When West Elm Seattle asked me to design a paper flower workshop for February 13th — the day before Valentine’s Day — I immediately thought of Leslie Knope’s Galentine’s Day celebrations on Parks and Recreation. I loved the idea of creating a fun event to celebrate female friendship, and no flower seemed like a more fitting mascot for Galentine’s Day than the coral charm peony. It’s big, bold, bright, and stylish. It’s everything that sad grocery store roses are not.
I brought candy, gals brought pals, and we had a blast.
In the interest of keeping the Galentine’s Day spirit alive year-round, I offer this tutorial. Order up some crepe paper from the wonderful Castle In the Air, invite some gals (and guys!) over, and whip up some peonies. (If you’d like to send one to a friend, but are more a paper flower admirer than a paper flower maker, I also have some finished flowers available in my shop.)
Finally, on the subject of wonderful gals: I’d like to give a shout-out to the very talented Natalie Lynne, who was the first flower maker I ever saw create a peony seed pod in this way. Check out her beautiful work on Instagram (@a_bloom_time)! —Kate Alarcón
Photos by Grace Kim
A Note about the paper:
This peony is made up of layers of different weights and colors of crepe paper. The heavy crepe gives it most of its structure, while the fine and doublette crepe help it to look more delicate. If you’d like to try different weights and colors of crepe, don’t worry about layering them in exactly the same order. But some combination of heavier and lighter crepe will help to recreate the structure and texture of these. With the exception of the moss green from Papermart, I’ve used the color names from Castle in the Air to make ordering easier.
You will need:
-Fine crepe (30-60 gram) in corals and reds for the petals, and orange or yellow for the stamens. I’ve used “Raspberry,” “Red,” and “Orange” from Castle in the Air.
-Heavy crepe (160 or 180 gram) in corals, reds, and pinks. I’ve used: “Peachy Pink,” “Candy Apple,” “Pink Pansy,” and “Burgundy” from Castle in the Air, and “Moss Green” from Papermart.
-Doublette crepe in “Light/Dark Salmon”
-Aleene’s original tacky glue
-Stem wire (18 gauge, cloth covered)
-Template (download here)
A note about grain:
The grain of the crepe paper runs parallel to the roll or fold. Crepe paper stretches horizontally, but not vertically, so 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.
Creating the center:
Use template 1 to cut a small rectangle from the red fine crepe. Use your scissors to round the upper corners so they aren’t too sharp. Gently stretch the top edge of the rectangle. Dot a very small amount of glue on the lower two thirds of the rectangle, wrap it loosely around the stem wire so that the top third extends beyond the tip of the wire, and then scrunch the lower two thirds closely to the wire.
Cut a ¼” strip 10” long across the grain of your green crepe. I’ve used “Moss Green” from Paper Mart, but any medium green would be fine. Dab small dots of glue down the strip and attach it to the top of the wire, on top of the coral rectangle. You’ll wrap this piece around the wire to create an elongated ovoid shape. To achieve this, you’ll need to wrap the strip up and down the top inch of the wire, making sure that more of the layers end up in the middle.
Start wrapping from the top, holding the strip at a 45-degree angle to the wire. When you’ve covered about an inch and a half of the tip of the wire, start wrapping back toward the tip of the wire, again holding the strip at a 45-degree angle to the wire. When you reach the midpoint of the section of the wire you wrapped on the way down, hold the strip at a 90-degree angle and wrap the middle several times, creating a kind of doughnut around the mid point. Once you’ve got a nice, thick middle, continue wrapping toward the tip of the wire. Make one more pass up and down the pod to create a fairly smooth covering for your pod. This time, you don’t need to stop to thicken the middle. Snip any extra strip. Spread out the pod frill so that it’s not too compressed.
Repeat to create 2 more seedpods.
Cut a ¼” x 10” strip across the grain of the green crepe and dot with glue. Hold the three stems together using the strip to wrap them tightly from just below the pods to about three inches down the wire.
Using template 2, cut a rectangle from orange or yellow fine crepe. The short sides of the rectangle should run parallel to the grain of the paper, while the long side of the rectangle will go across the grain. Fold your orange rectangle in half horizontally, so that the two long ends line up. Unfold. This crease in your unfolded rectangle marks how far down to cut the fringe.
