This morning, I noticed my wilting birthday flowers nodding over the remnants of Halloween decorations. I paused wistfully on the way to the compost bin for one last look at the delicate beauties. October was a big month for me. My birthday marked the official start of the Year of Nothing New, and I am still glowing from all the friends who stopped by to celebrate my commitment to simplicity.
I decided that the flowers, many plucked from carefully tended gardens, should be saved. I already have dried bouquets scattered around my house, and so I decided to hammer the brilliant natural pigments into cloth to preserve October.
This is the first project I’ve finished in months that is just for me. Even when I sew for myself, it’s usually to practice a technique for a business project, and I really enjoyed making something without worrying about materials costs or market value. Flower pounding is really quick and easy, too! It’s a great way to save the beauty and sentiment of special blooms. I think it would be such a sweet way to preserve a wedding bouquet, and it’s so easy that you don’t have to worry about messing anything up.
I know it’s the time of year when everyone starts thinking about holiday gifts, too. List making is inevitable, and I’ve already listened to friends outline their plans for craft store shopping trips and blocking out time to knit a few dozen hats. I feel the accomplishment frenzy already buzzing as my maker business pals ramp up production and sign their weekends away to craft markets.
While I pounded my birthday blooms into cloth today, I thought about how pleasant the holidays could be if we just crossed a few things off those endless lists and did less. I think a commitment to laid-back gifting is a great place to start. I know I would rather have a hug and some extra time with loved ones than an expensive gift or a labor intensive handmade one.
The thought of not gifting is uncomfortable for everyone, even me. It’s part of almost every culture to celebrate people and events with gifts. I love giving, and I don’t want to stop celebrating the people I love. So this holiday season, I am going to share some tutorials for really simple and beautiful handmade gifts, and hammered flower prints seem like the right place to start.
Soon, those brilliant leaves will fade to colorless dust and the last lingering blossoms will disappear. I think this is the perfect project for getting a jump start on holiday gifts. I can imagine the warmth and smiles when someone opens an image of their favorite roses in the midst of the icy stillness of winter.
This project is simple, eco-friendly, and really pretty. It’s a wonderful way to preserve slightly wilted flowers and use up scrap fabric, too. While the end result can’t be washed, the soft watercolor image looks so pretty in a thrifted frame.
Here’s how I make hammered flower prints:
- wilting blooms that still have some moisture
- natural, light colored fabric
- masking tape
- mallet or hammer
- thrift store frame or embroidery hoop
- cardboard backing (if using a frame)
- Collect an assortment of flowers. While fresh flowers are fine, I prefer to enjoy new blossoms until they start to wilt. As long as flowers aren’t completely dried, they will have some pigments to transfer to the fabric. Bright colored flowers with fleshy petals work best. Grasses and leaves work, too.
- Choose fabric. I used unbleached cotton gauze for this project because I like the added interest from the texture of the fabric. Any natural fibers in light colors work. This project is also lovely with linen, quilting cotton, and silk.
- Cut fabric slightly larger than frame backing or embroidery hoop.
- Arrange flowers on the top of the fabric. Arrange individual petals if you want a lot of texture and definition, and also separate petals on really bulky blooms. Aim to make the petals as flat to the fabric as possible.
- Tape the flowers down with masking tape. Try to smooth any edges of the petals while taping, too.
- Start pounding! I like to hammer on the back of the fabric so that I can see the color transfer from the petals and have more control over the design. If your fabric seems delicate, hammer on the tape side and check regularly.
- Hammer until all the color you want transferred is on the fabric. The fabric will be damp from the moisture in the petals.
- Remove the tape and gently remove any petal debris. For excessive debris, let fabric dry and then gently brush or blow the petal bits off the fabric.
- If you plan to display your work in a frame, arrange the fabric over the cardboard backing and secure with tape before framing. If you’re using an embroidery hoop, arrange into the hoop and trim any excess fabric.
- Hang your pretty print to enjoy your special flowers long after they’ve crumbled into compost!
I think it would be so fun to create pictures with the petals, like a pretty bird or an impressionistic portrait. This project is a great way to start exploring natural dyes and pigments, too. The simplicity of hammered flowers puts the natural beauty of the blooms on display. I get so bogged down in craft projects that require endless steps, measuring, or hot glue. Especially for handmade gifts, I think that anything made with frustration carries a piece of that discontent to the recipient. With no expensive materials or daunting learning curve, pounding flowers has plenty of room for creativity and love. It’s a gift to yourself to make something satisfying and fun, and the recipient will feel the positive energy, too. (Even if, like me, you’re just giving it to yourself!)
Enjoy your hammered flower adventure! I’d love to see what you make!