I was putting folded laundry away in my son’s drawers when I happened to notice a honeycomb ball on top of his dresser, with its bottom pointed toward me. Normally, honeycomb paper is cut and shaped to highlight the honeycomb pattern, but the bottom of the ball showed a ring of perfectly spaced paper rays. It struck me that it looked just like the gills of a huge mushroom, and I filed that thought away for future reference — maybe a holiday window display?
Then about a week later, I was at Impress Cards and Crafts, where I teach paper flower classes, and —gasp! — I found tiny honeycomb paper designed for use in handmade cards. I hadn’t even known that honeycomb paper came in anything other than the large size used to make party decorations.
I brought home a packet in “ivory” and kept it on my nightstand so I could spend some time every night just messing with it. As I shaped, stretched, and manipulated the honeycomb paper, I was struck by how organic it looked and felt. I made a three-dimensional shape and played with it, turning it inside out. Somehow the way it moved reminded me of some kind of sea creature — maybe a jellyfish or sea anemone?
I became a little bit obsessed and started reading about honeycomb and other hexagonal structures in nature. I learned that this pattern appears on salt-worn rock formations, insect eyes, and inside bones. Just as with crepe paper, I was charmed by the notion of using a manufactured material to explore structures in nature, particularly when the material itself is inspired by natural forms. I needed a material that was bulky but also light and regular for my mushroom gills; nature uses this honeycomb structure for the same reasons.
I hope you’ll whip up your own colony of mushrooms. They mix beautifully with paper flowers (how cute would they be arranged with some paper hellebores and daffodils?!), and I think a little pot of them would make an enchanting gift. —Kate
-Heavy crepe for the cap and stem (I’ve used “Ivory” from PaperMart)
-A paper straw to support the stem
-Honeycomb paper in “ivory” from here
-Aleene’s original tacky glue
-Mushroom templates (download here)
A note about grain:
The grain of the crepe paper runs parallel to the roll or fold. The arrow on your template shows the direction the grain should run, so be sure to place it parallel to the tiny wrinkles that run up and down the crepe paper.
About the templates:
I’ve included five sets of mushroom templates in sizes ranging from extra-large to extra-small. I’ve printed the size on each template (e.g. xl) and the letter that identifies it in the instructions. Make sure to match your xl A template with your xl B template when you’re cutting out your mushroom pieces. The stem template can be used for any size, though for the smaller mushrooms, you’ll want to cut it in half vertically and use the righthand half for a more slender stem. I would recommend starting with a medium-sized mushroom.
For the cap:
With template B, cut a rectangle from the heavy crepe, so that the long side runs across the grain. Using the dotted line across template B as a guide, fold your rectangle.
Gently stretch along the whole length of this fold.
To close the cap circle, lay the folded and stretched rectangle so that you can see the section you’ve folded over (this is bottom side up). Open up the fold on one short end of the rectangle, and apply glue up and down this edge.
Place the opposite folded short side on top of the glued section, overlapping the two sides by about ¼”.
Refold the glued section and press with your fingers to help the glue set.
Cut a small circle, about the size of a quarter, from your ivory crepe. (If you’re making very tiny or very large mushrooms, you’ll want to adjust the size of this circle accordingly, but it doesn’t have to be very precise.)
Gently position the unstretched center of your cap — the area that was the unstretched long edge of your rectangle — so that it all sticks up through the bottom side of your cap. Apply a fairly generous amount of glue all the way around this edge. Lay the cap flat on the table, again, bottom side up. Use the circle to push this glued inner edge down into the center of your cap. Press to help the glue adhere.
Flip the cap so that it’s right side up.
At this point your cap center probably won’t look very nice. But don’t worry! Because the paper is so wet with glue, you’ve got a few minutes to adjust the center.
I use my fingernails to pinch even pleats all around the center, and then I push/massage the points to close the center up all the way.
For the gills:
It takes two identical pieces of honeycomb paper to make a full ring of gills for your mushroom.
Place template A on your honeycomb paper so that the arrow on the template runs parallel with the little indentations that run up and down the honeycomb paper. Cut one template A. To cut the second half of your gills, place template A on the honeycomb paper directly below the first template A you cut. This will ensure that the honeycomb pattern falls the same way on both halves of the gills, so they look even when you open them up.
Dot one of your two gill halves with glue, and then stack the other half on top. Allow to dry for a minute or so.
Dot the top of this stack with glue, gently spread open the stack, and glue the bottom side of the stack to the top.
Carefully pinch along the edge to close. Let dry.
Gently open up the little 3D honeycomb shape along the pointy end.
Use a foam brush, cosmetic sponge, or even a piece of the ivory crepe to spread glue all over the underside of the cap, all the way out to the edge.
Carefully lay your gills on top of the cap, gently stretching the honeycomb paper so that the ends of the gills lay just inside the edge of the cap.
As you stretch, the hole in the center of the ring of honeycomb gills will open up, providing a space for the stem. You’ll have a few minutes before the glue dries to adjust the honeycomb paper, so check to see that the gills are evenly distributed along the cap edge. Finally, working one section at a time, gently press the gills into the cap edge all the way around.
For the stem:
Use template C to cut a rectangle from the ivory crepe.
Pinch a little fold in your rectangle using the dotted line on your template as a guide. In the same way that you stretched the cap edge, stretch this little fold to create the ridge in the mushroom stem.
Dot glue along the left edge of your stem rectangle and place the paper straw on top of this line of glue.
Roll the rectangle around the straw. You won’t stretch the paper much, but it should be rolled fairly tightly. If necessary, adjust the rolled paper so that the stem ridge lines up to make a neat ring.
Apply glue to the right edge of this piece, finish rolling, and press gently to set the glue.
To make the ridge more prominent, grasp the stem on either side of the ridge and slide the paper toward the ridge. Trim any part of the paper straw that’s sticking out.
Dot glue around the top edge of the stem, and then insert the tip of the stem into the space in the center of the honeycomb ring. Hold it in place for a minute or two to allow the glue to dry.
You can use PanPastel, stamp inks, copic markers, or chalk to color the tops of your mushrooms. I like to use a cosmetic sponge to swipe color out from the center, lifting as I reach the edge for a gradient effect.
My favorite stamp ink for making pink mushrooms is “Sugar” by Fresh Ink.
Having the paper straws in the center of the stems gives you a lot of flexibility for styling. If you’d like to use these in a floral bouquet, you can just stick a long piece of stem wire up there to give it height.
To make the mushrooms seem to stand on their own, I place a piece of kraft paper on top of floral foam and poke toothpicks through the paper and into the foam.
Then I place the stem bottoms of my mushrooms over the toothpicks, and they stay in place beautifully. For the pot of mushrooms, I stuck half a polystyrene egg inside this little flower pot, covered it with preserved moss, and stuck toothpicks where I wanted to “plant” my mushrooms.
About Kate: Kate Alarcón makes paper plant life and teaches workshops in the Seattle area. She periodically lists finished flowers in her shop on her website www.thecobralily.com. You can see her most recent work on Instagram @cobralilyshop, and a ridiculous number of flower pins on her Pinterest boards (@The Cobra Lily).