Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tutorial: How to Press Fall Leaves Using Your Microwave

Since it's fall, and since I have been spotlighting some stuff I've made with dried, pressed fall leaves, I thought I would share some tips with you for doing this at home yourself.  There are lots of different ways of pressing leaves, but the microwave is the most expedient of them.  I have mentioned before that I have a Microfleur that I use for drying/pressing leaves and flowers, and it is a great product.  But what if you don't want to spend the money for a specialized product?  There is another way, and that's what I am going to show you today.  I will admit that I love my Microfleur, but you can get very similar results by using things that you probably have sitting around in your house right now.

First, let's talk a little bit about the Microfleur and it's components, and what about it makes it work.  First, it is microwave-safe- that is an important one!  The outer plates are made of a material that does not overheat in the microwave, so anything that you use as a substitute should be microwave-safe.  Even some items that are deemed microwave safe still get very hot when heated in the microwave, so you will need to be very careful through the process.  Next, there is padding, to absorb moisture that is released from whatever you are pressing.  The Microfleur padding is basically a very thick (about 1/2 inch) felt, and there are two.  Then there are cotton fabric liners, which are what your flowers or leaves come in direct contact with.  Finally, there are two clips that hold the entire sandwich contraption tightly together.  That is pretty much it, besides the microwave itself.

So, let me tell you how you can achieve the same or at least very similar results that you get with a Microfleur by using common kitchen items.  The main things we need to keep in mind here are 1)sufficient padding to absorb moisture, and 2) pressure, to press the flowers or leaves completely flat.  There are plenty of options- you just have to look around your kitchen, and you can probably find something that works.  I conducted a test in my own kitchen, and here is what I came up with:

Clockwise from the top left, we have a microwave-safe cooking tray, a microwave-safe casserole dish, paper towels, a rubber band (the kind that comes with the newspaper), a leaf, and a cotton-blend dinner napkin.  You could use a tea towel too.  I would not recommend a fuzzy terrycloth-type towel, however- it will impress the texture into the leaf.  You want to use something with a pretty smooth texture.

Before you begin, check your leaves to make sure there is no dirt or other debris clinging to them.  Wipe off any excess moisture with a paper towel.

First, fold two sets of two paper towels into quarters (in other words, put two paper towels together.  Fold in half, then fold in half again.)  Place on the microwave-safe cooking tray.

Next, take your dinner napkin or towel and fold it until it will fit onto your folded paper towels.  Leave it so that you can fold it one more time, once you get your leaves on it.  Add your leaves, making sure that they do not overlap.

Fold the napkin over to cover the leaves, then place your other set of folded paper towels on top.  You should have a sort of sandwich on the cooking tray: paper towels, towel and leaf, more paper towels.

Now, place your casserole dish on top of the top layer of paper towels.  Be sure to center it on the area where the leaves are inside the towel.  Stretch a rubber band over the whole thing, strapping the casserole dish snugly onto the microwave cooking tray.  This is important for keeping your leaves nice and flat as they are pressed and dried.

Place the contraption into your microwave, and set the timer.

Now, this is where it gets a bit tricky.  The timing is going to depend on your microwave wattage, so you will need to experiment to find out what works best.  Start with short amounts of time until you see what your microwave can handle.  Trust me, you don't want to do it for too long:

I recommend starting with 15 to 20 seconds.  Once you get to know how quickly your microwave cooks, you can try increasing the times.  After the first cooking cycle, remove and check your leaves.  If necessary, put it back in for another 15-20 seconds.  Repeat until your leaves are completely dried.  The best way to judge is to check the stems, as they are the thickest part of the leaves, and will therefore dry the slowest.  As your leaves get closer to being completely dried, you might need to reduce your time to 10-15 second intervals.  Once you can break a small piece off the end of the stems, they are done!

Doesn't really look a lot different than it did before it was dried, does it?  That's the best kind of leaf!

Remember that different leaves will require different processing times, so some might be done before others.  I recommend spreading the leaves out into one layer and leaving them overnight, just to make sure than any excess moisture can evaporate.  Then store them in an airtight container until you are ready to use for your craft projects.  Dried leaves are very brittle, so handle with care!

This method works for green leaves, as well as flowers, too!  Again, cooking times and intervals will vary with the variety of leaf or flower, so experiment carefully to find what works.

Now, I am just an amateur crafter and by no means a professional, so be sure to read your microwave's instruction manual before you try anything like this. Also, be sure that any materials you use in the microwave are microwave-safe, and use pot holders or a towel when removing hot items from the microwave.  Safety first!

Hope you enjoyed my first tutorial!  I'm happy to answer questions- just post a comment if you have any.

I'm still working on a fall giveaway, so check back for that soon!

No comments:

Post a Comment