mwa_spr10_cherry2.jpg Get the DIY steps for these faux flowers. mwa_spr10_cherry2.jpg Fabric and paper blooms are always in season. The best part? You can make these faux flowers, suitable for formal and casual weddings, in advance. They’re easy; all you need are a few supplies and your own loving hands. Advertisement Advertisement

Hibiscus Paper Flowers

exquisite-book-of-paper-flowers-p079-mwds111071.jpg Credit: Addie Juell When just cut, this bloom wilts in a matter of hours, but paper flower expert Livia Cetti’s variety is everlasting—and packs a tropical punch in just one bud. «I came up with the idea to dip red and orange crepe paper in bleach to erase some of the color, and kept experimenting with it in my basement,» she says. The result? A one-stem wonder that doubles as a home-brightening favor.

Peony Paper Flowers

peony-paper-flowers-014-d111062.jpg Credit: Addie Juell The good news: These flowers elevate almost any bouquet. The bad? They’re only in season during spring and early summer. Livia Cetti’s paper versions, however, are available year-round and can be made in any color. They also travel well and, in her words, «are pretty darn realistic-looking.» Advertisement

Flower Girl Wands

mwa_spr10_cherry2.jpg Think of the joy this scene would evoke: flower girls skipping down the aisle, bearing beribboned wands that mimic the fluttering and falling of cherry blossoms. We wrapped a dowel in ribbon, thumbtacked on ribbons of various lengths, and finished off by gluing on confetti flowers. (To make the flowers, gather a bunch of the confetti petals together and start gluing.) The «Blossom» flower girl dresses are from Ash & Robbins, matthewrobbinsdesign.com.

Blossom Boutonniere

wd104764_sum09_bout1.jpg These handmade silk flowers make great boutonnieres; just start with the smallest templates. Make them following the directions below, and pin in place with a corsage pin or a daisy-head quilting pin.

Silk Flower Ring Pillow

mwa103587_wi08_pillow.jpg Silk flowers add elegance to a ring pillow. A crisp fabric holds its shape well; we used silk dupioni, shantung, and taffeta. Advertisement Advertisement

Ribbon Flower Boutonniere

mwd103633_spr08_21.jpg A natty nosegay of fabric blossoms that manages to look festive yet restrained can be pinned to his (or the groomsman’s) lapel; make a larger, brighter clutch of these faux flowers for the bridesmaids’ bouquets.

Paper Dahlia Decorations

msw_spring06_pompom.jpg Joyous bursts of color dance above a table, imparting a cheerful radiance to a rehearsal dinner or casual reception. The dahlialike pom-poms appear to float in the air; in reality they are hung from the ceiling with monofilament.

Fabric Blossom Favor Boxes

mwd103633_spr08_64.jpg Do guests a favor and present them with tokens of affection that you’ve planted inside these petite flower-topped boxes. Wrap each small box with a belt of layered ribbons or a strip of woven fabric, and cap it off with a single fabric blossom. Advertisement

Pom-Pom Car Decorations

a100687_spr04_car Credit: James Baigrie Guests will cheer you on when you zip away after the ceremony in a car covered with pom-pom garlands. These decorations are easy to make with tissue paper and twine, and they stay on the car with suction cups, which won’t damage the auto’s exterior.

Crepe-Paper Lilies

ml243V14_bez07_lapel.jpg A crepe-paper lily makes a beautiful boutonniere or could be worked into a larger lily bouquet.

Crepe-Paper Poppies

mwa103873_sum08_poppy.jpg To decorate the tiers of your cake with the crepe-paper bands, cut the crepe paper into strips with the ribbing running top to bottom, and gently stretch the top edge to create a ruffle. Wrap the band snugly around the tier, and secure to itself in the back with double-sided tape. Advertisement

Tissue-Paper Flowers

msw_spring06_crafted_bouq.jpg The luscious blooms in this bouquet are always in season. We chose shades of pink, but a bride could fashion them in any color she wishes. What’s more, you can make these paper flowers, which are suitable for formal and casual weddings, in advance.

