12 Leaf Crafts That Celebrate All the Colors of Fall
When the temperatures begin to drop outside, we're treated to the most beautiful array of colors in waves throughout the season. Leaves fade into bright yellows, browns, reds, and oranges—and while some destinations are full of these autumnal colors, even those living in metropolitan areas can find fall's bounty outside their doors. Nature is gifting you with more than just a beautiful view; there are so many things you can create using leaves that you've foraged yourself.
Leaves are a versatile material that allows your whole family to create affordable crafts just for fun. From wreaths to artful prints and tabletop accessories, the kids can enjoy creating memories and have fun completing relaxing projects as they return to school—and since the supply of leaves are practically infinite, you can revisit these projects all season long.
Using paint to emulate the raw beauty of fall leaves is one of the easiest ways to create seasonal décor at home; in many of our leaf crafts and projects, we use the leaf as a vehicle for creating patterns using paint on many different surfaces, from table runners to glowing luminarias. For many, however, the leaf itself is art; so you can simply preserve them as we've done pictured here. Pressed leaves keep their color and dry out, which makes them better suited for a nice frame. You can preserve leaves perfectly by using glycerin and water (about a one to two ratio) in a bath, and submerging the leaves completely before letting them soak for a day. Completely dry and voilá—you have fall leaves forever. Here, we're sharing more of our most ingenious tips for using leaves in crafts at home.
Leaf-Stamped Table Runner
Befitting a harvest feast, you can create a custom table runner for the season using leaves of various shapes and sizes. You can use fabric paints in fall colors, such as brown, dark green, and deep red, or a single hue. To begin, measure and cut a length of linen to the size of your table; fray the fabric edges by pulling out individual threads, lengthwise. Using a paint roller, coat a fallen leaf one at a time in fabric paint and press it, paint-side down, onto the runner. Lastly, place a piece of paper on top and roll over it with a brayer to capture all of the little details.
Embroidered Leaf Place Cards
For hosting those holiday dinners, help guide guests to their seats—and give little hands a fun project in the days beforehand—with these embroidered cards. Write each guest's name (in simple block letters) on a batch of sturdy leaves (magnolias are ideal) in gold marker and back-stitch. A tip: Let the leaves dry for a few days so they get crisp.
Magnolia Leaf Wreath
What's more synonymous with Thanksgiving than a fresh fall wreath? Here, we used a large metal wreath-frame and threaded fresh magnolia leaves through the frame one by one. Thread the leaves while they are fresh, rather than dry and brittle, so you won't break the leaves in the process.
With a nod to chinoiserie furniture, we placed pressed passion flower vines—that have been spray painted gold—atop a Shaker tray table that's been painted a high-gloss royal blue. The spray paint is optional, but it's a good alternative if any of your plants or leaves have become discolored. To protect the presentation, simply place an oval-cut Plexiglas over the dimensions of the tabletop.
Preserved Hanging Leaves
When dipped in wax, colorful leaves can be preserved through this season and beyond. We clustered a group to suspend in a window—perfect for greeting visitors. Stands of monofilament keep them from falling a second time. To start, slowly melt bleached beeswax over a double boiler; never allow wax to boil. Dip leaves in wax one at a time, holding by the stem. Gently shake off excess wax. Hang leaves on clothespins to dry. Some may be dipped again, depending on desired look; let dry between coatings. Hang the finished leaves from lengths of monofilament.
Fall Foliage Animals
This place card idea is perfect for kids to keep busy with around the Thanksgiving table: simply download our animals template, trace the shapes over a colorful assortment of foliage, cut, and reinforce with clear tape, if needed. Use a silver paint pen to make names really pop.
Framed Leaf Wall-Art
Flat or fine blossoms and leaves, such as pansies, violas, verbena, Queen Anne's lace, and many ferns and herbs, press especially well—and they make for interesting companions for leaves. Be on the lookout for interesting leaf shapes and colors, and don't be afraid to experiment. You might be surprised at which cuttings retain their colors, which ones fade, and which ones take on unexpected new hues.
Watercolor Leaf Art
Take a walk outside to find your template—oak leaves, maple leaves, ginkgo leaves, and other varieties with a distinct shape work best. To make, use a pencil to lightly trace a leaf onto good-quality watercolor paper. Dip a paintbrush in plain water and carefully fill in and saturate the leaf shape, making sure not to exceed the outline. Working quickly, dip the brush in watercolor paint and very delicately touch it to the wet shape in a few places; repeat with other colors as desired. This wet-blend technique allows the paint to flow naturally into the water and the pigment will fill in the shape without going outside the lines. Then, gently erase the outline so it's barely visible. Frame it as seasonal wall-art at home or make a batch of them for cards.
Give colorful fallen leaves one last chance to shine—or glow—by repurposing them as decorations on glass candleholders. Apply spray adhesive to the backs of the leaves. Wrap the leaves around a candleholder, letting the stem of each extend slightly past the base. Cut off any leaf overhang along the bottom of the candleholder. Place the cylinders around the house for a cocktail party, or line them up down the center of a dinner table. Against the candlelight, the leaves look like vibrant flames.
Pressed-Leaf Halloween Cards and Gift Tags
Today's chore— raking the front yard—is tomorrow's cheer when you turn pressed foliage into greeting cards or gift tags for bags of candy. Gather freshly fallen leaves with stems. If desired, use a pair of scissors to trim them into a pumpkin shape. With a craft knife, cut facial features. Snip the stems to preferred length. Dry them for several days in a leaf press or sandwiched in newsprint inside a heavy book. Coat one side with spray adhesive, press onto colored paper or note cards, and let dry. For the tags, punch a small hole in the paper, thread with a ribbon, and tie to a bag of candy. Then you can let the wind (or really, the letter carrier or the Halloween spirit) carry them away.
Autumn Leaf Luminarias
These luminarias are perfect for lighting the way to your front porch, on Halloween or for any fall party. To begin, collect fallen leaves, and arrange them on top of colored-paper treat bags. Put one teaspoon of acrylic paint in a two-to-three ounce misting bottle. Fill halfway with water and shake to mix. Mist a paper bag and the leaves in an arrangement you like—let dry 20 minutes before removing the leaves. Repeat on the other side. Fill the bottom of each bag with sand, and place candles in glass holders before lighting them in the bag.
Leaf Gift Tags
Here's a grown-up application for a traditional fall kids' activity: Turn leaf rubbings, made with thin colored paper and standard wax crayons, into gift tags or place cards by trimming around the edges of the paper leaf. Write the names of your dinner guests or gift recipients in a contrasting color.