Paper Hellebore Tutorial by Kate Alarcón
When I had the opportunity to prepare a flower-making workshop for a Carpe Diem Collective event in Seattle, I knew the hellebore would be perfect. It grows beautifully in the Pacific Northwest, but still feels a little bit exotic and unexpected. Its subtle yet rich colors seem sophisticated in a way that struck me as ideal for the design-savvy makers whom I knew would be attending. But what was most exciting to me were the opportunities the hellebore presented to play with color and pattern. Rather than prescribing one specific variety for everyone to make, I taught several techniques, and everyone played with variations. As the new flower-makers worked, I found myself continually surprised and delighted by the varieties that sprung to life around the table.
In that spirit, the instructions that follow demonstrate techniques for construction and for adding color and detail. I hope you’ll spend some time observing the hellebores blooming around you right now (or on Pinterest!) and combine these techniques to please your own artist’s eye. And special thanks to the women who attended the hellebore workshop and whose creativity inspired the hellebores I’ve made here. —Kate
Photos and styling by Grace Kim
About Kate: Kate Alarcón makes delicate and unusual paper plants and flowers just outside Seattle. Kate chose the cobra lily — a carnivorous plant native to the West Coast — as her business name and spirit “animal” because she finds so much inspiration in its eccentric, otherworldly beauty. She takes custom orders via her website, and teaches flower-making workshops in the Pacific Northwest. You can see her newest work on Instagram @cobralilyshop.
About Grace: Grace Kim is dedicated to capturing and creating beauty and helping people live life to the fullest. You can find her work at GH Kim Photography and Carpe Diem Collective. Follow her on Instagram @graceperdiem.
For flower construction:
• hellebore templates (download here)
• Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue
• fine or doublette crepe paper (black, white, dark red, pinks, violets, and greens are all suitable) plus olive green to wrap the stem
• pale green or yellow florist crepe for the flower center
• 1 10-inch length of 18-gauge, cloth-covered stem wire
• paper scissors
• optional: small green or yellow millinery stamens
For adding color and detail:
• Copic Sketch or Ciao Markers. I find the following colors especially nice for hellebores: RV69, V15, V12, V91, YG95, and YG03, G20, 0.
• PanPastels. If I were to buy just one color for this project, it would be 430.5 Magenta, which creates a very rich, deep pink when swiped over black crepe paper. Other nice additions would be: 470.5 Violet, 930.5 Bronze, 430.1 Magenta Extra Dark, 680.3 Bright Yellow Green Shade, 640.8 Permanent Green Tint, , 340.8 Permanent Red Tint, 220.8 Hansa Yellow Tint, 520.8 Ultramarine Blue Tint, 470.8 Violet Tint
• cosmetic wedge sponge
• eye-shadow brush with a sponge-tip applicator or cotton swab
• gold gel pen
Creating the center:
Image above: Each piece represents one step in the process of making the hellebore center.
Using template A, cut out a rectangle from the pale green crepe.
Stretch this piece against the grain, pulling out all the tiny folds so that you have a long rectangle. Fold the rectangle in half lengthwise.
Create a short fringe along the fold by making a row of small cuts very close together (roughly 1/16th of an inch apart).
Image above: The short fringe along the fold of the rectangle.
Image above: Rolling the center around the stem.
Using template B as a guide, cut the folded rectangle so that it tapers toward one end of the rectangle. (This will help create a smooth transition between the flower center and the stem.) Dot glue inside the fold along the whole length of the rectangle, just below the fringe. Insert the tip of your stem wire into the fold on the wider end of the rectangle just below the fringe, and use your finger to press the fold closed. Let this dry for a minute.
Then dot glue along one side of the rectangle beneath the fringe, and roll the rectangle up around the wire. The fringes should be even, creating a flat, circular plane at the top of your center.
Image above: The flower on the right has millinery stamens; the middle and left, DIY paper stamens.
