How to Dry and Preserve Fall Leaves for Decoration

Various plants produce beautiful colored leaves with the fall foliage in different shades of gold, orange, maroon, and red. The beauty, texture, and structure of these leaves can be maintained for longer times by effective preservation. The pressed and carefully preserved leaves can be used for centerpieces, decorations of mantels, and many other purposes.

Sometimes the preserved leaves can wrinkle or curl depending on surrounding conditions and types of leaves. Therefore, the right selection of leaves, management measures, and the process is essentially important to get better results. Therefore, this article is focused to discuss different ways of dying, preserving, and framing fall leaves.

Best ways to dry and preserve leaves

There are different methods to preserve the fall leaves and all these methods are easy to follow and manage. The best method for pressing and preservation of the leaves is collecting healthy and intact leaves just after the leaves have fallen from trees. These leaves should be collected before drying and curling so that their beauty is not compromised. Usually, these leaves are fallen at different times so their color and pattern will be different seasonal times. Moreover, the structure and color of leaves are also variable according to climatic conditions, weather patterns, and species of trees. So, the selection of the right time for leaves preservation is critically important.

Selection of Right Leaves

Although there are numerous instructions and different types of ways to preserve the leaves. But the basic instructions and tips for the collection of the right type of leaves are the same.

  • Select leaves that have a flat structure and are not too curly.
  • Properly check the health of leaves and avoid collecting the leaves having bumpy or spotted points.
  • Leaves can be collected at different stages of growth, and development.
  • Selecting leaves at different stages of color variation is also fine.

Required Tools and Equipment for Preservation of Leaves

Glycerin Method

  • Glycerin
  • Fallen leaves
  • Shallow pan

Preserving Leaves by Using Silica Gel

  • Acrylic sealant spray
  • Silica gel
  • Fallen leaves
  • Microwave oven
  • Microwaveable dish

Microwave Method

  • Acrylic sealant spray
  • Paper towel
  • Fallen leaves

Wax Paper Method

  • Rags
  • Wax papers
  • Fallen leaves
  • Scissors
  • Ironing board
  • Clothes iron
  • Iron board

Book Pressing Method

  • Newspapers or wax papers
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Fabric softener
  • Fallen leaves
  • Heavy books

Tips and Instructions to Preserve Fall Leaves

Preservation of Fall Leaves by Using Glycerin

Preservation of leaves with glycerin is helpful to keep them flexible and supple for many years.  One can easily obtain glycerin from food stores, health stores, online retailers, and craft stores, and glycerin-preserved leaves can be used used for table accents, garlands, and wreaths.

Glycerin solution should be prepared in 1:2 in a shallow pan to get the best preservation results. Place the clean, and healthy leaves in the solution. Weigh down the selected leaves with another dish or pan. These leaves must be properly submerged in the water during the weighing process.

Regularly check these leaves for 2-3 days. The leaves must be pliable and soft at this stage. However, if the leaves are getting dried these must be placed in the glycerin solution for 2-3 days more. The solution should not be placed in open environmental conditions as it may cause contamination and the addition of dust and dirt particles.

Preservation of Fallen Leaves by Using Books

Pressing the fall leaves with the help of heavy-weight books is the simplest and ideal way to save fall leaves. However, this method does not ensure the long preservation life of the pressed leaves. It is important to select the leaves having thin bodies, flat structures, and low moisture contents. These leaves must be placed in the heavy books as these books can exert more weight on the selected leaves.

The selected leaves should be soaked in the diluted fabric softener. This soaking is essentially helpful for the supple leaves. The surface of the leaves can also be coated by using a light petroleum jelly layer before the process of pressing.

Sandwich these treated leaves between the layer of newspaper or wax sheets. The sandwiched leaves in the paper or wax sheets must be placed in the heavy books. These books can be stacked with other heavy objects and books to exert more weight if required.

The books containing leaves must be kept in drier conditions. Check the pressing conditions/status of leaves after 6-8 days. Keeping an eye on the leaves in books is helpful to avoid rotting and other problems. Probably the leaves must be dried for 14-15 days for better results.

Preservation of Leaves with Wax Papers

The use of wax papers for the preservation of leaves is the simplest and inexpensive method. The preserved leaves by using wax papers can last for many months and therefore it is a widely used method for the preservation of fall leaves. An Ironing board and clothes iron are required to ensure good preservation by using wax papers.

Select thinner fall leaves having low moisture contents. Partially dried leaves can also be collected for further treatment and preservation. The leaves must be properly sandwiched between the layers of newspapers or wax papers for best results.

Cover iron board with a good quality rag to avoid the direct touch of board and wax. Place the specifically sandwiched leaves on the rag followed by placing another rag on the sandwiched leaves. Apply high heat of the iron after the placement of rags and slowly move the iron in the forward and backward direction on the leaves.

The wax paper will be sealed by the heat application. The full weight of iron should be applied to the leaves and hot iron must be placed on all leaves for about 5-10 seconds. However, care should be taken to avoid the burning of leaves, rags, and wax papers. Continue ironing until wax papers have been melted properly and all the leaves have been sealed. Whereas, if the leaves are not sealed properly, continue ironing the wax papers or sheets for more time.

