How To: Make Tissue Paper Pomanders

I recently sent a fellow weddingbee user tips on making tissue paper pomanders. I figured it was about time to post a tutorial on this blog for all of the interwebs to see 🙂 I think I’ve mentioned that I love sharing ideas and do not mind if anyone copies any of my projects. Some things I’m saving til post-wedding – if any of my guests are reading this, I’ll want them to be surprised, but this is something I’ll share with you all now.

So pomanders – yep, I’m not the first person to do them. I got the idea from Vintage Glam (which is now Ruffled, I guess), then I used Mrs. D’Orsay’s tutorial (yes, she is my weddingbee dress twin, almost ring twin, pomander twin…and yes, it feels creepy, but I decided these things before I knew weddingbee even existed LOL, I am not an internet stalker, I promise!!!)

As with most craft advice/tutorials, I use directions as a starting off point and usually add my own interpretation, unless the craft is precise, like knitting or something, and that means I usually get a variation on the final product. That’s what happened with my pomanders, but I LOVE the way they turned out:

Eh – sorry the lighting isn’t the greatest in these pics, but you’ll get the basic idea. Please feel free to do the same with this tutorial – use it as a starting point, add your own variations and improvements…then link to pics so I can see 🙂

First of all, I decided that tissue paper poms would be the ideal pew decoration. We’re not getting married at either of our home churches, and we’re paying a hefty sum (in my opinion) to get married at the church in Middletown. That’s fine – it’s just that we signed a very specific contract about what we could and could not do in the church, including what we could put on the pews…or what we could not – tape, glue, tacks, hooks, etc. We don’t want to get charged for damaging anything (oh, and naturally, we don’t WANT to damage anything just on principle!) so I needed something that we could secure to the pew without damaging it in anyway. I also needed something that we could adjust during the rehearsal, because I couldn’t really measure the height of the pew or bop down to Connecticut every couple of weeks to see how the pew decorations would look. Basically, I was winging it.

I told my former coworker that I intended to make pomander pew decorations, and she told me that was her plan as well, and that she had a membership code at a floral supply wholesaler in Boston, and if I was willing to meet her early on a Saturday morning, we could buy some wedding supplies CHEAP, including styrofoam balls. My advice to anyone undertaking this project: if you can get it wholesale DO IT. The balls cost less than $2 each, but I noticed them for $4.99 in my local AC Moore. Granted you could buy them one at a time with  your coupon and save, the wholesaler’s gave me the chance to buy 25 at once. Rockin’

As we perused the aisles, I noted that while I love the pomanders, I’d hate how they would lay crooked against the pew, but that I’d just have to overlook that little detail. My coworker shot me a withering look, one I was used to from all the years of sharing an office and I said “Ok, what am I being dumb about?” She said “Um, you cut the balls in half if you want them to lay flat.” Oh. Duh. Hey, I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes, ok?!!

After procuring my balls (heh heh heh), 22 gauge floral wire (green, but you can use any color) and about a billion yards of 1” navy satin ribbon, I ordered my tissue paper. I know I could’ve followed Mrs D’Orsay’s advice and picked some up at the Container Store, but I like to do things the hard way. OK not the hard way, but my own way. I bought a pack of ‘French Vanilla’  20×30” tissue paper from papermart.com for $23. Yup that’s 480 sheets. Depending on how many pomanders you’re planning to make, that might be an INSANE amount of tissue paper…or it might be just right….look at it this way though, you’re probably never going to waste it, as it can be used for moving, gift wrap, protecting and storing holiday ornaments, etc. It costs like, $4 for a 10 sheet pack of tissue paper at the Hallmark store, so buy in bulk! *steps off tissue paper soapbox*

Once that came in, we were ready to get started…and by “we” I mean my tissue paper flower-making crew. I am a total control freak. I did not necessarily want help with this project. Luckily my sister and my friend EE totally ignored me…and EE kind of took over the organization of the project when she saw me cutting tissue paper like a drunken sailor. She and my sister began an assembly line of sorts. While I honestly don’t remember who did what, this is how we divided labor: someone cut tissue paper squares, someone cut wire, someone folded the squares accordion style and rounded off the edges, and I fluffed.

