Bringing Some Fall Colour Inside : Making a Garland with Real Maple Leaves
After I saw that the brightly coloured leaves of one of the maple trees in our neighbourhood had begun to fall, I went out and gathered up a bunch and stuck them between the pages of a magazine. I actually did this more than once, because every time I passed the spot I noticed just one more leaf that was so pretty that I had to have it. And then there was another, and another and so on.
It was only when I opened the magazine on the weekend and took the leaves out, that I realized that I had collected over 85 leaves. Here is how I made a garland with them. You certainly don’t need as many leaves to make one too!
- A crochet hook, around size 5mm (optional … the chain is easy enough to make by hand, see below)
- Some maple leaves. Note: You want leaves that fell naturally from the tree (rather than being pulled off) because the end of the stem will have a wider part still attached, which will act as a little hook, and will therefore stay on the garland without slipping right out.
(1) To prepare the leaves, gather when they are very fresh and pliable. Make sure to select leaves that have the entire stem still attached, including the bit at the end where the stem is wider where it was attached to the tree. This part should be intact if the leaves fell off the tree naturally, but if it has been broken off it won’t work for this particular project.
Place them between the pages of a magazine or newspaper, and then put a weight on top such as a pile of books. Leave them to dry out completely; it takes at least a week.
Alternatively : if you want a decoration for a party, that you don’t need to last a long time, you could make this with fresh leaves a few hours before your event. The leaves will eventually curl up but it would look good long enough for your gathering. This would be great for a Thanksgiving or Halloween party decoration.
Update Autumn 2020 : See one that I made with fresh leaves in this post. It looked nice for about 24 hours. (One made with pressed leaves lasts longer, about a week or so.)
(2) To prepare the the cord onto which the leaves will be attached, you have to make a chain, either by using a crochet hook, or by hand as described in this post. You want the stitches to be fairly loose because you’ll be hanging the leaves by passing that wider end part of the stem through the holes, but if the stitches are too loose the leaves won’t stay. Make it as long as you’d like with the understanding that it will stretch a bit, and that a more lovely garland will dip down in the centre. My chain was 350 links long, for a garland that will hang on a wall that is 7 1/2 feet wide.
(3) Hang the cord. I have two small nails in the walls but you can use hooks or tape. The garland will be relatively fragile, so consider this when you choose your location. Also, as dried leaves will burn, make sure it won’t be hanging near candles.
(4) Begin attaching your dried leaves, by passing the stem through the holes in the chain. See the note in the supply section — They stay in there very well because of the wider bit still attached to the stem, which acts like a little hook.
I started by sticking in the largest leaves and filled in the garland with smaller ones, spacing out the various colours and natural patterns.
(5) The number of leaves you use is up to you. I wanted mine to be very full so I used 85 leaves, but it also looked cute at the beginning after I’d only put in about 10.
(6) Optional : find the best helper in all the land to assist …
Note : The leaves will probably curl up a little, as you can see in these pictures, no matter how long they have stayed within the pages of the magazine. That is unavoidable for most kinds of maple leaves, (although there is one around here that will drop bright crimson leaves some time in November, that I used to make this display last year … those leaves stayed completely flat after drying).
There is a way of avoiding having them curl, by soaking them in a glycerin and water solution but that adds what seems like a lot of extra work for what is meant to be a temporary decoration, and I don’t mind the natural look of some curling. I would advise that you leave them between the pages right until you’re ready to put them in the garland. I found that they curled up within a few of hours after I’d removed them and made the garland, but then they settled … what you see in these pictures is what they look like a few days later. I expect the leaves to look like this until I take the garland down after Canadian Thanksgiving, which is this weekend.
That said, if you do plan to display your garland for longer than a couple of days you do want to go through the process of pressing them while they dry as described, otherwise they will become unattractively curled as they dry out, as shown in the photo below. Both these leaves are from the same tree and were brought inside at the same time.
As this is a temporary decoration I’ll be throwing the leaves into the compost after taking it down and saving the cord to use for another purpose or to make a leaf garland again next fall. Or, since it’s only a chain, you can unravel easily and reuse the twine.
Thanks a lot for taking a look. Please let me know if you make a leaf garland too!
Update Fall 2020 : I made one of these with fresh leaves, to decorate an outdoor space during Covid. It took about 15 minutes and looked really cute for a couple of days. If you’d like to see it, it is shown in this post.