Bridesmaids with paper flower bouquets

Paper Flower Bouquets, the Lean UX Way

 Problem: My fiance is allergic to all the pollen from essentially ALL THE FLOWERS. This means he has to get far more creative when it comes to standard holidays like Valentine’s Day and anniversaries — no roses for me. Therefore, standard wedding decor, typically involving floral arrangements is now a severe challenge. If there cannot be fresh-cut flowers of any kind, what is a bride to do?

I thought about succulents and other ‘greenery’ approaches, but we’re having a destination wedding. The standard practice of taking home a centerpiece is not an option when people are getting on planes the next day. And to that end, while I have no idea if the staff would sub in for Plant Homecoming kings and queens, I worry the centerpieces would get thrown out. One last, meta moment here: Flowers can run up thousands of dollars. I’m not about to throw money in the trash.

What to do… what to do…

Embrace that challenge!

Stacey’s DIY Mantra:
Limitations breed creativity!

I have an expensive degree in painting from the Hartford Art School. I’m resourceful, crafty, and obsessed with efficiency. We can do this girls. Oh yes, yes we can.

The Grand Solution:

As I mentioned in other posts, I work in software and product development. I’ve had the pleasure of bringing Jeff Gothelf, the co-author of Lean UX, in-house to spread the good word of this methodology. Since that tenacious experience, I’ve applied it — often unknowingly — to my personal life as it aids in finding sanity within any overwhelming task. Operation Paper Flower became a prime candidate for such a process.

Assumption: Paper flowers are hard, time-consuming, but pollenless.

Hypothesis: We believe making paper flowers will solve the groom’s allergy issues in addition to giving all wedding decor a stylish, artful look.

Metric of Success: We will know this is true when the minimum effort is achieved while meeting maximum style.

Metric of Failure: We will know this is false when it takes too long, our hands and backs hurt too much, and it looks childish or crappy.

Experiment A: Test all the paper flower templates that interest us.

Experiment B: Test all paper types, colors, and thicknesses that appeal to us and the color palette of the wedding.

MVP Prototype: From conclusions made above, create a full bouquet prototype and test against a bridesmaid dress to measure success of color dialogue and style.

* * *

Experiment A: Test all the paper flower templates that interest us.

I called my Matron of Honor who also graduated from HartArt and shared my creative distress. She in Connecticut, I in Boston, we agreed to divide and conquer the search for patterns we could test at home. Our results are below.

Please note: Neither of us own a Cricut machine. All paper flowers that we created are hand traced, hand cut, and glued together — you guessed it — by hand. 

Fist of Five Scoring: The scale equates to 1 = worst, 5 = best. We use this at work to assess all kinds of things, from the quality of a meeting to the progress on a certain project. Like Lean UX, this too applies to crafty life!

spiral roses, paper flowers

The How:
Basically cut a circle of paper anywhere from 3″ to 5″, then cut a spiral any ol’ way you choose. Leave the center as your base (about the size of a nickel for small ones, and a quarter for larger circles) to run a few lines of hot glue across to adhere the ‘petals’.
Effort/Time Required: Incredibly easy to do, can be taught to others.
Supplies Not Included: Using the end of a paint brushes to roll the paper is a huge help. Hands hurt less with this additional tool.
Paper Notes: Paper holds a curl better than my hair! Standard Canson papers are nice to work with, tissue paper however is suuuuuuper delicate and may need viscous glue like Elmers rather than hot glue as it wants to stick to everything and nothing, simultaneously.
Fist of Five Score: Time: 5, Style: 5, Supplies: 5 = 5



