It seems like summer left without much fanfare here in northern Indiana, and we’re solidly into fall now, with peak colors this week!
The huge maple tree in our front yard does not disappoint and we’ve finally figured out a way to preserve the leaves and all of their vibrant glory!
In the past we’ve used this nifty little flower press to flatten and dry out leaves, but they’re so delicate when they come out, that it’s hard to do much with them and they fall apart in our hands.
However, we’ve discovered that by dipping the leaves in wax (bee’s wax is our favorite – more on that in a minute), it seals them in completely and they don’t dry out! The leaf itself is no longer exposed to the air, so it doesn’t crumble or fade, and they’re actually quite strong. The kids have been playing with them, decorating their rooms, the doll house, the dining room table…any area that needs a pop of fall color!
Best of all, this is a simple (and cheap!) craft that even little ones can do with supervision!
A note on the wax: I don’t recommend using soy wax. It tends to crumble, is not as pliable, and it leaves a funny slimy film on your hands when you work with it. Whether it’s in food or crafts, my rule with soy is to run the other way. But that’s a post for another day…
We LOVE using bee’s wax for so many things and it’s perfect for crafting! It’s all natural, it smells like honey, and it’s actually edible. (Not that I eat my dipped leaves, but I have a 10 month old who likes to nibble…) Also, the bee’s wax is very pliable. Once your leaves are dipped, they almost feel like they’re vinyl or smooth leather. You can (gently) bend them and move them around without the wax flaking off.
Here’s what you’ll need:
leaves of all shapes and colors – Try to choose those that are in the best condition, and as flat as possible. Once they start to dry and curl, they’re harder to dip. Also, try to choose several different varieties, so that your children can see the difference in shape, color and the patterns of the veins.
Bee’s wax – We purchased a one pound package of bee’s wax pastilles from Hobby Lobby (or you can get them here). If you get them from a craft store, make sure to check for online coupons! Bee’s wax is typically sold in solid blocks or in pastilles. The blocks work fine and tend to be cheaper, but they’re a little harder to work with, as you’ll need to cut it into smaller pieces before melting it, and it can get messy.
A double boiler or a heat-safe dish set inside a pan of boiling water.
newspaper or plastic table cloth
a large working surface – this can get messy and you’ll want to have plenty of elbow room while you’re working.
To make your bee’s wax dipped leaves:
Cover your working surface with newspaper or a plastic table cloth to catch drips.
After you’ve collected your leaves, sort through them for the ones that are worth preserving and that are in the best shape and set them out to get ready for dipping.
Melt approximately 1/2 pound of solid bee’s wax in a double boiler, until it’s completely melted. The amount is up to you, depending on how many leaves you are dipping. I used an old pyrex measuring cup that rested on an iron trivet inside of a pot of boiling water (so that the bottom of the measuring cup does not directly touch the bottom of the pan). Whatever you use, you want to make sure that you can easily transport the bee’s wax to your working surface without having to pour it into another container. This cools it off quickly and adds another step in the clean-up process. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Once the wax is melted, bring it to your working area and start dipping! Try to make sure that the entire leaf is submerged, to the point where the leaf and stem come together at it’s base. It’s not necessary to cover the stem in wax, but you want to make sure that the leaf is completely covered in wax.
Dip it just long enough to cover and then bring it up, letting it hang over the pot to allow excess wax to drip off. If you double dip, the wax builds up quickly and you won’t be able to see the leaf underneath the opaque wax. Trust me.
Once it’s done dripping, you can gently lay it on the wax paper to finish drying. Because you’re only dipping it once (in one layer of wax) it dries quickly.
You’re done! After you’ve dipped all of your leaves, let your kids touch, smell and play with them!
note: if your wax starts to cool down too much, simply place it back in the double boiler for a few minutes and start over.
To make a leaf garland: (pictured above)
We chose our favorite leaves to turn into a garland. I simply crocheted a tight chain and slipped the ends of the stems in between the chains. You could also use hot glue and a long piece of twine or ribbon. Get creative!
If you’re curious…
The crocheted bobble buntings pictured with our leaf garland can be found in my etsy store.
The “Let’s be adventurers” print is from Hope Ink!