What a load of tools!

I never thought that I would end up having more tools than what I have in my garden shed!  Even though the tools for gardening are much more expensive but the tools for sugar craft just keeps building and the expense adds up.

As a beginner, I knew little about how each tool is or should be used. Sure, you may find descriptions on each tool BUT only when you start to delve into the art, would you know how to actually use them.  Bear in mind that every person is different and this applies to the use of each tool. Some will prefer or feel more comfortable using a different tool to do the same job. For example, I will use the ball tool to soften the edges of flowers, some would use the bone tool and I have seen some sugar paste artistes who only use their fingers to shape the petals.  So, try out different tool to see which works for you. My little tips here may be of help to anyone who is pursuing this interest.  May not be extensive, but it is a start.

The following are tools which I frequently used:

1) The most important item is what you would use to roll out your fondant or moulding paste and to cut out your flower shapes.  I started off with a glass board (some prefer acrylic), however, I found that I had to use cornflour every now and then to prevent the sugar paste from sticking. I am now using the non-stick white plastic mat.  That has been fabulous.

2)Shaping Foams – I have two different types of foam pads (actually more). The two most important ones are for thinning petal edges with the ball tool (thick and dense – petal pad) and another for cupping flower centres and imprinting vein lines on leaves (soft thick form).  I tried using a cheap washing sponge but I find that they leave imprints on the petals. I ended up using them for sticking wired rose cones.

3) Rolling Pin – I currently have two non stick rolling pins (one short 21.5cm food grade acrylic and the other 30cm medium aluminium). Since I do a lot of sugar paste flowers where I only need to work over a small surface area, I ended up using the 21.5cm rolling pin all the time.  As these are too small for rolling out the fondant (to cover the wedding cake) I have used a cut up electrical plastic conduit or PVC pipe.   It worked very well.

conduit

4) Spatula – I am using the angled spatula for lifting cut out petals, leaves and flowers.  I used it for making indents when I am making the throat of the orchid. Every person is different and needs varying degrees of flexibility in their spatula. So, worth trying out what suits you best.

5) Plastic or Cell flap – these are used for covering the petals to prevent them from drying out.  It does not matter the temperature, it is very very important that you keep your cut out petals underneath a plastic sheet if you are not working on them.

6) Modelling paste – Sugar flowers are best made out of flower/sugar/gum paste (depending where you live, they are called differently), which can be rolled out very thinly without breaking, but also sets very hard. You can buy ready-made paste in a variety of colours, or buy white and colour it yourself with edible gels. Or you can learn from various websites on how to make your own (here is a recipe from Nicholas Lodge and another from InspiredbyMichelle.  Found this site which has a variation to the recipe and using vegetable oil instead of crisco – The Cake Makery .  Remember to always store pieces of paste which you are not using, wrapped in clingfilm or a food grade plastic bag as they will dry out.   When I first dabbled, I used fondant as it is cheaper than sugar paste. Whenever, I try something new, I would use the fondant first and then move on to sugar paste once I have more confidence on my ability. The current rage is using marshmallow fondant. Here is the link to Craftsy if you wish to make your own.

7) Ball tool – I used this for smoothing, thinning and frilling the edges of leaves and petals. Ball tools come in various sizes. If you purchase plastic ball tools you might have to lightly sand the head to remove the seam because even the tiniest edge can tear the thin gum paste. I have just purchased the metal ball tool which is free of ridge or seam.

8) Bone tool – I used this to smooth curves and to cup and frill petals for my orchids and peonies.

9) Dresden tool – I use this a lot when I made my orchids and peonies.  I use it for fluting and frilling the petals.  It also helps to increase the size of the petals. The pointed tip can be used to emphasise the centre of flowers and the veining end will make vein markings.

10) Crisco or vegetable shortening- I have this handy to stop the paste from sticking onto my fingers and hands when rolling out the paste. It is not a good idea to use icing sugar as this will make the paste difficult to handle and may cause it to dry out and crack.

11) Corn flour Bag – this is another must have handy item to stop the paste from sticking onto the work surface or roller.   Just a dab of flour is all you need. I usually dust the cutters to help the shapes be released easier.  I also find wiggling the cutter when I press it in to the sugarpaste also helps get a clean edge. 

