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How to Craft With Autumn Leaves (3 Step-by-Step Tutorials)

Rebecca is a retired special education teacher, a freelance writer, and an avid recycler.

Try these craft tutorials to bring the season indoors.

Try these craft tutorials to bring the season indoors.

Make Autumn Crafts With Leaves

In most parts of the country, fall brings a riot of color as leaves turn to reds and golds—and they come and go all too quickly. This article will look at three cool ways to hang on to their beauty all year. Then we'll learn more about why leaves change color, and the peak fall leaf times and locations in the United States.

3 Crafts That Preserve Fall Leaves

  1. DIY Autumn Leaf Candle Holders
  2. Fall Leaf Sun Catchers
  3. Fall Leaf Mobiles
A finished example of the candle holder

A finished example of the candle holder

How to Make a DIY Autumn Leaf Candle Holder

You will want to find a corner to display these pretty autumn candle holders all year long. But first, let them be the star of your Thanksgiving table. They are really easy to make, and the effect is quite stunning. Real leaves are decoupaged onto glass containers. You can use Mason jars or purchase other inexpensive glass containers.

Materials Needed

  • Glass container
  • Pretty autumn leaves, press-dried
  • Mod Podge
  • Sponge applicator
  • Elmer’s clear-drying glue
  • Iridescent glitter
  • Small paintbrush

Step-by-Step Instructions

These look pretty as they are, but I decided to give mine a frosty look with “Pixie Dust” or iridescent glitter.

  1. Be sure to dry the leaves first. Press them between heavy books or newspapers weighted down for at least a week (or more, depending on how moist the leaves still are when you're collecting them).
  2. Clean and dry the glass container.
  3. Use Mod Podge to apply the dried leaves onto the glass container.
  4. Allow them to dry.
  5. Make a wash of one part water to one part Elmer's glue.
  6. Working in sections, paint the glue, wash over the container and sprinkle with the glitter.
  7. Add a candle and light it to watch the frosty leaves sparkle.
A sun catcher hanging on a window

A sun catcher hanging on a window

How to Make Fall Leaf Sun Catchers

Fall leaf sun catchers are real and will last and last—thanks to the clear contact paper. When I was growing up, we preserved leaves by using waxed paper and a warm iron. Now that there is clear contact paper, there should be no more sticky irons.

I gave my sun catcher to my mom, who lives down at the beach now. She forgave me for all those past sticky irons.

Materials Needed

  • Preserved leaves
  • Contact paper
  • Mini suction cups
  • Hole punch
  • Scissors

Step-by-Step Instructions

The best way to preserve fall leaves is by pressing them between two sheets of contact plastic. Use short pieces for easier managing.

  1. Place two or three leaves on a sheet of contact paper, sticky side up.
  2. Using your fingers, press the leaves firmly into the plastic.
  3. Cover with another sheet of contact (sticky side down) and press again firmly.
  4. After preserving leaves, cut around them with scissors.
  5. Use the hole punch to punch a hole in the top of each leaf.

Now you can hang the leaf sun catchers and enjoy them on a window or perhaps on the fridge.

A completed mobile

A completed mobile

How to Make a Fall Leaf Mobile

There are dozens of ways to make mobiles. Preserve leaves and use them in any one of the ways. We used the following method for a fall leaf mobile.

Materials Needed

  • Leaves preserved with clear, plastic contact paper
  • Wooden dowels of graduating thicknesses
  • Fishing line
  • Scissors
  • White, clear-drying glue
  • Hole punch
  • Yarn or twine

Step 1: Attach Fishing Line and Leaves to Dowels

Tie a length of fishing line of about 18 inches on each end of the thickest wooden dowel. Secure with a drop of clear-drying glue. Add the wooden dowel of medium thickness at the end of the 18-inch length of fishing line.

Attach two preserved leaves at each end of the top wooden dowel with about six inches of fishing line.

Attach the leaves to a dowel with fishing line.

Attach the leaves to a dowel with fishing line.

Step 2: Add More Fishing Line and Leaves

Add a longer length of fishing line to the middle of the top dowel, about 12 inches. Add a preserved leaf on the end.

Add more fishing line.

Add more fishing line.

Step 3: Attach the Last Tier

Attach the third and thinnest dowel a few inches below with fishing line on each side. Now attach the last tier of leaves, and your fall leaf mobile is complete!

Attach more leaves.

Attach more leaves.

Why Do Leaves Change Color?

Leaf coloration in the fall depends on leaf pigment and weather. Longer and cooler nights in the fall spark chemical processes that paint the leaves on deciduous trees brilliant colors in many parts of the world. The three types of pigments that affect color are chlorophyll (green), anthocyanins (red), and carotenoids (yellow).

Chlorophyll and carotenoids exist within the leaf all through the growing season. Anthocyanins are present in the fall due to bright light and increased plant cell sugars in the leaf cells. As the length of darkness increases in the fall, the leaf stops making chlorophyll, and the other pigments take over.

Leaf color also depends on tree species. Oak leaves turn red or russet. Poplar, hickory, and aspen will be golden or yellowish. Sourwood trees and certain maples will be flaming crimson. Dogwoods are a pretty purplish-red.

