The Ladies' Tea Guild

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tutorial: Steampunk-friendly millinery flowers

Japanese hana kanzashi flowers turned into
Steampunk-friendly millinery flowers!
I've taken a bit of a detour from my Victorian and 1912 day dresses and started to flesh out an idea I had for a Steampunk hat trim.  I usually don't make my own hat trims -- heck, I have trouble using pre-made trim and silk flowers on my hats -- because I just don't have the right kind of imagination to come up with something that looks good.  A few years ago I was at Costume Academy -- a one-day costume conference put on by the Greater Bay Area Costumer's Guild -- and ended up taking a class on hana kanzashi, or the delicate, elaborate flower-bedecked hairpins and headdresses that Japanese geishas wear. Making them involves doing origami with tweezers and 1/2 inch squares of hand-painted China silk ribbon to make the individual flower petals, and is very time-consuming and fiddly.  I didn't really know how I would ever use the information, but because I was getting ready to help with the costumes for a production of Gilbert & Sullivan's Mikado, I thought it might come in handy for making headdresses for the women in the cast.  While I didn't end up making any headdresses at that time, I did start thinking about how to alter the design and production for theater costume purposes.  I ended up with cool Steampunk propeller-flowers for my hat (which I don't have yet, but that's another story)!

Assemble the supplies: paper, glue, file folder.
What you need:

Colored paper
floral wire or other easily bendable wire
wire snips/cutters 
green file folder
1 to 2-inch diameter bottle cap, medicine dosage cup or other item to use as a template
glue gun and glue (you can also use good old Elmer's but it takes a while to dry) 

For theater costume -- and for my own sanity -- I decided to make the individual flower petals larger (from 1 to 2-inch squares), and to use colored paper instead of ribbon.  Paper makes the folding go easier because it will hold its shape once you've folded and creased it, which the ribbon wouldn't do.  You can make more realistic-looking flowers with normal solid-colored wrapping paper, or you can use metallic papers -- and that's where the Steampunk look comes in!  I have some bronze/copper and pewter-colored wrapping papers that work well, and I also have a flashy gold Christmas wrapping paper (you won't be able to distinguish the pattern when the paper is all folded up).  Also, wrapping paper with a 1-inch grid printed on the back makes it easier to cut out the squares!  You can choose solid colored wrapping paper or heavy tissue paper, or even a paper with a simple pattern (like narrow stripes), but regular tissue paper would be too thin and construction paper or scrap-booking paper would be too heavy, I think. 

These instructions will make a finished flower with a diameter of 1 1/2 inches; you can scale the flower up by cutting larger petal and flower base pieces, just making sure that the petal squares and flower base circles have the same diameter.  To make the petals, cut the colored paper into 1-inch strips and then cut the strips into squares.  Make 4 folds in each square to turn it into a triangle, first folding it in half corner to corner, then in half again, narrow corner to narrow corner, and lastly folding each narrow corner back halfway ... It's easier to follow these instructions (they're illustrated!), but don't do the recommended "shaping" as it doesn't work as well with paper as it does with fabric.  Be sure to crease each fold well.  Set them aside.

For each flower base and stem, cut a length of wire at least 4 inches long, using the wire snips (don't ruin your scissors!).  Bend about 1/2 inch of one end of the wire so that it makes a right angle with the rest of the piece of wire.  Set aside.  Take one green file folder, and use the bottle cap or cup as a template to trace a 1-inch diameter circle (matching the size of your paper squares) on the folder (one for each flower).  Cut out the circle, and cut a slit from one edge to the center of the circle, but not all the way through to the other edge.  Now, pick up your wire with the bent end, and slide the wire into the slit in the paper circle, with the corner of the wire at the center of the circle and the short bent end resting on top of the uncut portion of the circle.  Hot-glue the wire in place.  Now you have your stem and the base for your flower!  Do the same for each circle and wire. 

You'll need 12 triangle/petals and one stem/base for the flower in the photo above.  Start with one petal, and place it flat (not on edge) on top of the paper circle with one of its narrow points resting at the center of the circle, its wide point resting at the edge of the circle, and its other point hanging over the edge of the circle.  Make sure the cut edge (as opposed to the folded edges) is not the one hanging over the edge of the circle (unless you want it to show) and hot-glue it in place.  Take another petal and place it partially on top of the first petal, with its narrow point at the center, but pivot it to the side a bit, just enough to cover the wide point and cut edge of the first petal.  Make sure the second petal's wide point is lined up with the edge of the circle, and its other narrow point is hanging over, and hot-glue it in place.  Repeat with all the petals, hot-gluing them in an overlapping pattern all around the circle, until they meet the first petal.  Tuck the cut edge and wide point of the last petal underneath the edge of the first petal and hot-glue it in place.

Your flower should look like a pinwheel or propeller.  You can wrap the stem with green or brown floral tape if you like, or leave the wire showing.  You can also embellish the flower by gluing a rhinestone, button, tiny cog or other little thing in the center of the flower.  To protect them from the weather, take your paper flowers outside, give them a light coat of waterproofing spray, and let dry thoroughly.  Make a bunch of flowers, combine them with feathers or other trims, and pin, sew, or glue them to your hat! 

"DIY Definitions: Kansashi, and how to create them"
"Kanzashi Tutorial" from Deviantart
"Kanzashi Tutorial -- petal folding"

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Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)