Introduction: Bead and Wire Crown
I've made a few of these crowns for the last couple of gaming events I've gone to. They certainly attract a lot of attention. I made one for my daughter to wear to a Ren Faire we went to, and I think she got more attention than the Queen.
To make one of your own, you will need the following:
Beads - I used 5 different beads, but you can use fewer, or more. I've chosen some 6mm star shaped jade and quartz stars (3 colors), 4mm swarovski crystal beads, and 3-4mm freshwater pearls. I used 60 of each, but your mileage may vary, depending on the beads you choose. I suggest using at least three different beads, for some nice variation.
Wire - I'm using 14 gauge, 22 gauge, and 26 gauge craft wire.
Tools - wire cutters, flat nose pliers, bent nose pliers (optional), nylon jaw pliers (optional), ruler, and a marker (optional).
I got almost all of this from Michaels. The stars I found at a bead shop that was going out of business, but I've seen similar beads at www.FireMountainGems.com. But this is YOUR crown, so chose the beads that make you happy.
Step 1: Bead Sprays
To create the upright elements, you'll need to make some beaded sprays.
1. Cut a piece of the 26 gauge wire, about 14-18".
Note: If you're using craft wire off of a spool, like I did, it will curl up. You need to straighten it. It doesn't have to be perfectly straight, just straighter than it comes off the spool. You can hold the end of the wire, grip it with the nylon jaw pliers, and run the pliers down the length...or you can just run it through your fingers to get it fairly straight.
2. Bend the length of wire in half. Again, perfection is not necessary.
3. String one of your beads on the wire.
Note: With the stars, I like to have one of the points up. Fortunately the beads had a hole in one of the points. I tried to string them so that the point was toward the bend in the wire, so they'd end up pointing like I wanted (but I'm not perfect). The crystal beads and freshwater pearls didn't have a "top", so there was no special direction for them.
Advice: Place a towel or some type of cloth down before you start working with the beads. If you try to work on a bare surface, when a bead drops, it will bounce and skitter off the table into some dark hidden recess under your furniture.
4. With the bead at the bend, hold the wire tightly around the bead, and twist the wire tightly.
Note: Don't worry though, you can tighten the twist if you need to.
5. Twist the wire about 7-10 times. This is your central branch for the spray.
Advice: Once you have the first twist below the bead, separate the wires. Hold the wires in one hand, and twist the bead with the other. Separating the wires first allows you to get a tighter twist.
6. Using your thumb, bend the "longer" wire, making a spot to place your next bead.
Note: At this point, the wires will be approximately the same length, so just pick one.
7. Slide another bead onto the wire. (After the 1st star bead, I randomized the next beads.)
8. Again, with the bead at the bend, hold the wire tightly around the bead and twist the wire tightly. Twist until you get back to the central branch.
9. Create more central branch by twisting about 7-10 times.
Repeat 6-9. Now you're going to use the other wire, which will definitely be longer at this point. Make another bend, string another bead, and twist tightly. Again, separate the wires, and twist until you get back to the central branch. Twist more central branch.
Repeat 6-9, until you have an odd number of beads, and end with about 1" of twisted wire. You'll probably have excess wire below the twist. Don't worry. You'll cut off the excess later.
10. Straighten out your spray. You'll want to make it relatively straight from the top bead down to the end, with the side branches on alternating sides, and pointing slightly upwards.
Note: Now would be a good time for you can twist the sections tighter if necessary.
11. Make as many sprays as you feel necessary. I made 60 sprays, but you can make as many or as few as you like.
Step 2: Separating the Sprays by Length (Optional)
I knew I had some long sprays and some short sprays. I didn't want to have them clustered, so I separated them by length, either over or under about 2".
I ended up with an equal number in each pile, but you can fudge if you need to.
If your sprays are more or less the same length, you may not want to separate them.
Step 3: Create the Circular Crown Section
1. Either measure around your head, or just wrap the 12 gauge wire around your head and add a few inches.
2. Use your hands to gently bend the wire into a circle. Shape it to your head, assuming you're making the crown for yourself.
3. Cut off the excess, leaving about a 1.5" overlap. The ends should overlap.
4. Using the flat nose pliers, bend the ends of the wire into circles. With the wire in one hand, and the pliers gripping the end of the wire, simply rotate your wrist, and the wire start forming a circle. Readjust the grip with the pliers and continue rotating your wrist until you have a circle you like. If you need to, use the flat nose pliers to flatten the circle so that it's right in line with the wire.
