuous loops.  30 gauge works well for fringes and lacing.  But there are exceptions to every situation. If the gauge is too heavy for the bead size, it will be difficult to get good technique, twists and wraps, and if the wire is too flimsy, your flower won’t withstand being moved or shaped. If I’m working on a flower with a lot of petals, I sometimes use a lighter gauge for the inside petals and a heavier gauge for the outside petals, just to make a sturdier flower.  Also, when working with smaller beads and smaller components, weight is not the issue it can be with bigger flowers.  I use silamide (strong, waxed beading thread) instead of wire to lash the petals together or to a stem wire.

Adjusting Patterns

Start by working with a full-size pattern that you like.  Roses are fun to miniaturize as are simple patterns for daisies, lilies, and iris.  Some patterns are written with bead counts and some are written with measurements.  Start with the biggest components – usually the leaves and petals.  Make a full size component (leaf, petal, etc.) in 11/0s using the author’s recommended bead count or measurement.  This will provide you with a sense of the overall shape and size of the component.  Take the beaded component and make an outline of it on a piece of paper to more clearly see the proportions.
When working with smaller beads, even one or two beads or one row can make a big difference in the proportions of the component.   I have had rare occasions where I have been able to take the original 11/0 basic bead count and use that same count with 15/0s.   If this happens, by all means celebrate.  But more often look at the full-size component and reduce the length of the basic measurement by approximately 65-70%.  If the Basic Row is given as a bead count, you must first convert that length to inches or cm before making the size reduction.  If the full-size component is an unusual shape (like a one bead basic) or shorter (less than one inch in length), a smaller percentage reduction may be more successful than a larger one.   A very small basic of one or two 11/0 beads will be the same in a size 15/0 miniature and you will probably need to decrease the rows to maintain the overall proportions.   Plan on making one or two samples to determine the best ratio.
Using the 11/0 pattern as a guide, begin adding rows to the 15/0 miniature.  With most miniatures, you will have to reduce the number of rows by at least two, sometimes one, and sometimes more than two.  Likewise for continuous wraparound loops.  When you finish your 15/0 component, place it next to or inside the outline of the 11/0 component.  Be critical.  Is the miniature version the same shape?  Too long?  Too wide?  Or, horrors – TOO BIG?  Your next attempt will be much closer.
After you have a 15/0 bead count for the petals and leaves, use the same process to determine the 15/0 measurements for smaller components like centers and sepals.
I do not usually reduce the number of components (petals, leaves, etc.) when miniaturizing a standard pattern.  To do so would simplify the design when I’m going for the same level of detail as the larger version.  Likewise with coloration.  I put a lot of effort into shading and putting as much color detail into the flower as you might see with a life-sized version.  Because you may not have as many rows or “space” to work with, make sure you edit colors carefully.
Another important aspect of creating a miniature is to give credit where credit is due – acknowledge the author of the original design and then humbly take a bow for your miniature interpretation of that design. 

Modifying Technique

At last, the tricky part.  The pattern you have chosen to miniaturize may include a technique that doesn’t work well with 15/0 beads.  It may be a technique for a center, sepal, stamen, or leaf.  There are some techniques, which shall remain nameless, that I don’t like to use with 15/0s.  The easiest solution is to substitute a different technique.  I call it “frankensteining” –combining a component from one pattern with a component from another pattern.  Look at the flower files on Facebook FRENCH BEADED FLOWER group (must be approved to join first, if you are not already a member) and other online resources, glean ideas from books and patterns, and ask other members of our French beaded flower community.

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