You can purchase double-headed millinery stamens from Castle in the Air or Rose Mille (see suppliers below). To attach, you just fold or cut them in half and glue them around your center, so that the stamen tip extends about a half inch beyond the top of your fringed center. You don’t need to be too precise about the number of stamens you add to each flower — some variation will look more natural.
To make your own paper stamens, use template C to cut a small rectangle from the pale green crepe. Stretch this rectangle all the way out across the grain. Use a green marker (Copic YG 95 is perfect, but almost any type of marker is suitable for this step) to color in a very wide stripe about 1/8th inch from the top to about an inch from the bottom. If you find that the uncolored strip across the top is too wide, just trim it with your scissors.
Create a fringe across the grain by making a series of ¾ inch cuts very close together. Then, working in small sections, gently but firmly twist these stamens together in one direction and then in the other.
Untwist all the stamens and use your fingers to straighten them. If they resist finger-straightening, use your scissors to very gently scrape the length of the stamens on one side and then the other.
Finally, scrape the tips of the stamens between your thumb and scissor blade to curl them slightly.
Dot glue in a zigzag along the lower half of this strip of stamens, and then wrap it around the green center, so that the tips of the stamens extend about ½ inch past the top of the center. (If you’d like a fuller set of stamens, use the whole strip, which should wrap around twice. For a wispier set, snip the strip of stamens after you’ve wrapped the center once, and save the other half for another flower.)
Insert your finger into the middle of the stamens and very gently press them outward so that they slightly lean away from the center. Gently separate any stamens that are sticking together, and touch up your curled ends if necessary. Let this center dry while you cut and color your petals.
For the petals:
A note about grain:
The grain of the crepe paper runs parallel to the roll or fold. Crepe paper stretches horizontally, but not vertically, so you will almost always cut petals with the grain, placing the template so that the tiny wrinkles in the paper run up and down the template, not across.
Use any of the petal templates to cut out five petals for each flower. I’ve included three templates so you have the option to create some variation among your hellebores, but you’ll only use one template to cut all five of the petals for each flower.
Image above: Applying a “wash” of PanPastel.
The PanPastels can add details like darkened petal edges or gradient color, but I like them best for adding a “wash” of color to the whole petal, which helps to recreate the hellebore’s subtle, complex coloring. I find that an inexpensive cosmetic wedge sponge works fine for this. A cotton swab or eye shadow brush is also suitable for finer detail, like a colored edge.
To create the very dark hellebores, use black crepe for the petals and then gently swipe on a layer of any of the darker, richer colors. My favorite is the 430.5 Magenta.
Image above: The PanPastels can add some subtlety to crepe paper colors that are a little too pure and bright to be suitable for a hellebore. Here, I’ve used a soft pink to tone down a bright violet.
The Copic markers can be used to add color to an entire petal, to create speckles near the petal’s base, or to darken its outer edge. You can also use multiple markers that are the same hue but different intensities to create a gradient effect, beginning with the darkest color at the base of the petal and ending with the lightest at the top edge. The colorless blender can help to blend any hard lines between the different colors.
For dots, just barely touch the fine tip of the marker to the petal, lifting immediately. If the dots look too stark, a very light layer of PanPastel over the top can help them “sink in” to the petal and look more natural.
To color the edges, barely touch the broad tip of the marker to the very edge of the petal, rather than trying to draw a very thin line on the front of the petal.
Gel pens: I use a gold gel pen to add speckles to my black hellebores — I like how they add a subtle twinkle.
Image above: Steps for two sample petal variations.
For the deep magenta petal, first swipe the 430.5 Magenta PanPastel over the entire black petal. Next, use a small makeup brush or cotton swab to apply 470.5 Violet PanPastel just along the edge of the petal. Then, use the gold gel pen to add dots on the bottom third of the petal.
