Jul 232016

I have a black thumb, so flowers never survive around me. Nonetheless, I love blooms of all kinds, so I surround myself with flowers that won’t die—silk flowers, paper flowers, floral scents, floral-embellished bed linens, and so on. In one of my Etsy shops, JN Originals, I sell crocheted flower brooches.


When I started binding my own books and selling them in Mister PenQuin, I knew the covers would be embellished with flowers. At first, I purchased packages of paper flowers. I particularly appreciated the dainty ones made by Prima, but gradually I began altering purchased paper or silk flowers.

Altered Store-Bought Flowers

Today I most enjoy fashioning handmade flowers from paper, fabric and fibers, but I can’t justify tossing away my remaining store-bought collection. As a result, I am still working my way through the flowers I have purchased.


Still, it’s fun to experiment with different kinds of handmade flowers.

Handmade Flowers

A few weeks ago, a customer approached me and asked if I could make her a password book using a flower from one of my gratitude journals, but the paper from a password book. Obviously, I couldn’t take apart the two books to meet her request, but fortunately the paper she liked was a digital one I had purchased from a graphic designer who allows you to sell handmade items using her digital papers. The flower, on the other hand, was from a package I had purchased from Hobby Lobby. Not only was it no longer available, but I didn’t want to buy yet more pre-assembled flowers. I offered to re-create the flower so that it would be similar to, but not exactly like, the purchased flower adhered to the book in my shop.

The customer asked for the flower on the left, but the paper on the right.

The customer asked for the flower on the left, but the paper on the right.

To re-create the flower, I stamped white Bazzill card stock with an Old French Writing rubber stamp by Hero Arts and brown Hero Hues Latte Chalk Ink, also by Hero Arts.


Then, I cut out flower shapes in graduated sizes using Donna Salazar’s Carnation Creations die set by Spellbinders.


I layered the flowers, glued a wooden ball to the center, and adhered it to the cover of a book. My buyer was pleased, as you can see.

Final Password Book

Designing handmade flowers is time-consuming—you probably won’t be paid for your time if you sell the items you embellish with them—but it is infinitely satisfying. It also gives me a chance to use my overflowing collection of dies, inks, stamps and papers. If you also like to create paper flowers, you may be interested in reading the following tutorials on my blog, which include links to other resources.

An old nursery rhyme asks, “Mary, Mary, quite contrary: how does your garden grow?” My answer, of course, is with paper, fabric, fiber and glue, all wrapped together with a little imagination and a lot of love.  That’s the story behind my flowers!

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.


Jul 102016

The perfect opportunity to use my Spellbinders Create a Sunflower die set occurred last month when a customer requested a password book with a sunflower embellishment. The five-piece die set includes petals, a starburst-shaped petal base, a floral center, and two leaves.

Die Set

You start off by die cutting 10 sets of yellow petals and four yellow petal bases, one brown floral center, and as many leaves as you’d like. I punched out four leaves and used all of them.


I completed the rest of the password book ahead of time using the following papers:

  • Cover – Sunshine card stock from Doodlebug Design and August Flourish paper from Graphic 45’s Time to Flourish Collection
  • Inside cover – Mushrooms from Jillibean Soup’s Fresh Vegetable Soup papers
  • End papers (1st and last pages) – Mellow Yellow Double Dot from BoBunny’s DoubleDot Designs line

Book Collage

I began the process of assembling the sunflower by inking the edges of the petals and leaves with Tim Holtz Distress Ink. I used Scattered Straw for the petals, and Peeled Paint for the leaves. It’s not absolutely necessary to ink the edges of your paper, but I think it defines the small pieces better if you do so.

Distress Inking

The pieces are so small, in fact, that I used a paint palette to organize them.


I glued each set of petal leaves to a sunburst-shaped petal base, using the points to help space the petals apart evenly. If you don’t have a die cutting machine or a sunflower die, you can still create a paper sunflower by cutting leaves by hand, or with leaf-motif punches in three or four different sizes. The sunburst-shaped petal base can be replaced by a circle on which you draw lines to divide the circle into pie-shaped wedges. The lines of the wedges mark the spots where you should glue the leaves. As you can see, I ended up with four sizes of petals, intended to be layered.


I used a McGill stylus and molding mat to add dimension to the petals, using the ball of the stylus in a circular motion to break up the fibers of the paper and curl the leaves a little bit. Don’t have a stylus? Use the capped end of a felt-tipped marker and a mouse pad.


You’ll see that the completed sunflower below does not use the originally-cut brown paper floral center, but instead a button from my button stash. Some people like to use a glue gun for work like this, but I prefer Beacon Fabric-Tac Permanent Adhesive because it is acid-free and very strong.


