I love to pick up colorful fall leaves on my walks around the farm and through the woods. Generally, I just throw them on the table surrounding the ubiquitous pumpkin for the harvest dinners. Scattered randomly, they will curl and lose color quickly, which is fine sometimes, but if I want them to remain colorful and hold their shape for Thanksgiving, I go to the extra step of preservation.
There are two ways I like to preserve the leaves: with wax or with silica gel. The directions for each are below, along with instructions to make candle hurricanes for the table.
- soy wax or beeswax
- small pan for melting
- wax brush
- wax paper
In a double boiler or craft griddle, melt the wax in a small pan.
Lay the leaf in the wax and use a brush to fully coat both sides. Lift up the leaf, and let all the excess wax drip off. Go back over it with the brush to make sure the wax isn’t too thick.
Place the waxed leaves on a piece of wax paper to cool and harden.
Silica Gel Method
- airtight container, such as a plastic storage bin or old cookie tin
- 1 to 2 pounds silica gel crystals
- mat-finish polyurethane spray
Place a layer of silica gel in the bottom of the container, about 1/2 inch thick. Lay the leaves in a single layer on top of the crystals. Carefully add more silica gel on top of the leaves, allowing the leaves to retain their shapes. Add more layers of leaves and gel as needed as needed.
Seal up the container and let dry for several days. You can check for dryness by carefully lifting out a leaf and returning it if necessary. Lift the leaves out of the crystals, shaking off any crystals that are stuck using a brush or by blowing. Spread out the leaves on newspaper. In an area with good ventilation, spray lightly with polyurethane on both sides and allow to dry.
Wax Paper Candle Hurricanes
- wax paper
- old cotton dishtowel
- 4 4-inch-long twigs
- hot-glue gun
Cut off two sheets of wax paper, each 12 inches long, and lay one sheet on top of an old table or an ironing board. Arrange the leaves on the paper leaving a small space between them and on all the edges so the wax can seal in the leaves. Place the other sheet of wax paper and then your second old towel overtop.
Iron on low heat. Check under the towel to make sure the wax paper has sealed the leaves and that they’re pressed flat. Allow to cool.
Cut out four rectangles, 4-by-4½ inches each.
Run a bead of glue along the 4-inch side of one rectangle ¼ inch in from the edge, and attach a second piece of leaf paper. The seam will help to stabilize the hurricane. Open up and continue on, as in sewing, keeping the seams all on one side the finished side on the other.
Glue three twigs on the seams. Fold over the last edge, and glue the strip together to form a box. Glue on the final twig.
Set on your table, forming it into a box, and insert a glass votive candle.