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Stained Glass Pattern Making
Stained glass is one of the many dying arts. However, it returns. Designs can be traditional, modern, abstract or realistic. Learn how to create your own stained glass designs. Dos and don’ts and what to consider when writing a pattern. Lead or foil panels can be fitted directly to a timber frame or encased in a double-glazed unit, effectively triple glazing a single window. Free hanging pieces such as solar collectors, mirrors, wall decorations, clocks, candlesticks and more can also be made.
Before starting a pattern, it’s a good idea to be aware of some of the limitations specific to working with glass with either the lead or copper foil methods. When your pattern is complete and ready to make, feel free to contact me via my website, details of which can be found at the end of the article
- Try to avoid an intersection (X) or lines going straight from one side to the other in your pattern, especially for copper foil, as this would be a weak point in the finished piece. (this is not so important for lead work, and many traditional patterns include these shapes, but they are still best avoided if possible).
- Try to avoid the inner right angels (or sharper as in the letter V). as the glass will probably crack spreading from the right angle point. Therefore, there must be a line running through any point (similar to the letter Y).
- Try not to make a pattern with too many details. This is especially important for lead work, as if the pieces of glass are too small, they will not show through the lead. Think the right glass will add the detail for me.
- The more detail there is, the larger the piece should be. This won’t necessarily make the piece more difficult to build, unless it’s very large, then handling large sheets of glass can just make it awkward.
- Some of the pattern will be lost because it is covered by the lead or copper foil (a greater amount will be lost when using lead than when using copper foil). the amount lost will depend on the thickness used. For an A4 piece, 8 or 10mm lead is sufficient, but a thicker lead is required for larger pieces or for a round edge. Instead of detracting from the pattern, it can be a feature in a well-designed pattern.
Things you will need to make patterns include: Paper (lining paper is useful as if wet when making the piece it will not disintegrate), paper/acetate, pencil, marker, ruler, eraser, ruler and or tape measure depending on size . A true stained glass designer is able to create a piece using a variety of methods. These include:
- Patterning to match existing panels or windows.
- Create a pattern from photos.
- Adaptation of existing standards.
- Working from an idea.
Before starting the design for a fitted piece the size needs to be determined, the best way to do this is to use 2 methods.
- Measure the opening for a tight fit (it’s behind the bead where the glass will fit) in several places, height and width.
- Place paper over the area and draw around the tight fitting area.
Using both of these methods ensures that the pattern will be the correct size and shape (the opening may not be truly rectangular or square) Then it’s a good idea to draw a 5mm line on 2 sides (this allows ease of placement and little margin for error when making the part). straighten the remaining 2 sides. The design can be drawn within the inner lines.
Patterning to match existing panels or windows
Is the place where the new piece of stained glass will be the same size as any existing one? If so, the easiest way to create a pattern would be with tracing paper or do a rubbing (like when you were a kid rubbing leaves) If not:
- Take pictures of existing panels so you know what you’re working on.
- Draw a grid for scale on both the photo and the paper the pattern will be drawn on (this could be just 2 lines to divide into quarters or a grid with more lines depending on the detail) this will help you keep the pattern scale and details of the pattern in place.
- Please note that the new piece may not be the same shape and design details may need to be stretched or squished
- Start drawing the details of the pattern, using the gridded photo for reference.
Create a pattern from photos
Artistic license may need to be used for colors, shapes and backgrounds.
- Print the photo as close to the desired size as possible. If the photo cannot be printed at the exact size. Draw a grid for scale on both the photo and the paper the pattern will be drawn on (this could be just 2 lines to divide into quarters or a grid with more lines depending on the detail) this will help you keep the pattern scale and details of the pattern in place.
- look at the photo with a critical eye. What detail can be lost (either textured or patterned glass can add it, ie like fur on an animal).
- Trace over the lines to be preserved with a marker.
- if the highlighted sections conform to the limitations of working with glass, if not, add any extra lines needed or change the shapes slightly.
- When you are happy with the pattern, trace over the altered image and the pattern is finished.
Adaptation of existing standards
Pattern books can be very helpful, but there may be certain aspects of a pattern that you don’t like or may just want to change. This can be especially true for free-hanging pieces, as the shape can be distorted by missing pieces from the edges or added interest by missing pieces from the middle (try not to weaken the piece, make sure each piece has at least 2 contact points). Alternatively additional pieces can be added for greater detail or interest.
- Photo copy or trace the pattern
- Place tracing paper over the pattern and draw the folds you want and changing any details required.
Working from an idea (this needs the most drawing skill possible)
It can be a very detailed and specific idea (I like the view from my garden which includes views of Criffel, with its trees and fields) or vague (ie I like hills and sunsets). In the first case, it would be advisable to take a photo to work with. While the second case may require a bit more questioning (do you live near a specific hill that could inspire you, if so, then it would be appropriate to include the shape of the hill, if not just a general shape of the hill good use.
- If the piece is fitted, follow the guidelines mentioned earlier. For free hanging decide on the size.
- Roughly sketch the design until you are happy with how it looks
- Look at the design with a critical eye to see if the design fits the constraints. Having a 2nd person look at the design (telling them what is needed) can be a good idea as aspects can often be missed.
- Change anything that needs to be changed.
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