Pressing Flowers For Handmade Gifts
Inspiring Flower Art
Pressing flowers is a great way to create beautiful decorations for unique handmade gifts. Flower pressing has been around since the 1800s and was used to preserve plant species in catalogues as well as for decoration. Collages of carefully arranged pressed flowers make delightful art and can be used in home décor as well as handcrafts and gift-making.
You’ll find that flower pressing is a very affordable hobby which doesn’t involve much effort, only a little patience. It’s easy – all you do is pick the flowers, press them, then use them. It’s interesting to collect different foliage from each season and collate it in layouts in of certain colours and styles, such as a native plant style, a cottage garden style or a simple French style. Paired with wallpaper, wrapping paper, textured paper, scrapbooking paper or patterned paper and decals, outstanding effects can be achieved.
Take a bag and a pair of scissors around your neighbourhood and cut flowers and leaves diagonally across the stem. Harvest flowers when they are completely dry from dew (late afternoon in a warm season is good). Flowers in bloom work best, as seed pods and unopened bulbs can be extra bulky in a flower press, unless they are thinner specimens. Previously dried or brittle material should not be used as it will powder during pressing.
The best types of flowers to use in flower pressing are those that have thinner petals and leaves. For example, a pressed rose will be a lot bulkier than a pressed primrose. Check to make sure that flower stalks, sepals and anthers are not too solid, otherwise these can also make your pressed flowers bulky. Woody stems, like those of a rose, do not press thin at all and are best used for thick, three dimensional pictorial arrangements in frames instead of bookmarks and handmade cards.
Some ideal flower species to use in flower pressing are baby’s breath, bluebells, buttercups, carrot leaves, celery leaves, cherry tree flowers, clover, daisies, ferns, geraniums, ivy, jasmine, lavender, lichen, mint, pansies, parsley, primroses, sage, strawberry leaves, violets and even weeds.
Preparing Flowers For Pressing
Remove any dried or dead matter from your flower clippings and make sure the flowers are dry. If you’re finding certain flowers shed petals as you handle them, keep in mind that when they come out of the press they will also come apart and will require gluing at the decorating stage.
It’s good to have some fine, flexible stems to curl to add tendrils to completed designs. Run the stems along the back of a pair of scissors with your thumb, similar to curling present ribbon, then place the curled tendrils into the press with the rest of your material. It's a good idea to use tendrils with finer flowers and leaves to create a bouquet look - the tendrils will make the flower art blend together more.
Tip: You can make roses and other bulky flowers thinner by slicing them in half before pressing. Alternatively, you can press each petal individually and reconstruct the rose when the process is complete.
Pressing Flowers In The Flower Press
Arrange flowers individually on blotting paper so they are not touching or overlapping. Cover with another piece of blotting paper, so that the flowers are sandwiched between. Stack layers of these in between the boards of the flower press until it is full, then tighten the screws until they are reasonably tight, but not so much that you can’t turn the screws.
Wait a few days, then tighten the screws some more (the flowers will flatten down, allowing more turns of the screws). Repeat this process every few days over four to six weeks until the flowers are pressed very thin and have dried out completely. You can check the progress of the pressed flowers after the first few days by unscrewing the press and carefully viewing between the blotter paper layers. Take care not to disturb the flowers as they will get paper thin and blow around.
When the flowers are dried and paper thin, use a pair of fine tweezers to handle them, otherwise sweat from hands can discolour delicate petals. Transfer them to a box, a book or an envelope for storage.
Handmade Gift Ideas
It’s really easy to add pressed flowers to handmade creations. Arrange the flowers on paper to find the best layout. To glue them on, simply paint the underside of the flower with PVA glue using a paintbrush and press it on.
Regularly handled items, such as bookmarks and placemats can be laminated for protection that will last many years. Make bookmarks by gluing pressed flowers onto paper or card and then laminating them. Or you can dab small amounts of glue straight onto the inside pouch of the laminate and layout the flowers. Close the pouch, wait until the glue dries and cut around the edge in a stylish shape, then laminate the shape.
Placemats and fridge magnets can be made in a similar manner, by gluing and laminating. Make window decals in this way, then attach to the window with a bit of double sided tape.
Some people like to add decals, stickers, motifs and charms into an arrangement of flowers to add more depth. A glued ribbon tied in a bow can help with bouquet arrangements, or you can add a paper vase cut out of fancy paper.
Pressed flowers make nice candle decorations. Autumn colours look great and can be applied to the candles with glue. Similar decoration can also be used on soap to dress it up for handmade gifts.
Make your own stationery with the pressed flowers for decoration. Cards, gift cards, notelets, notecards and letters will have a unique, personal touch with pressed foliage. There are a myriad of ways to make stationery – from using textured and coloured papers and cards to laminating the gift cards. Use the pressed flowers in your scrapbooking or in decoupage.
Decorate your house with pressed flower coasters, doorknob hangers, mobiles, suncatchers, lampshades, mirror frames, photo frames and photo albums.
Other ideas for making handmade gifts with pressed flowers include setting them in resin, for pendants and paperweights or gluing and lacquering them to flower pots, bottles or frames, and creating an inspiring framed image of a lovely flower arrangement to hang in the loungeroom.
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© 2013 Suzanne Day
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