This blog is updated in 2020.
There’s a particular kind of lady-slipper orchid that I have made and remade and adjusted and readjusted. I’ve probably made a hundred little green orchid slipper prototypes, and each try is more frustrating than the last. At this point, I suspect that the minute I finally do figure out this orchid, I’ll make it and then crumple it up, just to vent my irritation.
The Icelandic poppy is another flower that I feel like I’ve never completely nailed down. I’ve been tinkering with this version for over a year now. But unlike the lady-slipper, just about every attempt at this poppy has been really fun. I think it’s because poppies — with their wrinkled petals and hairy, spindly, crooked stems — are gloriously awkward. My practice poppies could carry off every little eccentricity I inflicted on them with rumpled panache.
I hope you’ll make your own awkwardly glorious bouquet of poppies and stick them in a vase and fuss with them as they tilt their blooms at weird angles, and lean all over the place, being disagreeable. And just when you’re about to throw up your hands, you’ll step back and realize that it’s all come together. You’ll want to make more.
The crinkle technique I describe below is adapted from Livia Cetti’s gorgeous and essential book, The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers.
Special thanks to the phenomenally talented Lynn Dolan (@lmdolan75 on Instagram) for her generous advice on this project! —Kate
Photography by Kate Alarcón
-18 gauge cloth-covered floral wire
-8mm wooden beads
-white cosmetic wedge sponges for applying glue
This is what I used, but definitely feel free to mix it up and substitute.
From Castle in the Air:
-“Pale Yellow Green” heavy crepe for the frill at the top of the seed pod
-“Lemon” heavy crepe for the stamen filaments
-“Sunflower” fine crepe for the anthers at the end of the stamens
-Fine crepe in “Red,” “Persian Pink,” “Pale Pink,” “Pink,” “Sunflower,” and “Vanilla” for the petals
From Paper Mart:
-“Moss Green” heavy crepe to cover the pod and wrap the stem, from Paper Mart
Design Master Color Tool Spray in “Holiday Red,” “Perfect Pink,” “Coral,” “Orange,” and “Yellow”
PanPastel in “Permanent Red Tint 340.8,” “Permanent Red 340.5,” “Orange 280.5,” and “Hansa Yellow 220.5”
A note about grain:
The grain of the crepe paper runs parallel to the roll or fold. You will almost always cut petals with the grain, placing the template so that the tiny wrinkles in the paper run up and down the template, not across. Each template includes an arrow to show the direction the grain should run.
Constructing the seed pod at the center of the flower:
The first step is to create the little frill at the top of the seedpod. Use template A to cut a frill piece from the pale green heavy crepe. Stretch the wider end of the piece all the way out, flattening all the little crinkles in the upper half inch of the frill piece.
Twist the frill piece, beginning about ½” below the top edge. The part of the frill that you stretched will form a little funnel. As I twist, I like to place my fingertip inside this funnel so that it stays open.
If this feels cumbersome, it’s fine to just twist and then use one end of your floral wire to reopen the funnel.
Insert the twisted bottom part of the frill piece into your wooden bead.
Dip the tip of your wire in the glue and scrape off any extra so that you have a thin coat that isn’t dripping all over the place. Insert this wire tip into the bottom of the bead, next to the bottom of the fringe that you’ve just inserted.
You don’t need to push this all the way up into the bead. You’re mostly just trying to anchor the wire tip inside the bead. You’ll secure it in the next step.
Use template B to cut a rectangle from the medium green heavy crepe. Snip a very short fringe across the top of this rectangle (it’s fine to freehand this, but you can also use the lines drawn across the top of template B).
Use your sponge to swipe a thin layer of glue over this piece. Lay your bead on top of the rectangle, so that the top edge is slightly higher than the top of the bead. Stretch the rectangle around the bead and press either side together.
Trim the excess rectangle.
Use your fingers to press the fringes of the green crepe down onto the top of the bead. Scrunch the green paper beneath the bead around the wire.
This will secure the pod to the wire.
For the stamens:
Use template C to cut a rectangle from the pale yellow, heavy crepe. Stretch this rectangle all the way out. It should now be the same width as template D, but if it’s wider, trim any excess. The dotted line across template D shows how deep you should cut the fringe. (You’ll be cutting from the top). You can trace this line with a pencil or just fold along it and let the crease mark where your fringe should stop.
Without stressing out about it, cut the fringe as finely as you can.
Using the diagonal line on template D as a guide, cut away some of the excess paper beneath your fringe. This will create less of a bump where you’ve applied your stamens, and also smooth the transition from stem to blossom.
Use your wedge sponge to apply glue to the area beneath the dotted line. Place your bead on this fringe piece, so that the bottom of the bead sits just above the dotted line. Roll the fringe around the bead loosely.
Don’t worry about what’s happening below the bead; just focus on making sure that the fringe at the top is even all the way around.
Scrunch the bottom of the fringe around the wire all the way up to the base of the pod.
