4 Ways to Preserve Fall Leaves
When it comes to seasonal decorating, I’m a big fan of frugal + natural. I love bringing the outside in, and fall–winter is the perfect time to do it. Leaves, pumpkins, acorns, Indian corn, branches, pine cones. So much good stuff!
You could peel “Made in China” stickers off plastic fruit or buy foam pumpkins. They sell pine cones at the craft store or you could drop $34 at West Elm for a… branch (90% of design bloggers have). But why not grab a bag of pears in the produce section or buy pumpkins at the local farmers market? Go for a walk and find cool stuff on the ground! As a special deal for all FLNW readers, local parks and wild areas are giving this away for free!
When I spend money on my home, I want it to be something useful and beautiful that we can enjoy all year long. Not something that will be stored in the garage for 11 months out of the year. It’s totally possible to create a cozy, unique, beautiful home on a tight budget.
Today I am going to show you 4 ways to preserve leaves. Thanks to our warm fall, there are still tons of great leaves out there. This week we went on a leaf scavenger hunt. It involved excited kids + sprinkle donuts + hot coffee. And pulling the car over in the pouring rain every time one of the kids yelled, “Pretty leaves, Mom!” We came home, wet and happy, with two bags full of leaves.
Next week, we’ll pull together different elements for beautiful, inexpensive centerpieces. Perfect for Thanksgiving. Let’s get started!
Pressing Leaves: $0
Every time we go for a walk in October and November, my kids and I come back with fistfuls of leaves. So much beauty just lying on the ground, free for the taking! Pressed leaves work great for one season, however, the color does fade a bit and they will be pretty fragile. They would be beautiful in a frame or scattered down the middle of the table. I have actually stored leaves like this for over 8 years. They are still really pretty, but definitely not sturdy.
- Collect a variety of colorful leaves. Rinse and dry, if necessary.
- Place between the pages of a book (use paper towels, if leaves are damp) in a single layer. Stack heavy objects on top of the book or slide it back in the bookshelf. Leave for 2-3 days.
Preserving with Glycerin Water: $2-10
This method was new to me, but it is a great way to preserve the color and feel of fall leaves. Unlike pressing leaves, these steps will give you soft, supple leaves that last indefinitely.
You can also preserve whole branches of beautiful leaves this way. Follow the same directions, only use a vase instead of a shallow pan. Stick the branch in the vase and allow it to soak up the glycerin solution. (I haven’t tried this method yet, but read that it takes a couple months.)
- Collect a variety of colorful leaves. Rinse, if dirty.
- In a shallow pan (small quantity of leaves) or bathtub (large quantity), combine one part liquid glycerin (see below) to two parts water. Add leaves, pressing down until covered. It’s okay if the leaves overlap a bit, just make sure they are evenly and fully submerged. You can add another pan on top to weigh the leaves down into the glycerin solution.
- Leave for 2-3 days. Put leaves on paper towels and pat dry.
Spray Paint Leaves: $3-6
I’d seen this done in a Martha Stewart Living magazine years ago, but I wasn’t expecting it to look so amazing in real life. And the best part is you can use dry, ugly leaves for this project. I found the most beautiful results actually came from the leaves that were the most curled and crumpled. It was really cool to watch them completely transform with a few coats of spray paint, like miniature works of art.
For drama, go with metallic gold or copper. For fun, use purple or turquoise or red. They are obviously fragile, but could be stored in a plastic bin or just tossed at the end of the season.
- Collect a variety of leaves. The drier, more interesting shapes, the better.
- Dry completely (I parked mine in front of our wood stove for a day).
- Spread out in a single layer on cardboard or newspaper in a well-ventilated area. Spray with 3-4 light coats of spray paint.
Leaf Rubbing: $0, (or the cost of paper & crayons)
This is a fun, simple project to do with any age. And that’s saying a lot coming from me. I don’t do crafts, and I actually really enjoy this one. Collect leaves, place under paper, rub with a crayon. Now that I can handle, and the results actually look good.
There is no end to the different size and color combinations you could create! Frame, cut out, hang, use for cards. So many possibilities.
- Collect a variety of supple leaves. The thicker the veins, the harder they will be to rub evenly.
- Place the leaf on a table under a sheet of paper. You may want to tape it down to prevent the leaf from moving around.
- Remove the paper wrapper from a crayon and rub it flat across the paper, until you have covered the entire leaf outline. Do one large leaf per page or a collage of smaller leaves, overlapping.
I searched high and low for liquid glycerin to preserve leaves. My 7-year old daughter finally asked, “Could we just order it online?” Oh, right. There’s that. Amazon carries this Now Solutions Vegetable Glycerin for less than $10 for 16 ounces. It’s the best price by far. If you’re in the Portland area and need it faster, I found it at Michaels and Rite Aid, not Walgreens or Fred Meyer.
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