I love Chinese lantern flowers. They are an excellent fall accent flower without being overly showy or obtrusive. And they are incredibly easy to make out of paper, because they already look like they're made of paper. I paired them with a super-simple pussy willow sprig and a wine bottle which will serve as part of the centerpiece for my wedding coming up in October. This tutorial is for that centerpiece specifically, but this is an extremely flexible craft. Do more sprigs, do fewer. Do green instead of brown. Maybe you're just here for the pussy willows. That's great! I thought those up myself.
Credit where credit is due, the Chinese lantern flowers are based on the instructions found at Paper Pendulum for coffee filter flowers, but I made enough modifications that I wanted my own set of instructions to give out.
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Step 1: You Will Need
2: Glue (I experimented a bit and found Beacon 3-in-1 Advanced Craft Glue to be the best for all my paper flower projects.)
3: Orange tissue paper
4: Brown cloth stem wire (I used 20 gauge, thicker would give a more rigid, upright structure)
5: Brown floral tape
6: Floral wire (24 gauge, green)
9: Cotton swabs
Total cost except for scissors, pencil, and tweezers: ~$17, $7 of which was the glue
Step 2: Let's Start With the Lanterns
Take out one sheet of tissue paper and re-fold it along the creases. This way you can cut out several flowers at once.
Draw a simple four-petaled flower shape. Pointy petals are best. You can skip this if you're confident with your free-hand cutting skills, but it was a bit of a mess when I tried so... sketch a flower.
Cut out your shape and voila. This got me about 10 flower shapes.
Step 3: Stems
Cut two lengths of wire about 5 or 6 inches long.
Fold these in half and twist the folded end together. This will be the stem of your flower.
Splay open the other ends into a cross. This will be the structure of your lantern.
Step 4: Combine
Poke a hole in the center of one of your cut-outs.
Thread the stem through the hole. Line up the cross sections with the points of the petals. Pro Tip: If the wires are bent or not lining up properly with the petal points, take the paper flower off the stem before trying to fix the wires. Tissue paper rips easily.
Apply a thin line of glue to the wire. It doesn't take much.
Smudge that glue over the wire and the petal. This glue gets tacky quickly, so time is of the essence, but it will work like a charm!
That's one flower! Set it aside to let the glue dry completely. Since you have several of these to make, it works well to prep the next one while waiting for the first one to dry.
Step 5: Becoming a Lantern
Once your glue is dry, trim off any excess wire from the tip of the petals.
Then bend the petals in so that you have a nice little cup shape. That's one flower!
Lather, rinse, repeat, until you have a little fleet of 10 flowers. This is enough for one sprig.
Step 6: Start Making Sticks
This stick is wrapped from the bottom up, starting with 3 of your cloth stem wires.
Cut a length of floral tape. In spite of the name, floral tape is not adhesive, so you will need to glue your wrapping in place.
Start by wrapping all 3 stem wires together, adding a drop of glue whenever it seems necessary. Wrap up about 5 or 6 inches. Then split one wire off and continue wrapping up the other two for a couple rotations -- but not too far! Because we're about to start adding flowers.
Step 7: Adding Flowers
Bend your flower stem close to the base of the flower, then position it along the stick. Add some glue and wrap it up! The tighter the wrap, the more securely held the flower will be.
I like to do this for two flowers before I split the stem again. (That said, they don't all have to be identical. Flowers and sticks have natural variation, so let them be individuals!)
Step 8: Complete the Stick
Once you've completed the first two sticks, go back and do the same for the third. Be sure to leave yourself enough flowers for this one.
And there! You're done with the Chinese lanterns!
Step 9: Now for the Pussy Willows
The pussy willows take much less time than the lanterns, because the "flowers" are much simpler.
Take a cotton swab and a pair of tweezers. Gently start pulling apart the cotton. You're just fluffing it a little. I like to start at the tip of the swab and work my way down toward the stick in a spiral.
Do this for a handful of swabs. You'll need about 12-14 swabs for the whole sprig.
Step 10: Attach to Sticks
Cut your fluffed swabs in half.
Attach these in the same manner as the lanterns, except this time wrap from the tip of the twig down instead of bottom up. (If you try to get the floral tape and glue BEHIND the fluffy cotton, you're gonna have a bad time.)
Add the swabs end to end, so that as soon as you finish wrapping one swab, you start wrapping the next.
Step 11: Keep the Three-twig Look
After a few inches add the second twig, and then the third. Continue adding swabs, fluffing more as you go if you need, until you have all three join. You should end up wrapping all three stems together. Leave this bottom portion of the sprig swabless because it will be inside your vessel.
Once you're finished you can bend your wire sticks into a shape you like. Stiffer wire will be more moldable; the wire gauge I used drapes a fair bit under the weight of the flowers.
And there you have it! Now you have a decorative fall accent for your table, windowsill, or fall wedding centerpiece. Enjoy!