Thursday, 29 July 2010

Ribbon rosebuds - free tutorial

I apologise for the length of time this has taken to post after my earlier blog about using vintage ribbon to make little roses for my jewellery packaging, but as I'm sure you will see, it takes a lot of work to put together, between other work. I also apologise that it is image-heavy and lengthy - but it seemed to be the easiest way to ensure that it was clear to follow - but if you find any difficulty in making sense of the instructions, please do let me know. I am sure to return to it to tweak it a little (and it needs a final proof read too), there are certainly a couple of the photographs I intend to replace to make them a little clearer.

Please click on any of the photographs and diagrams for a larger view.

I use my ribbon roses to decorate my jewellery packaging to customers, on my hand made envelopes - a tutorial for which can be downloaded from the bottom of the page of an earlier blog.

Some initial observations:

I've seen this method and variants of it on various blogs and how-to sites, so I have no idea who would own the rights on such a thing - if anyone - so I apologise if I'm stepping on anyone's toes. I suspect that because many of them seemed to start the same way - and it didn't work well - they may all have learnt it from the same sources.

The tutorial below is therefore my own interpretation of several other tutorials I'd read and then gradually modified to suit my own needs and give more reliable results for my own requirements. So this is very much my own personal workflow, worked out to make a particular result, so you're sure to adapt it yourself to suit your own needs.

My personal criteria when working the first roses, was to make something with a short flexible stem, just long enough to allow it to be tied into ribbon as an extra decoration on my jewellery packaging. If you want the stems longer or more rigid, you'll need to fix a length of wire to the rosebud before the final wrap of green florists' tape.

My own requirement was to fix it with ribbon by a short flexible stem to my gift packaging.

After I made the first few roses, it was clear that the initial methodology gave variable results. Some were very nicely shaped, with petals spiralling from a tight central core, just as a real rose would, where others were rather untidy knot like structures - rather more free-form rose shapes. They worked well enough, but I liked the spiral pattern better. I needed to ascertain why some worked better than others and the start of the tutorial is a result of that deliberation. It's simple enough after the initial stages, but the starting 2 folds seem to be the pertinent ones - hence also including diagrams to hopefully make it as clear as possible.

You'll need ribbon, florists tape and fine wire for securing - cut to length and kept within reach before you start.

What you need:

Ribbon - at least 12mm (½") in diameter

The roses shown in my photographs were all made with a length of ribbon very approximately 12 times as long as it is wide. So if your ribbon is 25mm (1") wide, you'll use a piece approximately 300mm (12") long for each finished rose - but you'll need a piece twice this length initially to form the rose, more below. The longer the ribbon you use, the fuller the resulting bloom will be.

The small pink rosebuds on the packaging were made with 15mm (0.6") wide ribbon, the larger satin ones for the tutorial were made with 25mm (1") ribbon.

Wire, to secure ~ and maybe some for stems:

I used fine wire to wrap the ribbon tightly to secure it when made - florists' wire or very fine craft wire. My florist's wire ran out after I'd made a few, so I switched to 0.4mm (26ga) copper wire which worked well. It needs to be fine and flexible and you'll use about 75mm (3") per flower.

If you want to add longer stems, you'll need some lengths of something heavier and stiffer.

Green florist's tape:

In the past I've used a thin tacky plasticy tape, rather like a heavier coloured version of plumbers' PTFE tape, which when wrapped on top of itself will stick rather like clingfilm, back on itself and is soft enough to press into shape and mould around the structure. The one I used in the photographs was a heavier tape, with a crepe like texture which allowed it to stretch and it seemed waxy, allowing it to be pressed against itself, although it sometimes needed a little coaxing and seemed to work better when worked a little with warm fingers. When cooled again it appeared to stiffen up again and remained fixed.

The advantage of the more papery texture of it allowed me to extend it above the bloom as I started the wrap, making a little stylistic calyx type leaf around the flower.

You'll also need scissors and wire cutters.

The tutorial:

Most rosebud tutorials using this methodology recommend that you start with a particular cut length of ribbon. But the technique requires that you need half of the ribbon for making the shape, but once formed, it's cut off, surplus to requirements - discarding over 40% of your starting piece each time - too small to make another rose. I thought this was pointlessly wasteful, so I've worked from one end of my length of ribbon, only cutting it once the rose was formed and I was happy with it. So if you're going to work this way, unravel a little spare before starting to give you room to manoeuvre.

