Herald of Spring

Add a touch of color with a vase full of tulips
By Michele Carter

Materials List

  • Paper Twist Ribbon (or painted paper or crepe paper) in two shades of pink and cream
  • Twice as Tacky glue
  • Toothpicks
  • 5/16" teardrop punch
  • #20 green floral wire
  • Green floral foam
  • Airmail-weight white paper
  • Americana Green Mist acrylic paint
  • Black & light green thread
  • Yellow acrylic paint
  • Lace Tool
  • Plain-colored mouse pad (or double-thick craft foam)
  • Small, sharp scissors
  • Small paint brush
  • Pink and white seed beads
  • Tweezers
  • White ceramic vase (about 3/4" to 7/8" tall, with a throat at least 3/8" wide)
  • Slo-Zap or Crazy Glue
  • Toothbrush

Well, it's Spring in San Jose.  As I look out my window I can see brightly colored, beautiful tulips nodding in the breeze.  But for most of the country, you are still firmly in the grasp of Winter.  So to brighten your spirits, here is a project that will make you feel like it's Spring , if only in your dollhouse!

The key to making this delicate bouquet of Tulips is to find muted, subtly-colored paper.  I used 'Paper Twist Ribbon' that is sold flat, not twisted (see photo).  I chose cream and two shades of pink.  If you can't find the Paper Twist Ribbon, you can also use crepe paper (not streamer rolls as the texture is too rough), or airmail-weight paper that you have painted on both sides.

Tip:  Whenever I make any miniature flower, I like to have the real flower, or a very good close-up photo of the flower, on my worktable for reference.  For Tulips, bulb catalogs like Dutch Gardens are great sources for good photos.

To Paint Petals

 If you paint your paper, use acrylic paint and be sure to keep your brush strokes all going one direction.  If you want to add some color streaking, select a darker shade of the paint color you are using, and with a dry brush, lightly brush the darker paint in the same direction as the base coat.  Make sure the paint is still wet when you do this so that the streaking will blend slightly and look more natural. Paint both sides of the paper, making sure that the brush strokes go the same direction on each side of the paper.  Allow to dry thoroughly.

Step 1 — Prepare the Stamens and Pistils

Since these pieces need to be thoroughly dry before assembly, this step should be completed first.  Put a dollop of tacky glue between your thumb and index finger.  Then draw the black thread though your finger and thumb, coating the surface of the thread with tacky glue.  This stiffens the thread and makes it easier to handle when cutting and gluing.  Next take three pieces of light green thread and apply the glue using your fingers, twisting the threads together as after they are coated with glue.  Hang both the green and black thread over a coat hanger to dry.

Step 2 — Build the stems

Cut #20 green floral wire into eighteen 2 1/2 inch 'stem' pieces.  To the top of each stem glue a seed bead the color of the each Tulip.  For this arrangement you will need 6 light pink, 6 medium pink and 6 white seed beads.  An easy way to glue the seed bead onto the wire is to dip the end of the wire into the tacky glue and then poke the wire into the bead.  Make sure that the wire does not protrude beyond the bead. Stick the glued stems into a piece of floral foam or styrofoam until dry.

Step 3 — Punch the petals

Tip: Here's a trick for lining up exactly where you want to punch, turn the punch upside down. This allows you to see through the punch hole to the paper, so you can line it up perfectly.  Insert the paper, center the punch where you want it to be on the paper, then punch.

While your seed bead is drying, you can punch your petals. You will need 6 petals per flower. The bouquet you are making has 18 Tulips , six of each color.  Using a 1/4" teardrop punch, make 36 light pink, 36 medium pink, and 36 cream petals.  Make sure to keep the grain of the paper vertical as you punch.

Step 4 — Add the Pistils and Stamens

For each flower you will need 6 Stamens and 1 Pistil.  Take the stiffened black thread and cut into roughly 1/8" pieces.  Do the same for the green thread. Glue one green 'Pistil' to the center of the top of the seed bead.  Then glue 6 black 'Stamens' in a circle around the base of the Pistil, fanning them outward just a bit.  Once these are dry, trim them with small sharp scissors to a shorter, even length.  When trimmed, the Stamens and Pistils should be no longer than 1/8".  Finish off the centers by adding a dollop of yellow paint to the top of the green Pistil in each flower. To do this you can use a small, fine paintbrush or a piece of wire.

Step 5 — Curl and shape the petals

Place all of your petals on a plain-colored mouse pad or double-thick craft foam. With your flat-ended stylus, score each petal from the top to the bottom down the centerline of the petal.  Press firmly, so that the petal edges become crinkled, and the bottom, pointed part of the petal curls under.

