June is the perfect time of year to start collecting and preparing flowers, leaves and grasses for resin jewelry making!  Everything is blooming. So I went about making my first real flower resin bangles.  I learned quite a bit along the way. Here is how I did it.

Almost all of what I used come from my own garden.  Some gatherings were common weeds like dandelions!  Even if you don't have a garden, planters on apartment balconies are a great source of material. You just need to plant the right flowers.

Some of my favorite flowers for jewelry making are annuals - lobelias are excellent!

Be prepared to experiment as some flowers just don't press well due to variations in floral pigments, As you know from my previous posts on real flower resin jewelry, the bleeding heart's pink flowers below are poor candidates. The only way to use them is to touch up the colors using acrylic inks (not paints) as I showed in this past post.  However, I love its compound leaves (has leaflets) which are serrated - much more interesting than simple leaves.

Another garden favorite is the creeping phlox, which just explodes with blooms around this time of year for my northern garden.  Their green parts are also great to use.  These were pink in my garden, but as you will see later on, they turn lavender after microwave pressing!

I also had some umbellifers which I collected from the side of a neighborhood pathway in previous years' walks, pressed and stored.  The umbrella like tiny flower clusters of Apiaceae (umbelliferae) family are distinctive and are related to carrots and parsley. So that is another source if you are a vegetable grower.   

Beware some wildflowers are protected in some areas, so don't go picking something you shouldn't!  For example, in Ontario where I live, the white trillium is not only the provincial flower but it is illegal to pick, dig up or damage it.

A lovely collection of different shapes and colors!

When preparing to microwave press them, I like to place the flowers upside down and trim off the protruding backs.  This makes it easier when they become sandwiched in the press. 

I happen to use the ceramic microwave press from the Canadian store, Lee Valley.  Although it works well, I do find it heavy and gets very hot with repeated use. There are other microwave presses on the market like that of Microfleur. Microwave pressing is far faster than the typical 2-3 weeks required for traditional pressing.

You will have to experiment as your microwave oven and press might be different from mine. But I typically aim for 50 seconds on average. One tip is not to press flowers of different sizes in the same run. The tiny florets from my lilac bush shown in the picture above turned brown as 50 s was too long for them. So I will have to try 30 s for these next time.

Once cooled, the dried, paper-like flowers and leaves can be assembled.

I encased the flowers and leaves between two pieces of plastic.  This serves two functions :
  • Protects some vulnerable flowers from turning translucent in the resin - white and some yellow flowers are particularly prone to this.
  • Allows you to compose an arrangement which stays in place otherwise the dried organic material is just going to float up to the top once it's added to resin.
I tried two different plastic combinations. First I placed a plastic sheet - I used Little Windows' Clear Photo Film - on top of their bangle guide which comes with their bangle molds.  Then I arranged my dried material how I liked it.  My collection of umbellifers was saved in a container as you can see below.  Use tweezers to handle dried material as it is very fragile.

NB. Little Windows gives 15% discount for readers - use this code : BG1516

I then covered all that with a strip of heavy duty Scotch tape.  You can also try Scotch tape facing up for the layer underneath but you pretty much have to be sure of your composition because once you place the flowers down, it is down for good!

The other plastic method I used involved the laminator sheet.  Laminated organic material worked really well when I tried it for smaller pendants as it made composition and insertion into the molds a breeze. I have the Apache laminator. 

I wanted to see if the laminated flowers in a strip will work. I used the thicker sheet (5 MIL thickness) which as you will see, turned out to be too stiff.  I will try 3 MIL sheets another time. 

I then traced the outline of the bangle with a marker pen.

Easy enough to trim the bangle to size with some scissors. It really doesn't matter if parts of the flowers or leaves jut out because the protruding bits will be cut off.

I used isopropanol from the drug store (or online ) to remove the pen markings. 

The stiffness of the 5 MIL laminated strip (below) is apparent as it didn't lie as flat as the photo film - scotch tape strip (top) :

I joined up each strip with a bit of scotch tape and dry fit them into Little Windows' bangle molds

The left round mold below held the laminated strip. Notice that the join is very visible?  I should have trimmed this strip so it didn't peak like that. 

The right oval mold is where I assigned the photo film- scotch tape strip. 

I used Little Windows' Brilliant Resin which I have found over the years to be the best jewelry grade resin. A low bubble producer, long shelf life, clear, non-toxic resin which is manufactured in California, a state with strong safety and environmental regulations. 

Follow the instructions - especially the part on microwaving Part A briefly for 6-7 s - this reduces bubble formation. 

It's best to fill the mold slowly with the prepared resin mix - too fast and you will introduce bubbles.  Tilting the mold when you do this will also help.

Fill it up until nearly the top. 

Carefully insert the strip. Ensure there is resin on both sides of the strip. You can gently use the mixing wand to create some space for the resin to seep behind the strip.

(I was very clumsy at this step and introduced several fine bubbles while I was readjusting the strip. )

Use a toothpick to pop any bubbles you might see. Deeper set bubbles in doming resins like these are difficult to remove. So it is best not to create bubbles unnecessarily. 

I was a bit concerned that the strips would not stay down as it looked like they might be floating up . So I place two other silicone molds I had as a cover while the resin cured. You can also use waxed paper and some sort of weight on top. 

After curing overnight, it was time to sand the top edge. I used 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper under a shallow depth of water to contain the dust.  You can use scissors to first remove any bigger bits of thin resin protruding from the edge before sanding.  

Make sure this edge is really smooth to avoid any further sanding after this stage.  

A slight depression occurs after curing due to the surface tension of this doming resin. So even out this edge with a touch of freshly prepared resin around the rim.  Do not over do this to avoid drips down the sides of the bangle. 

Remember that peaked join of the laminated strip?  It was the only join that was obvious because it was so close to the edge of the bangle - visible in the close up picture below. 

You can also see the fine bubbles I generated moving the strip too much after insertion.  But I quite liked the effect!

But the bubbles aren't really noticeable when you wear the bangle!

This is the round bangle  which fits me beautifully!

This is the oval bangle below.  The creeping phlox flower - the large lavender flower in the front - began as a pink one in my garden. The microwave pressing turned it lavender. Notice that one of the bottom petals is turquoise?  The seal wasn't perfect and some resin seeped between the two plastic layers which then turned that part of flower a bluish color!

Unexpected results are part of the fun of making real flower resin jewelry!  Have fun!

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Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
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