The art of press flower-ing is as only good as your press. Like any skill, to master one, you need to get comfortable with the most basic technique. And that is the simple press.
“Make it simple, but significant”
Two wooden boards + newspaper = a simply significant press
*There is only one common mistake people fall into with this press and… I’ll give you a hint, it starts and ends with the paper.
Making the Sandwich
PB&J, need I say more? Yes, I might be getting hungry but the concept is still the same. For a sandwich, it’s two firm sides with a doe-y center, for pressing flowers it’s two firms sides with delicate petals in between. What do they have in common? Both will satisfy even your hungriest of cravings.
Step One: Find the Bread
Let’s slow it down and start from the outside of our press (or the bread of our sandwich). The bread is the cardboard or the wood of your press. Something that gives your press structure. You can’t have a sandwich unless you have a firm structure for your hands to grab onto. Same with the flower press. Without your boards, your flowers will become limp and messy.
The type of flowers you pick will have an effect on your board size. I like to have my pieces of wood or cardboard an inch or two bigger then the flowers I’m using. Which means I do have to use scissors or a box cutter at times to cut my board. While this is my rule of thumb, do not be concerned if your board is the same size or a tad smaller then your flower. If this is the case, just make sure your flowers do not extend out the edge of the board. Remember, we don’t want the flowers to be limp or messy!
Above, I am using a miniature press for my smaller flowers, where each cardboard piece I’m using is relatively the same size in length. I used a ruler to measure out each side and then used a box cutter to cut them. A perfect fit!
Step Two: Fill the Sandwich
It’s now time to fill your sandwich. Using the cardboard as the base, you are now going to create the layers for your press using newspaper.
Newspapers are a great filler for your press as they are a great length to dry even the tallest flowers. Without ink running into your flowers or white sheets crumpled into oblivion, newspapers soak up the moisture without ruining even the thinnest of petals.
Helpful Tip: I usually start staking up old newspapers in the winter time. That way when spring rolls around I can start pressing flowers early!
How it Works
To use the press, start by laying down your piece of wood or cardboard on a flat surface (i.e. table, floor, etc). I then cover it edge to edge with pieces of newspaper (2-3 sheets). Usually, one sheet of newspaper folded open will lay over my board leaving no cardboard showing. Sometimes, the newspaper spills over the edge. That’s okay! The newspaper is only there to soak up the flower moisture so your board doesn’t bend.
If you have an extremely wide or longboard because of your flower size, make sure you fold more newspaper open and lay it on to the board. Your goal is to not show any cardboard. The newspaper will not hurt your flower. While I mentioned 2-3 sheets, if you have extra newspaper laying around, the more the merrier!
With your first layer of newspaper in place, it’s now time for the flowers. Finally, that’s what you’ve been waiting for, right? To start, make sure you lay your flowers on the newspaper exactly as you would like them to be pressed or else their figures will bend/break in times of removal. Additionally, try not to overlay flowers on top of one another or this will also create problems when removing.
Once the first layer of flowers is in place, add a second layer of newspaper on top (2-3 sheets). Exactly like your first layer. It should go as such, one layer of newspaper (2-3 sheets), one layer of flowers, and then one layer of newspaper (2-3 sheets). Once you’ve run out of flowers, you will finish your press with one more layer of newspaper over those flowers. On top of the final newspaper layer, you will then place your second piece of cardboard. Remember our sandwich needs two slices of bread.
Step Three: Press your Sandwich
Now that we’ve created this layered flower sandwich it’s now time to press it. Above, I used a miniature flower press I found at a garage sale to press my delicious sandwich. I’ll slide my flower sandwich into place and then twist the handle until my cardboard is pressed firmly into place. Viola!
However, you do not need to go garage sale hunting to find a “professional” flower press to use. For instance, start by placing your flower sandwich in a part of your house that does not get a lot of foot traffic. Think basement or corner of the bedroom. From there all you need is a heavyweight to lay evenly on top of your cardboard. This is where it’s nice to have heavy books laying around the house. I’ve found that old college or high school textbooks work great!
If you don’t have any heavy books around the house don’t panic. Think about something else that is heavy. You might have holiday boxes filled with decorations in the crawlspace you could use, a bookshelf filled with paperback books or you might even use your heavy couch or bed. Just remember where you put it!
Remember, even the best sandwich ideas might not turn out great. Flowers are living greenery, filled to the brim with moisture. Pressing the flower allows moisture to release. The newspaper will soak up the water to a certain extent but…
WARNING: If you leave your flowers in the wet newspaper too long they will mold!
Timing is everything!
You should first switch out your newspaper after 3 days from the first press. Meaning, if you start your pressed flowers on Monday, the first change should happen Thursday at the latest. After that, change out the newspaper every week to allow your flowers to dry out properly.
Trust me. I have spent weeks forgetting about flowers. It’s never fun to find out that your beautiful hand-picked flowers have turned into a moldy surprise.
Step Five: Let’s Eat
You will know your sandwich is finished pressing when your flowers are easy to remove from the newspaper. If your changing out your newspaper and you still have flowers that are sticking to it, your sandwich is not ready. If however, you’re changing out your newspaper and your flowers are easy to slide off, or in some instances fall right off the sheet, then your sandwich is ready. Yeah! Most flower sandwichs will take 3 – 4 weeks to press. That might seem like a long time, but remember, once your flowers are pressed they will last a lifetime!
More Sandwich Hiccups!
Pressing flowers can be difficult to work the first, second, tenth time around. I beg you not to give up. Pressing flowers is one of the most satisfying cravings I’ve ever filled in my life. Seriously. The minute flowers start opening up outside, you will have to hold back from picking them off the stem to press. Let the bees have it for just a little longer!
It’s Simply the Best
The simple press is one of the easiest pressed flower techniques. With it, you can press a remarkable amount of flowers to create stunning pieces of art. Master this technique and you’ll be ready for the iron. Check out my next post. That’s when things start heating up!