For the pink petal, swipe 220.8 Hansa Yellow Tint PanPastel over the bottom third of the petal. Next, use the fine tip of Copic YG95 to add dots along the bottom of the petal. Then, use the square tip of this same marker to add color to the edge of the petal.
I’ve included nine other hellebore petal “recipes” at the end of the tutorial.
Shaping the petals:
To make the petals more lifelike, you can gently cup them near the base, curl them slightly by scraping them gently between your thumb and the edge of a pair of scissors, and stretch the petal edge gently to create a slight frill. Before you accidentally tear your beautifully decorated petals, practice on some blank petals to get a feel for the point at which the paper rips. It doesn’t take much shaping to mimic a hellebore petal, so you can afford to be gentle.
To cup the base of the hellebore petal, hold it gently with two hands, thumbs in front, and gently stretch by pushing your thumbs slightly forward and pulling back and outward with your index fingers. Hellebore petals don’t require very deep cups.
Frill your edge slightly by gently stretching it.
Building the flower:
Place the base of the petal between your thumb and the blade of your scissors, and gently scrape the underside of the bottom of the petal, so that it curls slightly. This will help the petals to lie flat, rather than standing up and covering your center.
Dot a small amount of glue on the base of a petal and press it against the edge of your stamen-covered center. Then do the same with the next petal, placing it to the left of and slightly behind the first petal.
Directly across from the point where the first two petals overlap, place your third petal.
Image above: The flower on the left shows placement of the first three petals. The gaps on either side are where you’ll place your remaining two petals.
Now you’ll have a space on either side of this last petal. In the space between this petal and your first petal, place your fourth petal. In the remaining space, place your final petal.
Let the glue dry completely.
Finishing the flower:
Cut an 8-inch-long and 1/3” wide strip of olive green fine crepe across the grain. Apply very small dots of glue along the length of this strip and attach it to the part of the wire that is covered by the base of your petals. With your left hand, hold the strip at a 45-degree angle to the wire and gently stretch as you twirl the wire with your right hand.
Wrap to the bottom of the wire, and snip the excess strip. Gently adjust the petals and stamens if needed. But there’s no need to be too fussy — paper hellebores are at their most charming when they’re allowed to be a little bit quirky.
Additional hellebore recipes:
1. Black fine crepe, a wash of 430.5 Magenta PanPastel, 930.5 Bronze PanPastel edges, gold dots, and millinery stamens.
2. Black fine crepe, a wash of 430.1 Magenta Extra Dark PanPastel, a 470.5 Violet PanPastel edge, gold dots, and paper stamens
3. Deep olive doublette crepe, 430.5 Magenta PanPastel on the bottom third of the petal, and paper stamens
1. Lavender doublette crepe, Copic BV01 dots and petal edging, and paper stamens (for these I used Copic RV69 to make the stamens maroon instead of green.)
2. Sangria fine crepe, 430.5 Magenta PanPastel on the bottom third of the petals, gold dots, and millinery stamens
3. Cherry fine crepe, 430.5 Magenta PanPastel on the bottom third of the petals, gold dots, and paper stamens.
1. Pink fine crepe, a wash of 340.8 Permanent Red Tint PanPastel, and millinery stamens
2. Pink doublette crepe, 220.8 Hansa Yellow Tint PanPastel, Copic RV69 dots, dark maroon PanPastel on the edges, and paper stamens (for these stamens, I just colored the tips with a pale yellow.)
3. White fine crape, a wash of 680.3 Bright Yellow Green Shade PanPastel, and millinery stamens.
Sources for supplies:
Castle in the Air: crepe paper, stem wire, stamens
Rose Mille: crepe paper, stamens
Dick Blick Art Materials: PanPastels
Aaron Brothers: PanPastels
Michaels Craft Stores: 18 gauge floral wire
Impress Cards and Crafts: If you live in the Seattle area, Impress has crepe paper in three different weights, Aleene’s glue, and a great selection of Copic Markers and gel pens.