This is how the folded, wired, rounded flowers looked "pre-fluffing"

It seems like I did the least work. OK I kinda did…but fluffing is time consuming! I went to Target to buy a rubbermaid bin because the fluffed flowers took up so much room.

At the end of the day we must’ve had over 200 flowers! I could not have done these pomanders without Amy and EE’s help, so ladies – I thank you 🙂

We called it a day after cutting and fluffing, and I attacked the assembly a few days later.

First off, I had to cut the balls in half. Ugh, I hate how styrofoam bits fly everywhere, so I googled and discovered that if one uses a serrated knife coated in candle wax, one will not encounter the “bits” problem. So I took a serrated knife, cut into a white votive and ran the knife through it a few times and cut the balls in half, guestimating the center. It actually doesn’t matter if you’re a little off, the size of the flowers will disguise any ball size inconsistency (yes I giggle every time I type something like “ball size” because I am immature like that).

Here’s half a ball. I’m also showing you how to grasp in when gluing or inserting flowers so you don’t wreck the styrofoam. What you can’t see is that I’ve glued an ivory-colored piece of cardstock to the back to give it a more “finished” look. Yeah, I know no one will see the backs of these, but I am anal like that.

Oh actually, I lied, here’s a pic:

First task – gluing the ribbon. I started out by pinning the ribbon in place so I could avoid using hot glue, but the pins slid right out. You could probably Tacky Glue the ribbon to avoid using a glue gun, melting problems, etc, but I had a glue gun on hand, so that’s what I decided to use. Using the grip in the picture above, I placed the middle of the ribbon (think I cut 6-foot pieces since I don’t know how low/high they’ll need to hang) on the top edge of the ball and held the back down. I put hot glue right on the edge of the ball.

Because it melts the styrofoam a little, you have to be speedy. I pulled the ribbon over the glue and over the curve of the ball and held it in place with my fingers, like so:

Careful not to burn your fingers! I know that sounds obvious, but the glue comes through the satin a bit and is hot hot hot. There, I warned you.

Next up, shove some pins in the top, where you just put the glue. Bonus if the glue is still warm!

I placed the pins across the width of the ribbon, with the two end ones in a X shape, and one or two in the middle going straight down. If the glue is still warm, it cools with the pins in, and seems to hold a teeny bit better.

If the glue is super-hot, just grab your wire-cutters and use the handle to shove the pin in:

Now it’s time to stick your flowers in. The wire on the bottom can’t be too long! If it is more than 2”, it will bend going in and drive you absolutely nuts! I gave our wires a good twist to make them a little sturdier, then bent the ends up like this, for added security:

Don’t be shy about putting some muscle behind the “insertion” (eww):

If you’re having any trouble with the wires bending on contact, grab the wire at the base of the flower and ease the wire into the styrofoam ball:

Or if the flower is nearly in and you just need it to go in those last few millimeters, you can grab in by the top where the wire folds over the tissue paper, and press:

I like the start at the top, so I can ensure that I have full coverage of the ball, but still leave enough room for the ribbon to hang properly

Then fill in from there

Each half took between 9 and 12 flowers depending on size and fluffiness. I liked to pack the flowers on, so most of my poms are probably on the 12 flower side.

You can add flowers to a side or to the top or bottom if one side is fuller than the other. Or you can take a pair of scissors and pare down one of the even sides. This isn’t an exact science, so do whatever you think you need to do to make things look right!

Repeat 20 or 30 more times…..and voila! You’re done!

Additional notes:

Because I did not help with the initial steps of flower making, I’m not sure how many tissue sheets were used per flower and how big each square was. I had to cut some of my own squares to finish the project and I’ll tell you what I did for that.

