What do you do with your flowers after they’ve bloomed? Some arrangements hold significance, like a wedding bouquet or those picked from a loved one’s garden. Flower pressing is a great way to preserve your favorite botanicals. Take this popular project to the next level by creating beautiful surface designs with your pressed flowers. Spoonflower artist and maker Robert Mahar shares how to press flowers and turn them into a timeless tea towel on Spoonflower Linen Cotton Canvas.  

Flattend flowers and leaves lay on a white surface near thread, scissors, tweezers and a pin cushion. Where the white surface runs out we see the rest of a wooden table that is supporting the supplies in the background.
In this tutorial learn how to press flowers, create a tea towel with them and add optional embroidery.

Robert: What if you could take flowers and foliage from your own backyard and rather than display them in a vase, learn how to preserve and transform them into surface designs to print on your favorite Spoonflower textiles? Join me in creating our own small-scale flower press, and then arrange the flattened results to create a pattern that blooms across a linen cotton tea towel.  

Bonus! Follow along as I demonstrate how to add texture and color to your printed fabric with embroidery embellishments.  

Part 1: How To Make A DIY Flower Press

There are two easily accessible ways you can press flowers:

  • The first method is to place your botanicals between the pages of a heavy book. Shop your library’s book sale or a thrift store to find one inexpensively. Simply fold a piece of printer paper or newspaper in half, place your flowers or foliage inside the fold of that paper and tuck the whole thing in between the pages of the book. 
  • The second method—that we’ll cover in more detail—is to create a flower press. It’s a simple DIY project that can be constructed with materials from your craft and hardware store. I’ve chosen to create a smaller scale, easily portable press. If you desire a larger press, you can increase the size by selecting/cutting larger pieces of plywood.

Two pieces of plywood, several pieces of cardboard and copy paper, four nuts, washers, and bolts sit on a white tray with green leaves. The tray is on a wooden surface with more leaves behind it.
Gather your materials to make your flower press.

Materials

Here’s what you’ll need to make your own flower press:

  • 2 pieces of 6″ square, 1/4″ thick plywood
  • Drill with a 1/4″ bit
  • Painter’s tape
  • 4—1/4″ x 2 1/2″ carriage bolts
  • 4—1/4″ flat washers
  • 4—1/4″ wing nuts
  • 6-12 pieces of 5″ square corrugated cardboard—like cardboard box material
  • 6-12 pieces of 5″ x 10″ white printer paper
  • Ruler
  • Pencil or marker
  • Fine grit sandpaper—to smooth out any splinters (optional)

1. Prepare Your Plywood

Unless you have a table saw, purchase pre-cut pieces of plywood that can be found in your craft and hobby store. I recommend working with plywood that is at least 1/4” in thickness. Thinner plywood is more likely to crack and splinter.

Begin by stacking your two pieces of plywood on top of one another and securing them together with painter’s tape—this ensures the edges and drilled holes will all be aligned.

With a ruler and pencil, measure 1/4″ away from the edge of your plywood and mark where you’re going to place your drill holes. Using a drill fitted with a 1/4″ bit, create a hole in each of the four corners.

Once you’ve drilled the holes, remove the painter’s tape. Smooth out any splinters with a piece of fine-grit sandpaper.

2. Prepare Your Cardboard

If you have any cardboard shipping boxes, this is a great way to recycle them!

Measure and cut 6 to 12 pieces of square corrugated cardboard that are 1” smaller than your plywood pieces. I’m using 6” square pieces of plywood, so I’m going to cut 5” square pieces of corrugated cardboard.

3. Measure and Cut Your Printer Paper

Measure and cut 6 to 12 pieces of white printer paper—I’m cutting pieces that measure 5” x 10”. I’ll then fold them in half individually, creating 5” squares. 

4. Assemble Your Flower Press

Now that we’ve measured, cut and drilled everything, it’s time to put it together.

To assemble your press, place your four 1/4” x 2 1/2” carriage bolts through the drilled holes in one of your pieces of plywood. Set it on your work surface, with the carriage bolt heads facing down.  

On top of the plywood, center and place a piece of corrugated cardboard between the four carriage bolts. Add a piece of folded printer paper on top of the cardboard.

Place your flowers and foliage within the fold of the printer paper. Be sure to arrange them so that they don’t overlap or extend beyond the edges.

Small flowers and leave rest on a folded piece of paper that’s placed on cardboard in a flower press. A white tray with leaves is in the background, on top of a wooden surface.
Arrange your flowers on your printer paper, ensuring they don’t overlap or extend beyond the edge.

Continue to build layers in this fashion, stacking the cardboard and the printer paper with botanicals in its folds. Finally place your second piece of plywood on top, with the carriage bolts positioned through the drilled holes.  

To secure everything in place, put a 1/4” flat washer over each bolt and then spin a 1/4” wing nut onto the threads of each bolt. Tighten each wing nut enough to hold the contents (cardboard, printer paper and botanicals) neatly in place, but not so tight that you run the risk of cracking or splintering the plywood. 

A flower press rests on a wooden surface beside a large leaf.
Take a look at your finished flower press. Place it somewhere secure and set a reminder to check on it within a week.

5. Wait For Your Flowers To Become Pressed

Now here comes the challenging part—we wait. Depending on the thickness of the plant you are pressing and the drying conditions—whether you are in a humid or arid environment—it can take just a couple of days to a few weeks for your specimen to completely dry.

Where should I place my flower press?

My advice is to place your press on a shelf or out of sight. Put a reminder on your calendar to check your press in a week.  

When it’s time to check on your flower press, first, carefully loosen the wing nuts. Next, remove one piece of plywood and examine the flowers and leaves. If they’re dry and paper-like, they’re ready to go—otherwise, place the plywood back over, tighten the wing nut and allow them additional time.


