Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ume Blossom barrette DIY

Happy Chinese New year!
To celebrate Chinese New Year, Patrick's Kung Fu studio hosted a big, wonderful party.  I absolutely loved tasting all the traditional Chinese foods and meeting his class mates.  
This is Patrick with Sifu Lee, his instructor.  
The decorations were beautiful, and my favorite were the plum blossoms.  They have been on my mind for the last few weeks and I have been thinking about what I could make with this inspiration.
Plum blossoms originated in China and bloom in January or February, producing breathtaking pink or white flowers.  They have been depicted in Chinese art for hundreds of years, symbolizing hope and purity.  In Asia, they are referred to as Ume.  At the dinner, I fought the urge to pluck one off the branch and tuck it in my hair.  I searched out a way to create a bunch of imitation blossoms at home just for that purpose.
(info and blossom image from Wikipedia)

You will need:
- white silk-like fabric (it has to be a plastic based imitation silk in order to melt easily.  Any silk-like material you find at the fabric store should work)
- candle
- red and yellow acrylic paint and brush
- white quilting thread and needle
- felt
- metal barrettes or headbands
- hot glue gun

Cut flower shapes from the silk-like fabric.  Mine have five petals and are about 1.5" in diameter.  To make this process go faster, I used a stencil to cut several at the same time.
Draw your own stencil on paper or use this one:
To heat seal (or melt) the edges, hold the blossoms over a candle.  Be very careful to let the edges melt only slightly and curl a little.  The the sealed edges will  prevent the flowers from fraying and give them an irregular organic shape.  This is a meticulous process.  Too much heat exposure causes the flowers to curl up and resemble a wad of chewed gum.
Look at the blossoms before and after fusing their edges. 
Don't they already look beautiful?   I think I would have been happy to stop here and leave this group sitting on my coffee table forever just like this.
For the soft pink glow, mix water with red acrylic paint to dilute it.
 With your paint brush, add a dot center of each bloom.  One quick touch with the brush will be enough.   The paint water bleeds on the silky fabric, diffusing into a light natural looking pink hue.
Stack two flowers and sew them together with a few stitches in the center.  
Use the thick quilting thread. 
To make the stamens, hold a pen over the center of the flower and wrap the thread around it once before pushing the needle down into the center of the blossom below.  Tie a knot in the thread, but do not cut it.  Poke the needle back up through the center, wrap once around the pen and push it down through the center again.
Repeat about 6-10 times.
Gently slide the pen out.  You will be left with several loops of thread secured to the blossom.
With your yellow acrylic paint, paint just the center of each loop.  
When the paint dries, carefully cut the loops - right through the center of your paint.
This creates the stames: white strings with yellow tips that curve slightly, just like they would on real Ume blossoms.
If the center is not a rich enough shade of pink for you, use a magenta permanent marker to add a dot more of pigment. 
 Cut circles from the felt.
Use hot glue to attach the flowers to your barrette or headband, then hot glue the felt circle over the connection.  The felt gives your hair piece a polished, finished look by hiding messy hot glue.
Here are my completed ume blossom barrettes and headbands.  
They are sweet and delicate and ready to go in my hair!  I love them!
Here's another very helpful tutorial on making silk flowers:

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