Friday, May 26, 2017

Drying and Preserving Flowers for Resin

Give a girl a bunch of flowers and it will last a week.... but give her a resin bangle filled with flowers and it will last forever!

Dried miniature burgundy roses and bright yellow rose petals embedded in a chunky clear resin bangle

Flowers are really important in our lives. We use them to landscape our gardens, as tokens of our love and affection, we eat and brew some, and we enjoy the fragrance of others. There are so many ways we use them.

But I like to use them in my resin bangles. Whether it's a posy of flowers from the garden, a bunch of flowers from Mother's Day or a wedding bouquet, using them in resin or other crafts is a great way of remembering that occasion or the person who gave them to you.

Unfortunately, you can't take a beautiful fresh flower and place it in resin. It will become brown, sludgy or mouldy in a short time. Flowers and other organic materials need to be thoroughly dried before they can be embedded in resin. So, here are the techniques I use.
4 ways to dry flowers and petals ready for embedding in resin

I've tried a few different drying methods and some of my results have been really good and some not so good. I want to share both the successes and the failures with you. The methods I've used include silica gel, salt, a dehydrator and a microwave press. The first three keep the flower's shape. The last one flattens them.
Flower drying equipment: silica gel and the Microfleur microwave flower press in two sizes.
At the back: medium silica gel; large silica gel beads, small microwave flower press.
In the front: fine silica gel sand, large microwave flower press

Preserving in 3D

The first thing I tried was silica gel. The process is really simple. I use a microwave-safe container when I'm using silica gel because I need quick results and the microwave will certainly give you that. You just place a layer of desiccant in the bottom of the container - I found that 1-2cm (1/2"-1") was sufficient. Then place your blooms and carefully spoon over another layer of desiccant as thick as the first layer.
Place the petal on a bed of silica gel sand and then cover it with a layer of silica gel before microwaving.

Set the container aside and let the silica gel get to work. Or, if you're in a hurry like me and only need petals, place the container into the microwave on 50% power for 60 seconds.
Always use 50% power and short bursts when microwaving flowers.

Check the petals to see how they're going. If they feel like parchment, they're done. They'll be fragile but they shouldn't be brittle. If they crumble, you've overcooked them - shorten the time for the next batch, If they feel silky, they're not done yet so continue drying them at 10 second intervals (always at 50% power) until they feel papery all over. Each flower will be different - fleshy flowers will take longer and some flowers will darken and some will fade. Some won't be successful so it's a good idea to record your results for future reference.

Once they're dried, use a soft brush to dust them off and store them in an airtight container with a little bit of silica gel to keep them dry until you're ready to use them.
Dried rose petals sitting on a bed of blue silical gel in an airtight containers with some dessicant in the bottom to keep them dry.

Now, to the Results....

The Failures!

You can see from the photos below that not all silica gels will give you equal results. Each of the three Silica gel products I tried preserved the shape and colour of the petals really well but the first brand I tried had large round beads. Notice how deeply dimpled these mint leaves are.
Pockmarks are left all over the leaves by large silica gel beads. Make sure you use a fine crystal or sand.

These leaves were dried with Dri Splendor which I found in the dried flower section at Michael's. Unfortunately, the results were the same whether I set the container aside for a few days to work its magic or whether I sped up the drying process in the microwave - pockmarked botanicals!
Large dimples spoil these dried botanicals. Use a finer silica gel or sand for a better result when drying.

These crystals aren't my favourite for this purpose but they'll be great for putting in containers with my dried flowers to keep them dry.

I also tried some finer crystals that I sourced locally. These orangey-coloured crystals are much smaller in size and they turn a greeny-blue when they've reached their moisture-holding capacity. Even these smaller crystals left dimples.
Fine dimples are left behind by these medium size silica gel beads. Use a fine sand or crystal for better results.

And whilst I'm disappointed with the dimpling, the colours are really well preserved.

The Successes!

