This blog is updated in 2020
I am very afraid of spiders. Even in a nature documentary, they send me into a full-body gasp, yelp, and shudder. So it was with some trepidation that I began researching both spider orchids and spider plants in the same week, scanning Google image and Pinterest results, hoping not to encounter any stray arachnid pics.
I assumed I would be in the clear once I started making the paper versions of the spider (or brassica) orchids. And I was… Until I got all the petals on the first flower and felt a sudden rush of “get it off! Get it off!” I kept the stems-in-progress on the dresser beside the television, which was a bad idea. When I watched a movie with my husband that night, they kept hovering in my peripheral vision, startling me over and over again. So they were moved to the kitchen, which didn’t prevent them from haunting my dreams.
But maybe it takes an arachnophobe to truly appreciate the creepy beauty of brassica orchids — the dark, skinny petals that bear a tarantula-knee pattern, their habit of hanging in space like spiders in a web. Don’t let me scare you off, though: these blooms are fun to make and even more fun to arrange. They add a dramatic swoop to a paper flower bouquet and look chic posed all by themselves in a simple vase. —Kate
About Kate: Kate Alarcón makes paper plant life and teaches workshops in the Seattle area. You can see her most recent work on Instagram @cobralilyshop.
Peach extra heavy crepe paper
White doublette crepe paper
Leaf/moss doublette crepe paper
Sangria/Aubergine doublette crepe paper
18 gauge, cloth-covered wire
Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue
White paint pen (I’ve used a Pen-touch 1.0mm opaque pen)
Yellow marker (I’ve used a Copic Sketch in Y38)
Purple marker (I’ve used a Copic Ciao in V12)
Black pen (I’ve used Pigma Brush in black)
Spider orchid templates (download here)
A note about grain:
Crepe paper grain runs up and down the roll or fold, not across. Be sure that the tiny crinkles in your crepe run from the top of the template to the bottom, not from one side to the other.
For the center:
To make the anther cap at the center of the orchid, cut a four-inch-long and ¼” wide strip of peach crepe across the grain. Dot the strip with glue, and, holding the strip at a 45-degree angle to the wire, gently stretch it as you spiral down. When you’ve wrapped an inch or so, change directions, spiraling up toward the tip of the wire. Repeat three to five times, until your anther cap is built up to your liking. If the crepe at the tip of your wire is pointy, round it by gently pressing it down with your finger while the glue is still wet.
Coloring the labellum:
Use template A on the template sheet to cut a diamond out of the white doublette crepe. (Make sure the grain of the crepe runs up and down the diamond, rather than side to side.) Color the diamond with your purple marker. To simulate the coloring on a live brassica orchid, I like to leave the bottom edges of the diamond white. Once the purple ink is dry, dot the top half of the diamond with your paint pen. It looks best when this is a little random, though I do make the dots highest on the diamond biggest and dot them gradually smaller as I move down. I also think it looks very realistic when some of the dots overlap or merge together.
Once the white paint is dry, dot the top of each white dot with black or brown ink.
Gently stretch the two bottom edges of the labellum to create a slight ruffle. To curl it, hold the top of the labellum between your thumb and the back of your scissor blades, and gently scrape toward the bottom of the diamond, like you would if you were curling ribbon.
Pinch the tip of the diamond as shown to create a narrow little tab.
Dot this tab with a very small amount of glue, and attach it to the wrapped end of your stem, about 1/4” back from the tip.
For the petals:
Use template B to cut five petals per flower. (Again, make sure that the grain of the crepe runs from the base of the petal to the tip.)
The petals of this kind of brassica orchid vary a lot in pattern from plant to plant; I’ve come up with a version that is pretty easy to reproduce, but feels free to mix it up! You can see in the photo that the petal at the very top is different from all the other petals. The two bottom petals share the same pattern except that the tip of the bottom right petal is colored on the right, and the tip of the bottom left is colored on the left. The two petals on either side of the top petal also share the same pattern, and the coloring on the tips also mirror each other.
To color the petals, draw the pattern on with the paint pen. When the paint dries, add a second coat. Once the second coat dries, color the white pattern yellow with your marker.
Curl the petals with the back of your scissor blades in the same way you curled the labellum.
Starting with the top petal, dot glue on the base of the petal and apply it to the tip of your stem, opposite the labellum.
Next come the bottom two petals and finally the petals on either side of the top petal.
Make two more flowers.
Wrapping the stem:
Cut a six-inch-long, ¼” wide strip of green doublette crepe across the grain, and dot it with glue. First, wrap the back of your flower, covering the bottoms of the petals.
Then, spiral downwards for 6 inches. Repeat for the other two flowers, except for these, only cover 4 inches of the stem. Bend one of the stems at the point where you’ve stopped wrapping, so that it curves toward the right. Cut another six-inch-long by ¼” wide strip of green crepe, and dot it with glue. Hold the curved stem together with the first stem you wrapped, aligning the points on each stem where the wrapping stops.
Starting at this point, wrap the two stems together for four inches. Add the final stem by bending it so that it curves to the left, aligning the points where the wrapping on both stems stops, and wrapping the stems together with a strip of crepe until you reach the bottom of the three stems.
Using eye protection, snip the stem to your desired length. To finish, bend each individual flower stem into a pleasing position, and bend the main stem into a right angle so that your branch will behave in a vase.
Crepe paper: Papermart.com, Rosemille.com
Stem wire, wire snips, and glue: Michaels.com