Way back in my theatre days I dabbled in millinery. Loved it. Hats are like cakes. The best part is the frosting, or for a hat, the trimmings: all the ribbons, feathers, and flowers. Hand-made silk flowers have always been a mainstay in the millinery world, and a favorite of mine.
Theatres, where I worked, never had the time or money to allow us to make the flowers ourselves. Beyond the theatre, millinery is still popular in many circles. There are lots of great flowery hats out there.
The tools used to make what are called “French silk flowers” were difficult to find in a world before online shopping. Slowly, I acquired a suitable collection and began experimenting. Briefly, this is how it's done: stiffened silk is cut into petals. They are shaped with heated brass tools. The petals are sewn, wired, or glued into flowers.
You might wonder where I got the flower patterns. There are books on the subject with lots of patterns, some good, some bad. I dissected artificial and real flowers and made my own patterns. It seemed the most straight forward way to go.
Rather quickly I realized the traditional silk flowers were much to labor intensive, and fragile for me to sell. How about leather? I had some thin pieces. Leather could be shaped with the brass tools, and was sturdier than silk. Alas, still too much work.
I edited...again, and again. Eventually, some designs emerged that met most of my requirements. They were quick and easy to make, but I hated cutting out each individual piece. Sooner or later I'd figure out a better way to do it. Until then, I'd just soldier on.
A few years later a friend asked why I was still cutting the leather by hand. She had discovered a wonderful die cutter, and generously shared her secret: the AccuCut,* a heavy-duty manual die cutter. Most people are familiar with the computerized ones. Too much to go wrong there for me. I prefer manual machines if I can get them. AccuCut has a vast array of stock dies to choose from, and the company also makes custom dies. I love my custom dies...And what a game changer! I could stack three or four layers of leather on the dies, roll them through the cutter in seconds, rather than cutting each one individually. Yay!
After the petals are cut, flower making proceeds much as it did before: the petals are shaped and wired/glued around a bunch of stamens to form the flower (more about them later). Sounds simple, but I have spent days perfecting some flower designs. After the flower is complete, it is glued to a pin/clip back. You can pin it or clip it to anything you like.
Remember the stamens? They are the stalks at the center of the flower that hold the pollen. In millinery they can be anything from wired beads to stiffened thread with painted balls at the end. Good ones can be hard to find. During the “lock-down” I figured out how to make them myself. A tedious task, but worth it. And the stamens got me to experiment with more “real” looking flowers...Sort of.
I'm always trolling the garden for new ideas. The sweet-peas just started blooming. Who knows? What about you? What flower would you make as a pin?
Enjoy a walk in your garden,
August 1, 2022
*Here's the link to the AccuCut website: https://accucut.com/