Now you’ll fold the rectangle in the opposite direction twice to create four layers, so that it takes fewer cuts to make the fringe. Fold it vertically so that the two shorter ends line up. Fold in half again, so that the two short ends line up with second fold. Your grain lines should be parallel to the folds.
Make a series of parallel cuts (about 1/8th inch apart) across the top edge of the rectangle to create a fringe. The cuts should stop at the crease you made when you first folded and unfolded your rectangle (this line is also marked on the template). Working in sections, gently twist the fringe in one direction, untwist and gently straighten with your fingers. Its fine if a few of the stamens fall off in the process.
Unfold the rectangle, and dot glue along the bottom edge beneath your fringe cuts. Wrap the fringe loosely around the stem twice so that the bottom of your cuts is just below the seedpods. Snip off any excess. Scrunch to adhere the paper tightly around the stem.
Cutting the petals:
The peony is made up of five rows or rounds of petals that radiate out from the center. The petals in each row are a different color and shape. The first and last rows are heavy crepe, which will stretch out much more than the lighter weights, so these templates are narrower.
For each row, I’ve listed which template to use, which paper to use, and how many you’ll need to cut to complete the row. Then, once you’ve made it all the way around, you’ll move to the instructions for the next row.
If you choose different paper for a variation of this peony, just be sure to match the heavy crepe templates with the heavy crepe.
Optional: I’ve found that substituting a bright bluish pink petal in heavy crepe (such as “Pink Pansy”) adds a nice highlight amongst all the coral. I use template 5 and make two of these pink petals. I like to insert one in rows 2 and 3, fairly close to each other. You’ll still want the same total number of petals for that row, so you’ll be substituting a petal, rather than adding an extra.
Row 1: template 3, 6 petals of light coral heavy crepe (“Peachy Pink”)
Row 2: template 4, 6 petals of coral fine crepe (“Raspberry”)
Row 3: template 4, 6 petals of doublette crepe (“Light/Dark Salmon”)
Row 4: template 4, 7 petals of red fine crepe (“Red”)
Row 5: template 6, 8 petals of dark pink heavy crepe (“Candy Apple”)
A petal from each layer before and after shaping.
Shaping the petals:
To create the cupped shape of the peony petals, hold the center of the upper third of the petal with two hands, between your thumbs and sides of your index fingers. The goal is to stretch the inner part of the petal, while leaving the rounded outer edge unstretched to create a little bowl. For the petals that are lobed, or heart-shaped, cup each lobe and then the area under the lobes. The fine crepe will only cup slightly, while the heavy crepe will give you the nice, dramatic cups that give the flower its structure.
Attaching the petals:
Dot glue along the bottom of the petal and apply just below the seedpod.
You’ll be able to feel the ridge where the pods end and the wire begins. Always push up into that ridge when you’re applying petals; this will counteract the tendency for the petals to gradually drift down the wire, creating a cone shape. Apply the petals evenly in rounds around the center. The precise degree of overlap is less important than having them evenly distributed around the flower.
Use template 7 to cut three shorter calyx pieces and template 8 to cut three longer calyx pieces from the “Burgundy” heavy crepe. Apply the shorter pieces evenly around the base of your peony, just as you did the petals. Apply the longer pieces so that they fall between the shorter pieces.
Wrapping the stem:
Cut a “Burgundy” ¼” x 12” strip across the grain and dot glue up and down the strip. Wrap the stems, covering the bottoms of the calyx, just underneath where the seedpods meet the wire, and then all the way to the bottom of the stems. This may require a few strips.
Curl back the long pieces of the calyx by scraping them between your thumb and the blade of your scissors, as though you were curling ribbon. Gently spread out any seed pod frills that have been compressed, and arrange the fringe so that it’s all standing up and evenly spaced. Straighten any petals that have been mussed, and use your thumbs to reshape any petals whose cups have been collapsed.
If you’d like a looser peony, stick your fingers between the first two layers down to where the petals meets the seedpods and gently spread, working your way all the way around the flower. Repeat for each layer.
About Kate: Kate Alarcón makes paper plants and flowers and teaches workshops in the Seattle area. She offers regular small releases of single blooms and tiny arrangements via her website www.thecobralily.com. You can see her most recent work on Instagram @cobralilyshop.
About Grace: Grace Kim is dedicated to capturing and creating beauty and helping people live life to the fullest. You can find her work at GH Kim Photography and Carpe Diem Collective. Follow her on Instagram @graceperdiem.