Shaped Crepe-Paper Flowers

msw_spring06_tissue_main_l.jpg Flowers crafted from colorful tissue or crepe paper are graceful, inexpensive to make, and always in season. Arrange them on tables, use as boutonnieres, or create a whole bouquet.

Tissue-Paper Swizzle Stick

ml400I14_bez07_swizzle.jpg Swizzle sticks topped with crepe-paper flowers — a spider chrysanthemum and a sleek calla lily — add zest to lime spritzers. Advertisement

Paper Pom-Pom Napkin Rings

msw_spring06_napkin_loop.jpg Paper dahlia napkin rings in citrus shades adorn each place setting. Square glass vessels in various sizes line tables. Covered in sunset-hued tissue (cut to size and secured with double-sided tape), they cast a soft glow.

Tissue-Paper Flower Favor Packaging

a98574_sum01_favors.jpg Credit: Maura McEvoy Wrap favors in brightly colored tissue paper and top them off with a paper flower — a low-cost alternative to the real thing.

Tissue-Paper Winter Centerpieces

Copper Candle Centerpieces Credit: Max Kim-Bee In winter, when fresh blossoms may be harder to come by, these lush tissue-paper flowers are in full bloom. Their silver centers are actually Christmas balls, a nod to the season. Arranged at different heights in silver trumpet vases and mint julep cups, they bring whimsy to a formal reception table set in all white. Advertisement

Silk Petal Garland

a99938_spr03_flowergarland.jpg Credit: Annie Schlechter Transform inexpensive silk flowers into delicate garlands by dismantling the blooms and separating the layers of petals, removing any greenery.

Ribbon Flower Bouquet

mwd103633_spr08_70.jpg To create blooms in a variety of textures, sizes, and shapes, use ribbons and rickrack in different widths and weaves. The folds of each flower are clustered around artificial stamens; stems are individually wrapped in floral tape before all are bundled together and bound in wide white grosgrain.

Fabric Flower Boutonniere and Corsage

mwd103584_spr08_fabflower.jpg Fabric flowers make a pretty, wilt-proof way for guests to find their seats — and then live a double-life as a corsage or boutonniere. Simply use floral tape to attach a brooch pin to the stem of a fabric flower (these are from Dulken & Derrick). Have a calligrapher pen names onto strips of card stock, punch small holes on one end, and slip pins through. Advertisement

Ribbon Flower Runner

wa100962_spr05_tableflowers.jpg Credit: James Baigrie A runner decorated with handmade ribbon flowers is an inviting decoration for a guest-book table. The blooms are easy to make using thick woven-cotton ribbon with a floral design and buttons. A mix of large and small flowers is affixed with safety pins to the raw-silk runner, which has a grosgrain-ribbon border. A piece of woven ribbon is the bookmark.

Flower Corsage

wa100962_spr05_corsage1.jpg Credit: James Baigrie Give your bridesmaids a fashionable floral accessory that will look fresh long after the wedding day: wrist corsages made with silk ribbon flowers. They can even be tied around a ponytail or worn as brooches. These corsages are easy to make: Tie elastic ribbon around your wrist in a big bow, then pin the bloom to the knot.

Dahlia Hair Accessory

mwd104763_sum09_coralhair_058.jpg Who said you have to stay within the lines? If you’re crazy for color, plant a dramatic dahlia in your hair — it will guarantee a double take. The Materials
Creating wearable art has never been simpler — you might even have everything you need at home. Want proof? Here’s your shopping list: fabric, needle, thread. All fabric from Mood Fabrics. «Mia» gown, The Steven Birnbaum Collection. Earrings, Mauboussin. Advertisement

Rose Garden

mwd104763_sum09_dressflower_1_008.jpg A bodice bubbling over with blossoms is a colorful way to supplement a simple dress. The key: Use just one color in your bouquet. «Ashley» dress, Coren Moore. Studs, Mauboussin.