Once the sealing is done in the right way, allow the wax papers to cool down. Cut the leaves individually with great care to avoid any losses. Leave some margin of wax paper around the sealed leaves so that the paper can stay closed properly.

Drying Fall Leaves in Microwave

Microwave is the best option to dry fall leaves easily and quickly. However, more care is required for this process as the leaves have delicate structures and low moisture contents so overheating can cause direct burning of leaves. Constant monitoring of the leaves placed in the microwave is the best way to avoid leaf burn.

Only supple and fresh leaves should be selected for microwave drying. The use of fallen leaves is not a good choice because these leaves may have started secreting mucilage. Rotten and decomposing leaves should not be selected as they have microbial associations and may cause contamination of the microwave and other materials. Individual leaves must be sandwiched between good quality and contaminant-free paper towels.

Place the paper towel containing sandwiched leaves in the microwaveable dish and put the dish in the microwave. Microwave the paper heat for about 30-40 seconds by turning on the medium heat option and carefully check the leaves after this time. 30 seconds of more microwaving is suggested if leaves are not dried properly. After heating spray the leaves with the help of acrylic sealant for color preservation.

Preservation of Fall Leaves in Silica Gel

Silica gel is specifically a white-colored powder, and its general appearance is just like salt. It has excellent moisture absorption properties and helps to improve and speed up the process of leaf drying. Silica gel can also be used for the preservation of moist and thicker leaves. Silica gel is easily available in craft stores so can be purchased from markets and online stores.

Select the supple and moderately moist leaves. Cover the one-inch layer of the microwaveable dish with the good-quality silica gel and place the selected leaves on the top of this gel. Carefully cover these leaves by using more silica gel. Too much use of silica gel is not a recommended approach and only one inch more of the gel should be added.

Place the microwaveable dish in the microwave and don’t cover it by using any material. Microwave the leaves for about 30 seconds. Only a medium level of heating should be used as the high heat may cause direct burning. Check the leaves after 30 seconds and if these are not dried properly, heat them, for 30 seconds more.

After heating, allow the leaves to cool down slowly and seal the selected leaves by using acrylic spray to improve their stability and storage life.

Lamination of Fall Leaves

Lamination of the fall leaves is an ideal choice for leaf preservation without any hard work and great care. The leaves can be simply placed in plastic sheets for producing a shiny and sturdy appearance. These laminated leaves are excellent choices for the kid’s art and craft.

Preservation of Leaves with the Mod Podge

Select a clean surface or table and place the collected leaves on it. Collect white glue or PVC glue, old magazine, foam brush, and mod podge. Apply the mod podge on the catalog or magazine. Open the first page of the magazine and apply mod podge on the side of the leaf by using a foam brush.

Let the leaf lay down on the covered surface in the upward direction. The first pages of the catalog can be used for stress-free and mess-free painting with the help of mod podge. The process can be repeated for painting and preserving more leaves. Once the leaves are properly dried the mod podge should also be applied on the other sides of the leaves. However, the application of mod podge on the other sides of leaves is optional.

Rubbing Leaves for Preservation

Rubbing fall leaves for the preservation is simplest and easiest way and is great fun for people of all ages. Collect the healthy and good structure leaves and place them under the good quality paper. Rub the leaves under paper by using crayons. One of the advantages of leaf pressing is that all types of leaves can be easily preserved.

It is important to select the supple and good structure leaves. The use of thick veins containing leaves should be avoided as these may create a hindrance for even pressing. Place the leaves under the paper sheets and carefully tape the paper down for preventing the movement of leaves.

Gently remove the wrapped paper from the crayon and carefully rub it across the sheet of paper. The larger leaves should be wrapped and preserved by using a single sheet of paper. However, a greater number of smaller leaves can be preserved by using a single paper sheet. While good care is required to avoid overlapping of the leaves as it may cause deterioration.

How to preserve a leaf for framing 

The basic principle for the preservation of leaves for framing is the same as discussed above. Different types of methods have been described and people can select any method according to the availability of ingredients, and equipment.

Pressing fall leaves is a good choice for framing as using the preserved and framed leaves will significantly improve the beauty of homes, offices, and other living spaces. Framing leaves is a traditional practice and is a simple process as it only requires glazing, and backing board, mat board, and frame. Attach the leaves with the backing board and use acid-free and good-quality adhesive for this purpose.

The use of wooden frames is an ideal choice as the use of natural material greatly supplements the preserved leaves. The use of glass and acrylic material is an ideal choice if leaves have to be preserved for a short time. However, this is not a recommended practice by the framers because the direct contact of artwork and surfaces other than the backing boards can cause significant damage to the artwork.

Alternatively, leaves can be mounted on the rear glazing and spacers can be used for separating the top glazing. However, it can cause trapping of moisture inside the structures so care should be taken for effective framing and decoration. However, only a frame is required if the purpose is not the seasonal design of the art piece. It is the simplest process because securing leaves on the rear glazing is not necessary. Whereas smaller strips of acid-free and contaminant-free tape can be used to fix things at specific places.

Finally, the designed frames can be displayed in multiple ways to add beauty and to enhance the looks of spaces. Moreover, it is possible to use different types of framing materials and fall leaves for showing greater biodiversity, and decoration skills.

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