Friday, January 06, 2006

Pressing Flowers

By Christina VanGinkel

At the end of the day, when the plants have been planted, the weeds have been pulled, the vegetables harvested, and even your scarecrow is the best-dressed person around town, there is still one more project you can do to enhance the enjoyment you receive from your garden. Press the flowers to turn them into beautiful creations you can later share with family and friends, or maybe even make a few dollars from at a local craft fair.

To begin, choose flower heads that will be somewhat flat when pressed and dry. While some thicker bodied flowers will dry well, they may be hard to work with. Choose an assortment, picking some complete with leaves and stems, as this will provide a more rounded array of materials to choose from when everything is dry, to make into assorted crafts.

You can go the quick route and just place the chosen flowers into various books and weigh them down, or build or purchase a flower press. If you plan to dry flowers year after year, this is probably the easiest way to assure that your flowers turn out nicely pressed and usable. You can also lay out a large piece of cardboard covered with a few sheets of newspaper. Avoid the colored print paper, choosing plain old black and white print. I save the heavy cardboard insert that comes with my wall calendar I purchase every year. It is about twelve by twelve inches and is a convenient size to work with. Continue to layer several sheets of newspaper between layers of flowers. When you have all the flowers you want to dry, stacked up, place some heavy objects over the top. A few heavy books would most likely work, though I have a couple of flat cement pavers that I use year after year. They provide plenty of weight and there is not much chance that someone may walk by and accidentally topple it. I place this complete stacked up flower drying stack in the corner of my bedroom closet, but any place both dry and cool will work well. Drying time will vary depending on the humidity level, but most flowers will be dry after a two-week period.

Once my flowers are dry, I sort them into flat plastic tubs, the sort they sell for storing shoes. This keeps them dry and moisture free and safe in my workroom until I am ready to use them, and use them I do. With these dried wonders, it is easy to make everything from collaged hatboxes, flowered covered gourds, note cards, and bookmarks. My favorite and one of the simplest projects is the bookmarks. I purchase precut bookmarks that are not punched. I may write on them first with a few words or a short poem done in calligraphy, or you could print on them in your favorite font. Be sure to leave room at the top, bottom, or to one side though, for the flower arrangement. The flower arrangement could be as simple as a single bud, or a combination of buds and greens. A bit of warning, it is very easy to lose track of time as you search for the right combination of flowers for each project you create, but it can also be a big stress reliever as the flowers take over your thoughts leaving little room for much else!

Once you have the arrangement laid out, as you want it, cover it with a sheet of self-sticking laminate. I recently purchased a Xyron 900 which adapts to a cool laminate machine besides being a sticker machine, and I plan on trying that this upcoming year, but for making just a few at a time, the self laminating sheets work good. You can find a package of them in the paper aisle of your favorite store such as Wal-Mart or Target, or online at Amazon. You can also cardstock in a size a bit bigger than an ordinary bookmark and create in a similar manner a prayer card or a favorite poem that needs more space than a typical bookmark size would provide. These make great gifts and sell well at craft fairs. If you do not want to laminate over the dried flowers, you could also use a product such as Modge Podge. It seals in the beauty of the flowers, and works well with those flowers that might be a bit on the thick side.

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