Blooming Bridesmaids

mwd104763_sum09_dressflower_1_008.jpg Gift them pre-wedding so they’ll adorn dresses, wrists, or hair. «Crystal Clear» Photo Boxes, ClearBags, clearbags.com. Learn How to Make Shoe Clips, Boutonnieres, and Brooches

A Heady Bouquet

mwd104763_sum09_flowergirl_1_057.jpg Looking for a fuss-free frill for your flower girl? Sew a row of fabric dahlias (in different sizes and colors) to a soft, stretchy headband. Dress (#105), Us Angels. Advertisement

Crowning Glory

mwd104763_sum09_ivoryhair_036.jpg Make a deep impact by borrowing from the design of your dress to fashion your bloom. «Jillian» gown, Monique Lhuillier. «Poise» white gold and diamond earrings, Hearts on Fire.

One-Shoulder Wonder

mwd104763_sum09_dressflower_1_001.jpg Your flower can be classic, like this one that makes an oversize statement, or modern — try metallic fabric. «Shiloh» gown, Thread. Leverback earrings, Hearts on Fire.

Big Love

mwd104720_sum09_bouquet1.jpg Shrinking violets they’re not. If you want to make your grand entrance even grander, opt for this punch-drunk bouquet, made from bell-shaped paper ornaments that have been trimmed. Five- and 9-inch Westminster bells, partycheap.com. Advertisement

Up Next

Background

Silk and other artificial flowers manufactured today are breathtakingly
real and must be touched if they are to be distinguished from
nature’s own. Silk trees bring the outdoors into sterile offices,
and flower arrangements change the color and feel of a room for a
relatively small investment. Hobbyists find them a joy to work with and
take pleasure in completing arrangements that make beautiful, lasting
gifts and ornaments. The vast improvements in the quality of artificial flowers as well as
lifestyles that demand carefree home decorating accessories have caused a
flowering of the artificial flower industry into a multi-billion-dollar
business. Many of the individual flowers, stems, and foliage are now
imported from Thailand, China, and Honduras where the intensive hand labor
can be acquired more readily. Faux flowers allow home decorators to defy the seasons, not only by having
summer blooms in the dead of winter but by mixing flowers from several
seasons in a single display. Some manufacturers use real materials to
enhance silk flowers, such as inserting artificial branches in real tree
trunks. Real touches are also added to the false flora; leaves may have
holes that look like insect damage, silk roses are complete to the thorns,
and some fabulous fakes are even fragrant. Their ultimate attraction may
be their least natural aspects; these plants don’t need water,
fertilizer, sunlight, or tender care.

