My Creative Workbook

Christine de Beer - effortless floral craftsman

Manipulating stems: Snapping at an angle, Bending, Spiraling, Curling and Straightening

Most stems, twigs and even sturdier branches can be bend into shapes. It takes practice and more than a bit of patience. The main idea is to slowly manipulate the branch without breaking it.

Manipulating branches.

These techniques work on any size branch. Obviously you will need more force to bend a branch rather than a twig and will need to cushion the stem with the palm of your hand rather than your thumb or burn the branch rather than just use the heat of your hand or wire the branch rather than use glue to secure, but it is still the same basic idea. I used sturdy grape vines to make this basket.

Start by snapping a twig. Is it brittle or supple? Brittle branches or twigs should first be soaked in warm water to make them more pliable.

Bending an Oncidium orchid stem without breaking it .

Supple branches (such as flowering stems) can be manipulated as is.

If you want the manipulated branch to keep it's shape it should not be too green. As a rule: if sap runs from the branch when you bend it, it needs to mature or dry out. A moist branch will not keep the shape you bend it into as well as a slightly dry one.

Snapping a twig at an angle without breaking it:

Fresh stems:

Use your thumb or finger as a supporting cushion

Use your thumb or finger as a supporting cushion. Gently snap the twig. Make sure you do not break the twig.

The lower bark should still be intact

The lower bark should still be intact. This way water will still be transported up the stem to the leaves.


Cut a small wedge

Cut a small wedge.

Tiny twig wedge.

This tiny twig wedge will prevent the cut twig from springing back once cut and bend into an angle.

Make a deep cut in the twig

Make a deep cut in the twig.

Gently bend the twig open

Gently bend the twig open

.  Insert the wedge into the twig.

Insert the wedge into the twig.

Dried twigs:

Use your thumb as a supporting cushion

Use your thumb as a supporting cushion. Gently snap the twig. Make sure you do not break the twig.

The lower bark should still be intact keeping the twig at an angle.

The lower bark should still be intact keeping the twig at an angle.

It is also possible to manipulate thicker branches but you will have to wire and train, cut and wedge, weigh it down or burn it with a flame.

Bending, Spiralling, Curling and Straightening twigs:
I am using cherry stems for this part of the tutorial

Tuck the stems from the cherries.jpg

Pull the stems from the cherries.

Dry the stems till just brown

Set the green stems aside to dry slightly

Dried cherry stems.

When the stems just begin to brown they are ideal to manipulate into shapes

A gentle bend:

Cushion the twig with the pad of your finger.

Gently start to bend the twig. Cushion the stem with the pad of your finger. Go slow.

Slowly bend the twig .

Secure the stem with glue.

Slowly bend the twig to form a perfect loop.

To bend it into a circle continue to slowly bend the stem from tip to tip. Roll the stem as you go and secure the ends.

A sharp bend:

Bending the cherry stem at a sharp angle

You will now use heat to bend the stem. Hold the stem where you want it to bend between your fingers to heat it slightly. If you are bending a branch you might have to heat it with warm water or a flame.

For a sharper angle bend by supporting it with your thumb.

Slowly start to bend the stem.

Secure the twig with glue.

When the tip and the stem meet secure it with glue.

Bending a big spiral:

For a larger spiral wrap the twig around a dowel stick.

Slowly wrap the the stem around a dowel stick. Hold the stem in place for a few seconds with your fingers and release.

Large spiral

Large spiral

Bending a tight spiral:

Wind the twig around a wooden skewer.

Wind the stem around a wooden skewer. Because the skewer is quite thin start with a very wide angle

Slowly pull the spiral tight.

Slowly wind the spiral tighter.

Twig spiral.

Release your hold and remove the skewer.

Lengthening the spiral:

Pull the spiral for an open curl.

Pull the spiral for a long spiral

Straightening a stem:

Curvy twigs can also be straightened

Curvy twigs can also be straightened

Hold the stem firmly between your fingers and pull down.

Hold the stem firmly between your fingers and pull down.

Work your way from the top to the bottom as if stretching the twig.

Work your way from the top to the bottom as if stretching the twig.

A perfectly straight stem.

Perfectly straight!

Every week I add a new design with related tutorials. Be sure to subscribe to receive an email notification with design inspiration.


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