Monday, February 7, 2011

How to Make a Couture Leather and Suede Flower for Your Couture Hat

I've chosen to make the suede and leather flower because there is so much information out there on French silk flower making.  All you have to do is peruse the Web, and/or check out vintage millinery and flower making books  (see sidebar for links to free online millinery books).

Of the few flower making irons I have, the rose petal iron is by far my favorite.  With this one iron I can make small to large roses just by varying the size of the petal and cutting small imperfections into the leather before the shape is pressed.  Actually, in the real world of flower making, you would have petal irons in various sizes  to make a single rose, including cutters for those shapes.

My original idea was to use my leaf irons, but in the end I used vintage leaves and stems to complete my beautiful roses.  This is not a comprehensive tutorial, but one to get you started.  Observe, research, and experiment.  Have fun!

For fun!  I also made a hatpin by pressing aluminum and brass into the same flower mold I used to make my flowers. I'm not sure if this was a good idea, but I had fun.


Please note that this tutorial is only for the type of flower irons shown here and not the ball irons.  Although you can make suede and leather flowers with ball irons, that technique will not be discussed here.  

1.  Create a template for your fabric by pressing a piece of paper towel--I use Viva because it does not tare--between the male and female iron mold parts.  I don't have a cutter (for every flower shape/iron, there is a cutter), so I have to manually create and cut the pattern and the fabric (leather and suede).

2.  Now that you have a petal shape; cut away the excess paper towel.

 3.  Flatten the paper template, glue it to cardboard, and cut the shape out.  For smaller petals, cut smaller templates based on where the curves of the iron fall.

3.  Cut out leather and/or suede petals using the templates you have created.  I didn't count the number of pieces; I just cut them out.  The fuller you want your flower, the more petals you cut out.

4.  Dampen the back of the fabric with water mixed with fabric stiffener (I use Stiffy) and set the petals aside for a minute or so until the mixture soaks in.  Do not over dampen the fabric.

5.  Placing this fabric between the flower press, press down firmly for a couple of seconds and release--the more pressure, the more detail.

6.  Gently remove the petal from the mold and set it aside to dry.

7.  Watch the YouTube video below showing how to put together a paper flower.  This same method can be used for leather flowers.

Please note that the petals (red flower) for this project were made using two methods.  Some petals were cold pressed (using no heat) and some were heat pressed--the mold portion without the handle was placed on a warmer and then pressed using the mold portion that has the handle attached.  Both methods worked very well, although I preferred the cold press because it was easier.  The dark petals were heat pressed.  

I have no idea how the professionals make leather flowers.  When there is little information on a subject, I just experiment until I get it right for me.  This experimentation is continuous, regardless of the project I'm working on.

Because I did not take pictures of all the stages I went through while making these roses, I'm including three videos below:  One for inspiration and study (actually all of them should be studied), one to show how flowers are cut and shaped with dies; and one to show how flowers are put together--included in the paper flower video.  Following the videos are resources where you can buy flower making tools--the same tools are used-- and instructional videos for making silk flowers.

 If you need some inspiration, check out Legeron for some of the most breathtaking flowers I've ever seen!

Ets Legeron, Paris: a tour from Lexy Hulme on Vimeo.


Resources for flower making tools:

I have flower irons that are manually heated, as well as an electric set of irons (attachments are inserted into an electric element).   Both has its advantages and disadvantages.  Over time, if you own both types of irons, you will come to have a favorite. 

Waltraud Reiner (Torb&Reiner) offers millinery supplies. I purchased my set of flower making balls and a flower making video from Waltraud's site.

Lacis offers millinery supplies and other supplies, including books on just about anything relating to the textile arts.  I purchased my electric set of tools from  the Lacis site.

For all of you that are like me that just can't wait to get something in your little hands to practice with as soon as a thought runs across your brow, Clover offers a ball adapter for its Mini Iron II.  I actually I use the tips I purchased from Lacis in this iron, because I burned my electric cord while making flowers.

The flower irons used in this tutorial are vintage (maybe antique).


  1. Lee, thanks for this lesson on making artificial flowers. I have some that I will post on your FB page that I made a few years ago & also some molds I found at a garage sale that I use. The antique molds are very hard to find. I use both the electric molds and the one's you heat up on a hot plate or stove, I prefer the electric because it holds even heat. THANKS for posting this, I am still learning and everything you post is adding to my knowledge of millinery. ROSE in Dallas

  2. Thanks so much Rose. Also, I hope I made it clear that the cold pressing only applies to dampened leather.

  3. Lee, I think this is, yet again, one of the most valuable and comprehensive tutorials on the subject I read in a long time. I certainly love the final result and promise to make a project to try it out following your directions.:-)I will let you know of the results!Thank you for the wonderful post + I really enjoyed reading it!Wishing you Happy Valentine's Day!

  4. Thanks Anya. Happy Valentine's Day to you also. I haven't finished experimenting with this one yet. Stay tuned.

  5. Me encanta su blog.
    Es usted, una maestra para mí.
    GRACIAS ¡¡¡

  6. Gracias, Carmen. Por favor, hágamelo saber si usted tiene alguna sugerencia para los puestos nuevo blog.

  7. Un blog excelente, un gran contenido
    que solo un buen profesional puede realizar. Gracias!!

  8. Gracias por su apoyo. Agradezco sus comentarios.

  9. Hi! I just found your blog and a I love it!
    How you hand roll organza? haven't found any free info.
    En mi pais natal llegue a ver de esas planchas de varios tamanos y formas pero ya no las fabrican. Seria mas facil asi. Quiero aprender a hacer rosas para novias, aqui donde vivo es un estado donde no hay muchas posibilidades.

    Gracias y que tenga un buen domingo.