History

Florists call silk and other artificial flowers «permanent
botanicals,» and for many years, they looked down on both dried
flowers and artificial flowers as inferior. Today, silk flowers are prized
for their versatility and are used by florists to enhance live plants and
mingle with cut blossoms. This tradition is hundreds of years old and is
believed to have been started by the Chinese who mastered the skills of
working with silk as well as creating elaborate floral replicas. The
Chinese used artificial flowers for artistic expression, but they were not
responsible for turning silk flower-making into a business. As early as the twelfth century, the Italians began making artificial
florals from the cocoons of silkworms, assembling the dyed, velvety
blooms, and selling them. The French began to rival their European
neighbors, and, by the fourteenth century, French silk flowers were the
top of the craft. The French continued to improve both fabrics and the
quality of flowers made from them. In 1775, Marie Antoinette was presented
with a silk rosebud, and it was said to be so perfect that it caused her
to faint. The Revolution that ended Marie Antoinette’s reign also
dispatched many French flower artisans to England, and, by the early
1800s, English settlers had taken the craft with them to America. The Victorian Age was the setting for a true explosion in floral arts,
including both living and artificial varieties. The Victorians favored an
overdone style of decor in which every table and mantelpiece bore flowers
or other ornaments. Flowers were so adored that «the language of
flowers» grew to cult status in which floral bouquets carried
messages and meanings. During the mid- to late-1800s, artificial flowers
were made of a wider variety of materials than any time before The manufacture of high-quality artificial flowers made of silk, rayon, or cotton involves die-cutting each petal size from the chosen fabric, hand dyeing the petals, and then molding the petals to create a life-like effect. Wires are inserted by hand after the petals are pressed. Each flower is assembled individually, and once complete, the flowers are wrapped in florist's paper, and the stems are placed in boxes as if they are to be delivered like a bouquet of real flowers. The manufacture of high-quality artificial flowers made of silk,
rayon, or cotton involves die-cutting each petal size from the chosen
fabric, hand dyeing the petals, and then molding the petals to create
a life-like effect. Wires are inserted by hand after the petals are
pressed. Each flower is assembled individually, and once complete, the
flowers are wrapped in florist’s paper, and the stems are
placed in boxes as if they are to be delivered like a bouquet of real
flowers. or since. Fabrics included satin, velvet, calico, muslin, cambric, crepe,
and gauze. Other materials included wood, porcelain, palm leaves, and
metal. Wax flowers were popular and became their own art form, and flowers
were even made of human hair especially to commemorate deceased loved
ones. In the United States, lavish arrangements and apparel made use of
permanent botanicals. The Parisian Flower Company, which had offices in
both New York and Paris, supplied silk flowers and other artificial
florals to milliners, makers of bridal and ball gowns, and other
dressmakers, as well as for room decoration. They sold separate stems and
arrangements that were either pre-made or commissioned. By 1920, florists
began to add them to their products and services to cover those times when
cut blossoms were in short supply. The trend toward wreaths and ornaments using false fruit in the Italian Della Robbia style flourished in the 1920s and 1930s and waned by 1940. Celluloid
became a popular material for flowers in the 1940s, but the highly
flammable flowers were banned from importation from Japan after several
disastrous fires. Plastic soon overwhelmed the industry, however, and is
still responsible for its versatility in the 1990s. Inexpensive plastics
to realistic silk blossoms offer something for everyone.

Raw Materials

Artificial flowers are made in a wide variety of materials depending on
the market the manufacturer is reaching. In quantity, polyester has become
the fabric of choice by flower makers and purchasers because of lower
cost, ability of the fabric to accept dyes and glues, and durability.
Plastic is also the material used most often for the stems, berries, and
other parts of flowers for the market that includes picks—small
clusters of artificial flowers on short plastic and wire stems that can be
inserted into forms to make quick, inexpensive floral
decorations—and bulk sales of longer stems of flowers that are also
less expensive. Artificial flowers are made of paper, cotton, parchment,
latex, rubber, sateen (for large, bold-colored flowers and arrangements),
and dried materials, including flowers and plant parts, berries, feathers
and fruits. For more upscale silk flowers, silk, rayon, and cotton are the fibers of
choice. Wire in a wide range of gauges or diameters is used for firmness
in creating the stems (and in stiffening some flower petals and parts),
but the wire is wrapped with specially dyed, tear-resistant, durable
paper. No plastic is used. Other natural materials such as dried flowers,
feathers, and berries are also significant in the upper end market. To
make fruit and some berries, specialty suppliers manufacture forms that
are precisely sized and shaped to look like the real fruit from mixtures
of tapioca or flour base. The forms are sold to the flower manufacturer
who dyes them and mounts them on paper-wrapped stems or stalks. All dyes
and glues are also derived from natural materials.

Design

Most silk flowers are sold by the stem. Their designs begin with nature.
When a silk flower manufacturer plans to make a new design of a magnolia,
for example, the designer takes a magnolia fresh from the tree and
dissects it to use the actual parts as models. Dies called tools must be
made to cut the silk petals. The exact petals are used to design these
tools, and three or four are required to make the different sizes of
petals that comprise the flower. The leaves also require several tools.
The cutting dies are expensive to machine, so the manufacturer makes a
significant financial commitment when investing in a new design. Silk flower design is also heavily influenced by trends in interior design
and fashion. Manufacturers attend trade shows to learn about colors and
styles in wallpaper and furniture or summer dresses and hats that are
forecast for one to two years ahead.

The Manufacturing

Process The manufacturing process described below features high-quality silk
flowers that are sold by the stem and are made for custom decorating,
millinery, other fashion accessories, displays, package ornamentation,
candy companies, and floristry.