After some trial and error, I felt that the roses are their optimal prettiness when kept a little smaller, with fewer petals. The longer the length of ribbon you use, the fuller the rose becomes, with more rounds of petals. They don't fill out and get larger and wider as a rose would in reality, they just stack up taller - so once you have 2 full rounds of 'petals' it doesn't seem to look any more attractive to make it any larger, but experiment to see what you like.

All of the roses illustrated have been made to approximately the same proportions with roughly the same quantity of petals. The length of ribbon used is simply proportionate to the width - a length of around ten times the width seems to give a nice full, just opening, rosebud.

Tip: Before you start, have to hand a short piece of your craft or florists wire, ready to secure the rosebud. At the point you need it, one of your hands will be occupied holding the rose together, so you won't easily be able to cut a piece, so prepare it ready and put it within reach.

Approximately measure your ten times width along the ribbon length, from the cut end and hold the ribbon vertically in front of you (cut end at the top) and fold up the bottom half (joined to the spool or at least the rest of the ribbon) and to the right to make an L shape at your measured point. See Fig. 1 above. If your ribbon has a clear right and wrong side, hold the wrong side towards you - although ultimately is doesn't make much difference as you'll see both sides in the finished rosebud.

At this point you will have an angled fold at 45 degrees on the outside of the corner and an internal right angle. You then need to make another fold upwards to give yourself another right angle corner on the outside too. So fold the horizontal length of ribbon upwards - so that surface A meets surface B as in Fig. 1 and your result should now look like the shape in Fig. 2.

You now have a proper clean L shape with a little triangle of ribbon as the uppermost layer. From now all your folds are straight along the length of the ribbon - either top to bottom - or left to right.

Fold the cut length of the ribbon down vertically from top to bottom over the triangle of ribbon - as indicated by the red arrow and at the dotted line in fig.2. Your next fold is to bring the spool end of the ribbon over the top of it, from right to left, see fig. 3 below.
You now continue to concertina the two ends of the ribbon back and forth over each other at 90 degrees, until almost all of the ribbon at your cut end has been used. So first fold is top > bottom, second fold right > Left, then back to the first end, now bottom > top and back to the spool end from left > right - and repeat!

Fold the two ends of the ribbon back and forth over each other - one goes vertically, the other horizontally.

I finish when I have a little tail left of the cut end, projecting beyond the square folds, as this gives you a little tab to hold onto and will be useful later for something else. Make one last fold of the spool end of your ribbon to be the last in the pile. You should have a Christmas garland style concertina of folded ribbon beneath your thumb. It isn't necessary to keep hold of this folded length, as such, as it holds its shape anyway.

You now need to flip the pile of folded ribbon over and insert your thumb on top of the tail of your cut end of ribbon and just keep hold of this with the last layer of the spool end of ribbon held secure against your forefinger behind it. Keeping the ribbon in the same position, release your grip just enough to pull gently on the spool end of the ribbon at the bottom and pull it out of the folded pile, keeping everything in position between your fingers, forcing the rest of the ribbon 'garland' you folded, to contract and bunch up - this is what makes your rose.

You're almost there, you can see the central triangular first folds you made starting to spiral at the centre. It's the bias of the ribbon threads where you made the angled fold that makes that nice swirl.

As you have pulled almost all of it through - nice and steadily, don't yank it - you'll see the little triangle fold you started with form into a little spiral at the centre of the rosebud. Once you see this, your rose is formed and you can stop pulling. Pretty much all of the spool side of the ribbon, from those first central folds, has now been pulled through, your rose is formed predominantly from the ribbon between those first folds and the cut end. So you can see how it would be wasteful to cut a length initially to work with.

At this point, if you're not happy with the look of your bloom, simply shake it loose and start over.

After a little trial and error, I decided that the little tail you have left - about once or twice the width of the ribbon - from your initial cut end of the ribbon - can be wound around the spool end of the ribbon, coming from the centre of the rose, to neaten it underneath and form a rudimentary stem - just look at the last fold as it leaves the back of the rosebud and ensure that you have one complete petal before winding it round, hence leaving enough spare to tinker with.

