These miniature natural cotton bolls are a great way to add farmhouse charm to your dollhouse decor because they’re so versatile! Whether you make an arrangement of stems, or use them to decorate a grapevine wreath, the possibilities are endless.
After making the pussy willow branches, the only logical next step was to figure out an uncomplicated way to make natural cotton bolls (the round seed-bearing part of a cotton plant) since they’re everywhere in farmhouse-style decor right now! They use some of the same materials from the pussy willow project, as well, so that’s even better. Let’s get to it!
What You Need to Make Miniature Natural Cotton Bolls
These little raw cotton stems are a little more complicated than the pussy willow branches, but they’re still a great project for beginners. Here’s a little more about the materials I used:
Yep, literally just your drugstore variety of cotton ball. You’ll be tearing off little pieces, so even a single cotton ball will last you a while!
Alcohol Ink Markers
Alcohol ink markers are my favorite choice for coloring paper petals and leaves for a few reasons: they fully saturate the Japanese crepe paper I favor (more on that next) with bold, vibrant color; they dry almost immediately, which wins over waiting for paint to dry in my book; and they can be blended for a natural look with a blender marker.
I use the brand Spectrum Noir, and their markers are a little more budget-friendly than Copic markers. The shades I chose are EB3 and TN9. I used a combination of both to get a slight variation in color, but they’re quite similar so that’s not absolutely necessary.
That being said, you can color your paper however you like: colored pencils, watercolors, acrylics, or whatever else you have on hand! We’re just going for a nice dark brown shade on this project.
Japanese Crepe Paper
This is a special paper I learned about from Mary Kinloch. It is not the same as crepe paper that’s used for streamers. In fact, it’s actually a mulberry fiber paper, so it has a fantastic texture that works great for a lot of flowers and plants. I recommend checking Mary’s shop on eBay because she often sells it in small quantities, which is perfect if you’re just getting started. She also has an awesome selection of laser cut sheets!
Even though the crepe is my favorite, you can use other paper types for this project, as well. Experiment with different types and see what you like best. Even regular copy/printer paper will work, so don’t hesitate to try it!
For this project, I used two specific punches: the Mini Birch Leaf from The Punch Bunch and the Mini Daisy Hole Puncher from EK Tools. I have a number of punches from both of these brands, and they work really well.
If you decide to use the Japanese crepe paper, I’ve found that I get a cleaner cut with the punches if I sandwich the crepe paper in between a folded sheet of regular copy paper.
Ball Stylus / Needle Tool
These tools are really handy for shaping petals and veining leaves. I found an Embossing Stylus Set by EK Tools on Amazon where one of them has a ball on one side and a needle tip on the other – that is PERFECT for this project! But if you don’t have these, don’t worry. You can actually use tweezers to shape them, too, you just have to be careful not to tear your paper.
I bought a foam pad (it’s actually similar to a mouse pad in terms of density and thickness) for shaping paper, but if you don’t have anything like that, you can actually use a rubber art eraser. You just want something with a little bit of give that will allow you to use the stylus and needle tool to shape the paper without tearing holes in it. Gentle pressure is key!
Make sure you visit my pussy willow branches tutorial for more on the glues I like to use along with the floral wire recommended for this project.
Tips for Making Natural Cotton Bolls for Your Dollhouse
If you look at pictures of cotton bolls online, you’ll see that they can range from 3 to 5 segments. As a beginner, I made mine with three, but now that I have a little practice under my belt, I may try some more with five instead. You’ll just need to make your individual cotton balls a little smaller for that to work.
Prepare Your Glue
I like to use a paint palette or a little piece of aluminum foil with a blob of white tacky glue and a small pool of superglue so I can dip the pieces in to adhere them. When you use white tacky glue and superglue together like this, it creates an almost instant bond, but you have to work quickly!
- 24 gauge brown floral wire
- Cotton ball
- Japanese crepe paper
- Brown alcohol ink marker
- White tacky glue
- Wire cutters
- Mini Daisy Hole Puncher by EK Tools
- Mini Birch Leaf by The Punch Bunch
- Ball stylus / needle tool
- Shaping surface
- Paint palette or aluminum foil
- Cut 2" lengths of brown floral wire with your wire cutters. I like to have a little extra length to hold on to, and you can always trim them down afterwards as needed.
- Tear off little bits from the cotton ball and roll them tightly into smaller balls. You'll need 3 for each stem.
- Dip the end of your floral wire into the white tacky glue, coating about 1/8" of the way down. Pick up each of your prepared mini cotton balls with tweezers and just barely dip them into the superglue before attaching them to the floral wire.
- Repeat with 2 more cotton balls so that you have a trio attached to the end. Set aside to dry.
- Get your paper and punch out 1 daisy and 3 birch leaves, then color them brown with your alcohol ink marker.
- Cut off each of the 6 petals from the daisy and lay them on top of your shaping surface. Use the needle tool to score a line directly down the middle so you can fold the petals in half lengthwise.
- Pick up a folded petal with your tweezers and dip the folded edge in your tacky glue and then the superglue. Place the glued edge in between two of the cotton balls, pushing it in as deep toward the center as you can. Repeat with 2 more and set aside to dry. You can use your tweezers to open up the petal a little once it's nestled in place.
- Grab your birch leaves and lay them on top of your shaping surface. Like with the petals, score a line directly down the middle for the vein. Then, use the ball stylus to curve the leaf.
- You'll want the curl of the leaf to point downward. Pick it up with your tweezers and dip the stem in your tacky glue and then the superglue. Place it on the floral wire just under the cotton balls. Try to offset the leaf from where the petals were placed in between the balls. Repeat with 2 more and set aside to dry.
- Trim your wire stems as needed to arrange in a vase or to add to a wreath. Enjoy!
© 2021 Erika Pitera, The Petite Provisions Co.
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