Weather affects the fall show of colors. The most spectacular shows follow successions of warm, sunny days and nights that are cold but not freezing.


Fall Leaf Peak Times in the United States

TimeEast CoastMidwestWest Coast

Late September

Northernmost parts of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York

Central parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Colorado

Highest elevations of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho

Early October

Highest elevations in North Carolina, West Virginia and Maine; Pennsylvania

Far North New Mexico; Central Colorado; Western Wyoming,

Eastern Idaho, Westernmost Montana, Northernmost Arizona and Central Utah


Western North and South Carolina; Western Virginia, Maryland and Delaware; most of Pennsylvania; Western New York; Eastern Connecticut; Far Eastern Massachusetts and Maine

Central and Southern Minnesota; all of Iowa; Northeastern Kansas; Southern Missouri; South and Central Wisconsin; Eastern North and South Dakota

Eastern Wyoming, Northern Arizona, Western Idaho, Central Oregon, Central Washington, North-Central California, Western Nevada

Late October

Northernmost Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas; North Georgia; Western Virginia, Maryland and Delaware

Northeastern Oklahoma; Central Kansas; Southernmost Indiana

All but the central parts of Oregon& Washington, Lowest elevations of Northern California

Early November

Eastern Delaware; Eastern Virginia; Eastern North and South Carolina; Central and Southern Georgia and Alabama

Kansas; Eastern Nebraska


Rebecca Mealey (author) from Northeastern Georgia, USA on November 23, 2019:

Thanks, Finnegan. I've had mine a while. I wouldn't think they'd be any more of a fire hazard than other candles. I fell asleep with one of them lit. I know, not a cool thing to do!

Finn from Barstow on November 22, 2019:

Interesting how you intertwine the information concerning the natural behavior of leaves with the craft ideas.

Some nice ones here that I would like to use.

Only question aboutthe leaf/ it a possible fire hazard?

would like to do these with some youth I work with.

Rebecca Mealey (author) from Northeastern Georgia, USA on November 22, 2019:

Thanks, and I'll have to say, I made those two years ago, and they're still pretty!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on November 22, 2019:

These look like lovely projects. I love the thought of using colourful and preserved leaves in crafts. The candle holders are especially attractive. Thank you for sharing the instructions, Rebecca.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on November 22, 2019:

I love this idea! you introduced a creative and simple idea to make a an Autumn leaf candle holder. A pretty finish to the candle holder.

Rebecca Mealey (author) from Northeastern Georgia, USA on November 20, 2019:

That's great! Thanks for commenting!

Rebecca Mealey (author) from Northeastern Georgia, USA on November 20, 2019:

Thanks, Linda. I'll bet that was pretty!

Karen A Szklany from New England on November 19, 2019:

Beautiful article, Rebecca! I'm looking forward to doing this with a clear glass candle holder and use it as a Thanksgiving table decoration! Happy Autumn!

Linda Rogers from Minnesota on November 19, 2019:

I love these leaf projects and will be pinning this article. I love fall leaves and actually went out daily and collected the colorful ones for a table that's out on my porch patio. Not as organized as your projects but it was beautiful until the wind blew them off. LOL

Rebecca Mealey (author) from Northeastern Georgia, USA on November 19, 2019:

thanks, Rachel. It's my favorite time of year.

Rebecca Mealey (author) from Northeastern Georgia, USA on November 19, 2019:

Thanks, Chitrangada! It's my favorite time of the year. Our leaves turn a bit later than most places, but we have plenty of them.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on November 18, 2019:

What a wonderful and creative idea to use the fall leaves!

The leaves in this season, have some gorgeous colours. It’s good to know that one can preserve it and use it in an artistic way. I loved going through your article, the pictures and the videos. Would love to try some of these.

Good to see you publishing again. Thanks for sharing.

Rebecca Mealey (author) from Northeastern Georgia, USA on November 18, 2019:

Thanks, Patricia. Good to be back!

Rebecca Mealey (author) from Northeastern Georgia, USA on November 18, 2019:

I know, well come on up and get some one day. Make it a weekend. Thank you for your nice complement!

Rebecca Mealey (author) from Northeastern Georgia, USA on November 18, 2019:

Thanks, Linda. I'm sure Arizona has plenty of beauty as well. Come back for a visit!

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on November 18, 2019:

Very nice. It is difficult but not impossible to find some gorgeous fall leaves here in Florida. I guess I had better get busy collecting as there are still some around. It is good to see you again...hope all is well in your little corner of the planet. Angels are headed your way this evening. ps

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 18, 2019:

I have used fall leaves in the past, but I have to say I love your ideas, Rebecca. The problem for me is I need to travel north to get the right colored leaves as they are few and far between in northern FL. I appreciate how talented you are with your crafts.

Linda Chechar from Arizona on November 18, 2019:

Rebecca, I love these fall leaves that you've made for home decor. The candle votives, sun catchers and mobiles are great for fall through Thanksgiving. I really miss seeing the fall colors. We do have a few trees here in central Arizona -- cottonwood, sycamore and Arizona ash. Most of them turn yellow to slightly orange. There is one tree in our neighborhood that is a beautiful maple. Wish we had more colors!