Wrap this short tail around the spool end length of the ribbon hanging out from the centre of the rose and then wrap tightly around this with your florists wire - see now why I advised you to have it ready! This neatens away your cut end and gives a little fullness behind the bloom.

If you require a more substantial stem - now would be the time to include it (probably insert it into the centre of the ribbon) and wrap it to the rosebud with your fine wire. Ensure that your florist wire wrap is nice and tight and all ends secured by pressing them well into the ribbon. You're going to cover it with tape, but a projecting point will still slash through a finger.

At this point I tend to cut the ribbon from the spool a couple of inches (50mm) below the rosebud, at an angle. This short length of ribbon will become a soft, tapering stem, once wrapped with florists tape.

Hold the green tape at an angle behind your rosebud (I work straight off the spool, you're only using a few inches), leaving it projecting up beyond the bloom and start wrapping it around the wired section behind the petals to cover the wire and any cut edges of ribbon and gradually down the loose ribbon end - to neaten and finish everything off. Twist that loose ribbon tightly as you work to make a stem and wrap the green tape around this. My tape was waxy and with warm fingers, softened enough to stick to itself as I worked. Once past the end of the ribbon, twist it around on itself a little to secure and ensure that it has stuck - or just add some glue to be sure.

Once you're sure it is all secure and isn't unraveling, you can trim the end to taste and trim the starting end of your green florists tape to a long point as a pseudo-calyx for your rose, behind the petals. If you want to be more authentic, you can add a couple more lengths of tape behind the rosebud and trim the points for a fuller set.

Trim the starting end of the florists tape to a point as a pseudo-calyx for your rose, you can add more for greater authenticity.

All done!

© Boo's Jewellery. 2010. All rights reserved.

Whilst I can't make any claim to this method, I can on the words and images used to present it and would ask that it isn't posted or used elsewhere without written permission. Please refer people directly to this blog only. I reserve the right to edit it, move it and possibly publish it in future for a fee. You are welcome to make roses for use - but not to sell directly as a finished product in themselves.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

I wish they'd just organise themselves

As I've blogged on previous occasions, I have a small garden. I love it, it's very special to me, but it's the size of a postage stamp and everything is grown in pots within a walled courtyard area.

Please click the photographs for a larger view.

As it's tiny, the more it grows, the less space we have for us. I love eating out there, but the weather hasn't been suitable for what seems like a lifetime now.

One of my very favourit-ist things to eat is raspberries. Especially naughty and decadent when teamed with something dark and chocolatey.

So for several years, since my husband gave me some sorry looking sticks in a bag of mud one Christmas, I've grown a few of my own. When the sunshine is kind, we get quite a yield from 3 large pots of canes.

But there's the rub, the crop is spread over several weeks, getting a mere handful a day - and if you're too slow picking them, something else visiting the garden beats you to it. My money is on the blackbird - I already know he loves fruit, as he stands on the bird table yelling at the kitchen window for sultanas if there are none out. So he's still the prime suspect until I get any evidence to the contrary.

This would be a pretty typical daily haul. less than 10 ripe raspberries and 3 alpine strawberries!

A.K.A. 'Waterer's perks':

A considerable number of years ago now, my mother put a little packet of alpine strawberry seeds in my Christmas stocking. You can still buy the same ones, they look like a little book of matches, with pointed sticks of cardboard stuck with a cluster of seeds that you just poke into your compost, to sow. Couldn't be easier.

I planted them the following spring and have had a garden full of self-seeded alpine strawberries ever since. If a fruit falls off the plant, it seemingly germinates with great efficiency and you find clusters of plants growing in other pots and between them. I now have quite a collection and I just leave them to it, allowing them to fill gaps in the garden. It's a bonus when you see a bright red spot showing amongst the leaves.

Tiny, delicate Alpine strawberry flowers, some of which are already developing into fruit - photo above taken another year, the one below, in rain, today.

As the fruits are tiny - but super-concentrated flavour - and not that plentiful, they've always been known in the Boo household as waterer's perks - whoever waters the garden of an evening, gets to consume any ripe strawberries they find.

