Two words for you: sign vinyl.
I was walking down the street and noticed workers taking down a large vinyl sign from a business. I asked if I could have it to make crafts (like tote bags), and after they called their boss, they happily gave it to me. I took it home and washed it in the back yard. It's mostly a lovely blue, with white on the back.
My brain started to whirl with the possibilities. Tote bags would be useful, but what else could I do with this stuff?
I took out my stash of inks, and chose Pinata, Staz On, and Adirondack alcohol inks.
I worked with cheap foam brushes -- I didn't want to try to clean the ink off, so I could throw these away easily. You could work with rags or sponges, too. I dripped ink from the bottles onto the vinyl and spread it around. Of course you could use rubber stamps and stamp pads with these inks, as well. Spraying rubbing alcohol (or a mixture of rubbing alcohol and water -- I used a ratio of approx. 1:1) from a squirt bottle onto the wet ink creates interesting mottled effects.
I worked outside (some of these inks are strong-smelling), and I let it dry for a full day. The inks come off a bit if you rub the vinyl with a damp finger, and it'll scratch off a little, but that's okay for my purposes. I also doodled on top of the dried inks with a Sharpie marker, which seems more stable than the inks.
On to the flowers: I traced two lids with pencil to draw circles on the vinyl. I used 2-3/4" and 4" circles, but I wouldn't use anything larger than that. Bigger circles are very difficult to work with, because the vinyl is fairly stiff and it doesn't "gather" nicely. (You'll see what I mean if you keep reading.) I cut the vinyl easily with scissors.
To create a flower shape, I sewed around the edges of the circles with a sturdy needle and strong thread, such as button or upholstery thread. A thimble is very helpful. You could also pre-punch small holes with an awl. Leave a 3-4" tail of thread when you start sewing, and be sure to have at least that much thread at the end, after you've sewn all the way around.
Now you start to pull on both ends of the thread, causing the vinyl to gather in ridges. It's a lot like making fabric yo-yos. If the thread is too weak, it'll snap.
You'll need a little patience at this stage. You'll need to pull the thread, then manipulate the vinyl to make the ridges, then pull more, and so forth. When you've got the circle the way you want it, tie the thread with a square knot, and cut off the excess.
Once I'd gathered both circles, I punched a small hole in the center of each of them with an awl. Then I cut a long piece of floral wire and poked it through both holes.
I chose buttons for the flower center.
After poking the wire through the buttons, I pushed the end back through the vinyl.
I pushed the wire as close to the top button as I could. I squished the wire loop together to make the fit more solid.
At the flower's bottom, I wrapped the shorter wire around the longer wire with pliers. It works best if you push the wire right up against the vinyl. You can wrap additional wire at the base as needed.
Finished! You could create leaves, too, if you wanted.
Here's a flower with more ink colors and white thread.
I wouldn't leave them out in the rain, because I think the ink would eventually fade and/or wash away, but they'd make a fun centerpiece for an outdoor party.