It does take a bit of time and patience to craft a paper sunflower, but the process is relaxing. I suspect you’ll see more sunflowers on the covers of future books in my Etsy shop.

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Apr 272015

It occurs to me as I write today’s post that I have probably written more posts about how to make paper flowers than any other topic—and this one is the ninth. I suppose that’s not only because I love flowers, but also because it’s my favorite book cover embellishment and my favorite part of the bookbinding process. So, here is today’s flower, half of which is based on Mistra Hoolahan’s tutorial, Carnation Flower Tutorial, and half of which is based on my own method. I’m not sure if this looks more like a carnation, a rose or a hybrid bloom, but to me it looks like a real flower of some kind. Much as I love flowers, I’m not good with flower names or identification. And I don’t believe realism is a requirement when you’re creating art!

This item is available in my shop. Just click on the image to view it.

To make this flower, you’ll need to select one of your floral cutting die sets that comes in different sizes. You could also combine dies from several different sets. I think the results will look similar, no matter which one you use. I used a Spellbinders Shapeabilities die set, Donna Salazar Carnation Creations, cutting three each of the five largest sizes. The two smallest sizes and the leaves are not used. If you use fewer layers, your flower will look less full. If you use more, it will be very full indeed!

Donna Salaza Carnation Creations

This die set, Donna Salazar Carnation Creations, has apparently been discontinued, but you probably can still find it online.

Cut three each of the five largest flowers.

Cut three each of the five largest flowers.

I use a Sizzix® Big Shot die cutting machine to cut out shapes from my wafer thin dies, but lately I’ve been using a new accessory with it, the Sizzix® Precision Base Plate, which takes the place of one of the acrylic cutting mats. This accessory enables you to cut detailed shapes without having to fussy-cut them afterward, which sometimes happens when a die shape is intricate. In addition, since the metal never wears out, you extend the life of your acrylic cutting mat this way.  I build a “sandwich” consisting of the Sizzix® Magnetic Platform, the Sizzix® Precision Base Plate, paper, the die with the cutting ridges down, and an acrylic cutting mat.

Sizzix Precision Base Plate

Sizzix Precision Base Plate

Grab yourself a paper brad, any brad—it doesn’t matter what it looks like since it won’t be seen in the final product—and assemble the three sizes of smaller flowers, a total of nine, staggering the petals. Then you’ll spray the flat-flower combination with water. I used a Ranger Mini Mister, which is quite handy for this purpose.

Beginning of center florette

Lifting each petal, layer by layer, you’ll scrunch it around the brad until it forms the bud of the flower. If the paper dries out as you work with it, don’t be afraid to re-spray it.

This bud is only partially completed. The remaining layers need to be scrunched upward and around the other petals.

This bud is only partially completed. The remaining layers need to be scrunched upward and around the other petals.

Then, flip the bud upside down and tap it several times into a water-based ink pad. I used Tim Holtz Distress Ink in Victorian Velvet.

Tapping the bud into water-based ink

Spray the flower with water again to make the ink run, and gently separate the paper layers—but don’t separate them so much that you flatten them. I used a quilling tool to help separate the layers, but a toothpick would work, too. Then you can either air-dry the florette, or speed up the drying process with a heat gun, moving it frequently so that you don’t burn the paper. This forms the center of your flower.

The completed center florette

Next, take the remaining two sizes of flowers, six flowers in all, and ink the edges.

Inking the edges of the bottom flowers

Spray these six flowers with water, then scrunch each one into a ball. Open up each flower, and let it air-dry or dry with the heat gun. When you wet the paper and scrunch it up, this breaks the paper fibers. When the paper dries, it is more apt to stay in its scrunched shape than if you had not wet the paper first. Because the flower will be fairly damp as you work with it, you will want to work with good-quality, sturdy paper to prevent tearing. I used Bazzill Basics in Buttercream. I suspect watercolor paper would work beautifully, too.

As you can see, I used Scotch Quick Drying Tacky Glue. You may prefer to use a hot glue gun, but I'm not a fan of hot glue because it's not acid-free.

As you can see, I used Scotch Quick-Drying Tacky Glue. You may prefer to use a hot glue gun, but I’m not a fan of hot glue because it’s not acid-free.

Beginning with the largest flower, glue the flowers together, making sure you stagger the petals. This creates the bottom part of the final flower. Finally, glue the center florette on top. Let the glue dry, and you’re finished!

Completed Flower

If you enjoy, as I do, the process of making paper flowers, you may wish to read my other flower tutorial posts:

Have some tips you’d like to share about making paper flowers? Include them in the comments below.

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.