Pressed flowers can be used in scrapbooking, candle-making, paper and card making and many other crafts projects including refrigerator magnets, decoupage frames and boxes and paper weights. There's really no end to want you can do with pressed flowers, but to get them from your garden into a pressed state does require a bit of know-how. This article will walk you through what you need to know.
Pick the flowers you want to press when they are at their freshest and at a time of day when there is no moisture clinging to them. For most of us, that means to wait until mid to late morning and not to pick after any rain or if the day has been foggy at all. You will be drying the flowers, after all, so you want to start them in their most dry state.
Pick flowers at different stages of opening. Having all fully opened flowers in a craft project does not look as natural and is not as visually interesting as having flowers at different stages of bloom. So pick a few buds, a few leaves and a few half-opened flowers in addition to the completely opened ones.
The easiest and cheapest way to press your own flowers is by using books. You will need a few large, heavy books -- encyclopedias, phone books and over-sized coffee table books are good choices. Put the flowers in between two pieces of standard white photocopy paper to protect the book. Do not be totally surprised if a few of the flowers' juices bleed through the paper into the book's pages. It is a good idea to use older, less than precious books for flower pressing. Also, have at least a 1/4 of an inch of book pages between each set of pressed flowers. Put something heavy on top of the closed books to press the flowers.
Another way to press flowers is with a flower press. This is specifically designed to press flowers, so you will probably get better results than if you use books, but it will take some practice. Flower presses can cost anywhere from $12 to $60. There are standard air-dry flower presses and microwaveable flower presses.
You can make your own air-dry flower press by getting two same-size pieces of plywood and connecting them with a long bolt. Put several sheets of cardboard or mat paper between the plywood sheets, then put about six to eight sheets of white paper between each piece of cardboard. Put the flowers you want to press inside those layers of paper. Then use clamps or bolts drilled through the plywood to tighten the pieces of plywood together.
Microwaveable flower presses are the fastest, easiest way to get pressed flowers if you do not want to wait a week for them to dry out. Because they work so fast, many crafters prefer microwaveable presses. The trick with them is to not over-dry the flowers, or they will look terrible. And this is very easy to do.
If you are new to microwaveable flower presses, put just one of the same kind of flower in each of your first batches. Then run the microwave for very short bursts, maybe starting with twenty seconds, checking the flowers, then trying another fifteen or twenty seconds. It takes some refinement to get the flowers just right. If you do not have many flowers available for pressing, the safer route may be to wait it out and press them using books or a flower press. But if you have hundreds of violets and are willing to lose two dozen of them to perfecting your microwave pressing skills, then go for it.