I love making and teaching how to make handmade flowers from paper and fabric. One message I get from students and blog readers though is that finding stamens and good centers for their flowers can be difficult or maybe even pricey. When I was working on samples with my new flower dies, I decided I wanted to find a way to create a cool looking flower center that could be made from supplies that are easily found. I love traditional stamens, but having something different so that you can mix up the look and style of your flowers is fun. The tutorial I am sharing today is my solution.
Today I am sharing how to create the beaded flower centers that you may have noticed in the center of the orange flowers in the Paintbox Bouquet,
In the project samples I used a product called Prills by US Art Quest for the textured surface.
I decided to try a number of different textures so that you could see what different products might look like. I think it is always good to experiment and hopefully discover something really fun, just like I did with the original. I looked around my studio and grabbed several things that I thought could be interesting. I used (from left to right) Mini Prills, clear glass micro beads, and german glass glitter.
I also tested clear embossing powder, colored micro beads, and Distress Rock Candy Glitter.
I also thought that while I was at it, I might as well also show you how cool alcohol ink looks on pearl beads!
The base item you want to start with are pearl beads. I prefer pearl beads that are glass. They are a little more expensive, but I feel like they are just a nicer quality and hold up better when adding inks and strong glues to them. I like this set a that I picked up at my local Hobby Lobby. I used a coupon which made it very reasonably priced. The package includes an assortment of bead sizes which is nice for being able to create different style flower centers.
You will also need head pins from the jewelry department of your local craft store. A head pin is a jewelry finding that looks like a long straight pin with a flat head on it like a nail. They come in different lengths. I like longer head pins, 2″-4″ but you can use shorter ones if you have them. I like to have plenty of “stem” so that I have different options in how I use my finished flower. If you plan to use it flat on a book cover or card a shorter head pin will be fine.
I also prefer te head pins from Vintaj because they are a stronger metal. The head pins from Hobby Lobby shown above are much softer and bend easily. I guess it is just a personal preference, the thin ones will work, but I really love Vintaj jewelry findings. They are a little more pricey but the quality is so good. For the flowers the quality isn’t as crucial so you may want to start with the thinner head pins to start out. If you find yourself getting bit by the jewelry finding but though, try the Vintaj metals, you will love them!
To use a head pin, you simply slide the bead onto the pin. The head of the head pin keeps it from sliding off.
For the flower centers, I like to secure the bead snuggly against the tip of the head pin. You can do this two ways- one is to apply a drop of clear quick drying glue (I use Beacon 3in1) to the pin just under the head…
and place the bead securely next to the head, holding it in place until the glue is set. It is okay if the glue gets on the bead around the head since it will be covered.
The second option is to use a crimp bead or tube, both of which are found in the jewelry section of your local craft store.
To use the crimp bead, slide the pearl onto the head pin and then the crimp bead.
Slide both securely against the head of the head pin. Use a pair of needle nose pliers to flatten or “crimp” the bead. Squeeze hard so that the bead is flattened and tight on the head pin.
The flattened crimp bead will hold the bead securely against the head of the pin. If you didn’t get it tight, you can flatten it again until it is secure. If you didn’t get the crimp and the bead as tight against the head as you would like, you can snip it off with a jewelry or wire snip. Remember that you will be coating the bead
Spread a generous layer clear quick drying glue (I use Beacon 3in1) over the top and sides of the bead. Since the bottom of the bead will sit down on the flower, you don’t need to cover the bottom of the bead.
You don’t want such a thick layer that you have dripping glue, but you also don’t want it thin. I try to match the thickness of the glue to the thickness of the material I am going to add to the bead.
Dip the pearl into your material (shown here, Mini Prills). Work it into the material so that the part of the pearl with glue on it is completely submerged.
Lift the pearl out and tap off any excess. If you have any odd bumps or unevenness you can reshape the ball with your fingers. You can even lightly press the beads into the glue to help ensure the bond.
