Leafing Out

Charley and Quinn in the leaves
This is my daughter, Charley, and our dog Quinn, lounging in the leaves.

I’m a bonafide tree hugger—as in I really like trees (even though I’m allergic to many of them). Trees are not only one of nature’s wonders, but they’re also a great source of inspiration when it comes to art (which is why the décor in my house is largely centered around tree photography, paintings, pillows and yes, even a tree etched in glass on my front door). So, it should come as no surprise that when it comes to DIY projects, I gravitate toward all things tree-related.

Now, I should warn you, I’m a novice when it comes to crafty DIY projects. They aren’t what I would call my specialty. Most of the projects my daughter and I attempt end up as epic fails, but we still have fun trying. And, because we have some gorgeous Autumn Blaze Maple trees around our home that give off some breathtaking color in the fall, she and I decided to take a little time to collect and preserve some leaves and then attempt a few projects. Not all of the projects turned out, I assure you, but below are couple that ended up on the “not-so-bad” list.

But, before we get into the projects themselves, we did use two different methods for preserving the leaves. Preservation is necessary if you don’t want the leaves to dry-out, curl up, or crumble to pieces both while you’re creating projects, or after they’re completed.

Charley painting leaves with Mod Podge

The first method we used was brushing the leaves with Mod Podge waterbase sealer glue and finish (not to be confused with Mod Podge craft glue). This can be a little time-consuming and a little messy, but overall it is pretty effective. And, if you use the glossy waterbase sealer rather than the matt finish, the leaves come out with a little extra shine.

The second method we used (which was faster and a bit easier) was the wax paper method. With this method, you simple put down a towel, then a piece of wax paper and arrange your leaves on the wax paper.

leaf preservation - wax paper method

Add another layer of wax paper on top of the leaves.

leaf preservation - wax paper method

Then place another towel on top of that wax-paper layer and go over the towel using a clothes iron on high (with the steam turned off) for about 30 seconds. Then flip the entire thing over and iron the other side for another 30 seconds. When finished you remove the towels and carefully peel off the wax paper. If you did it correctly your leaves will have a nice flat look to them, with a little added shine.

leaf preservation - wax paper method

So, once you’re done preserving your leaves, it’s time to move on to making some cool stuff with them …

Leaf Turkey

leaf turkey

Our first project was the super-easy Leaf Turkey. If you’re looking for something easy to keep the kiddos occupied while you’re cooking on Thanksgiving morning (and if you’re lucky enough to still have some leaves on the ground rather than snow), send the kids outside to gather some leaves, skip the preservation steps and just give this project a try.

Step 1

Choose two colorful leaves and glue them together using liquid glue, a glue stick or a hot glue gun. Make sure the stems point down to serve as the turkey’s legs.

Step 2

leaf turkeys

Cut out the body of the turkey using construction paper or felt fabric, etc. And don’t forget to cut out some beaks, too!

Step 3

leaf turkeys

Glue the body of the turkey to your leaves and add some eyes.

Boom! You’re all done! Now you can hang the turkeys on a window, or you can also glue a magnet to the back and hang them on your refrigerator.

Leaf Wreath

leaf wreath

Even though the leaf wreath had a few more steps, this project was also surprisingly simple, and we were pretty impressed with ourselves on how well it turned out.

Step 1

leaf wreath - hanger

Take a wire coat hanger and bend it to either a circular or diamond shape.

Step 2

leaf wreath

Using cardboard toilet paper rolls (or cardboard paper towel rolls), cut 12 one-and-a-half or two-inch tubes. Then cut slits in the back of each tube and tape them around the coat hanger.

Step 3

leaf wreath

Using the largest leaves first, hot glue the leaves to the paper towel holders. Then add another layer of more colorful leaves and keep going until you have a wreath of leaves. My daughter added glitter to some of the leaves during the preservation process to make this project appear a little more festive.

leaf wreath

Step 4

After allowing the glue on the wreath to dry, add some ribbon, bells, maybe some pine cones, or even this stuffed owl (which we thought was pretty cute), and hang it on your front door.

leaf wreath

There’s LOTS of DIY leaf projects out there, but these two were not only quick and easy, but my daughter and I had a blast making them. And, don’t worry, if you don’t have leaves left on the ground around your home, you can buy plastic leaves at just about any craft store but, don’t forget, collecting real leaves is part of the fun!

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