How to Craft With Autumn Leaves (3 Step-by-Step Tutorials)
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. In this article, we'll look at three cool ways to hang on to their beauty all year. Then we'll learn more about why leaves change color, as well as the peak fall leaf times and locations in the United States.
3 Crafts That Preserve Fall Leaves
- DIY Autumn Leaf Candle Holders
- Fall Leaf Sun Catchers
- Fall Leaf Mobiles
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.
- Glass container
- Pretty autumn leaves, press-dried
- Mod Podge
- Sponge applicator
- Elmer’s clear-drying glue
- Iridescent glitter
- Small paintbrush
These look pretty as they are, but I decided to give mine a frosty look with “Pixie Dust” or iridescent glitter.
- 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).
- Clean and dry the glass container.
- Use Mod Podge to apply the dried leaves onto the glass container.
- Allow to dry.
- Make a wash of one part water to one part Elmers glue.
- Working in sections, paint the glue wash over the container and sprinkle with the glitter.
- Add a candle and light it to watch the frosty leaves sparkle.
How to Make Fall Leaf Sun Catchers
Fall leaf sun catchers are real and will last and last—thanks to 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.
- Preserved leaves
- Contact paper
- Mini suction cups
- Hole punch
The best way to preserve fall leaves is by pressing them between two sheets of contact plastic. Use short pieces for easier managing.
- Place two or three leaves on a sheet of contact paper, sticky side up.
- Using your fingers, press the leaves firmly into the plastic.
- Cover with another sheet of contact (sticky side down) and press again firmly.
- After preserving leaves, cut around them with scissors.
- 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.
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.
- Leaves preserved with clear, plastic contact paper
- Wooden dowels of graduating thicknesses
- Fishing line
- White, clear-drying glue
- Hole punch
- Yarn or twine
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 lengths of fishing line.
Attach two preserved leaves at each end of the top wooden dowel with about six inches of fishing line.
Add a longer length of fishing line to the middle of the top dowel, about 12 inches. Add a preserved leaf on the end.
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!
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
Northernmost parts of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York
Central parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Colorado
Highest elevations of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho
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
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
Eastern Delaware; Eastern Virginia; Eastern North and South Carolina; Central and Southern Georgia and Alabama
Kansas; Eastern Nebraska