Step 6 — Apply the petals

To apply the petals, dip the pointed end of each petal into tacky glue, then paste to the bottom of the seed bead. Use your tweezers to make sure that the petals are positioned vertically and straight on the seed bead.  Tap the underside of the petal with your tweezers to make sure that the petal is firmly attached to the seed bead. The petals are applied in two layers.  The first layer is three petals, applied equally spaced around the seed bead.  The second layer petals are positioned over the gaps between the petals on the first layer. Poke Tulips into floral foam to dry.  Repeat for all 18 Tulips.

Step 7 — Paint the stems and leaves

Paint each stem with Americana 'Green Mist' acrylic paint.  I usually hold the Tulip gently by the flower head in order to paint the stems.  Stick them into floral foam to dry.  Next, paint the airmail-weight paper with the same Americana 'Green Mist' paint.  Be sure to keep your brush strokes all going in the same direction. While the paint is still wet, drag a soft-bristled toothbrush over the paint in the same direction as your brush strokes.  This process textures the leaves with a vertical grain.  Once the first side is dry, turn the paper over and repeat the process on the second side.

Step 8 — Cut and shape the leaves

Once the paper has thoroughly dried, fold it in half along the vertical axis, following the grain.  Score the folded edge with your fingernail to create a crisp fold.  With your small, sharp scissors cut out 7 or 8 leaves about 1 1/2 to 2" long X 3/16" to 1/4" wide at the widest part of the leaf when unfolded (see diagram).  Make sure they are not all the same length. Unfold the paper and curl the leaves with your flat-ended stylus by pressing down with the stylus across the grain and dragging the stylus from the middle of the leaf to the tip.   To add a reverse curl to the tip, turn the leaf over and use the same technique to curl the end of the leaf in the opposite direction.

Step 9 — Build your arrangement

Tip: Before I start building a bouquet, I attach the vase with 'Blue Tack' to a small 1/12th table.  This allows me to handle the arrangement without disturbing the placed flowers.  You can also use a small block of wood.

This bouquet is a round, mound-shaped arrangement that can be viewed from all sides.  It is perfect for a centerpiece or on a small table. What gives this arrangement it's realistic appearance is the bending and nodding of the blooms.  Most Tulips do not stay upright in a cut arrangement , they elegantly droop. To create the bends in your stems, hold the bloom in both hands.  With your thumbs placed in the center of the stem, gently push forward with your thumbs while turning back the ends of the stems.  Bend each bloom differently so they don't end up all the same shape.  You will have to use small, needle-nosed pliers to put a  'crook' in the flower head. 'Crook' only a few blooms.  You need to use pliers because the #20 wire is fairly strong and hard to bend with your fingers so close to the flower head.

 Insert green floral foam into your vase.  Really cram it in there so that it fills all of the voids.  Trim any excess off the top of the vase with an Xacto knife, and give it a final push so that the foam stays below the lip of the vase.  Now you are ready to start inserting your flowers.  I like to create a 'frame' , the structure and shape of my arrangement , with the first few flowers. This establishes the dimensions from top to bottom and across the width of the bouquet. The Tulips with the most 'droop' should be placed around the lip of the vase.  I recommend starting with 4 drooping blooms, creating a North, South, East, and West axis. Then add one fairly straight-stemmed Tulip to the center of the arrangement to establish the highest point of your bouquet. This is your 'frame'.  Then fill in the blank areas, placing the straighter blooms toward the center, and the more curved, droopy ones toward the rim.  Be sure to mix up the colors.  You don't want too many of the same color in one section of your arrangement. Try to place the blooms in randomly, so the arrangement looks natural.  You may have to fiddle with the bouquet for a while until you have the Tulips in the right positions. When you are happy with the overall placement of the Tulips, use Slo-Zap or Crazy Glue to secure the bouquet.  Place small drops of glue around the base of the stems where they enter the vase.  Be careful not to get any glue on the vase.  Gently tap the bottom of the vase on your work surface to 'seat' the glue.  Let it dry for a few minutes until you can't move the stems.  If some move, drip in a few more drops of glue.  After the glue has set, look at the stems to see if any need touching up with paint.  All of the handling, bending and gluing can cause small chips in the paint or shiny spots from the glue.  Touch up with Americana Green Mist paint as needed.

Step 10 — Add the leaves

Once your bouquet is 'set', you can add the leaves.  Pinch together the bottom end of each leaf and dip it in tacky glue. Holding the leaf with your tweezers, glue the base of the leaf down into the arrangement as far as you can, close to the throat of the vase. Inset the leaves into the arrangement wherever there is a gap.  Add only enough leaves to make a pleasing arrangement.  After you get the leaves all in position, you can give them a final shaping.  Bend the leaves with your fingers to the desired curves.  YOU ARE DONE!!

Michele Carter is a professionally trained artist and a skilled miniaturist who has just recently opened her business, PepperWood Miniatures, making high-quality, collectible miniature floral arrangements.  To see more of her work, visit her web site at www.pepperwoodminiatures.com.

Photography by Kent Clemenco, www.kentclemenco.com

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