One way to make the green seasons last is with flower crafts. Flower pressing is easy enough for anyone to do, and it offers possibilities that can challenge even the most skilled craftsperson. Flower pressing is a great way to train the eye, to get the family outdoors, and to encourage design sense and creativity.
In the 19th century, children and adults made formal albums of pressed wildflowers and plants in order to learn their characteristics and names. Small portable flower presses were constructed to take along on a hike, or plants were placed in a container called a vasculum and pressed at home. Others used flowers from the garden and even grew particular flowers especially suitable for pressing. It always delights me when I buy an old book at an antique store or flea market and find some pressed blooms hidden between its pages. I can't help but wonder what the circumstances might have been...a gift from a favorite suitor, perhaps?
These days, a heavy book with blotting paper on either side of the pressed flower works just as well as those old albums. Another simple way to press flowers is to use newsprint and blotter paper layered between corrugated cardboard and secured by top and bottom wooden frames tightened with straps.
Place your flowers and plants so they don't overlap. Clamp down your press or close your book and add some more books on top. Check your flowers every few days to see if you need to replace the paper (it will be stained) and determine when they're completely dry and ready to use. Because they are fragile, avoid handling your dried flowers too much. (You may want to sketch out your project in advance, so you only have to pick the flowers up once.) Tweezers would be a helpful tool to have for positioning the flowers.
Some flowers especially suitable for pressing are alyssum, bleeding heart, columbine, cosmos, daisies, forget-me-nots, geranium, hydrangea, lavender, marigold, pansies, petunias, and zinnias. Experiment and you'll find lots more. Ferns, leaves, vines, and grasses add interest to colorful blooms. Don't forget herbs, which are suitable both while they're flowering and after.
You can use your pressed flowers for a multitude of projects:
They can be framed as nature art. Watercolor paper makes an especially nice background for framed flowers. Simply glue on flowers, mat, set with hairspray, and frame.
You can add them to candles. Glue flowers on to a light-colored pillar candle, brush the entire surface with melted paraffin a little at a time (enough so that the flowers are covered yet visible), and let dry between coats.
Pressed flowers can be used to decorate note cards, bookmarks, place cards, or lampshades, made into ornaments, and much, much more.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crafts with Kids © 1998 by Georgene Lockwood. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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