Note: it probably would have been better to make the circles going in the same direction. What can I say. I'm a rebel. And sometimes I'm not paying attention.
Optional: You can use a small 2" piece of wire to wrap the 2 end circles together, or you can leave them separated, which will make the crown a little adjustable.
Step 4: Math: Figuring Out How Far Apart to Wire Sprays
1. Measure the crown circle.
2. Divide by the number of sprays.
With 20" crown, and 60 sprays, this made it very easy to figure out how far apart to wire the sprays. 20 divided by 60 = .3333, or about 1/3" apart.
You don't want to bunch sprays at one point and sparsely at another. And you don't want to wire them too closely and run out.
Note: My measuring skill need work. I ended up wrapping the branches about 1/2" apart. So now I have some lovely sprays to make a matching necklace and earrings!
Step 5: Wrapping the Sprays Onto the Crown
1. Cut a 18-24" section of the 22 gauge wire, and straighten it. This length needs to be comfortable to work with, so your call. This is your wrapping wire.
Note: Don't worry about where to start wrapping. You'll be able to slide the wired sprays down to the end after you finish wiring a few of them.
2. Wrap one end tightly around the crown wire, about 2-3 times.
Note: It's easiest to start about an inch from the end of the wrapping wire, and wrap the end backwards.
3. Cut off any excess tail, leaving the cut end toward the inside.
4. Use the flat nose pliers to flatten the cut end so that it doesn't catch on anything.
5. Choose a spray, and lay it against the top edge of the crown wire.
6. Tightly wrap the wire once around both the crown and spray. Bend the spray upward.
Note: Having the side branches point to the inside/outside of crown, instead of along the crown wire, will make it a little easier to wrap the next steps.
7 & 8. Now comes the hardest steps. The locking loops. You want to ensure the spray stays pointing upward, and doesn't flop to either side.
A. So bring the wrapping wire up, over, and straight out from the crown, making a "T" shape with the crown and wrapping wire.
B. Instead of wrapping down and under the crown, you're going to bring the wrapping wire to the side, and around the spray in a "U". This needs to be tight, but not so tight that you pull the spray downward. This makes part of the locking "U" loops that will help keep the spray pointed up.
C. Now bring the wrapping wire down, under, and up on the other side.
D. Make a "U" in the opposite direction, so there's a "U" pointing in both directions.
Note: This will create a little clump of wires, which is to be expected.
9. Wrap the crown and spray tightly until you're ready for the next spray. Use the ruler to measure between sprays.
Note: You want the wraps to be next to each other, not spread out and not on top of one another. If they land on top of each other, unwrap and re-wrap. If they are spread out, use the flat nose pliers to squeeze them together toward the spray.
10. Repeat from step 5 for each spray.
Note: As you are wrapping, you want to try and keep the spray tail toward the inside of the crown.
Note: On each subsequent spray, you'll want to remove the excess tail from the previous spray. As you wrap past the current spray, cover the previous spray's wire tails for a couple of wraps. Pull the previous spray's wire tails out to the side, and wrap past them for a couple of wraps. Use the wire cutters to trim the tails, and the flat nose pliers to flatten them, and just wrap over them.
Note: As you reach the end of your wrapping wire, cut a new piece of wrapping wire. Start the new piece just like the first. Make sure you're still wrapping in the same direction. Hold the new piece in place, and wrap a few times over the end of the old wire. Trim the tail ends of both the old and new wires. Continue wrapping.
Step 6: Finishing
Once you've wrapped all of your sprays (since we calculated distance between sprays, hopefully, you didn't run out of sprays), you're almost done.
1. Check for stabby ends. Use the flat nose pliers to flatten and smooth where you need to.
Note: If the ends refuse to flatten or smooth, you can use a common emory board (the kind you use on your nails), to buff the ends so that they've not so stabby.
2. Fluff the sprays. Make sure they are all standing straight and tall. You may want to position the side branches either aligned with the crown wire, or not. Or maybe mixed. Your call.
Note: Try not to bend the sprays anymore than necessary. The sprays can break off if moved too much.
3. Now place your crown on your head, go to that event, and get ready to be oh'd and aw'd at.