Part 2: How To Create A Pressed Botanical Tea Towel Design

Now, let’s print your pressed botanical specimens onto fabric! You’ll need either plants that you’ve pressed using your DIY flower press or you can purchase pre-pressed botanicals. If it’s not blooming season, or you don’t want to wait for your flowers and foliage to dry in a press—pre-pressed is the way to go. Pre-pressed flowers available in a wide variety of botanical species. 

Pressed botanicals lay flat on a scanner with the lid open.
Arrange your pressed botanicals on the flatbed of a scanner, then place a white sheet of paper over top. Close the lid and scan your arrangement.

1. Photograph or Scan Your Pressed Flowers

There are two easy ways to capture images of your pressed flowers:

  • Arrange your pressed botanicals on a piece of white paper, leaving space between each specimen. Photograph them from directly above in a flat-lay style, meaning you need to capture the photo from an angle that is parallel to your flat surface. This may require you to grab a step stool or place your paper on the floor, allowing you to easily position your camera directly overhead.
  • Alternately, arrange your pressed botanicals on the flatbed of your printer’s scanner and then lay a piece of white paper over top of the arrangement. Close the scanner lid and scan at a high resolution (300 dpi is perfect).

2. Upload Your Images To Edit

Once you’ve photographed or scanned your pressed botanicals, they can then be arranged in a photo editing program. I use Adobe® Photoshop® software, but you can also use free versions of online photo editors like PicMonkey or Canva

A close up of a laptop screen opened to Adobe® Photoshop® software.
I’m arranging my images in a way that the flowers look like they are growing from the ends of the page.

3. Edit Your Images To Your Liking

And now we play! I love using a photo editor to manipulate the images of my pressed flowers and foliage—adjusting the brightness/contrast, hue/saturation and sharpness. While you’ve likely photographed or scanned your flowers and leaves in groups, the photo editor allows you to separate them and arrange them in a million different ways. It’s also fun to alter the scale of the botanicals, shrinking or enlarging them beyond how they actually grow in the garden.

Design Idea: Botanical Monograms

Maybe you’d like to create pressed flower monograms on your tea towels? Here’s my quick video tutorial. The concept could easily be translated to a design for fabric. 

Rather than create a repeat pattern, I opted to lay out the entire image to be printed on Spoonflower Linen Cotton Canvas. This gives me the flexibility to arrange my flowers and foliage so that they appear to be growing from the short ends of the tea towel. This configuration makes your design especially charming when the tea towel is folded and hung over a bar or appliance handle in your kitchen. 

Pro Tip:

For additional information including hints on sizing and layout, refer to How to Design a Recipe Tea Towel

4. Upload to Spoonflower

Check out this post for printing tips and instructions.

Once you’ve made your desired edits it’s time to upload your images to Spoonflower for printing

Spoonflower offers excellent design guidelines to help you navigate the technical aspects of formatting your design for a tea towel, including a downloadable template. Pay special attention to the helpful directions for uploading your design. 

First Time Designing on Spoonflower?

If this is your first time uploading a design to Spoonflower, we’ve got you covered! Check out this post for more tips and instructions to get your design uploaded.
See the Tips

5. Order Your Tea Towel

Once you’ve uploaded your design to Spoonflower, you can order it as a tea towel.

Prefer to sew your own tea towel instead? Order your design as a fat quarter of Linen Cotton Canvas. When your fat quarter arrives, cut off the selvedge and hem each of the fabric edges and you’re done! (You can see how it’s done in this blog post.)

If you’d like to make your recipe design available for sale on Spoonflower’s Marketplace, you’ll need to complete the seller verification and then proof the design before making it available for purchase. 

Two tea towels with various botanicals hang from the handle of a stainless steel appliance.
These flowers will bloom forever on our beautiful tea towels.

Optional Part 3: How to Add Embroidery on Your Tea Towel

A tea towel is secured in an embroidery hoop with a needle sticking out of the towel.
Add a little texture to your tea towel with embroidery.

I love adding texture and color to Spoonflower textiles through the addition of embroidery—and it’s a simple, (but totally optional!) way of elevating your pressed botanical tea towel. This is your opportunity to select your own colors, favorite stitches and their placement. Trace the outlines of stems, add veining to leaves and introduce additional colors to petals! 

Materials

What you’ll need:

Tips to Add Embroidery to Your Tea Towel

Trace the outlines of stems, add veining to leaves and introduce additional colors to petals! Truly, there’s also no right or wrong way of adding your embroidery embellishment, but let me give you a few pointers to set you up for success:

  • Stick to simple stitches. The back stitch, whipped back stitch, stem stitch and split stitch are all wonderful ways you can trace the lines of stems and add veining to leaves. 
  • Beginning and ending your embroidery with neat knots on the backside of your fabric will help keep your stitches in place and stand up to daily use and regular washing. 
  • Consider contrasting colors. Some flowers lose pigment during the drying process and your embroidery can be a clever way of introducing a whole new range of hues. 

Check out these videos for more tips!

If you’re new to the world of embroidery, here’s a short and sweet video introduction to the basics. And if you’re looking for a few core embroidery stitches that will work well for your tea towel, consider the option in this video tutorial

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I use to press flowers?
You can place your flowers between a piece of paper or newspaper, and then tuck it within the pages of a heavy book, or create your own press with plywood.
Is there an alternative to pressing my own flowers?
You can purchase pre-pressed botanicals instead of pressing your own flowers.
How do I upload my design to Spoonflower?

Interested In More Embroidery Projects?

Add more texture and distinction to more your maps, wall hangings and more! Keep your embroidery tools close and find your next couch-friendly craft on our blog.
See the Posts