Cap­ture the col­ors of fall by pre­serv­ing leaves

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FIFTY PLUS - By Holly Ramer

CON­CORD, N.H. >> As a life­long New Eng­lan­der, I know how beau­ti­ful and fleet­ing fall fo­liage is each year. Thanks to my lat­est test-drive of var­i­ous craft­ing tech­niques, I now know how finicky and frus­trat­ing it is to try to pre­serve some of that color.

Though some wor­ried that a sum­mer drought would mean muted leaves, this sea­son’s fo­liage has been spec­tac­u­lar, at least in my cor­ner of New Hamp­shire. But I’m start­ing to think pho­to­graphs might be the best way to cap­ture those col­ors.

Since there are so many dif­fer­ent ways to pre­serve leaves, I tried four meth­ods in­stead of this col­umn’s usual three. None of them were par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult, but they all suf­fered from the same un­avoid­able prob­lem: The leaves had to dry out for a few days be­fore var­i­ous pro­tec­tive coat­ings could be ap­plied. And by then, some of the bright­est col­ors had faded.

Still, the re­sults were pretty, and the leaves look nice scat­tered on a shelf or strung on clear thread to make a dec­o­ra­tive gar­land. One caveat: Be­cause I tried all of these tech­niques in just the last few weeks, I don’t know how well the re­sults will hold up over time.

Here’s what I found, with each method rated from 1 to 10, with 10 in­di­cat­ing the least ex­pen­sive, eas­i­est and best re­sults:

This method was the eas­i­est and fastest, though prob­a­bly a bet­ter tech­nique for adults than chil­dren given that it in­volves an aerosol spray. I came across this tech­nique on a blog called Small + Friendly ( V0Id)j , and it couldn’t be sim­pler: Al­low leaves to dry be­tween the pages of a book for a few days, spray one side with an acrylic fix­a­tive, al­low to dry, and then flip them over and spray the other side. I used Kry­lon Crys­tal Clear in the matte fin­ish, and placed the leaves in a card­board box lined with waxed pa­per to avoid stick­ing and con­tain the spray.

I liked how this method didn’t leave a thick, ob­vi­ous coat­ing on the leaves, and while I only sprayed a few leaves, it would be easy to coat a large num­ber at a time. Cost: 7 Ease: 9 Re­sults: 7


This tech­nique was easy but a bit messy, and took a bit of time given that the coat­ing had to dry be­fore the leaves could be flipped over.

My in­spi­ra­tion was a blog called Gin­ger­bread Snowflakes ( ), which fea­tures a de­tailed This photo shows a va­ri­ety of leaves strung to­gether and hung as a dec­o­ra­tive gar­land in Hop­kin­ton, N.H. Ex­tend the beauty of fall by pre­serv­ing au­tumn leaves and turn­ing them into dec­o­ra­tions. de­scrip­tion of the process. Again, start­ing with leaves that have been pressed and dried, coat both sides of each leaf with de­coupage glue, wait­ing for one side to dry be­fore ap­ply­ing the glue to the other side. I used matte fin­ish Mod Podge and a small foam brush.

While this would be a good method for chil­dren to try, I did find that I had to be care­ful not to break the brit­tle leaves as I brushed. The re­sult­ing leaves end up slightly pli­able, with a thicker, more ob­vi­ous fin­ish than the acrylic spray. Cost: 7 Ease: 6 Re­sults: 6


I had read sev­eral blog­gers’ ac­counts of trying this method and was a bit in­tim­i­dated by tales of hot messes. But I found it easy and man­age­able in terms of mess. The ba­sic steps, as out­lined on the blog Clover Lane (http:// ), in­volve melt­ing paraf­fin wax in a dis­pos­able foil pan, hold­ing a leaf by the stem and dip­ping it into the wax. I cov­ered my coun­ters with news­pa­per and then waxed pa­per to con­tain any drips.

I liked the slight sheen the wax added to the leaves, and though it took a bit of time for the wax to melt, dip­ping one leaf af­ter an­other was pretty quick.

While the sup­plies for all the tech­niques were sim­i­lar in cost, I marked this one as a bit more ex­pen­sive only be­cause un­like with the spray and the Mod Podge, I’m un­likely to use the left­overs for other projects. Cost: 6 Ease: 6 Re­sults: 8


Martha Ste­wart (http:// ) rec­om­mends pre­serv­ing leaves in a mix­ture of glycerin and wa­ter. This was the most time­con­sum­ing method be­cause the leaves have to sit for a day or two in the so­lu­tion, but it also was the most hands-off tech­nique.

Mix 1 part liq­uid glycerin to 2 parts wa­ter in a shal­low con­tainer, soak the leaves and let them sit. Once re­moved, al­low the leaves to dry on pa­per tow­els. I wasn’t thrilled with the re­sults. My leaves were pli­able, but they also ap­peared more dis­col­ored than the oth­ers, though that may have been an is­sue with those par­tic­u­lar leaves.

I had to go to sev­eral stores look­ing for liq­uid glycerin be­fore find­ing it at a drug store, and though it wasn’t ex­pen­sive, it doesn’t lend it­self to other craft projects as well as the spray or Mod Podge. Cost: 5 Ease: 5 Re­sults: 5


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