So it has been with raspberries to some extent. But now I have more canes, the yield has increased a little, but it's still not very efficient - as crops go. At this time of year, we tend to pick a handful each day - not enough for dessert each day for 2 people, as you can see, but I also lack the self-discipline to just pop them in the freezer and allow them to accumulate. My mother however does this and each Boxing Day we have a raspberry flan, as a delicious demonstration of her own self-control.

There may not be very many, but they're pretty fabulous specimens.

So I just have to force myself to put them with chocolate ice cream and deal with the issue in that manner. But if they could get organised and crop all at the same time, I might not mind sharing with the blackbird quite so much and it would actually be worth buying some extra thick single cream for them.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Keep up the good work!

At the weekend whilst working in the garden I spotted several ladybirds - and moved each of them onto a rose I have that is totally infested with green fly. I regularly clean them off only to see as many again the following day. They just love the emerging new shoots - on a rose that has been rather slow to get going this year after I both moved it and re-potted it this spring.

All of the ladybirds remained on the plant for the next few days, despite horrible cool and wet autumnal-like weather with a very stiff breeze; they diligently worked away, chomping their way through my greenfly - I say my like I'd choose to actually own the greedy, promiscuous blighters.

I just went out to the bin and went over to monitor their progress - and was astonished to see that the rose was almost cleaned of greenfly - a handful of odd specimens remain - but the plant is as clean as it's been all summer. I could actually see 2 of the ladybirds still munching away. I suspect the others might have fallen off, stuffed to bursting and moaning that they couldn't possibly eat another single thing, not even a wafer thin mint! I imagine they're lying in the leaf litter beneath the rose, clutching their stomachs.

I grabbed my 'jewellery' camera which was close by, as one of the ladybirds devoured a greenfly, seemingly almost half it's own size, in a matter of seconds.

Please click the photos for a larger, clearer view.

It's not very sharp as it's a very dark day and the stiff breeze was moving the leaf and the poor ladybird significantly and locking focus was somewhat tricky from an inch away. You can just see the last trailing edge of a disappearing greenfly.

Aren't his iridescent wings just gorgeous.

I love hover flies - we seem to get quite a lot of different species in the garden and they fascinate me to watch them - with their little flat ended tongues probing leaves for sap and their undercarriage that they drop and raise as they come to rest and take off - they never bother you or come into the house, just go quietly about their business. This little chap - and he was a little one - was working away on the sticky sap left behind by the greenfly - so they made a good team.

I wonder how much they charge and if they have any mates who want work?

Saturday, 10 July 2010

A rare event - a holiday with actual sunshine!

Whilst I work on the ribbon rosebud tutorial to post shortly, I thought I'd post some of the photographs taken on our recent trip to the English Lake District, as I'd been enjoying looking through them and reminiscing this afternoon. Sometimes photographs in themselves are not of portfolio quality, but it is the story behind them that is the interest. All of these photographs were taken with a compact camera, as we were concentrating on some quality walking this holiday - as somewhat rarely we actually had the weather for it too - so I didn't routinely carry my DSLR. The photographs have been post-processed to taste.

The Lake District is a place we love very much and despite spending every possible moment there, have never tired of. We've often said that we'd like to win the lottery and escape there to be walking and photography bums - we often speculate just how much of it we could stand before we'd get bored of it. I suspect it might be quite a long time and I'd really love the opportunity to thoroughly test that. We'd take such a task very seriously and give it our full efforts.

So Mr Boo bought a lottery ticket tonight with a view to funding our ideal lifestyle and we did indeed have a rare win. Unfortunately it will only be enough to buy afternoon tea or a couple of ice creams, not come even close to buying any of the very, very expensive houses we've already shortlisted.

One of the places we love, just on the extremity of the Lakes and looking towards them and not far from where we stay, is the coastal town of Arnside. It has the air of a place that time has left thankfully largely unspoiled. It has a very tranquil and unhurried feel and we love to visit there, especially when it's bracing and you can walk along the beach or adjacent pathways and let the sea air blow away the cobwebs. We often try to time our visits with a suitable meal time to avail ourselves of the wares of the local chippy or when the tide is coming in. Arnside has a flood tide, or bore. As bores go, it's a modest one - but still very worth seeing. There always seem to be good sunsets here too.

This photograph was taken during an evening flood tide and you can see the water progressing just past this boat - within 2 or 3 minutes it was totally floating.