Next I tried Activa's Flower Drying Art and finally I got the results I was looking for. Petals were beautifully preserved. They were covered with a fine layer of silica dust but this is easily brushed away with a soft brush.
Perfectly dried rose petals ready for embedding in resin. These were dried in Activa Flower Drying Art crystals.

I also tried cooking salt and I found this worked almost as well as the Activa silica gel. The only difficulty I had was that the salt clumped around the entire petal and it was sometimes difficult to chip the salt away without damaging the petal. But the results were excellent and it's extremely economical.

Petals dried in the dehydrator preserved the colours (and sometimes intensified them) better than any of the other methods. They became more leathery and less brittle and generally twisted so they are better suited to potpourri or wedding confetti rather than for embedding in resin. It took a few hours for them to dry but the advantage was being able to do so many all at once.
Deyhydrators work well for drying petals but they are better suited to making potpourri than for embedding in resin.

With many wedding venues and churches banning traditional paper confetti these days, the dehydrator drying method is a great way to produce eco-friendly confetti to toss over the newly weds. If you're going to use the petals for potpourri, add a few drops of essential oil to the petal mix to give them a fragrance boost. If you're using a dehydrator, the instructions should give you a guide as to what setting you should use and how long you should dry the petals and flowers for.

Pressing Flowers in the Microwave

Now, on to the Microfleur. I've had one of these for many years but had never really experimented with it until now. This is such a good invention. You can press flowers in the microwave without a Microfleur but the Microfleur just makes it really easy.

You simply lay out your petals (I didn't press the whole flower, just the individual petals)....
 Place petals on the cotton pad in the Microfleur for perfectly pressed and preserved petals.

 ....and sandwich them between the cotton, the wool felt and the plates. There are clips to hold it all together. Then it goes into the microwave at 50% power. That's really important. To see what happens when you use full power, scroll down to the bottom of the post. I found that the large Microfleur needed longer - generally 1 minute to start with - whereas the smaller 5" Microfleur worked in as little as 30 seconds.
The Microfleur is ideal for pressing large batches of petals in a short time.

Check how the petals feel - they should be papery but not brittle. If needed, microwave in short bursts until they are completely dry. Once again, keep records of what you do - it really helps. Notice how the petals have changed colour - the pink petals became mauve.
Check that the petals are papery after being microwaved for a minute. They shouldn't be brittle. If they are, shorten the time for the next batch.

Here's a geranium from my garden.
Place the blossom and petals between the cotton layers and then sandwich them in the Microfleur for pressing in the microwave.

The colour change was really dramatic! This geranium was really difficult to remove and it's really fragile - I had to use a toothpick to gently ease it off the cloth. 
Pinks and purples tend to darken when they are pressed in the microwave.

This wedding bouquet was full of bright tropical colours....
Tropical wedding bouquet ready for preserving.

But when dried, it took on all these lovely soft vintagey colours.... you'd never guess they were the same flowers!
Bridal bouquet blooms preserved ready to be turned into a resin bangle to preserve the memories forever.

I've had most success with purples, pinks and yellows. Some of the reds went black and some of the whites I've dried have become a little brown but nowhere near as brown as this wrist corsage which was dried naturally.
Naturally dried flowers will lose all their colour in time. These roses were white when they were fresh.

If you've stuck around this long, you deserve to see my disasters too! Here's my first set of felt pads and cotton liners - charred into oblivion by forgetting to use 50% power.
Scorched cotton liners and felt pads from overheating the Microfleur in the Microwave

And here's my second - singed, but still useable! Luckily, you can buy replacement pads. These are the 5" pads but you can also get replacements for the 9" Microfleur
Burnt felt pad and cotton liner from a Microfleur microwave flower press

So now you've seen how I do it, raid your garden, or your neighbourhood on your next walk and experiment. And of course, this is a great way to preserve a special bouquet. Once the petals are dry, pop them into resin and you have a bouquet that will last forever!

See this related video:
5 Ways to Seal Dried Petals Ready for Embedding in Resin

Pin it for later!
Pressed pink rose petals compared with fresh pink rose petals inspiration sheet

4 best tips for drying flowers inspiration sheet

'Til next time.......

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