You are making a lovely French beaded flower. You want it to keep its beauty for years and years. Did you know there’s an easy technique to keep it looking its best for the long term? Learn how to lace them.
One of the most important things you must do is to lace the petals and leaves. It may seem like an unnecessary step, but it will make a big difference in how well your flowers hold up over the years. Without lacing, the rows can become separated and look “spidery,” ruining the grace and flow of the piece. A good rule of thumb is to lace any piece that has thirteen rows or more in the French technique.
I recently restored four vintage bead flower arrangements. One of the biggest problems with these flowers was that they had been laced poorly or not at all. In the large white daisies, the artist had laced with heavy wire which had rusted and turned black over the years. Rusted, thick black wire on white daisies is not a great look! I replaced these wires with modern, very thin, white-colored wires. The flowers suddenly looked fresh and new again.
Lacing is a technique borrowed from sewing. There are several ways to lace. If you sew, the terms running stitch and back stitch will be familiar to you. When you lace your beaded flowers, you are actually doing a running stitch or back stitch to hold the rows of your petals and leaves together.
If you are doing a flower such as a rose, with basically flat petals, you can lace each petal separately. If you are making daffodils or perhaps Bells of Ireland, you will lace all around the head of the flower, then tie the ends of the wire together. This actually forms the shape of the bloom. On a lily, lace all the petals together in a line, then tie the ends of the lacing wire together when you are done. This keeps the petals in the proper alignment, side by side.
So. How do you lace? It’s not a hard technique at all. We will explore what might be called the “backstitch” method in this article. Other techniques, including one I developed to be the least visible technique of all, will be explored in other articles.
First, you will need 30-gauge or 32-gauge wire. It’s best to use a wire that matches your petal or leaf color as closely as possible. Modern lacing wires come in a variety of colors plus almost-clear, so it shouldn’t be hard to find something that will hide inside your flower very well. You will also need a sewing needle.
Measure the piece you are about to lace. For our purposes, let’s say the piece is two inches across. Measure and cut a length of lacing wire three times the width of the piece to be laced – in this case, six inches. Now fold the wire in half. With the ends of the wire, straddle the front of the basic or middle row of the petal, in the middle of all the beads on that row. Gently draw the wire-ends through. Twist the wires at the back of the piece to lock the wire in place. Work from the back of the piece so as to hide as much of the wire as possible.
Thread one of the wire ends through the needle eye and twist about a quarter inch of the end around the long part, to lock the wire onto the needle so you won’t lose the wire. Move the needle to the outside of the row right next to the center row. Thread the wire through to the front of the piece, stitch over that same row toward the center row, and bring the wire through to the back. Keeping the wire free of kinks, gently pull it taut so the rows are snugly held together.
Move the needle to the next row, or the second row out from the center row, and stitch through on the outside of that row. Stitch over the top of the row and come back through between the first row out from the center and the second row. Repeat this process until you reach the end of the petal, knot the wire and cut it. Tuck or curl the wire end out of sight. Repeat the process on the other side of the petal.
You’ll be surprised at how much better your flowers will look when they are laced. This simple technique keeps the rows in line and the whole flower in good shape. The flowers will stay much more beautiful for many years and will stand up much better to handling and cleaning. It seems like a detail, but really, don’t skip this step! You’ll be glad you laced your beautiful flowers.