Have you heard about the crepe paper flower craze? For a relatively low cost, you can make beautiful, life-like flowers from crepe paper. Really — you won’t believe that aren’t real. I’m not talking about the cheap-o kind of crepe paper used for streamers, but a heftier kind that comes in gorgeous colors. This is a great material to use in getting to know the rotary blade on the Cameo 4 machines.
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An intro to crepe paper
You may be familiar with crepe paper only in the form of those party streamers I mentioned. But it’s actually been used for crafts for over 100 years! For this use, it’s sold in long rolls or sometimes sheets. It has small folds in it — the crepe.
Here’s the reason it’s so popular for making flowers. You can manipulate the crepe to make it into different shapes. By stretching it in some areas but not others, you can create a cupped shape. That makes it look like a real flower petal. Also, the lines of the crepe mimic the veins and texture you see in flowers and their leaves.
I was introduced to crepe paper flowers by Lia Griffith, a fellow presenter at the All Things Silhouette conferences. Lia has written a book and many tutorials on making crepe paper flowers. Others have as well, but what is unique about Lia is that she has worked with companies to create tools and her own line of crepe paper in absolutely stunning colors. If you want to learn more about the history of crepe paper, tools and materials, look her up on YouTube, Instagram or on her website. She is very knowledgeable and inspiring.
You should also know that the crepe paper comes in a variety of thickness. For example, Lia has an extra-fine, heavy and double-sided. Which kind you need depends on what particular flower you are making. I would say the ones I’m using this time for my petals and stamen are heavy and the sepal and leaf are double-sided.
Why the Cameo 4 and rotary blade?
The rotary blade is a new tool for the Cameo 4 ONLY. It works in the regular 12″ Cameo 4, the 15″ Plus and the 24″ Pro. Those are the only machines that have the technology to use it correctly. And it can ONLY be used in tool holder 2. This is a specialty blade that is not included with the machine, but must be purchased separately.
If you’ve ever used a rotary cutter on fabric or a paper trimmer, you already know how it works. It rolls across the material, like a pizza cutter. The normal blade is pulled across the material. On a delicate material like crepe paper, the regular blade would pull it. There’s also a different method the machine uses with the rotary blade that we’ll discuss more later.
By the way — if you don’t yet have a Cameo 4 or rotary blade, you can cut the pattern pieces on cardstock with your machine and then cut the crepe paper by hand.
Materials you’ll need
Crepe paper — You can find Lia’s paper online on Amazon and Joann’s. Joann’s used to carry another brand in-stock. Mine still has it in the clearance section. You can find inexpensive types on Etsy — not as nice and you have to wait for shipping, but it’s there. Most flowers will have at least 3 colors for the petals, centers, and leaves. Since this is a dogwood, I’m using white, yellow and green.
Branches (twigs really) — For this dogwood, I recommend using real branches. They are easily available and make your project look even more realistic. I also liked how it gave me direction on where to position the blooms.
Glue gun (low temp) or tacky glue
Brown marker, colored pencil, eye shadow, pastels, etc.– You use these to add color to flowers that have multiple colors, giving them a variegated look. For our dogwood, the top center of each petal is brown.
A good mat — Crepe paper is made by making lots of little folds in it. That’s what gives it texture. It’s also what enables you to shape it because it stretches. However, you don’t want it to stretch when you are cutting it with a Cameo 4. A nice sticky mat holds it in place well. As long as you remove it carefully, it doesn’t tear the cut petals.
Rubber brayer (optional) — If you have one of these around, it’s very helpful in getting your crepe paper evenly adhered to the mat. A rolling pin also works.
Choosing a design
Start with simple flower petal, not an intricate one. Avoid sharp turns with small valleys (inward curvatures). The good news is that since crepe paper is a relatively thin material, the rotary blade can do its work more easily. You want individual petals, not a rolled flower or full flower. It should be one that you’re looking at straight on, not from an angle. Basically, look for something that looks like a real flower petal you just plucked off the stem.
I found some great ones in the Silhouette Design Store by Alaa’ K. Each one has multiple petal shapes. Sometimes the only difference in 2 types of flowers are the colors or petal arrangements you use, so you can get lots of mileage from a single design.
3D flowers get their cupped shape by cutting a slit at the bottom of the petal and overlapping the parts on either side of it. If you happen to have some of those designs like this one or this one with individual petals, you can use them by removing the slit at the bottom. Sometimes that requires ungrouping and deleting it; other times you need to point edit.
FYI — many of those designs by Alaa’ K also work well for giant wall flowers made from cardstock. You add a slit at the base of the petal (like in the pic just above) and curl the upper edges to create a 3D look. But that’s a post for another day.
Here are some from different designers that work–
On that last one, you’d use only the inner pieces.
What I’m using
I’m going to show you a dogwood flower using this design.