12) Cutters – there is a huge range of cutters available to make sugar flowers and leaves. The simplest to use are the plunge cutters, which stamp out a plain flower that can be shaped on a petal pad. You can also get cutters for various leaf shapes and calyx. Before you go out and splurge, check out video demonstrations on the flowers you are intending to make.  You may be able to use those which are already in your collection. I have bent my rose petal cutter to make a frangipani. Of course you have to bend it back afterwards :-).  For sugar roses, you can use individual petal shaped cutters, sets of 5 petals cutters or just use small round cutters.  

13) A groove board – I invested in one because I find it so difficult to wire my petals.   The grooves on the board create pockets in the rolled paste which are perfect for wired petals and leaves.

14) Paint brushes – I have an assortment of paintbrushes and it is a good idea to use one for one colour. In this way, you don’t have to wash after each use. I also use one brush just for gluing the petals.

15) Wires – I bought several gage sizes (18, 20,, 24, 26, 30) as this depends on what I am making.  Keep in mind that the larger the number the thicker the wire. For example an 18 gage wire is thicker than a 20.

16) Glue – Alternative to using egg whites or water.  Sugar glue is basically a mixture of water with a little tylose powder. Here is a recipe from Craftsy.

 

Hints and Tips from Duskyroseveiner

The hints and tips listed here are well worth a try.
1. When working with sugar of any kind, always make sure that your work surfaces are spotlessly clean and that you are wearing fabrics that do not shed fibres.  Be assured that they will find a way into your paste, and no matter how clean they are, they will show up!
2. A large smooth flat tile (not shiny) is an excellent working surface when rolling out and cutting petal paste. These can be purchased from tile outlets at very little cost. Add a few self adhesive “rubber feet” and these will prevent the tile from scratching your table or worktop. It also saves getting unwanted scratches in your very expensive rolling boards.
3. If you don’t have a small enough rolling pin for creating a central ridge in your paste, use a narrow paint brush handle instead. If you don’t have a small rolling pin, some smooth ballpoint pens are the right width and length. Just remove the ink cartridge and the stopper, and give the tube a good clean before use. Plastic knitting needles with knobs cut off also make good rolling pins, especially the larger sizes. They can be found in charity shops… just make sure that they are nice and smooth. ( this tip courtesy of Stella Rowlinson )
4. Where a serrated edge is required on a leaf (eg. rose leaves), use a serrated plastic picnic knife. These can be bent to a curve by letting them sit in very hot water for a few minutes and then bending to the curved angle you require.
5. To cut away deep pointed margins from freehand cut leaves, use a small pair of embroidery scissors. Using scissors makes life a lot easier for cutting leaves such as ivy.
6. Always add colour sparingly. Deeper colours are better achieved gradually. It is much easier to increase colour than get rid of it!
7. Use a cotton bud to poke paste out of cutters. the soft tips make sure you don’t poke holes into your cut item. Cotton buds can also be used to add dusting colours to small areas without the dust going where you don’t want it. eg: the tips of lily petals. The little sponge make up applicators also work well for this.
8. When using Confectioners glaze, steam your leaves first. This sets the colour and enables the glaze to be painted on without moving the colour around and clumping where the glaze settles.
9. Egg white is by far the best glue for inserting wires and sticking items together. If you have any qualms about using fresh egg white, Petal paste flowers and leaves are not meant to be eaten.
10. Egg white can also be used as a retardant for colour.  Before dusting, paint in the veins on Ivy leaves using egg white and a very fine paint brush. When dry, overdust with your chosen dusting colour and the veins will will stand out on your leaf. If you do “overdo” the dusting, take a cotton bud and run it over the veins to remove the excess dust. Steam to set the colour and paint with Confectioners glaze. Confectioners glaze can also be used to retard colour and this method is not restricted to Ivy. There is a lot of beautiful foliage in wonderful ranges of colour.  Experiment with this technique and you will get some very interesting results.
11. There are brushes specifically for the purpose of dusting colours onto leaves and petals, but my favourite brushes are eye shadow blending brushes from ASDA. They are the filbert type (cats tongue) and they don’t splay out and become tatty like some brushes do. They are very neat and compact with short handles which are very easy to control. They are also good value.
12. Use polenta grains for pollen when making your own stamens. This can be coloured with dusting powders and a tiny bit goes a long way. You could share a bag with others in your Branch or group. Also, don’t throw away the leftovers from manufactured stamens when you have cut the ends off. Use them to make more stamens.
For stamens requiring dark brown pollen, use the tea leaves from an ordinary tea bag.
( Tip supplied by Margaret Morton)
Another tip provided by Aleksandra Djurisic for white pollen, ” Use fine dry coconut or semolina instead of polenta. Semolina can also be used if polenta after coloring still gives too yellowish tint”.
13. If you don’t have manufactured lily stamens you can make your own from white stem tape.
Take a half width length of tape and twist very tightly. Smooth out the length by pulling and smoothing with your fingers at the same time. Don’t pull too hard or the tape will break. Cut to the stamen length you reguire and push lengthways into a very very tiny oval of petal paste. Fold the sides of the tiny piece of paste towards each other. When dry you can coat with egg white and dip into your chosen pollen. These can be curved to achieve a very natural look.
14. Photo shops are always keen to get rid of the little plastic containers that rolls of film come in, and most will give them away for free. These can be used to store many things. You can store several different colours of polenta grains, stamens or odd stamen tips, Dusting colours that you have mixed yourself, white fat, egg white, gum arabic solution, icing for repairs etc. etc. The list is probably inexhaustive!
15. To keep your paste at a constant working temperature, keep it in the pocket of your white coat if you wear one, alternately you can keep it inside your clothing somewhere. Also, always keep any paste you are not using covered up. Almost all pastes will develop a skin within a very short time if left uncovered.
16. Gardening and seed catalogues are excellent sources of colour reference.
17. The steam from a kettle can often be too aggressive for steaming your dusted leaves and petals, causing too deep a layer of sugar to be melted, resulting in loss of veined detail or too shiny a surface. An alternative is to bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and then turn down the heat keeping the water just off the boil. This method is far less aggressive and also saves wear and tear on your kettle.
18. Apple, pear and melon trays make excellent formers for drying and shaping petals and leaves. Most supermarkets are very happy to give these away. If you are worried about any contamination on the trays, you can spray them liberally with an antibacterial spray back and front, and just leave them to dry naturally before using. Crumpled kitchen paper is also good to dry items on.
19. Small make up sponges are useful for lifting and separating petals when drying multi petalled flowers. Cotton wool can be used but cotton wool can sometimes get tangled up in the petals.
20. Only take as much paste as you need to make a leaf or petal. Remixing and re-rolling large amounts of paste continually makes it dry out very quickly and become difficult to work with.
21. If you want to stop your leaves and petals from drying quickly once they are made, keep a largish plastic bag handy to put over those items. Useful if you use the “soft method” of making flowers, i.e. making all in one go without waiting for the petals to dry before assembling. Also handy when the telephone rings!
22. If you have hot hands and find your paste sticks to your fingers when pressing paste onto veiners, use a make up applicator sponge pad. These are generally very fine and soft and will not stick to the paste, but if they do a quick dip in cornflour solves that problem.

