First, you need the right equipment. This is the rig he built for this project. The blue thing is the crank, with a small (16-gauge) hook; on the far end, there's a small table-top vice, elevated to be the same height as the hook in the crank. Also, toward Birk, there's a long, thin piece of wood that serves as his measurement tool for the length of the wire. Also scattered around the table are the wire snips, pliers, wire, and crystals (in small tins to avoid scattering tiny Swarovskis all over the place).
We're using 26-gauge stainless steel wire (for a number of reasons) and 4mm Swarovski crystal tapered beads. Since we want approximately 15-inch-long sprigs for the bouquets, we are measuring 30-inch lengths of wire. Here is one of those lengths (curly because the wire comes in coils).
We have a hook screwed into the base of the rig to make this step easier. Fold the wire in half and make a little bit of a bend where it's on the hook.
This is what it looks like after you make the bend. (We think it looks like a super fancy moustache.)
Add the crystal (or crystals). If you only want crystals on the tips, just add one, and slide it to the bend. If you want them interspersed in the middle, add an extra to some of the sprigs. This one has white on the end and white AB (with a little bit of rainbow) further down. Hook your sprig onto the crank hook where it's bent.
Clamp the other end of the sprig-to-be (the two open ends) tightly into the vice.
Start cranking! Birk admits that, yes, you could use an electric drill for this, but hand-cranking gives you more control (keeping the beads in place, preventing snapping, etc.)
As seen in the last two photos, keep a finger on the beads as you crank, to make sure they stay where they belong.
This is what it should look like when you finish a sprig. (Tightly and uniformly twisted, with the beads able to be spun around but not moving too much.)
Here we have all 60 sprigs for the bridesmaid's bouquet. (20 each of green, white, and white AB on top, with about 1/3 with an extra crystal further down, at different heights).
We'll be finishing the bouquets later, after all the sprigs are made, so to keep Bethy's bouquet sprigs all together, we tied them together with pipe cleaners. (In green, because she has the green bouquet! We have blue ones for Lauren's and white and black for mine.)
I just thought this was sort of a neat photo of them all together.
THINGS TO BE AWARE OF:
KEEP TRACK. Birk's handwriting is teeny here, but up top he has the totals of each color that he needs for each bouquet, and at the bottom he has tally marks to keep track of what he has already made.
SNAPPIN' CAN HAPPEN. This was a particularly spectacular example (the part attached to the hook went flying off, and the lower bead flew across the room). Every once in a while, one sprig would snap in its own unique way. Be careful! Wire is pointy and can hurt you. Wear science goggles if you want to be extra safe.
EXPERIMENT! I want fun little curlicues in my bouquet, so he made a sprig without a bead and wrapped it around a Sharpie at the end... it's even better than what I had described to him (which would have resulted from wrapping it around a conical shape).
I'll post more when we wrap the base of the bouquets and bend them outward to actually look like, y'know, bouquets. Also coming from this project: boutonnieres and probably the centerpieces!