paper flower succulent

The How:
Scroll down past the finished pieces, almost to the bottom and you’ll find the step-by-step guides for four different types of succulents. Starting at Step 17, I used the pattern for the pale green succulent (shown here in the brown mug), which was fairly easy to put together. The other succulent types have such tiny details that it’s not worth the time if we need to make 100 of these things!
Effort/Time Required: Not too terrible to cut out. Might need to make a master template depending on the paper size to avoid depending on printing sheets of 8.5×11 out.
Supplies Not Included: Using the thickest part of various sized paint brushes to curl each petal is a huge help. The paper will crease to easily without some rounded mechanism and take on more of a folded look rather than a more realistic look. Also, while this goes against every staunch sewing rule I hold, using small, spring loaded “snips” scissors is by far the best tool to cut with.
Paper Notes: Thicker paper is better. Lighter pound paper gets a little floppy and the curled petals soften if it’s humid.
Fist of Five Score: Time: 2, Style: 5, Supplies: 3 = 3.3



crepe paper flower artichoke

The How:
A little combo action here: I used the leaves from this pattern to make Step 1 Paper Succulent from above (bigger petals are easier to work with, smaller pieces are hard on hands). I followed the instructions from Steps 1 through 7 of the succulent post as well. (Cut a slit into the bottom of each leaf and add glue to the overlapping points to create a nice bend in the paper. Glue three petals together at center and build from the inside out.)
Effort/Time Required: Much easier to cut out than the succulents (simpler leaf shape). You can also stack a few sheets of paper together and hand cut a bunch at one time.
Supplies Not Included: No additional tools needed beyond scissors and a glue gun.
Paper Notes: Thinner paper (not tissue, but lightweight) seems to be best for gluing and cutting. Thicker paper tends to crease or fold, but doesn’t look too terrible.
Fist of Five Score: Time: 4, Style: 3, Supplies: 5 = 4



tissue paper flower hydrangea

(33 Shades of Green)
The How: Have tissue paper laying around from gift-giving? That will do just fine! Fold, cut rounded ends, and wrap some floral wire and VOILA!
Effort/Time Required: While easy at first, the time it takes to gently pull each layer apart is a little maddening.
Supplies Not Included: You will need floral wire of some sort to hold it all together at the center.

Fibrous Tissue Paper

Paper Notes: Standard tissue paper worked okay, but should it tears easily. Fibrous (nearly tissue) paper from an art supply store (seen at left) was by the far the stronger, better option. The fancy fiber tissue looked much more grown up than the flat tissue paper. Additional test note: Try painting an ombre wash on standard tissue paper.
Fist of Five Score: Time: 2, Style: 2, Supplies: 3 = 2


* * *

Experiment A Conclusions:

Bride’s Fist of Five requirements ranked in order of priority: Style, Time, Supplies. Matron of Honor’s grounded-in-reality priorities: Time, Style, Supplies. She’s fantastic at reminding me when it’s really not worth it to spend gobs and gobs of time on silly but stylish things. And so, we applied these priorities to our conclusions below.

  1. Spiral Paper Roses may be best for bridesmaid bouquets. Easy to tackle, easy to teach, easy to make together. The only downside: We’ll need to make a ton of them.
  2. We loved the look of the paper succulents, and decided these may be best for the centerpieces. We had no idea how that would come together, so more tests were required at the concept level as well as the per-paper-flower level.
  3. The tissue paper hydrangeas were a hot contender for the bouquets since their “blossom” is large. Bonus: If we find the right paper or painted technique to improve the style requirement, we would need to make less of them per bouquet.


* * *

paper wall
The Artist & Craftsman Great Wall of Paper

Experiment B: Test all paper types, colors, and thicknesses that appeal to us and the color palette of the wedding.

Papers from Artist & Craftsman Supply
Papers from Artist & Craftsman Supply

The color palette of our wedding was coral reds and navy blue. We wanted the bouquets to be that special pop of warm color when held against the deep, dark hues of the bridesmaid dresses. The succulents were an open ended question, but we decided to try them in the centerpieces.

Stopping at Artist & Craftsman Supply, a fabulous small chain art store, I grabbed a wide array of paper samples to test. Varying shades of reds, oranges, and coral for the bouquets, and sage, celery, and grassy greens for the succulents. Some papers were super thick and handmade, others were standard Canson paper. There was a few of the specialty printed sheets from the back wall (my favorite place to look and linger) just asking to come along for the ride (terribly difficult to resist).

