Love the colours of autumn leaves? What if you could capture them in time? See how to naturally preserve the gorgeous reds, oranges, and golds and use them in this decorative craft.
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Preserving the Beauty
I can find something to love about every season but autumn definitely brings out the delighted collecting squirrel in me. No matter where I go, I find ‘treasures’ I want to bring home. There’s something about the wind and rain, cooler temperatures, and last dramatic bursts of colour throughout the harvest that makes everything peak in beauty. I think it’s a deeply romantic time of year.
The same way pebbles on a beach can be so alluring—each one offering a different piece of natural history—no two leaves seem the same. Faced with dozens of must-have favourites, I first started making crafts like this one when I was a kid. If you include the preservation step, the leaves actually maintain their vivid colours and last for months and sometimes years.
Basically, the leaves are preserved, suspended from a branch with clear thread, and displayed in a window where the light shines through.
I’ll show you how it’s done. The secret ingredient is pure beeswax.
Discover 12 lovely nature craft ideas here.
Supplies & Materials
- Freshly fallen leaves, wildflowers, maple keys
- One tree branch (the one I used is 4 feet long)
- Beeswax. For the project you see here, I used approximately 2 ounces (55 grams) of beeswax.
For more beeswax sources and project ideas, see Creative & Practical Beeswax Project Ideas.
- Clear (invisible, nylon) thread and sewing needle, scissors
- Heat-proof bowl or old pot (dedicated to crafts only) plus a cooking pot for boiling water. You’ll be creating a double boiler.
- Long tweezers
- Wax paper
- Cookie sheet (or tray)
- Hot glue gun and glue
- Wire for hanging the branch
Beeswax for Crafts
- Beeswax for crafts comes in blocks or pellets, natural yellow or white, purified (natural debris is filtered out) or natural.
- I use the basic natural yellow beeswax in block form.
- Here (Ontario, Canada) I get 1lb (16 ounce / 450 gram) blocks for $6 each.
- At room temperature, beeswax can be fairly difficult to cut into pieces, which is why pellets are handy. You don’t have to cut them up and they melt rapidly.
- Tricks for cutting a block of beeswax
a) Place beeswax in the freezer for a day (in a heavy duty freezer bag) and then smash it with a hammer to break it into bits.
b) Alternately, you can also heat the blade of a good cutting knife and slice it that way.
Step One – Collect Leaves
- Collect freshly fallen leaves—the fresher the better, sprigs of wildflowers, maple keys. Allow to dry between sheets of newspaper for 1 day. Put books on top if you want them flat.
- Do not dry them longer than a day or they start to lose their colour.
Step Two – Dip Leaves in Beeswax
Supplies: dried leaves (etc.), tweezers, double boiler, 2 ounces (55 grams) beeswax, wax paper on a cookie sheet or tray.
- Set up a double boiler: I placed a heat-proof glass bowl on top of small metal measuring cup in a pot of water.
- Bring water to boil, careful to melt beeswax but not boil it. You just want it to turn to liquid and not get any hotter.
- Dip leaves in melted wax one at a time. It takes just seconds to cover the entire leaf and stem.
- After coating in wax, gently raise the leaf to allow any excess wax to drip back into the bowl.
- Place each leaf on the wax paper while it dries. They dry really quickly.
- When the leaves are cool, you can re-dip them if you want a thicker coating. Test one first though to make sure you like how it looks. I like two coats for better longevity.
Step Three – Thread and Hang Leaves
Supplies: wax-coated leaves (etc.), clear thread, needle, branch, hot glue gun.
Tip: It’s easiest if you can do this step with your branch secured in front of you with enough room for the hanging leaves. I suspended mine between two barstools while working.
To hang the leaves, attach clear thread to the leaf (thread and tie a knot) and secure the other end to the branch (with hot glue). Be sure to place your hot glue on a part of the branch that won’t be seen.
- Use a needle to make a small hole in the leaf (near the stem or in the top of the stem if it’s thick enough), thread the clear thread through, and secure it with a knot.
Alternately, you could also secure the leaf to the thread with a dab of hot glue.
- Place the top end of the thread on the branch and secure it in place with hot glue. It should dry and securely hold the leaf after about 10 seconds.
- Snip off any surplus thread ends (from tying the knot).
- Alternate the length of thread and sizes and colours of leaves to make it interesting.
- When ready, hang the whole thing up and admire your craftiness.
Here’s the finished branch. You can see that it looks sweet as it is but you could also use about 2x as many leaves and have much longer sections as well.
While I wouldn’t want it in strong wind, this falling leaves mobile would also look good on a covered patio, with the leaves twirling in the breeze.
If you’re a leaf fanatic like me, I hope you’ll give it a try. Beeswax is lovely to work with and the end result is a favourite in our house throughout the season.
More Uses for Beeswax Leaves
- Fill a clear vase or hurricane lamp
- Add to a harvest table centerpiece
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