Best sites:

Howcast by Amy Noelle

Duskyroseveiners

 

Recipe for home made flower paste (gum paste) – by The Cake Makery

July 10, 2011 at 8:15am

The original is not my recipe, I’ve seen it several times on the web in different variations but have adapted it a little to my own preferences. As it was given using American cups – I use my measuring cups instead of my scales for this one!

 

The original recipe is:

INGREDIENTS:

1 egg white

1-1 1/2 cups sifted icing sugar (confectioners)
3 level teaspoons Tylose powder (or CMC or GumTex)

I found this to be a little stiff so I use this version:

 

INGREDIENTS:

2 egg whites
2-3 cups sifted icing sugar (confectioners)
3 level teaspoons Tylose powder (or CMC or GumTex)
1-2 tsp vegetable oil
I find this gives me a softer, smoother paste.

I also recently tried mixing it 50/50 with some BFP covapaste (sugarpaste/fondant) and it produced a nice result that hardens a little better than sugarpaste alone.

I  have a Kitchen Aid mixer which works best with the beater paddle, I tried it with a hand mixer – it broke it…

PROCEDURE:

1. In a mixing bowl, place the egg white or reconstituted egg albumen.

2. Break up the egg white for 10 seconds on high speed.

3. Slowly add the icing sugar and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the vegetable oil.

4. Quickly sprinkle the Tylose powder on the egg white-powdered sugar mixture, and beat on medium speed until you achieve a thick consistency. It should be firmish to squeeze and a little sticky, but if you have trex on your hands it shouldn’t stick.

5. Transfer mixture onto a trex (crisco) greased counter top and knead.

6. Slowly add a little icing sugar until you achieve a soft but not sticky consistency.

7. It is now ready to use, but it is recommended you leave it overnight to set

8. Keep it in a tightly sealed bag to prevent it from hardening unnecessarily.

Some people say keep it refrigerated, but I find room temperature (cool room!) is best.  You can colour it with paste colours:)

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