pretty paper

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My bouquet in its temporary home, on our dining room table.

I have never had a favorite flower, but I sure love paper. Books surround me constantly, and they definitely smell better and keep longer than any bloom I know of. I had already begun thinking of having a non-traditional bouquet–brooches, buttons, paper–but seeing the photos from a colleague’s wedding helped me decide for sure on paper flowers. While she used actual (beautiful!) flowers during her ceremony, her rehearsal bouquet was made from her dissertation. It was perfect.

The dissertation bouquet was commissioned from an Etsy seller. As I investigated the idea further, however, I became attracted to the idea of making the flowers myself. I would be able to use my own books, mix several types of flowers, and add filler flowers to the look if I wanted. Best of all, I wouldn’t have to decide on all my flowers right that minute.

When all was said and done, I had made my own bouquet, three bridesmaid bouquets, four corsages, four boutonnieres, two kusudama tussy mussies for the flower girls, and centerpieces for the reception tables. I think they turned out pretty well! I also don’t have to worry about preserving my bouquet.

Several people have asked me how to make paper flowers. I just followed examples I found online, so it doesn’t seem right to write my own tutorial. Instead, I’ll link to the tutorials I used and post pictures of my own. I’ll say a few things about actually making the bouquets, corsages, and boutonnieres–which I didn’t use a tutorial to do–at another time. For now, I’ll just make sure to explain how I deviated from these excellent tutorials if I happened to do so.

Let’s go with the easiest flower first: the rolled paper rose.

To make these flowers, you’ll just need sheets of paper, scissors, and a hot glue gun. Click here to read the tutorial I used, and then come back here! Okay. I found that thin paper worked best for these flowers, so I ended up using an old dictionary:

the cat helped

The cat helped a bit. Anyway, I cut my spirals sort of haphazardly, but none of mine were as wavy or wide as the ones pictured in the tutorial. Since my rolled flowers were already going to be busy with text, I aimed for a smaller, more refined bloom. You can see in the “Step Four” photograph that the tutorial flowers are almost as big as the writer’s palm, much bigger than any of the blooms I made, the biggest of which measured about one and a half inches across.

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I was able to make smaller flowers for the boutonnieres and corsages by cutting smaller, thinner spirals. Cutting a thinner spiral (more swirls within the space of the same circle) also means a flower that lays relatively flat, which you might find useful for some projects. I didn’t make leaves for the flowers, but I did try the ones in the tutorial. They’re pretty! And pretty easy, too. Just not what I wanted. I used this tutorial’s instructions for adding wires for all my flowers except the kusuduma blooms.

Up next: dimensional paper flowers. You’ll still need paper, scissors, and a glue gun, but this time you’ll also need some paper punches.

I used this tutorial from Fiskars to get me started, but I will admit that I didn’t use entirely Fiskars products. I did buy one corner punch of theirs, but I also borrowed some Martha Stewart corner punches from my sister-in-law. (Thanks, Melissa!) I didn’t have any squeeze punches, but if you end up making flowers with them, I’d love to know how they turn out.

I loved making these flowers. They came together quickly, and even better, it was still possible to read the book text. I used a Norton volume of 17th century religious verse for the bigger flowers and a French novel with yellowed pages and lots of marginalia for the smaller blooms. I wish I had a good picture of one of the smaller blooms. Maybe I’ll add one to the post later. Anyway, the last photo on the Fiskars page is the best approximation of the process I used. As you can see, however, I didn’t punch holes or place extra decoration in the flower centers. I wanted the text to stay readable. (Pictured above, R to L: Herbert’s “The Starre” and “The Altar,” which was in my bouquet.)

Last but not least: the kusudama flowers. You’ll need scissors, paper, a way to measure your paper, and either glue or double-sided tape. I also found it useful to have a paper cutter and a folding bone.

(You can also see the dimensional flowers in progress.)

I looked through numerous kusudama tutorials online, and this was the best I found, hands down. These are the most time consuming flowers to make, especially if you continue past single flowers to the kusudama ball (tutorial here). Michael’s mom helped to fold petals, and my own mom folded petals and put flowers together. Thanks to them, I ended up with way more flowers than I needed or could ever have made myself. Mom used a dictionary for all the flowers she made. I used a fancy Cliff’s Notes edition of Hamlet for some and the same 17th century poetry book as before for others.

More often than not I used the “variation on pattern” shown in the tutorial, with only one “stamen” rather than three. This made the flowers seem less complicated and busy. I found that especially important for the smaller flowers. The bigger your paper squares, of course, the larger your kusudama flower.

Gluing the petals together into a flower was more difficult than the tutorial makes it out to be. Getting it right takes some trial and error. I suggest gluing as close to the center of the petals as you can. If you don’t like the shape of the completed flower, you can always add dots of glue and press the petals together further along their sides. Double-sided tape works particularly well for small flowers, I found.

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If you’re making single flowers, this is the point at which you should put in a stem. Glue four petals together, then place the stem along the line where the flowers meet and nestle the stem inside. (I used both pipe cleaners and floral wire. Thicker floral wire works better.) If your petals don’t seem as though they will come together easily, use six or seven petals instead of five. (I even used ten at one point, as you can see in the picture above.) Just remember that making the ball will be more difficult if you use more than five petals.

My next DIY post will be about arranging the flowers into bouquets, corsages, etc. Here’s a preview of the kusudama balls the flower girls carried:

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Until next time, at which point I’m sure I’ll still have the Caitlin Rose cover of Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper” in my head.

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2 thoughts on “pretty paper

  1. Cassie says:

    When I decide to plan my wedding I will totally be coming back to your blog and doing this. I want felt flowers, but bookish paper flowers are EVEN better. Love this.

    • bellee says:

      Hey, thanks! They are really pretty simple. I just found another bag of them (without stems) while I was going through things in my single-gal apartment. I didn’t realize I’d made so many. Ha.

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