The fritillaria meleagris is a spring blooming bulb, but its common names — which include snake’s head fritillaria, dead men’s bells, leper’s bell, and Lazarus bell — reflect the dark glamor that makes this little bloom perfect for Halloween.
Dyeing and dotting each little petal might seem like a lot of fuss for such a small flower, but even a single sprig with a couple of blooms adds sophistication and complexity to a paper flower arrangement.
Maker’s note: don’t let the precise looking rows of pale pink dots throw you — the right paint pen makes them easy to apply. For me, it’s the most fun part of the flower! Happy speckling!
Doublette crepe paper (since you’ll be over-dying the crepe, almost any red, pink, or purple color will work, but I prefer to start with an already fairly rich color to help achieve a deep oxblood color)
Pale green crepe in any weight (I’ve used “limon” heavy crepe from Papermart)
Hampton Art Chalk Marker (fine point) (other white paint pens might work, but I tested several different types and found that this one gave the best results)
Ranger ink in any dark red, pink, or purple (I especially like “currant” for this project, but it can be nice to use a few and have some variation in your blooms)
This tutorial is for personal, noncommercial purposes only.
A note about grain
The little crinkles in the crepe paper should run up and down your petals and leaves, rather than side to side. This will mimic the veining that occurs in live plants. When you’re ready to cover the wire your flower is built on, you’ll cut thin strips across the grain of your moss green crepe paper, so you can gently stretch them as you wrap, creating a smooth stem. Templates on the template sheet are drawn so that the grain runs from the top of the template to the bottom (so parallel to the template letter).
Building the center
The fritillaria center is a combination of fine, light green fringe, 2 small yellow stamen heads, and 2 larger lily stamen heads.
Use template A to cut a rectangle from your pale green crepe. Stretch the rectangle horizontally so that all the wrinkles are pulled out. This will give you fringe for several flowers.
Use the dotted line that runs across the bottom of the template as a guide, and crease and then uncrease the bottom of your rectangle. This crease line marks how far you should cut into the rectangle as you make the fringe.
Cut a fine fringe across this rectangle, cutting your fringe lines with rather than across the grain. Snip off 3/8” of your fringe rectangle. Gently twist and then untwist the fringe to make it look more organic. Straighten with your fingers.
Remove two lily stamens from your bundle and color them with your light green copic marker.
Remove 1 small yellow stamen, and bend it in half.
Dot a small amount of glue on your green fringe, on the area below the crease line that you haven’t cut into.
Lay two lily stamens down the center of the fringe piece, lining up the tips of the stamens with the tips of the fringes.
Lay your tiny yellow stamens on top of the lily stamens, so that the yellow stamen tips fall a bit lower than the lily stamen tips. Gently press the stamens into the glue on the bottom of the fringe.
Trim along the bottom of your fringe to create a clean edge.
Apply a bit more glue across the bottom of your stamens and fringe. Place your stem wire on the fringe and stamen stack, so that the tip of the stem wire falls just above the crease line.
Wrap the fringe piece around the wire. (It’s not important that it be a perfectly smooth wrap. If you find yourself gathering and smooshing the fringe and stamens around the tip, that’s fine. Just pinch all around to smooth it out.)
Dyeing the crepe
To achieve the rich, deep oxblood color, choose a doublette crepe in dark pink or red. Work in a well ventilated area. You may want to wear gloves and use a disposable container to avoid pink fingers and a permanently pink dish.
I like to work in small strips and squirt the ink directly on the crepe for maximum depth of color. Wait until completely dry to proceed.
Use template B to cut six petals, making sure that the grain runs up and down the petal rather than from side to side.
Follow the directions on your paint pen, and practice a little bit on a scrap of crepe paper until you feel comfortable with the flow of the pen and the size of your dots.
Working in straight lines from the top of the petal to the bottom, apply columns of similarly sized dots. The columns should be fairly close together and fairly regular, but if you just dot like you mean it, it’ll come out great. No need to be excessively precise or regular. I find it helpful to do my first row right down the middle, and then cover the petal on either side of this row. Let the dots dry.
Shaping the petals:
Template C shows a tiny shaded area on the top, right of the petal. Apply a very small amount of glue to this area.
Template C also shows two dotted lines, one on the upper right of the petal and one on the upper left. Tuck the glued section under the upper left area of the petal, lining up the dotted line on the upper left side of the petal and the dotted line on the upper right side of the petal. The point on the left side will extend slightly past the point on the right side.
Wipe away any excess glue.
Working with a small section of the petal at a time, gently stretch the petal horizontally, from the bottom of the petal up to the little corner or point that was formed when you glued the two upper areas of the petal together.
Attaching the petals
You’ll attach the petals in two rounds of three.
Dot a small amount of glue to the pointy tip of your petal.
Position the petal so that the tips of the stamens fall about two thirds up the petal. Press the bottom of the petal into the wire.
Add two more petals, so that your first three are evenly spaced around the stamens. Let dry.
Image above: The first two petals positioned around the center.
Image above: The first three petals spaced evenly around the center.
The first three petals will have little gaps between them like this:
These gaps are where you’ll place your second set of three petals so that you have two staggered rounds of three. I’ve pushed out the second row of petals below so you can see the placement.
Cut several 6-8” x ¼” strips across the grain of your medium green crepe. These will be your stem-wrapping strips.
Dot glue lightly along the first two inches of the strip. Start at the bottom of the bloom, covering the bottoms of the petals that are glued against the wire. Hold the strip at a 45 degree angle to the wire, and gently stretch as you spiral down the stem. Continue to add glue, two or three inches at a time.
Wrap all the way to the bottom of the stem and then clip any excess green crepe.
Fritillaria leaves are very simple to free hand. Cut an assortment of narrow, tapered blades roughly 1/8” inch wide and between 2” and 5” long.
Curl these very slightly by holding the leaf the way you would curling ribbon, that is, by gently scraping the length of a leaf between your scissor blade and thumb.
Dot a very small amount of glue on the bottom of two of your blades.
Attach them to the stem, 1.5”-2” from the bloom.
Use another lightly glued strip of green crepe to cover the bottom of this foliage and wrap toward the bottom of the stem, just as you did when you wrapped the bottoms of the petals.
Gently bend your stem so that the fritillaria looks down. Gently push the bottoms of your foliage blades so that they follow the curve of the wire a little bit. This will make them sweep upward at an angle, rather than sticking straight up.
After my stem is shaped, I like to add one or two more blades to my stem, varying their placement to add variety to my bouquet. I don’t worry about wrapping the bottoms of these.
Finishing your flower
Finally, for arranging purposes, I like to join two fritillaria stems into a single stem, wrapping them together starting about 1/3rd of the way up the stem. Dot another green horizontally cut wrapping strip with glue, and wrap the two stems together, making sure that the blooms are facing opposite directions.
Wearing safety glasses, use your wire snips to trim the bottom of the stem to your desired length.