Gypsy Flowers – A Traditional Decorative Craft
“Gypsy Travellers were an essential part of the local agricultural workforce. Starting in late spring, the travellers moved throughout the summer and autumn from farm to farm as each crop needed harvesting. In winter, they earned money by making wooden clothes pegs, primrose baskets or decorative wooden flowers and selling them from door to door.” – M J & B D Chappell. April 2003. The History of Gypsy Travellers in Britain. The RH7 History Group.
I began making Gypsy flowers a few years ago, displaying and selling them at regional fairs. These flowers are popular! I have also given away many as gifts over the years and they are a lovely thing to make and enjoy. Each one will be unique and therefore even more special. You can colour them or add drops of scented oil for variety.
Gypsy Flowers – Improve Your Knife Skills
As an exercise in improving knife skills, flower making tests and refines your knife control and carving accuracy. Concentration and close up work is required and it will certainly test the sharpness of your knife. It’s a nice way to spend an evening whittling by the fire
This article illustrates and explains how I make Gypsy flowers.
I find coppiced stools of Hazel are a good place to look as the sprouting shoots are generally straight and knot-free. You are looking for a dead piece, thumb thickness wide. You can use green wood but this doesn’t produce as nice a curl as dead does.
Once you have selected your section, put a shallow point on the thicker end.
On the slightly thicker end, carve a pencil shaped point. This will become the base of the flower. It is at this stage that if you want to put a hole in it to display it on a stick, it’s the best time. De-bark about 5 inches as smooth as you can. This will make the first lot of petals easier to carve.
Starting at the opposite end to the point, with the knife tip raised up, carve down the wood as evenly as possible to create your first petal. With the knife tip up, this will create a curl off to the left hand side. Every time you carve a new petal, try to maintain the same knife angle as before.
Finish the first petal just above the point on the stick. Try not to cut off the curl.
Rotate the stick a little to the left and start another petal. All the petals should begin at the same point. The finishing point for each petal should sit slightly to the right, directly under the petal above.
After a few rotations, you will find you need to push the petals out a little. To do this, when you get to the end of the cut, tilt the knife away from you to push the petals down. This will also help in stopping cutting off the petals already made and will make room for more.
For the last lot of petals, I like to make some slightly shorter and more finely curled ones. I think this just adds to the overall appearance and shape of the flower. Keep making these final curls until the stick snaps off.
I hope that some of you will give this a go? When you do, please take a photo and post a link to it in the comments section below, so that I can see your lovely works of art!
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