Everyone loves flowers. The beauty and intricacy of the Creator's hand is so evident. Yet as the flower of grass they quickly wither, fade and are no more. When their purpose of attracting bees, birds and butterflies is over the brightly colored and sweet smelling petals fall off, leaving us with the somewhat homely seed pods. But back to the flowers, as long as they can be found out of doors, bouquets and bunches of blossoms are bound to find their way into our homes as well.
The art of effective flower pressing has intrigued many of us at one time or another. As the eldest daughter in our family, I naturally received the very first flower press to enter our home. It was soon employed resulting in several insightful discoveries.
Needless to say, my first attempts at flower pressing got tucked away in a safe little box until I got old enough and bold enough to explore the unknown. As my enthusiasm for learning new things grew and matured, I would press a few more flowers and experiment with ideas of how to use them. It was not until several years had passed, and I had cultivated numerous other handcraft skills that we discovered the technique that we use today.
Flower presses are readily available. Three of us Stovers have store bought flower presses and four have homemade ones. Here you can see three of our homemade flower presses plus my original press which I have since painted. The only caution I would give you about making your own flower press is that if you make it any size other than the norm you will have to cut your own cardboard and may not be able to find blotter paper, though any absorbent paper will work. We improvised with paper towels in our big flower presses; it gave the flowers an interesting texture for awhile until the toweling got pressed flat.
Tip: When pressing flowers make a special effort to press lots of leaves, ferns and grasses to go with your flowers. As you develop your style you may not need much greenery, we, however, find that we never have enough in the way of leaves.
Discovering what flowers in our area pressed well and would hold their color took time. My first few tries bordered on failure, but I kept on and pretty soon I got it figured out. I love sweet violets so naturally pressed plenty only to discover in the course of time that even the purple ones turn white and later light brown. (Try Johnny jump-ups, they tend to keep their color much better.) We always keep our eyes open for both pretty and unusual specimens that will add greatly to our arrangements. I particularly like grasses that are going to seed (many have purple highlights) and ferns, you'd be surprised how many different varieties there are. Sheep sorrel is also interesting with its red tint.
Although we mainly press wild flowers, there are some domestic ones which do very well. We make it our practice to never pick a wild specimen when we can only find a few of them, given a few years they tend to establish themselves and start spreading.
Tip: When arranging the flowers in your press, don't be afraid to be a little rough with them. They are going to get crushed flat anyway so just manipulate them into the position that you want and then squish them down hard with your finger so that they are broken in the position in which you want them.
I think that pressed flowers are little works of art. We concluded long ago that if we were going to go to all the work of pressing flowers we might as well arrange them in such a way that their exquisite beauty was captured. Lay the petals out, straighten the stem, arrange the leaves and then quick put the paper on top. I was surprised how little it takes to arrange my flowers so that I actually get a lovely end result.
Tip: It takes 10 to 14 days for flowers and leaves to dry in a flower press. If it is rainy or very humid it may take even longer. You should avoid pressing items that are succulent, very thick or in some other way have high water content, these tend to mold rather than drying properly.
After our flower collections grow big enough, usually some time in the fall after flowers and leaves are done for the year, we ladies take about two days and make lots of cards. Confiscating the school room table for our endeavors, we spend several hours organizing our collections. Originally just Sarah and I had flowers, then Julia and Joanna joined us and began adding to the collection as well. Now Sarah and I do very little in this realm having moved on to other things, leaving the three other girls and Caleb with the excitement and challenge of making pressed flower cards.
Tip: After storms in the spring, look for clusters of baby leaves that have fallen. They make especially nice cards.
We always combine our flower collections and then sort them into piles by type. Then the adventure begins! I love arranging flowers on a card. Sarah has a special talent for arranging, with a few simple tips from her the rest of us got started, now we have each developed our own unique style. You'll be glad to known there's no right or wrong way of arranging flowers on a card, as long as you like it, its fine.
Tip: Start by making some leaf cards, they are the easiest. A single flower with its appropriate leaf would be the next step (example: Queen Ann's Lace with the Queen Ann’s Lace leaf). Most difficult of all is an arrangement using several flowers and several leaves. When you find a grouping that you really like make a whole bunch of cards that are similar, after all you're not going to send all your cards to the same person!
Gluing everything in place comes next. If any step in the process can be considered difficult, then I guess this is it. I used Rubber Cement when I first started, while someone else we know of uses clear sticky paper. We now use spray adhesive. It goes without saying that we are happiest with this technique. It takes awhile to get the knack of it. Gluing has proven to be a gentle lesson in patience and perseverance for more then one young lady in our home. The end results, once you persevere through those first few cards, is really quite nice! We always do our gluing on the back porch. There, sheltered from the wind, we spread paper feed sacks on the wood box. After inverting the flower arrangements onto the bags we spay them individually with glue, then quickly, using a pair of tweezers or forceps, place them back on the card. The spray adhesive seems to work as a preservative that helps the flowers hold their color for longer!
Tip: keep a little jar of kerosene handy for getting the glue off of your fingers and tweezers.
Once we get on a roll, we like to make cards until we run out of flowers. The first few times we made between twenty and thirty cards. The next time we made over one hundred and the next time more than double that number. For personal use I think you would probably want to stay with the much smaller numbers like twenty or thirty. Ideally we like to use one batch of cards up in about a year, that way they are still fresh and have not had time to fade much. We use cards as gifts for extended and adopted family members. We also sold cards for a while, which is why we made such large quantities. They were a very popular item.
The process is really very enjoyable. We work together as a group and have fun with what we are doing. The younger children love to press flowers and to arrange spectacular designs on the cards (these are particularly good to send to the grandmothers and other home school moms who will appreciate their ingenuity and creativity). We older girls do all the gluing since spray on adhesive can make a terrible mess, as well as being challenging. (I wouldn’t start a child gluing until she was twelve to fourteen depending on her skill level). We also like to assembly-line some of the steps. We cut, fold and corner punch twenty-five or more cards so that they are all ready to go. I also like to lay out the flower arrangement on a whole grouping of cards, ten or more, before taking them outside to glue. Of course, these steps are not as necessary when working with smaller groups of cards.
Basically, enjoy your time together, work as a group and take advantage of every opportunity you can to teach or learn some skill or character lesson. Best of all always remember we learn through the mistakes we make, even the little mistakes, so don't worry about the learning curve, the imperfections, the ruined flowers and cards, the skill will come with time.
Tip: Store your flowers and cards in a dark place to help cut down on fading. We like to place our finished cards in individual zip-lock sandwich bags to protect them. It sounds like a lot of work but its well worth it, and you can use the bags over and over again each year.
"Several years ago now, on a bright spring Sunday we set out on our walk. For our family walks on Sunday us girls all wore our Sunday straw hats. I had my blue hat strings tied firmly under my chin like I preference. Upon reaching a small meadow I, along with several others, began picking bouquets of the wild flowers and grasses that reached up to our knees. The grass was hard to pluck with its tough stems, so my hands were stained green. Before long I had collected an abundant handful that I was well pleased with. These I took home to press. Once pressed they could become elegant pressed flower and grass greeting cards."
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