Wire is used in gumpasting to support large leaves and petals and to make and extend stems and branches as well as to construct floral sprays. Wire comes both covered (with paper or cloth) and uncovered. Personally I prefer the paper-covered wire over cloth-covered wire as it seems to be less bulky to me. Wire can also be used when constructing other objects or figurines, although to many, dry pasta, sugar sticks and toothpicks etc. seem to be the more preferred mediums. Floral wire is generally available in an assortment of thicknesses (aka gauges) ranging from 16g-35g. With wire gauges, the smaller the number the thicker the wire will be. That means that lower gauges such as 16g and 18g are very sturdy pieces of wire whereas higher gauges such as 30g through 33g are quite delicate and flexible, almost like a piece of starched thread.
I started out using the uncovered florist wires that I still had from my old floral designing days, but once I tried paper-covered wires I immediately fell in love with them. They are like night and day because they are much easier to use since you do not have to tape each piece of wire before using it. This is especially nice because a 30g piece of wire you have added tape to becomes a bit bulky, but the commercially-wrapped, paper-covered 30g wire still remains delicate. Even though they are more expensive, I would still highly recommend trying paper-wrapped wires. For most people time is money, so the time and aggravation one will save by not having to individually tape each wire could be priceless.
Paper-covered wire comes in different grades. The “A” grade and “Superior” grade wires are considered the best for gumpasting since their paper is wrapped very tightly. This makes it easier to insert into the gumpaste without it unraveling which the lesser grades have a tendency to do. Each piece measures an industry standard 14” long and most often comes in white and moss green. Occasionally you will see it being offered in other colors such as: Nile green, light green, brown and gray. The most versatile color by far is white because when you dust it the new coloring retains its integrity, whereas with other colors you will only have limited success. Another fabulous feature about white wire is that when it is inserted into white or light-colored gumpaste petals it does not show through as the colored ones tend to do. You will still want though to have some moss green wire on hand for making leaves and/or tiny, colored buds.
Since there is an endless number of possibilities out there when it comes to objets d’ art one could make with gumpaste it would be difficult to make suggestions concerning which size wire would be needed, therefore the recommendations I have given were written under the assumption that you will be working with floral related pieces.
Guidelines for Wire Selection
18g-20g Very thick and heavy. These are the strongest wires and require using heavy-duty wire cutters. Uses: for wiring very heavy leaves, multilayered flowers (such as roses or peonies), branches
22g A fairly thick and strong wire. Uses: wiring large leaves, flowers, buds, strengthening stems
24g A medium-thick, middle-strength wire with some flexibility. Uses: wiring medium-sized flowers, big petals, medium leaves
26g A medium-thin, middle-strength wire with some flexibility. Uses: wiring medium-sized flowers, medium petals, medium leaves
28g A thin wire with flexibility. Uses: wiring small-sized flowers, small petals, small leaves, buds
30g-33g Very thin, fine wires that are extremely flexible. Uses: wiring small and/or delicate flowers, buds, leaves
Which Gauge Wire? - Which gauge wire you choose will be determined by how heavy the piece of gumpaste you will be inserting it into is and/or the weight of the finished flower. For example, a multilayered rose, a peony or a ranunculus would require the heavier 18g or 20g wire. If you are making tiny, little flowers for a delicate spray such as a mimosa or lily of the valley, you would then want to use 30g or 33g.
Purchasing Guidelines - If you are just starting out and you don’t know which wires to buy, you could splurge and purchase a package each of 18g or 20g, 22g, 24g, 26g, 28g, 30g and 33g. That way all your bases will be covered and you will be able to experiment with the various weights to see which wires will work with the flowers and leaves you will be creating. Otherwise, you could get by with just a few sizes. I would recommend the 18g, 22g, 26g, 28g and 30g white. Just remember that you will be limiting the variety and size of flowers you will be able to make. You can always add moss-green wire later for leaves and stems. Once you have established your needs, you can order accordingly.
Floral or florist’s tape (sometimes called stem wrap) is a waxy crepe paper with an adhesive which is used to cover floral wires and bind and attach flowers, leaves and stems etc. together. Once you start stretching the floral tape it releases its special glue and becomes self-fusing, which means that it only sticks to itself (okay, a little residual glue might remain on your fingers). The floral industry standard is ½” in width, but it can occasionally be found on some sugarcrating websites in a ¼” width. Each roll contains 30 yards of tape which means one roll will go a long way, especially when you cut it into narrower pieces.
Floral tape is readily available in moss green, white and brown as well as other colors such as: dark green, beige, wine, yellow, black, light green, etc. So, select a color that blends well with your twig or stem. I am particularly fond of using Floratape stem wrap as I have had consistently good results over the years when using it. It is my go-to brand for light green, white and brown tape which are the colors I use most often.
FYI: An alternative to using colored tape is to apply petal dust to white tape to achieve the color you desire.