Please click on the photographs for a larger view.

A classical example of a photograph that fell somewhat short of expectations. I was trying to catch this delicate seaside Thrift at the front of the frame, in focus, at eye level with the scenery in the background. But short of lying on the rocks, I had to improvise with the self-timer and this was the best I managed - the rock I selected clearly wasn't as level as I'd thought!

This was an odd and rather poignant scene. We'd stopped at a bench for a snack during a walk around Grasmere and I could see a crow in the edge of the water nearby eating something - he was having a substantial feed. I watched for a while through binoculars, trying to fathom out what he was eating, expecting it to be some of a walker's discarded packed lunch. It became evident that it was the carcass of a mallard duck. As I watched, a mother duck with 3 medium sized and still downy youngsters approached and she spotted the body in the water.

She was clearly distressed by it. She'd continue on her way, then return for another look. Maybe she thought it was one of her offspring - as ducks have large broods and with only 3 remaining, she'd clearly already lost some. It was an adult duck, but it obviously troubled her, which was rather poignant - ducks clearly have feelings too.

A holiday is simply not complete until you've both eaten ice cream and fed ducks (and even after 30 years of training, Mr Boo still doesn't fully grasp the concept of keeping bread past its best for just such purposes) - and this particular holiday we saw a lot of ducklings, so feeding them is compulsory. It's the law! Fact.

Talking of wildlife - this is something that especially interests me, both as a photographic subject and just to enjoy for my own amusement. We have various spots where we regularly see deer or other favourites. I didn't do that well on this trip, but at the very spot where we've seen deer before, we just spotted two youngsters amongst the trees.

At the place we stay we have a bird table outside the window and often see mice on the ground beneath, gathering morsels that fall and taking them off to their larder. We watched this particular chap making several runs to the table from a nearby reed patch - always running the same route and pausing at the edge of the reeds to check the coast was clear before dashing over to the table.

I only managed this one snatched photograph with my compact camera, as he moved so very fast and seemed to prefer running his food sorties each morning when I was in the shower - never appearing even once when I had the right gear set up for the task. I didn't think it had the ears of a mouse, so on consultation with wildlife books it looks like it was a short tailed vole or field vole. Mr Boo established the lack of a long tail on a later visit - I believe that a long tail would have made it a bank vole.

We are currently undergoing a hose-pipe ban in the north west of England after the driest start to a year since records began - reservoirs close to us at home are the emptiest I've seen them for many years and this is also true of Thirlmere in the Lakes. I can't actually recall seeing the level so low before - it must be 20 or 30 feet below its usual level.

Areas around lakes and reservoirs are often also used to grow timber crops and you'll often come across areas once filled with dense woodland laid bare after felling. At first this looks quite alarming, to see it barren and devoid of woodland, but nature soon rectifies that and abundant life bursts forth in short order. You need to view it from close quarters to fully appreciate the diversity of life it quickly supports. The newly planted trees grow rapidly and it only looks bare for a handful of years.

In recent times, the managing of such landscapes seems to have changed, where in the past all of the dead timber would be cleared totally, they now leave smaller branches, fallen trees and scrub behind as an ecosystem in its own right. One of the nature walks we took, was part through cleared woodland and part through dense forest and it was fascinating to see the diversity of plants and insects thriving together on the cleared sections. One feature of cleared forestation is the way foxgloves (digitalis) colonise it and this year in particular, they were especially vibrant and abundant.

I'll finish with some photographs of some of our favourite walks. Trees are very important to me and I feel most comfortable amongst them and love walks that take me through woodland - I especially love to see dappled sunlight through trees and thankfully, this holiday, we saw that more often than we usually experience it. I just cannot conceive of living anywhere without being surrounded by trees - and preferably some lakes or rivers too. The last couple of photographs are plant close ups - I'm always fascinated by the amazing geometry that occurs in nature.

Monday, 5 July 2010

50 years to bloom - and my 60th blog!

"The optimist sees the rose and not its thorns; the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious to the rose" Kahlil Gibran.

I'm sure that I'm not alone in my current concerns at how much material and how many of the planet's resources we waste. The materialistic consumer lifestyles we currently lead has given rise to an obscene amount of wastage and use of materials on a very temporary basis, in packaging and disposable items.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view.

