Sylvia Forbes likes to watch the flowers bloom and the eagles soar. When not out exploring nature, she sits in her office in Missouri trying to arrange words in meaningful ways.

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Preserving the Fall’s Colors
by Sylvia Forbes       #Crafts   #Decorating   #Fall

From rocket reds to flaming oranges and sunshine yellows, fall's brilliant colors blow past our windows on breezy winds. Wouldn't it be nice to capture some of these amazing colors to see throughout the year, instead of only during autumn? The good news is that you can. Preserving leaves with glycerin is an easy craft that anyone can do. Leave preserved with glycerin will last all year. The preserved leaves can be used for a variety of decorating projects, or wherever you want a bit of extra color.

There are many methods to preserve leaves. The easiest is just to place a leaf between the pages of a telephone book and leave it for a few days. The pages absorb the moisture as the leaf dries. Placing leaves in silica sand is another way to dry and preserve the leaves. The difference between these methods and preserving with glycerin is that with glycerin, the leaves remain shiny and flexible, rather than becoming fragile and brittle.

Leaves can also be pressed between two pieces of waxed paper, or even between two pieces of clear sticky shelf paper. With these methods, you have to look through the paper to see the leaf, and with the two extra layers of paper, the leaf becomes rigid. With glycerin, you can still touch and see the actual leaf directly.

Preserving leaves with glycerin is a simple process. Why not give it a try?

How to Preserve Leaves with Glycerin

Step 1: Gather lots of colored leaves. For added interest, you may want to choose leaves of all sizes and shapes. Round leaves, long leaves, hand-shaped leaves, triangular leaves, big and little — all will work well. You may also want to choose a variety of colors — it's nice to pick the red leaves, but you may want to sample the whole color range.

Enjoy the diversity of nature as you walk under the trees. No two leaves are the same. Most leaves have speckles and multiple colors all in the same leaf. Some have yellow veins or greenish borders. It's fun just to get out and walk in the fall and look up close at the beautiful variety in leaves, even if you don't pick them.

Some of the most colorful fall leaves are maples, oaks, sweet gum, dogwood, crabapple and ash, but you will find dozens of additional species with beautiful leaves. Don't limit yourself to leaves only from trees — many shrubs also have interesting colors.

One plant definitely to avoid is poison ivy. Although its leaves turn a brilliant crimson in fall, even the dry leaves can cause a terrible rash.

Also avoid choosing leaves with insects. Oak leaves sometimes have galls, which are wart-like projections on the leaf caused by an insect. Sometimes insects lay eggs on the undersides of leaves.    

Once you have collected the leaves you wish to preserve, don't let them sit around before using. In a warm, dry house, the leaves will dry rapidly and curl up, so you will want to follow the rest of the steps as soon as possible.

Step 2: Find a large, flat pan. Mix a solution of two parts water to one part glycerin. For example, mix one cup of water with ½ cup of glycerin. Stir until completed mixed. Pour into the flat pan. (Glycerin is available at many craft stores and pharmacies.)

Step 3: Place the leaves in the glycerin. Coat the bottom of each leaf, then turn over the leaf, and place it back down into the glycerin, making sure both sides are coated.

Step 4: After all the leaves are placed in the glycerin, find a slightly smaller pan, and place directly on top of the leaves. If the pan is light, you may want to add a few weights. This way, the leaves stay submerged so the glycerin can be absorbed, and the leaves will stay flat.

Step 5: Check the leaves after three days. If they are soft and flexible, they can be removed. If they feel dry or rigid, keep them in the solution a few more days.

Step 6: Remove the leaves, and gently wipe or blot dry with a paper towel. The leaves are now ready to use in your projects.

Place leaves into glycerin-water mixture.

Turn the leaves over, so that the leaf is completely coated in glycerin solution.

Leaves are covered in glycerin solution.

Put a tray on top of the leaves, to keep them flat.

Preserving Branches

Small branches can also be preserved using glycerin. Once dried, they can be used to make dried fall arrangements.

Step 1: Pre-treat the branches by placing the fresh-cut stems in a bucket of warm water for about two hours.

Step 2: Make the glycerin solution as above, but bring to a boil in a saucepan, and simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, and pour the solution into a vase.

Step 3: Smash the ends of the branches with a hammer, to allow the solution to be better absorbed.

Step 4: Place the branches in the vase. Keep the branches in the solution until “a dew” has formed on the leaves.

Step 5: Remove the branches and blot dry.

Pound the ends of woody stems to allow them to better absorb the glycerin mixture.

Branches soaking in a glycerin solution. They will remain there until glycerin is absorbed and “dew” shows on leaves.

Decorating with Dried Leaves and Branches

Once your leaves are preserved, they can be used all kinds of ways to brighten up the season. Here are a few ideas, but once you get started, you'll think up many more. 

  • Make a wreath by pinning the leaves to a wreath form, and for fall accents, glue in few acorns, sweet gum seed balls and other seed pods. 
  • String the leaves together in a garland to decorate a table. 
  • Glue leaves to a small box or a paper bag to make an unusual gift container. 
  • Decorate the front of a greeting card with some small leaves. 
  • Dress up a flower pot by attaching leaves on the outside, then use the pot as a container where you place incoming mail. 
  • Group leaves together around a pumpkin to make a table centerpiece.

Photos courtesy of Sylvia Forbes.


Posted: 11/05/12   RSS | Print


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