I also popped into Michaels to grab applicable colors and prints from the scrapbooking aisle. Taking a chance, I picked up a few sheets of blue and navy-based patterns just to see if they might work their way in.


arches watercolor paper block

Finally, I dug through my old art school supplies and found an Arches watercolor block. This is not something you’d ordinarily pick up for crafting, but it’s always easier to work with what’s laying around. I set this aside to try painting the paper with a wash of corals and greens. My hypothesis was if solid paper failed to meet its style requirement (looks too “flat”) perhaps washes of color that allows the light of the paper to come through will provide the right level of depth.



Paper flowers test, hydrangeas

Test No. 1: Paper Hydrangeas

  • Painting the tissue paper made it look more grown up, but it was a bitch to do. My refrigerator became our drying rack and the delicate sheets took a good while to dry (shocking for how thin they are, I’d assumed they would dry in a snap!).
  • I really wanted to give that fibrous flower a shot, but it still said “little kid” to me.


spiral roses paper flowers

Test No. 2: Spiral Paper Roses

  • Now we’re getting somewhere. Still super easy to make, in a bunch of different sizes and shades, I was excited to build a full bouquet.
  • Papers included the fibrous tissue, flat Canson paper, and handpainted watercolor paper. My hypothesis was looking to be more and more correct on that front. But, because theses are smaller, creating a mosaic mix of color felt like the right direction.


paper flowers succulents

Test No. 3: Paper Succulents

  • Patterned papers are WAY TOO LOUD! But super fun for 4th of July or a birthday party.
  • Flat paper, thick or thin = meh.
  • Handpainted paper = WHOA. This is a THING. I fell in love, no matter what the work was going to entail. Stylistically they looked artistic and nearly real, and had an Anthropology display quality.
  • Working with the beefy watercolor paper was really enjoyable for the succulent pattern. Not so much on the paper roses — too stiff to roll well and thus too hard on the hands. Painting this paper, it dried super fast considering both sides needed to be covered.


* * *


Experiment B Conclusions:

  1. Spiral Roses are a win. Let’s make a prototype of a full bouquet next!
  2. Paper succulents are a handpainted love affair. We’ll figure out what to do with them later, but that is most certainly the best way to make them.
  3. Sorry hydrangeas. There’s no place for you at this wedding.


* * *

MVP Prototype:
Construct a full bouquet to test against bridesmaid dresses

paper flowers bouquet test

Prototype Bouquet Learnings:

  • The color under the flowers should be dark, and thought of more like shadow. The light pink paper I used is the opposite of the desired outcome. I wanted to hide the gaps between the paper roses rather than show them.
  • Angular handle is not pleasant to hold. Will need to make a more ergonomic handle.
  • Use of satin ribbon will be better than raffia, but hey, this is a test!
  • I like the color differences but worry about my favorite one — the white with sea coral pattern.
  • Will definitely need to test against the dresses.


paper flowers test against dressEnvironmental Dress Test Learnings:

  • Solid colors look best and will make for a far more cohesive bouquet. The patterned white paper is too loud.
  • Size in bridesmaid hands looks good!
  • Color dialogue between the blue of the dress and the warmth of the bouquet performs well; it resembles the orangey-red roses I’ve seen in actual floral bouquets.





MVP Prototype Conclusions & Iteration Notes:

  1. Try using Crayola Model Magic to fill out the handle of the bouquet. This will help the ergonomic needs of each bride and maid.
  2. Soft ribbon, or something less scratchy for the handle covering is a must.
  3. Some colors in the flat paper did not work. Remove from the palette and purchase more tones that lean towards tomato red rather than brick or terracotta.
  4. Get the girls together for a “Sweatshop Sunday” and make as much of the three bouquets as we can, for as long as we can, together.


Next Post:
Stacey’s Paper Bouquet Tutorial (click here)


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