I have pressed flowers before the traditional way - between paper and under some heavy books. It not only took a long time, the floral colors faded somewhat. I never knew one could speed up the process considerably using the microwave until I read it in fellow Canadian, Shireen Nadir's excellent book "Resin Jewelry". I also wrote about her gorgeous Nature Inspired Resin Jewelry. The flat effect is very different from the 3D style of real flower jewelry I tried before. I used crystal cat litter to dry the flowers then.
Well, I am game to try my hand at a different way of drying the flowers. They have to be dried otherwise, they will decay even inside resin. Since my garden is still asleep, I used indoor flowers (begonia and African violets) to demonstrate how to press flowers using a microwave.
I tried putting a flower between a folded piece of paper or cardstock, added some empty serving dishes on top and microwaved it for a minute or so. Times will vary depending on the type of flower, size, microwave power etc. But as you can see below, the begonia flower, being on the "fleshy" side, was a disaster. There was so much moisture which made the flower go mushy.
So I placed really thick wads of kitchen paper towels on either side of the cardstock and tried again.
The results were better (below). The paper towels wicked away a lot of the moisture but the cardstock was not porous enough for that to happen quickly. The cardstock was also a bit stiff so trying to get the dried flower off was tricky.
So I cut up an old cotton pillowcase into small squares and used that instead of the cardstock.
I microwaved the African violet flower sandwiched between 2 cotton squares and lots of paper towels. It worked well - the flower dried in just over a minute. The paper towels felt damp afterwards. I microwaved this way more than once. Sometimes, I had to leave the cloth layers with the flower in between on top of my drier to completely dry.
The cloth being flexible made it easy to detach the flower without tearing it.
Experimentation is key. You have to be careful not to overdo the microwaving. The lower African violet flower below shows signs of scorching because I microwaved it too long.
The above technique I used with cloths and paper towels is a good one to try to see if you really want to press flowers using a microwave. If you do, then you might want to consider purchasing a commercial press. They work in the same way in that they wick away the moisture and press the flowers flat.
The ceramic one I bought came from Lee Valley - it was recommended by Shireen. You can also purchase other kinds such as this one from Amazon called the Microfleur 5" (13 cm) Microwave Regular Flower Press. The ceramic microwave press worked very well - it sure saves on paper towels!
It comes with two thick wool felt pieces and 2 cotton squares. The ceramic parts were both heavy and porous which assisted in efficiently drawing away the moisture.
One word of caution, the ceramic parts get hot if you have an intense microwaving session with many flowers!
This method of pressing flowers for making cards and other crafts is excellent. It's more challenging for jewelry making. For a start, you generally need small and dainty flowers and leaves. I had microwave pressed some small flowers from late last summer.