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Two things triggered this activity: the 4yo’s obsession with collecting things and the 7yo asking if he could make a Fall decoration for the porch!
The leaves are such gorgeous colours at the moment, but once you bring them home, they quickly dry out and crumble. This is fine for some activities, but the 7yo wanted to make something that would last, and the 4yo wanted his leaves to stay the ‘pretty colours’.
A friend mentioned to me that you could use wax paper to preserve leaves, and their colours.
Cue some googling, and we were set to try it!
How to wax and preserve leaves for fall decorations
You will need leaves, wax paper, a towel/paper towels, an iron and an ironing board.
1. The leaves you collect must still be ‘flexible’ (just fallen) and not dried out or brittle.
2. Some advice recommended pressing the leaves first, for 24-48 hours, as this would make them easier to iron, however patience has never been one of my virtues (or my sons’!) so I tried it without, and it worked fine!
3. Place a towel or paper towels (I used paper towels/kitchen roll) on your ironing board.
4. Put wax paper onto the paper towels and then a few of your leaves, in a single layer. Cover with another piece of wax paper, and then lastly another layer of paper towels.
5. Draw the iron over the leaves slowly and carefully, pressing firmly. Allow the leaves to cool every so often for a few seconds so that you don’t damage them.
6. You want the two pieces of wax paper to seal together around the leaves, this will take a few minutes. Once you’ve done one side, flip them over and do the same again.
7. You can then either cut around the leaves, leaving the wax paper behind, or (and this is what I did) you can carefully peel the wax paper away from the leaves. A thin layer of wax will be left behind.
I waxed a bunch of leaves a few days ago now, and all are still the beautiful colours they were before. I did find the the process darkened them slightly, so they are not quite as bright as they were. I also found that the leaves felt quite fragile and brittle.
On one of the websites that I read, there were a couple of other methods suggested for preserving the leaves – glycerin and the microwave! [I might try these methods too, see which is the most effective]
After microwaving, you need to seal the leaves with an acrylic spray. This seemed like it might work with the waxed leaves too.
I found an acrylic spray in my local craft store, choosing one that gave a flexible finish, and I tried it on one of the leaves. Perfect, shiny and flexible! So I sprayed the rest of them.
The spray needs to be used in a well ventilated area… I did it outside, the spray is very strong smelling! Follow the instructions on the can, spraying evenly and lightly. I found that one coat gave pretty good coverage to the leaves, so I left it at that. I taped the leaves to our back steps to dry, which took 10-15 minutes, before collecting them together ready to use for the 7yo’s Fall decoration.
The website I referred to most was this one, which also has instructions for glycerin and microwaving: Home Science Tools
Looking for more fun autumn activities?