Crafty New Year’s Flowers.

25 Jan
Artsy shot of a blue flower with shimmery silver overtones, that's made with thin cardboard cut and painted to resemble petals stacked on a vertical stem (similar to hyacinth or allium, sort of), with two green airy leaves cut from the same material, all on a bamboo skewer. The background is black and the lighting is sort of dramatic.

If you are new here, you may not know that I like making stuff by hand, preferably with upcycled materials. Sometimes these efforts fall short of the mark, and sometimes they turn out pretty damned cute. This is one of the later cases. Look at that pretty flower! And honestly, it’s better looking in person.

Let me show you how it all went down.

Beware: another image-heavy crafting post ahoy!

For several years, I made end of year/holiday season tokens for all my coworkers. It’s something my second manager at this company did every year for a couple of decades, that I adopted as a low-key way to do something kind for everyone. Of course, with COVID, things got off-track for a couple of years–as in, I didn’t do it for 2020 or 2021. 2022 was looking good, except that these are both more labor intensive that I anticipated, and my hands kind of went on strike a couple of times during the process.

But I am nothing if not stubborn, so I persevered, and by Sunday morning I finally had everything cut and ready to assemble–which I did at the office, because transporting the finished forty plus flowers was just not going to happen without casualties.

They are pretty and fairly robust, but all those pointy bits do get tangled and can tear.

Overhead shot of the seat of an office chair, where six finished flowers in different colors are arranged in an arc, like spikes in a hand fan; from the left, they are light purple, yellow, blue, red, pink, and the last one has two tones, orange and light blue.

Quick backstory: I have been aware of the craft-world penchant for saving the toilet paper roll cardboard cores to upcycle into everything from so-called mini scrapbook albums to cute little boxes. Which, don’t get me wrong, end up looking just lovely and nothing like empty toilet paper rolls, but where I feel the whole ethos of upcycling goes out the window: what’s the point of not letting that one cardboard tube get to the landfill when you spent so much money on expensive designer paper and embellishments?

So while I have saved the flattened rolls for years, I hadn’t found many uses that fit my own idea of what it means to upcycle/recycle/reuse them, until I stumbled across this YouTube channel relatively late last year: Day with DYI. If you scroll down, you’ll notice that the vast majority of the videos (at least up to now) are tutorials for lovely and simple creations that use, for the most part, recycled material (mostly toilet paper rolls) and hot glue. Perfect!

Piles and piles (okay, just five piles) of flattened toilet paper roll cardboard cores, ready to be cut, first in half length-wise, then into the rough double petal shape.

So I grabbed the basic material, got particular inspiration from this video, and started down the road to my own version–which requires the use of craft paints that I bought for my secondborn when they were in grade school–two decades ago. (Yes, my friends, in this house, things are saved and used until they very literally croak.) Below is a partial selection of said paints, where you can see the sorry state of the bottles and, at least in the case of the green and the yellow, how much life is still left in them.

Four large, and quite depleted by now, bottles of washable tempera/acrylic paint. The green bottle has perhaps a quarter left, and the yellow about half. The blue one is opaque, so it's impossible to tell, and the gold one is probably four fifths full.

If you watch the inspiration video I linked above, you’ll notice that the crafter free-hands the cuts for both the petals and the leaves. Me, I can’t do that–for one, my brain goes “what?”, and for another, when you are planning on making over forty iterations, a template makes it more likely that the last one will look at least reasonably close to the first one, rather than a half-assed wonky janky mess.

So the first order of business was to create a template, and then start the drawing, cutting, painting, more drawing, and hey, just for fun, more cutting!

Six double petals for each flower, that’s over 250.

Rough double petal shape, with final cut lines drawn over the paint. A template in white paper can be seen to the right.

Oh, but let us not forget the leaves–two per flower, that’s another 80 plus.

Two finished leaves, one slightly bigger than the other, laying on top of a pile of flattened paper towel roll cardboard cores--with yet another pile of flattened toilet paper roll cardboard cores in the background.

And so I cut and stacked them.

The first few sets of finished petals, stacked into and on top of each other

And cut and stacked some more,

Several sets of double petals, cut into the overall rough shape, then painted; they're lined up in sets, stacked against each other, in a clear plastic tray. In the foreground, there's a finished set of petals, and two finished leaves.

And a bit more.

This is an expanded version of the previous image, showing two piles of leaf-shapes, already painted and cut in the rough overall shape.

By the time I was done, I had this lovely stack of petals:

Overhead look into a paper gift bag that has clearly seen better days. On the bottom, there are forty sets of finished petals, all painted and cut, stacked into each other for final assembly.

(I also had a plastic container with two neat stacks of cut and curled leaves, but I forgot to take a photo of that.)

At any rate, I dragged all my supplies to the office and started assembling my flowers in batches. As soon as one batch was done, I went around dropping them on people’s desks, with a little tag wishing everyone a good new year. (Yes, it was three weeks late for the calendar, but it hit the Lunar New Year, so I went with it.)

Overhead shot of the same office chair, with a pile of over a dozen finished flowers in different colors.

And that’s how I used a good many of my accumulated toilet paper roll cardboard cores!

If you made it all the way with me, thank you! I hope you like what you see, maybe be inspired to make something yourself; and I wish you all a good new year!

10 Responses to “Crafty New Year’s Flowers.”

  1. Miss Bates 25/01/2023 at 10:51 AM #

    Wow, just wow! As we say in my Greek ancestors’ tradition: “Bless your hands!”

    • azteclady 25/01/2023 at 11:01 AM #

      Oh my, thank you, Kay!

      And, wouldn’t you know it, we have a very similar thing in Mexico; we say, “tiene manos benditas” (has blessed hands).

      • Miss Bates 25/01/2023 at 12:32 PM #


      • willaful 25/01/2023 at 8:32 PM #

        How would you say “has cursed hands”? That’s me. 😦

        These are so charming! What a perfect thing for a bleak winter.

      • azteclady 25/01/2023 at 9:36 PM #

        My lovely Willa, I refuse to believe you could have cursed anything!

        And, thank you!

  2. whiskeyinthejar 25/01/2023 at 7:57 PM #

    So cool! I’m always in awe of people that have this kind of vision and talent.

    • willaful 25/01/2023 at 8:32 PM #


    • azteclady 25/01/2023 at 9:31 PM #

      Thank you! (All credit for the vision goes to the original artist, though)


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