A primer in silk flower arrangements

November 24, 2014

Over centuries of refinement, silk flowers have earned their place of honour.
The best silk flower arrangements are almost indistinguishable from the real thing—with deliberate imperfections to make their appearance realistic.

You may have to touch and smell the floral arrangement before you convince yourself that they aren’t real. At their best, silk flowers combine an ancient craft with modern technology to create artificial flowers that people display with pride in their homes and on special occasions.

Convincing touches may include silk roses that have thorns, or leaves with insect damage, or added fragrance. Silk flowers also have the advantage of always being in season, never needing water or fertilizer, and being cost-effective.
Made in China
The history of silk flower-making goes back 1,300 years to the Tang Dynasty in China. The country that developed silk-making began to introduce silk flowers that were prized by aristocrats and gradually adopted by the general populace.
Later in Europe
Circa the 12th century, Italian craftsmen used the cocoons of silkworms to create artificial flowers. By the 14th century, the French had improved the fabrics and quality of the flowers to become the leading craftsmen.

Following the French Revolution, many local flower makers took their craft with them to England, where it had its greatest expression in the floral excesses of the Victorian age. In the early 19th century, English settlers brought silk flower-making to North America.
Today the same bunch rules
These days, the vast majority of the world’s multi-billion-dollar silk flower business is controlled by Asia, and China in particular. Paris and New York maintain a tradition of creating high-quality handmade blooms, coveted by the haute couture and fashion industry.
When silk isn’t silk
Today the “silk” in silk flowers is a generic description. Most of these flowers are created from cotton/polyester blend fabrics that hold the colour dyes and added textures extremely well. (If you look hard enough, you can still find silk flowers made from silk.)

The fine quality of today’s high-end silk flowers is enough to dispel the shuddering memories of the Mad Men decades where plastic was the material of choice for artificial flowers.
Anatomy of a flower
An enormous amount of care is taken to ensure that modern silk flowers are structurally correct. Designers will take apart real flowers to examine their structure before making artificial counterparts. Even when it comes to moulding techniques, many manufacturers use real petals and leaves to create their prototypes. Sophisticated screen-printing techniques are employed to add colour.
The highest quality
The best artificial flowers are manufactured by die-cutting each petal size from the designated fabric, hand-dying the petals, and then shaping them to create a true-to-life effect. Wires are hand-inserted into petals after they have been pressed.

Each flower is assembled individually, wrapped in bunches in florist paper, and placed in boxes, just like real bouquets of flowers. It's a process that's smooth as silk.

A primer in silk flower arrangements
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