It only has 4 petals, looks great with a real branch, has simple leaves. The basic petal looks like a heart with a shallow dip and flatish bottom (second one on the top row). I used the last one on the top row as a leaf. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that the first one on the bottom row isn’t the best option, as it has quite a few small dips and turns. The first one on the upper row might be tricky as well.
I’ll be sharing another post soon on how to make some simple petals yourself in the software.
Adding the pieces to the page
Add the design to your page. There’s one thing here that is of PRIMARY importance and will be on every single flower — the grain. In order to be able to stretch the petals to create a cup shape, the grain needs to run from the base of the petal to the tip.
I love these designs, but there are more points in them than are necessary. Some of them are really crazy with it. That’s tricky with the rotary blade. I recommend right away getting into point editing mode and clicking Simplify on your chosen petal. This eliminates some and turns many of the corner points into smooth ones.
Resize the petals as needed, but don’t go any smaller than about 2″ high. If you make it smaller that 1.5″, the machine may cut an offset shape instead of the shape itself. Make copies so that you have 4 petals. I recommend only cutting 1 flower the first time. There’s no point in wasting material while you experiment with settings and get used to crepe paper.
If you are using the same design I am use Simplify again. If you aren’t, for your leaf use a long, pointed oval about the same length as your petal. Make 2-3 per bloom. I’m using 2 sizes, with the larger about as tall as my petal. The grain goes from tip to tip.
For the centers (stamen) and bottom (sepal), we’ll just be using rectangles. I prefer to cut those by hand while the machine cuts my petals and leaves. Here are the sizes–
- Stamen — slightly wider than your petal and half as tall.
- Sepal — approximately 1/2″ tall and 2″ long.
For both, the grain runs parallel to the short side.
So, here are all my pieces–
Leaving room for loops and hooks
Here’s the special thing about the rotary blade that we need to talk about. Since the blade is circular, only a tiny bit of it is in contact with the crepe paper. In order for the blade to roll along your cut lines, it needs to start outside of them. The Silhouette Studio software creates loops and hooks for that. This is called Smart Cut. I’ll show you those in the next step — just know you’ll need to leave more space between your pieces than you normally would.
Setting up the cut job
Now that you have your petals on the page, go ahead and jump to the Send area. The Rotary blade ONLY works in Tool Holder 2 — the one on the right. That’s why there’s a number 2 on it. That means you need to make your choices in the Carriage 2 section. Click the arrow beside that to expand the menu.
The first thing to do is choose the material. There’s actually a setting for crepe paper. Select that.
Next, select all your pieces and then choose Cut in the Carriage 2 section. The cut lines should now be blue.
Next, for the action choose Rotary Cut. Ahhhhh — there are those loops and hooks. They’ll only show up when you tell the machine you’re going to rotary cut.
Move some of your pieces around and notice how the location of the loops and hooks change. Make sure there’s room for them all without them overlapping (I’ve circled ones I need to change). Don’t forget to keep your pieces in the correct orientation to the grain. You can rotate them 180°, but not 90° (√ is good, X is not).
When you chose Rotary Cut as the action, the software should have automatically set Rotary Blade for your tool. Check to make sure it is. Notice something else — there’s no blade number. The blade is rolling along the material so there aren’t variable depths.
Putting the crepe paper on the mat
It’s time to put your crepe paper on the mat. Let me warn you yet again — WATCH THE GRAIN!!!!! It should run top to bottom on the mat. As I said earlier, a sticky mat works best. Your initial thought might be that crepe paper is really delicate, but it’s probably stronger than you think. If it’s a brand new mat, I definitely recommend, as I always do, that you pat it on your jeans once or twice to put a few fibers on it.
Lay the crepe paper on the mat without stretching it and push it down really well to make sure it’s on there good. A brayer is really helpful here — you know, the kind you used to use for rubber stamping. (I haven’t used those babies much since I bought a Silhouette). If yours has too much ink on it that you don’t want on your crepe paper, try a rolling pin instead. Then load your mat into the machine.
Cutting the crepe paper
Here’s the only other tricky thing about a rotary blade. When you first get it, it’s not ready to use. If you’ve ever used a rotary cutting on fabric, you know you have to first unlock the guard. That keeps you from accidentally cutting your fingers off. The rotary blade is similar. It comes with a cap that’s extended. You’ll want to screw that in so that the blade is visible.
Then load it into the right hand tool holder and lock it in.
How to cut just one petal
It’s a really good idea to cut just 1 petal first. Then tweak your settings as needed and cut more. HOWEVER — when you have only 1 piece set to cut, it’s going to change where the hooks and loops are. Here’s how I get around that.
- Set 1 of my petals to a different fill color than the rest.
- Go into cutting by fill color and make sure I’ve still got my material, action and tools chosen correctly.
- Set the rows for both fill colors to Carriage 2 and make sure they are checked.
- Make sure the fill color for the 1 petal that’s different is the first row.
- Add a pause after that fill color.
The hooks and loops stay where they are. When I send the job, the machine will pause after it cuts that one petal. Without unloading the mat, I check to see how well that one cut.
