Hi everyone! Hope your week has been just wonderful! Between two jobs and coursework, I hardly know where I’m at anymore… so I’m sorry if this entry is a little bit later than promised.
So here’s a lesson we learned while letting your gelatine/stiffener dipped flowers dry: don’t spread them out on paper, hang them up! If you put them on paper, they WILL stick. If you’re not around to turn them over every so often, you will end up with lots of paper residue stuck on your petals. Not cool. Luckily I did turn mine over before leaving for the weekend, so I had whole bunch of crispy, paper-y, stiffened petals to work with.
Our guest lecturer was Gwenda, a lady in her mid-80’s who was a millinery teacher to our current millinery teachers. She is a French Flower Expert. This is one of those rare skills from another era, where people really did get to perfect the art of making delicate little flowers, complete down to the stamens, from scraps of fabric and earn a living from it. She brought with her some flowers she had made, bunches of little stamens and buds, and a whole box full of french flower tools.
Aren’t they just beautiful? Part of what I love about sewing and fabric craft is the vast array of tools and gadgets you can accessorise with!
Using a gas burner, you heat the copper heads of the tools until they are hot enough to sizzle when you touch them with a wet finger. Hold the silk petal on a thick sponge covered in cotton. Press the hot tool into the petal with quite a lot of force. In the case of the ball-ended tool push down and away from yourself to create the ‘cup’ of the petal. You can use the tool with two prongs to uncurl the petal gently to create a more realistic shape.
Once you have a whole set of shaped petals, you can make a flower centre and stamen.
The flower centre was made of a tuft of cotton wool wound around a length of wire in a bud shape. Then, I covered this in a bit of stretchy fabric and sewed it in place. Ideally you can use a square of pantihose! You can colour or dye the resulting bud to match your flower petals. Nifty!
For the stamens, we used – get this – nylon rope frayed open and melted with a match! Gwenda herself worked out that this was a really easy and cheap method to get realistic looking stamens. Of course you can buy beautiful ready-made stamens, but this was such a good trick, especially since so many of the supplies for crafts like these can get very expensive. Glue and stitch the rope stamens around your cotton-wool bud. Wind thread around the whole flower centre to hold everything in place.
To attach the petals, start with the smallest at the centre. Attack to your centre with a dab of glue, then wind thread around the stem a few times to hold in place. Add the other petals in the same way, wrapping with thread after each. Be careful not to ‘creep’ the petals down the wire stem too far – you want to keep everything compact. After you have attached the final petal, you can shape things a bit more with the tools. We ran out of time in our session, but Gwenda explained how you can make a thin bias tube to cover the wire stem as well.
How sweet are these buds? Gwenda made these from calico. They don’t have to be silk!
Here is my final flower – it could have used a few more petals, but has a certain blowsy quality I think! I really wish this were a whole semester subject. A taste is just not enough!