If your only experience with pressing flowers is using an old-fashioned press or phone books, you will be pleasantly surprised by the results you'll get by pressing in the microwave.
When you use a microwave to press flowers and leaves you don't have to worry about itty bitty insects chewing on your pretty specimens while they dry in the press. You don't have to worry about mold growing on them because they had a bit of moisture on them when you put them in the press. And when you press them in the microwave, they retain more of their original colour than in a conventional press. Pinks tend to go kind of purple and whites yellow slightly though. And, here's the biggie...you don't have to wait weeks to start using them in your projects!
Materials and Supplies
A microwavable press:
Some gardening catalogs carry unglazed ceramic presses but I have found mine at garage sales.
Microfleur makes a light weight press that is made from a heat resistant material. I noticed numerous links for suppliers. It comes in two sizes.
You can use unglazed ceramic tiles or tiles with several holes drilled in them with a masonry bit (protect your eyes first!). Unglazed presses and tiles are already porous. There needs to be an escape for the moisture.
I like to have several presses so I can leave my plant materials to cool and continue drying overnight. I'll explain in the directions.
You will need layers of padding and pieces of tightly woven cloth inside the press. Don't use synthetics that could melt. I use cotton felt for padding and squares of cotton muslin.
Microwave - the wattage of your appliance will determine the length of time the pressed plant materials are heated.
Freshly picked flowers and leaves in their prime. Plants should be dry so don't pick right after a rain or a watering and wait until the morning dew has evaporated.
If you have only one press and wish to press several batches of flowers, you will need a phone book or equally absorbent weighted pages to lay each batch in as you take it out of the press.
Pick fresh flowers and remove stem as close to the flower head as possible to eliminate bulk. Some flowers will need to be pressed in sections if they are too thick. There are entire books written on how to press different kinds of flowers but I just use trial and error. You'll soon figure out what works.
Some flowers, like marigolds and bachelor buttons don't press well whole but can be pulled apart and the petals are lovely. Calendula (pot marigold), although quite thick, presses flat beautifully. Fleshy flowers often won't dry properly but, as I said, go ahead and try anyway. You just never know.
Leaves take less time to dry than flowers so press them separately.
Put your press together in the following order with the flowers in the centre. One half of the press, some padding (cotton or wool felt, batting, or blanket material), a piece of tightly woven cotton, the flowers or leaves (face down), another sheet of cotton, more padding, and finally the other half of the press. The weight of the ceramic press is solid enough by itself but the lighter weight Microfleur press needs to be bound with elastic.
The length of time it takes to dry and press your materials will vary with each microwave. Start by using medium heat and intervals of 20 to 40 seconds. (My little low wattage microwave takes almost 2 minutes on high for most flowers while my larger kitchen unit takes 50-60 seconds.) The flowers and leaves will be flat and feel dry to the touch when they are done. It is better if there is a bit of give to them rather than leaving them until they are brittle. That bit of give also means there is still a small amount of moisture so they should be left in the press or between phone book pages overnight so they don't shrivel and lose their shape as they finish drying.
To remove the dried blossoms from the cotton material, grab opposite corners of the fabric and pull gently. The flowers will come off easily. If you try to pull them off with your fingers, they are easily damaged.
Yours flowers are ready to use in your own beautiful cards or other art work.
Pressed, dried flowers are very delicate. With practice you will figure out how long to dry them so that they are not overly brittle but dry enough to keep well. A very light touch is required in handling so be prepared for some waste. Old phone books are a good place to store your flowers. Mine are usually in a jumble in containers in my flat file but there is more breakage that way.
The dried blossoms will fade over time, especially if exposed to light. Art work should be well sealed to prevent tiny insects from making a meal out of your masterpiece and to keep moisture out. It is also recommended that a desiccant be included inside the framing.
If you have a question, please leave it in the comments and I will answer you there as others may have the same question.