Gently pinch the filaments between your thumb and forefinger and bend them away from the center, all the way around, creating a tidy ring of stamens.
Now you’ve got your stamen filaments ready to go!
Cut a 3”x 9” rectangle from the orange fine crepe (the short sides will run parallel to the grain.) Fold it in half vertically and in half vertically again.
Cut a fine fringe through all these layers, turn it 90 degrees, and cut across your fringe to create a fine “confetti.” Gently sweep this confetti into a little pile.
Squirt some glue onto a paper plate or disposable dish, and dip the ends of the yellow fringe into the glue.
Dip your fringe into the pile of confetti. Now your filaments have anthers!
You can apply color before or after you cut your petals.
If I’m using the Color Tool spray, I prefer to color sheets of paper ahead of time. Though the odor fades after a couple of days, this stuff smells really intensely like bug spray when you first apply it, so I strongly recommend doing this outside, preferably with a mask on.
Shake the can well, and spray on a light coat. If you’d like more intense color, let the first coat dry a little bit and then spray on another light coat. I like to spray rows of color across the grain of my paper, spacing them a little bit farther apart than my petal height.
If I’m using PanPastels, I usually cut and then color my petals. Use your cosmetic sponge to swipe the pastel onto the petal, swiping with the grain of the paper.
I especially like to apply it so that the color is more intense toward the petal edges, fading toward the bottom, though you could also reverse that.
Clockwise from top: 1. “Vanilla” crepe with “Holiday Red” spray, 2. “Red” crepe with “Orange” PanPastel, 3. “Sunflower” crepe with “Holiday Red” spray, 4. “Vanilla” crepe with “Orange” spray, 5. “Light Pink” crepe with “Yellow” spray, 6. “Vanilla” fine crepe with “Perfect Pink” spray, 7. “Persian Pink” crepe with “Coral” spray, and “Persian Pink” crepe with “Holiday Red” spray.
For the petals:
Each poppy will have six petals: two from template E, two from template F, and two from template G. Templates E through F are actually half a petal, so you’ll need to fold your fine crepe parallel to the grain and place the dotted line along the fold.
Lay the petal on a smooth surface. Place your fingertips about an inch in from the edge of the petal closest to you. Place your thumbs right on the edge, behind your fingers. Use your thumbs to drag or inch the paper toward your fingers. When your thumbs and fingers touch, leave your thumb where it is, lift your fingertips and set them down about an inch forward. Repeat until you’ve gathered the whole petal into pleats.
Pick up your gathered petal and pinch up and down it to set the pleats.
Holding the pleats in place, twist the petal as though you were gently wringing water out of a rag. You’ll twist them pretty firmly, but I find it works better to use a lot of little twisting motions than to try to do everything all in one big twist. Untwist and gently spread the petal, taking care not to smooth the tiny pleats and wrinkles very much.
You can curl your petal at this point or after you glue your pleats.
Curling the petals is a lot like curling ribbon for giftwrap: you can scrape the petal with the blade of your scissors, a skewer, or just your fingers, moving from the base of the petal to the upper edge as you scrape.
Spread the bottom half inch of the template most of the way out and use your sponge to dab glue all the way across the bottom of the petal.
Pinch the bottom edge to gather it back up. Let the glue dry for a few minutes.
Snip off the excess bulk at the bottom of the petal.
Attaching the petals:
You’ll apply the petals in pairs. Start with the template E’s, and place them on opposite sides of the pod. Apply a little bit of glue to the base of the petal and press it right up under the bead.
The second set of petals, the F’s, come next. Working clockwise, place each F beside each E, so that each F overlaps each E by about 30 percent.
Finally, apply each template G petal beside your template F petals, again overlapping by about 30 percent.
Finishing your flower:
Cut a few ¼” x 8” strips across the grain of the medium green heavy crepe. Dab glue on the first two or three inches of the strip and tightly wrap the section of the stem just beneath the flower to secure the petals and hide the petal bottoms. Apply a small amount of glue to one side of the stem wire. (I usually glue four or five inches of the stem at a time so I don’t get as much glue on my hands.)
Hold the strip at a 45-degree angle to the stem and gently stretch the strip as you twirl the stem, spinning the strip all the way to the bottom. If your strip breaks or runs out, just begin with a new strip right above the place on the stem where your previous strip ended.
Once the glue is dry, take some time to straighten your stamens and arrange your petals. You might want to curl some a little bit more, or gently tug a petal’s edge to straighten out crumpled pleats, or press some of the petals down where the petal meets the center to separate the layers.
Sources for supplies:
Michaels: 18 gauge floral wire, Design Master spray, wooden beads, glue
Castle in the Air: Crepe paper, glue, wire
Paper Mart: Crepe paper
About Kate: Kate Alarcón makes paper plants and flowers and teaches workshops in the Seattle area. You can see her most recent work on Instagram @cobralilyshop.