If you’re reading this because you already love French beading, then you probably know about the basic tools. But, did you know there is a whole set of free French beading tools? I use these regularly and I have found them invaluable in workshops. I’m going to share them with you right here.
Just before we get into that… If you don’t know what French beading is, then check out this page. In case you’re interested, the basic must-have tools for French beading are a bead spinner and some wire cutters. However, these aren’t free (usually), so I’ll talk about them elsewhere. This post is just about those freebies!
My First Free French Beading Tools
Do you struggle to count your beads? Well, my first free French beading tools give you a solution to that problem.
I’m going to take credit for developing these, but I also want to mention a lovely lady I met in the first French beading weekend course I taught. It was the day before the course and I received a frantic phone call from the organisers. My course was completely sold out, but they wanted to ask a favour. Could I accommodate one extra person? Of course!
It turned out that this lady was in her nineties (although you would never have known) and she had never done anything like French beading before. Although she had tried all sorts of different crafts. She was so lovely and such a willing and positive student.
Unfortunately, she found herself falling behind in the workshop and she was a bit concerned. So, we worked out the problem. Every time she made a new petal (using the loop technique), she needed to count out twenty beads. But she would lose count, or struggle to see and end up having to count each petal several times over. (Is this sounding familiar to any of you?)
Anyway, we came up with a brilliant solution. So, here it is… The first of my free French beading tools is…
Pen and Paper…
What are you going to do with this? Simply, follow these steps:
- Make a small mark on your paper
- Count out twenty beads (make sure you’ve got this right!)
- Hold one end of your beads against the mark on your paper
- Make sure the beads are properly butted up to one another
- Use you pen to mark on the other end of your set of twenty
You now have a guide. So, every time you need twenty beads, just slide the beads along, get enough to fit between your two marks and you’re away. No counting needed.
I have to add a caveat here. This is not entirely accurate: by using the guide and not counting, you may end up with 19 or 21 beads. However, the only reason for counting the beads is to make sure you get the petals an even size. So, this guide should do the trick.
If you want to hot-foot it over to put this idea into practise, then my oxeye daisy project is an ideal place to start. You can get the tutorial right here.
Sticking with this theme…
The second of my free French beading tools is a ruler or tape measure. Ok, so strictly speaking, this isn’t free. However, I’m pretty sure you’ll have one or other of these lying around your house. So, I’m counting that as free!
If you know my patterns, then you’ll know that the first instruction in each is almost always the same. Thread x beads onto your wire. Now x could be 100 or 500, or even 3000 if you’re making my Calla Lily!
Do I really expect you to count out 3000 odd beads? Of course not – I’m not a total sadist. So, the most common question I am asked in workshops is, how long a length is ‘x’ beads? Do I know the answer? Not exactly, but I can help…
Rumour has it that size 11 seed beads are so called because there are around 11 beads in an inch (2.5cm). In point of fact, this isn’t quite accurate, but it’s near enough. So, you just need to do a little bit of maths.
If I told you to string 110 beads, then you need to divide 110 by 11. The answer is 10, so you want 10″ (25cm) of beads on your wire. You can use your tape measure or ruler to measure this. Now, my knowledge of the 11 times table is limited, so don’t waste too much time doing the sums. This is just a ‘quick and dirty’ way of getting some idea of how many beads you’ll need to string.
Oh, and don’t worry, if you don’t string enough, I have some simple solutions for adding more when you find you have run out mid-petal…but that’s for another blog!
The Second Set of Free French Beading Tools
You’ve got your bead spinner all set up, you’ve been adding your beads onto wire and making petals. Then a horrible thought occurs. How on earth am I going to transfer my beads from my spinner back into the tiny packet they came from?
Well, you need two tools for this. You might argue that the first of these free French beading tools isn’t really free. Well, that depends on what you have in your house. But if it’s not free, it’s definitely very cheap. What is it?
Yes, that simple, but oh-so-useful household staple (and I bought my plastic jug from the Poundshop, for £1). You just pour the beads from your bead spinner into the jug. Then, because the jug has a lip, it will allow you to control the beads better as you pour them back into their storage space.
However, if you’re trying to get them into a tube with a tiny opening, you might also need the second piece of equipment I’m about to share…
A Piece of Paper…
…or the tutorial that you’ve been using. At least, that’s what I recommend to my students at the end of a workshop. If you want to get all fancy and you have money to spare, then you could invest in a funnel.
I find the piece of paper works just as well, as long as you’re careful. You simply need to roll it to create your funnel. Make sure you leave a hole at the bottom that you can poke into your bead tube. Then pour the beads from your jug through your paper funnel.
Just don’t let go of the paper, or you’ll have beads everywhere! If you want to give this one a try, then my Aquilegia is a good project. It uses several colours of beads. So, you will want to keep swapping bead colours around as you work. Lots of practice with that jug and paper…!
The Last Free Tool
So, what else could you possibly need? I’ll tell you, the last of my free French beading tools is a humble elastic band. Why do you need this?…
Well, have you ever found yourself wrestling with a particularly lively reel of wire? It started out all neatly coiled with its end tucked in when you bought it. Then, you freed the end and the entire coil decided to make a bid for freedom while you weren’t looking…
You end up with a tangled mess and a frustrating beading session. Well, you’re not the only one to face this problem. So, some good samaritan has come up with a solution…the wire tamer!
It does what it says on the tin. It stops your wire from unravelling and making that bid for freedom. Meantime, it still allows you to unwind the wire from the spool, but in an orderly fashion. You’re the boss, not the wire!
You can buy a professional wire tamer using the link below. I do thoroughly recommend them. The elastic band sits around the spool of wire, but there is a hole through which you can thread the end of the wire to feed off the spool. It’s so simple, but so brilliant.
However, if you’ve already spent all your pennies on beads, I do have a free solution. The humble rubber band. Just pop one of those around your spool of wire. It’s not as brilliant as the proper wire tamer, but it does the job well enough.
All’s Well that Ends Well
That’s it. You’ve learned how to use tools to count your beads, to tame your wire and to pack your beads away at the end. What more do you need?
Obviously, a few tutorials to try out these brilliant free French beading tools. Happily, you’re in luck. You can find a great choice of French beading projects by following this link.
…but before you go, don’t forget to think about buying that wire tamer! Happy beading… 🙂