-Cutting tissue: I stacked about 7-8 sheets together and cut up the middle of the paper, so I had 2 10×30” pieces. Then I cut each of the pieces into 4 rectangles, so I basically had 8 10×7.5” squares when finished cutting. I did not measure. I didn’t even cut that cleanly! I stacked these together in a big pile and would cut 3-4 batches at a time.

-Folding: I worked off the big pile. Some of my flowers had 10 sheets folded together, some only had 4 or 5. This makes for a big variation in flower size and look – that’s what I wanted though, it’s the effect I liked best. Variation is the key! I also rounded off some of the folded ends, but sometimes, I made them pointy, like this |> which also makes for variation in flower shape/appearance. For instance, this flower looks rectangular:

but don’t worry, once it’s shoved onto a ball with a 10 or so other flowers, it’ll look fantastic.

So basically just keep calm and fold away! Your pomanders might be time consuming, but they’re totally worth the effort.

Hanging: if you’re going the half-pom route, experiment with different ribbon placement so you can get them to hang exactly how you want. My first couple were tilting forward, so I had to move the ribbon a bit forward so the pom would hang flush against the pew.

Storing: If you have no place to store them, you can smush them into a rubbermaid bin, but be prepared for them to be totally smushed and wrecked looking when you take them out. This isn’t anything to panic about, but it WILL take a bit of time to re-fluff them. I learned this the hard way by totally smushing the first batch. While they look fine re-fluffed, the second batch is being piled in another rubbermaid without a cover, so there will be less re-fluffing to do later.

Hope you found this tutorial even a little bit useful. If you have questions or need help, just ask!!

12/30/2011

Here are some more pomander pics. These pomanders were indeed smushed in a rubbermaid for months. I know this would probably horrify most DIY-brides! I was lax about many many things towards the end of the planning period and had the attitude of “if this works, it works, if not, trash it.” That was my approach with the pomanders…I hoped at the end of the day, I’d be able to open the rubbermaid, fluff, tie them to the pews and be done with it.

As luck would have it, this worked just fine.

The family pitched in at the rehearsal and took over fluffing while Jam and I were rehearsing.

That's my grandparentals, aunt and cousin pitching in to fluff!

I placed the pomanders at even intervals on each side of the two church aisles.

I rehearse with Mom and Dad and the evenly spaced pomanders!

I thought it looked great, but while I had my back turned, the photographer rearranged everything, keeping some of the pomanders at the intervals I had chosen, while grouping some on every pew at the front of the church. This was one of those situations where I had to put my faith in our seasoned photographer. He told me the setup he had chosen would look better in pictures. He also had a chance to take some glamour shots:

Our last-minute programs and pomanders

Looking back at the professional photos now, I see that yes, our photographer was totally right, his arrangement of the pomanders was best.

Mom and Dad walk me down the aisle

Here you see the pomanders spaced more closely – there are still pomanders on the back pews though.

Here’s another look at the spacing – they’re spaced tight on the two inside rows of each aisle and on every other pew on the outside rows.

Here’s another view of the rows near the front of the church. Does spacing matter THAT much? No, I don’t think so. I did appreciate having someone do it for me though!

Jam and I walk out on the opposite aisle. The pomanders look good!

Here’s a shot at the opposite aisle.

As you can see from the pro pics, the church was big and kind of dark, though totally lovely. I knew that we couldn’t do a ton to change the look of the space, at least not on a budget, which is why I chose to make pomanders – they were simple, budget-friendly, totally color and size customizable, and pretty, and also fairly easy to make once I had the technique down pat. I think pomanders can make a big impact anywhere – we made half pomanders for the pews, but in the right kind of space, full pomanders in different colors hanging from the ceiling would look amazing.

Hopefully this post has served as a useful guide for making your own pomanders. If you’re still freaked out by the DIY aspect or totally pressed for time, you can buy poms pre-assembled and unfluffed. A source that I really liked the look of was PartyPom’s shop on Etsy. Her poms are made from recycled tissue paper and colors are totally customizable.

Good luck!

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