Set the assembled flower stem on your non-stick craft sheet to dry. Although you are using a quick dry glue, I allow the pieces to air dry for several hours (sometimes even overnight) before moving on. To be time efficient, I usually make several of these at once, making more than I plan to use for my project. I like having them on hand ready to go when inspiration strikes.
As I mentioned, I wanted to try different materials that I had on hand to see how they would look as flower centers. If any turned out to be a fail, all I would be losing is the cost of a bead and head pin, no big deal. If they turned out awesome, then it is like winning the crafty lottery! The first experiment was clear glass micro beads. I love the look of this one even without color.
Next I tried German Glass Glitter. If you have never used it, it is a really chunky glitter made from small shards of glass. It is beautiful on projects. I like it on the pearl, it could be pretty on a winter themed project.
Next, I tried Distress Clear Rock Candy Glitter. It is a chunkier glitter than your normal fine glitters but not as chunky as German Glass Glitter. It is my go-to glitter for nearly ever project that calls for glitter.
This one is a bit out of the box, but I tried clear embossing powder on the next pearl. I did not plan to heat it (that seemed like a bad idea with flammable glue), but wanted to use it just for its fine quality. I imaging this is what a fine white glitter would look like without sparkle.
Finally, I used plastic (I think) micro beads that were already colored. You will need to tap off the excess a few times with this one. These beads have a ton of static in them, there will be a lot of extra beads stuck to the ones in the glue.
To add color, hold the flower center by the head pin and simply drip alcohol ink over the beads. The ink will run and move into the crevices. Rotate the wire in your fingers and continue applying ink until full covered. It should only take 2-3 drops. I am using Lettuce Ranger Alcohol Ink in these examples.
With Mini Prills, the different beads have different finishes on them. The different finishes will absorb the ink differently. Some will take ink well and some will resist. I love the color variations that it creates.
Glass micro beads might be one of the most difficult things to photograph. Although it looks like there is white, it is really a reflection of my flash. The thing I really love about the glass micro beads on the pearl is that the color really sinks in to the core. It reflects through the beads, but there is wonderful clearness to the finished bead. It is hard to describe and hard to photograph, but trust me, it is super cool in person.
The bead with the embossing powder is really interesting. It has a subtle textured look, almost like flocking. (Remember, I didn’t heat the embossing powder, I just used it dry.) The interesting think to point out is that this one doesn’t hide in any flaws. My glue had ripples in it. It shows through the embossing powder where the beads and glitters hid it.
I can imagine using this one again on something I might want a flat color with minimal texture on, like a holly berry. This surface could be super cool in red!
If one color of added ink is good, wouldn’t two be better? I think so! In this case, I added a small amount of Mushroom Alcohol Ink to add some more definition and age. When you layer alcohol inks, sometimes you will get a blend but most often the new color will overwrite the first color. Keeping this in mind, I add only or two very light drops to the flower center. I don’t want to lose the green.
Like the Prills, I love what the added extra color adds to the glass micro beads. The combination of the Lettuce and Mushroom and clearness of the beads… just beautiful.
With the German glass glitter the second color of ink is on the verge of being too much. Because of the texture on the bead, there was a lot of color variation with one color. The second color just ends up looking very dark. If I used the glass glitter again, I would stop at one color.
Because you can overwrite alcohol ink colors, I dribbled a light yellow over the bead to try to take down some of the brown. It kind of worked, but still I consider it a fail. That is what experimenting is about though, right?
This one to me is swoon worthy… Mushroom Alcohol Ink dripped onto the colored pearl. Doesn’t it look so vintagey wonderful? I don’t know if it looks so much like a flower center, but it is so pretty! It would look amazing tucked into a cluster of flowers as an embellishment.
I think it is fun to experiment like this. It is great to see how things react with each other (like when I tried to add color before the glue was dry and had a bead landslide right off of my pearl!) and fun to discover new ways to use things you already have on hand. You might get a craft fail but you also might make an incredible crafty discovery!
Next week I will be sharing how to make the watercolor paper flower shown above that features the beaded center. You are going to love how easy they are to make!