  1. White silk, rayon, or cotton fabric are used for all petals, regardless
    of their finished color. The fabric is die-cut using the tools described
    above into the many petal sizes and shapes that go into a single type of
    flower. The petals are dyed in the first step of a detailed hand
    assembly process. The dyer uses cotton balls and paintbrushes to touch
    color onto the petals beginning with the edges of the petal and working
    in toward the center. Dyeing a single petal can take an hour of
    concentrated work.
  2. To give them their distinctive curves, wrinkles, and other shapes, the
    petals are inserted in molds to which heat is applied to press the
    petals into individual shapes. After they are pressed, some petals and
    leaves are stiffened with thin wires. The wires are inserted by hand,
    and glue is touched on to fix the wire in place.
  3. The separate flowers and sprays of leaves are assembled individually,
    but several of each may be used to construct a single stem. Another
    skilled worker has taken wire precut to specified lengths and covered it
    with floral paper or tape that has a waxy coating to make it
    self-sticking. Finally, assemblers add the individual flowers and sprays
    of leaves to the stem.
  4. The finished stems are taken to the packing department. Each stem is
    wrapped in florist’s paper, and the stems are placed in boxes as
    if they are to be delivered like a bouquet of real flowers. The boxes
    are sealed and stored for shipment.

Quality Control

As with most hand-assembled products, silk flowers are inspected by
workers at each step of the process. The assemblers are responsible for
rejecting imperfect flower parts; for example, if the presser receives
petals that have dye spots on them, the presser rejects the petals rather
than proceeding with inserting them in molds for pressing. Before the finished stems are wrapped and packed for shipping, they are
subjected to three separate inspections. The finish inspectors work
independently, but all three must approve the silk flower before it is
hand wrapped and taped for boxing.

Byproducts/Waste

There are no byproducts from the manufacture of silk flowers, but the
manufacturer’s line may include hundreds of different varieties.
Waste is very limited and includes wire and fabric scraps that are
disposed. Dyes are all natural and can be recycled. The materials also do
not subject workers to any hazards. The die-cutting machines are enclosed
to protect the operator’s hands, and other metals like the
florists’ wire arrive at the factory in pre-cut lengths. Both glues
and dyes are non-toxic, and assemblers wear latex gloves as an additional
safeguard.

The Future

New technologies like the permastem or permasilk processes that fuse
flowers to their stems and makes them more durable continue to improve the
functionality and beauty of faux flowers. Technology is also used to
produce dried-look and soft-touch (velvet touch) plants; foliage
especially has benefited from soft-touch processing that varies the sizes
of leaves on a single branch and gives them a warm, gentle feel. The future of artificial flowers is likely to imitate its long past.
People like to be surrounded by beautiful representations from nature, but
they also want the convenience of low-maintenance, everlasting flowers.
Our homes and fashions benefit from the addition of artificial flowers,
and many other businesses from millinery to confectionery rely on silk
flowers to add the finishing touch to their products.

Where to Learn More

Books

Beveridge, Ardith and Shelly Urban. «Permanent Botanicals»
In A Centennial History of the American Florist. Topeka, KS: Florist Review Enterprises, 1998. Blacklock, Judith. Silk Flowers: Complete Color and Style Guide for the Creative Crafter Radnor, PA: Chilton Book Company, 1995. Miller, Bruce W. and Mary C. Donnelly. Handmade Silk Flowers. New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1986.

Periodicals

Caldera, Norman J. «How Honduras developed exports of artificial
flowers.» International Trade Forum (January-March 1990): 4+. Kelly, Mary Ellen. «Fake flowers evolve further.» Discount Store News (November 4, 1991): 21+. Mastropoalo, Dominick. «Artificial flowers: looking better,
selling more.» Home Improvement Market (June 1997): GSR10.

Other

American Prestige Silks, Inc. http://www.americanprestige.com/ . Koehler & Dramm, Inc., and the Institute of Floristry. http://www.kdfloral.com/ . — Gillian S. Holmes


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