Learn Petal Pounding

Additional Articles

By Jane Swanson

The beauty of our summer gardens can be preserved as decorative elements on our scrapbook pages through a process called petal pounding.  Go through your garden picking your favorite blossoms.  Don't forget grass, weeds and leaves.  Gather the supplies below, follow the step-by-step instructions and you will be able to create two different petal-pounded looks for your pages.


  • white fabric
  • washing machine
  • laundry detergent
  • large container or bucket.
  • alum (aluminum sulfate - found in the spices aisle)       
  • washing soda (Arm & Hammer in a yellow box)
  • fresh flowers
  • hard wood pounding board
  • kitchen towel
  • hammer
  • scissors
  • tweezers
  • masking tape
  • clear packing tape
  • paper towels
  • thin, black permanent marking pen

You could skip the next "preparing the fabric" step if you are just going to use your petal poundings on a layout or card, but the colors are supposed to last longer and be richer on the fabric if it is prepared.  Experiment with untreated fabric and see if you like your results, or you can just buy a PDF (Prepared for Dying Fabric) instead.

Preparing the Fabric:

  1. Choose a white 100% cotton fabric.
  2. Wash the fabric with regular laundry detergent in hot water. Add 2 tablespoons of washing soda to the laundry. Run the rinse cycle three or four times to completely remove the washing soda from the fabric.
  3. Remove the wet fabric from the washing machine and place it into a large container. Add a ¼ cup of alum (aluminum sulfate) and 2 cups of hot water for every yard of fabric you use.
  4. Stir the mixture until the alum is completely dissolved. Allow the water to cool.
  5. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of washing soda in a separate bowl for each yard of fabric into about ½ cup of hot water.
  6. Add this washing soda mixture to the alum mixture with the fabric. Stir the mixture. It may fizz.
  7. Soak the fabric in this mixture overnight or for at least 8 hours. Rinse well, wring out and hang to dry. Iron the fabric while it is still slightly wet.

Pounding the Flowers:

  1. Choose a flower.  Single petal flowers can be pounded whole. Layered petals should be taken apart.
  2. Place the flower pretty side down, onto the fabric. Cover the entire flower with masking tape.
  3. Turn the fabric over and pound it with a hammer on a flat surface. The pigments of the flower will bleed through the fabric.
  4. Turn the fabric back over and remove the masking tape. [See Step 8 for additional steps to use the pounded remains on the masking tape.]
  5. Add more flower patterns to your fabric. Add leaves to your flower pattern by pounding the leaves exactly as you did the flowers.
  6. Outline each flower and leaf with a thin black permanent marking pen if you like. You could also add a bit of color with colored pencils.  This will keep the fading to a minimum.
  7. Heat set with a dry iron on a low setting for 30 to 40 seconds. The poundings should not be immersed in water.
  8. Cover the pounded flower or leaf remains with clear packing tape, keeping the masking tape as the background layer. Cut around the flower or leaf shape with sharp scissors. Use this preserved shape as an additional decorative element.

I was asked to petal pound the funeral flowers for a friend's grandfather. I pounded dots with the end of a ball peen hammer using the rose petals and they turned a blackish purple, which was a disappointment, so I used red impatiens to mimic the roses as they pounded their true red color.  I then used the actual rose petals on the masking tape by covering them with clear packing tape and using them on a separate card.

As you experiment with petal pounding you will discover that a lot of plants and flowers do not pound their original colors.  Have fun discovering what colors the plants in your area are hiding beneath their colorful exteriors and use them in decorative ways on your pages and around your home. 


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