Monday, April 19, 2010

Organza Flower Garland

This beautiful and easy garland looks feminine and classy hanging in my kitchen window. It adds a hint of color and fills a rather empty frame ever so slightly. The lightweight fabric also hangs without needing to be stuck to studs in the same way that cheaper garlands (like the crappy ones on plastic chains from Michael's need to be). And because it's made by hand, you can change the colors, the number of flowers, the attachment method, or the size to fit your fancy!

Now, on to the instructions:

First, purchase organza. What is organza? According to Wiki, it's "is a thin, plain weave, sheer fabric traditionally made from silk, the continuous filament of silkworms." According to a randomly sampled dictionary, organza is "a thin, stiff, transparent fabric made of silk or a synthetic yarn." And in plain terms, it's a see-through shiny fabric that is moderately stiff. It won't drape like silk, nor is it stiff like canvas: organza is in between. Do not purchase chiffon for the flowers. Chiffon is too light and won't hold its shape. When in doubt, look on the ends of the bolts (the flat rolls of fabric at the fabric store). I bought a half-yard of four colors of organza, more than enough to make about a hundred flowers five layers thick.

For the leaves, I purchased a fabric simply called "lining material" which is commonly used to line coats or jackets. It is very lightweight and not stiff. Satin might work, though it would be heavy. Wide ribbon could also be trimmed to make leaves, especially if it has a center wire. I bought a yard of lining to make 200 leaves with plenty of fabric left over for another 100 if I cut carefully.

Other materials you might need include a candle and matches, needle and thread OR brads, pins, a marking pen (Sharpie) and ribbon. You can use nails or tacks to hang the garland if you choose to do so.

There is no need to pre-wash any fabric: it's not going to be worn. Fold the fabric over until you have sixteen layers. Using pins, tack the layers together so they don't slip. Begin to draw basic flower shapes conserving as much fabric as possible between flowers. Make some smaller than others. A good artist could get many more flowers than I did out of the fabric. I cut each flower apart from the rest before cutting out the petals (less hanging on to cut around). Leave the pins in until the very end, otherwise they tend to separate and go everywhere. I used paper bags to keep the colors separate while I worked. Having finished the project, one piece of advice: cut off the Sharpie lines. They can be burned off, but the flowers look so much better without black edges.

Once all of the organza flowers are cut apart, it's time to start burning the edges. You can use any candle you want. I pretty much hate candles, so I used unscented floating candles. Because the fabric will burn slightly, it's also important to have a WELL-ventilated area (who knows what noxious fumes could be created!). Ventilation creates wind, though, so the candle flame tends to move all over. Try to keep the wind to a minimum (a ceiling vent works well for this as it doesn't create wind but still vents--think range vent). Light the candle and hold the EDGE of the organza flower a few inches above the flame. The edge will start to curl up or down. I never did figure out a way to force the fabric to go up or down, and it doesn't really matter. Even if the flower gets burned quite a bit, the effect won't be hurt. This really is a project for people who aren't perfectionists.

After burning several petals, stack them up so that the smaller ones are on top of the larger ones. Four or five layers looked good to me, but you might like more or less. It might be easiest to pin them together and finish burning the rest of your petals rather than to stitch, burn, stitch, burn. If you do stitch them together, you could use seed beads to make pretty designs inside the flower. You could also use a pretty button and sew it in the center of the flower. I am not always a fan of sewing, so I shoved a brad through several layers and called it good (saved me days of effort, especially since I used the brad to attach the leaves and the ribbon, too!).

The leaves can be done in the same way using the candle. I attached two leaves to the bottom of each flower in a sort of V shape. Then, after measuring and laying out my flower pattern, I attached the flowers and leaves to the ribbon. I used some nails to hang it in my kitchen window. Easy, fun, and really pretty.

Total cost: $15 for fabric, ribbon, and brads. I had the marker, pins, and candle already. The crappy garlands at Michael's cost between $10 and $20 for a similar product, but you'll get fewer flowers, ugly colors that don't match anything, and tons of green filler leaves. Also, the garlands are on a type of plastic chain that can easily be broken. They're impossible to hang as well.

Crafter's notes: This project would look beautiful as car decorations for the "getaway vehicle" at a wedding. I think it would look great draped under the windows of each door or along the back window or back bumper. It is illegal to drag anything behind a car, so don't even try it! Forget the tacky window paint, the stupid tin cans or shoes behind the car, or balloons. Draped flowers would look classy. Also, individual flowers would look great attached to barrettes or headbands. The flowers could be grouped or used individually for boutonnieres. They could also be a part of the table centerpieces, pew decorations, alter flowers, or even attached to wedding programs (not invitations, not good for mailing).

Try layering different colors of organza for different flower effects.

Different colors of leaves will add more depth and richness to the project, but it could also potentially increase the overall cost.

Curling wire ribbons around pencils or dowels would make really neat vines hanging down from the center vine.

(Click on any of the pictures to embiggen.)

Editor's note: I fully realize "embiggen" is not a word, but you knew what it meant, right?


cm0978 said...

VERY pretty and spring-y. Can't wait to see it in person!

Anonymous said...

Do I have a project for you!!! I need a nice garland like that too - for either the bedroom or living room. Getting tired of what I have for the windows in each.
Marilyn B