It's a joy to re-purpose something I've kept hold of for a long time and see it come to life.

Our household operates an enthusiastic policy of recycling and re-using wherever possible and I'm loathed to throw anything away that I think might have some future use. Which is a worthy approach to have, although it does tend to give rise to a house full of junk.

I'm also conscious that as a maker, I too am potentially adding to this mountain of consumer wastage. So I do try and use recycled, or re-purposed materials where practical. I re-use all packing materials that I receive and new items I buy are made from recycled materials. I supplement this by making many of my own marketing materials - hopefully cutting down a little on energy costs during manufacturing and resulting transportation of goods. I try to buy from sources that I know manufacture in the UK, especially locally.

Vintage ribbons - things of beauty, just as they are.

Every scrap of ribbon is saved to wrap jewellery parcels and I make gift envelopes from ends of rolls of nice papers, bought directly from the paper mill that makes them. I like to find old materials and make them into something new. I have old copper from my grandfather's toolbox that has made its way into many pieces of new jewellery and still use many of his tools.

They waited around 50 years to bloom. They're about 25mm (1") in diameter, from 15mm (.6") wide ribbon.

My other grandparents were manufacturers and importers of fancy goods - long before the public could fill their shopping basket with globally made or grown goods - when such an idea would seem so elusively exotic. They'd buy fancy goods made overseas and package them in Lancashire to sell to department stores. Much of the packaging was cellophane and bows - thankfully no sealed and moulded plastic contraptions available then.

I have a quantity of ribbons left from said venture and have gradually been using them when packing my jewellery. Lovely thick satins and fancy shaded organdie and even some pre-made bows. I have a biscuit tin which is full of what must be at least 100 yards of a basic woven pink ribbon that must have fallen off its spool at some time and was seemingly put aside for future untangling and has remained, shut away in a rather creased and scruffy knot, for what must be close to 50 years. There are several cut ends to it, where someone has used some of it, without wanting to unravel the whole mess. I also have a bag of short ribbon pieces from when I had a haberdashery shop from the ends of rolls, some of these, at least 12 years old, feature below too.

Vintage ribbons. I love that the 'Approx. width' is 15/16 inch - if it's only approximate, why not just say 1"?

Even once untangled and pressed, the pink vintage ribbon isn't really good enough to use as flat ribbon, there are grubby patches and snicks and it's not in very good shape. I've kept it on my shelf, determined that some day it will find a use. I hate throwing things away anyway and it had sentimental value too.

As a teenage student (what seems a lifetime ago) I'd first travalled to America and bought some lovely satin ribbon roses in China Town in LA, having watched this tiny old lady making them on the street with the swiftest of tiny movements. I spotted them on my mirror a few days ago and wondered how easy it would be to make something like that myself to decorate my jewellery packages.

A vintage ribbon rose put to use on a finished jewellery piece wrapped and ready for packing. I make my own envelopes too and a tutorial to download for these can be found in an earlier blog.

A bit of ferreting on-line found various tutorials and I made several roses and rosebuds using different techniques. Some methods were clearly going to be too fiddly to be worth persisting with, but I found one that was quick enough to be worth mastering. The tutorial I found was in itself flawed and my results were variable - I needed to figure out why some were clearly better than others - some had a gorgeous little spiral of petals at the centre, some were a ragged knot. Some systematic trial and error figured out why, the early part of the tutorial was either missing a stage, or mis-drawn. Once I overcame this gap in the method, I found that I could reliably make a decent looking rose in a matter of seconds, which I then wired together to secure and finished with some green florist's tape to give them a stem.

I tried some in oddments of organza and chiffon ribbons and they work just as well, if a little more freeform - the dark red one on the right is from a wide piece of ribbon folded in half lengthways.

Some larger roses in satin and organza ribbon.

I'm absolutely delighted that I can at last put that vintage ribbon to good use and that I can add something pretty to my packaging that is genuinely vintage and re-purposed. And I think my grandparents would be pretty tickled to see me make something new from materials that were perhaps thought beyond use by all of us. I hope they'd approve.

I'll probably put together a new tutorial on my method, if this would be of interest, as an aide memoire for myself if nothing else. Let me know if you'd like to see it here on the blog.


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