- If the settings are good, I resume the cut job.
- If I need to adjust the settings, I can cancel the job.
Now cut the rest
While the petals cut, you can start working on your stamen if you cut the rectangle by hand.
When you’ve got your petals cut, gently remove them from the mat. You still don’t want to stretch out the crepes quite yet.
Be especially careful at the spots where the loops and hooks were, because I find they sometimes don’t get fully cut there. Look closely and you’ll see the loop.
Repeat the process for any other colors you need to cut out.
I like to take my rotary blade out as soon as I’m finished. I unscrew the cap again so that the blade is protected as I store it (and my fingers are, too).
I know that just photos and descriptions can be hard to follow. If you prefer a video, check out this one from Lia Griffith. However, that’s not narrated, so I’m going to try to provide more detail here.
(Please ignore the state of my hands. We are currently laying a tile floor and it’s tearing them to pieces).
We’ll start with the stamen (the center). Take your rectangle and fold it in half lengthwise. This is a bit tricky, as you’re folding against the grain. But it doesn’t have to be perfect.
Now, you’re going to cut some slits along the folded edge, about 2/3 of the way to the raw edge. Cut them about every 1/16″. This is what your sharp scissors are for. Lia Griffith also makes some cool fringe scissors if you really get into this.
Put a dab of glue on the end of a branch, about 2/3 as tall as your fringe.
Lay one end of your fringed stamen in the glue so that about 1/3-1/2 of the crepe paper is above the branch.
Hold it there until the glue sets. Then begin winding the stamen around the branch, gluing along the raw edge as you go along. Make sure to give a fair amount of glue at the end.
Set that aside to dry as you work on the petals. By doing this step first, the glue gets nice and firm.
Take your brown marker, ink, or whatever you’re using and add a bit of coloring to the center of the outer edge of the petal (where the dip is). I used 2 colors to give it a more natural look.
Now we’ll learn to cup petals, which is how you get a realistic-looking flower. Hold the petal in your hands with your thumbs at the center. Just in the center, gently stretch the paper. This removes some of the crepe at the center only. Because the outer edges stay tight, the petal curves.
This is something you just have to do to understand. I did find that on my very first flowers, I wasn’t quite aggressive enough with my cupping because I was scared to do too much. I love how Lia describes it — as if you’re molding clay. To get the hang of it, try using some of your scrap pieces.
Now we’ll glue the petals onto the branch around the stamen. If you cut multiple sizes of flowers, you’ll typically see smaller blooms at the top edges of the branch and the larger ones more toward the base. Put glue along the bottom edge of the petal.
Line up the base of the petal with the base of the stamen or slightly lower and wrap the petal around. Hold in place until the glue is generally set.
Repeat with the other 3 petals, spacing them out around the stamen. In general, about half of one petal overlaps half of the previous one.
Take your smaller rectangle — the one cut from green. Put glue on one short edge and attach that so that it covers the area where the petals meet the branch.
As with the stamen, you’re going to glue this around the branch. I find it helps to pinch the bottom and/or stretch the top. That makes it look like it’s getting gradually smaller as it goes down the branch. If it seems like it’s getting too bulky, just cut some off the strip.
Take one of your leaves. With scissors or another sort of curling tool (gift card, kitchen scraper, etc.), pull along the back edge of the leaf to curve it.
Put a dot of glue at one tip (the flat edge if you’re using the same design as I am). Place the leaf at the base of the flower (I like to cover the ending of the sepal). Pinch it at that tip to form it around the branch.
Take another leaf and attach it somewhere along the branch.
Don’t worry if your first one is not perfect. Real flowers aren’t perfect either. I promise you will learn a little with each one you make. Continue adding flowers and leaves to your branch.
More crepe paper flowers
I hope this has been a good starting point for working with crepe paper flowers. There are plenty of tutorials on Pinterest and YouTube, so check some out. Here are a few others I’ve made.
This rose was my very first attempt. I hated it until I looked at it again the next day.
Here’s my second rose and a rose bud. These are some of the beautiful colors in Lia Griffith’s line.
Here are 2 peonies. The first dark pink one was a disaster to my mind. It’s not bad as a flower in general, but didn’t have the tightly closed petals I was going for. But I learned a great deal about cupping and petal placement. The second one — the coral one — is much better. (Still working on perfecting it)
Here’s a whole set of dogwoods. These I actually cut by hand with a friend one day. I used my machine to cut out the pattern pieces.
I’m also working on some hydrangeas. I used artist’s pastels to add the purple color to a pink crepe paper.
To make an arrangement, you’ll also want some filler. Here are some simple leaves.
Once you get the hang of flowers, it’s not too hard to make up your own patterns. I made this dahlia and its bud that way.
I’m beginning to get quite a bouquet.
By the way, you don’t have to limit yourself to flowers. I’ve seen berries, pumpkins, butterflies, fairies, food and more. And I will warn you — this is addictive!
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