By Noreen Doll.
Did you ever wonder how to preserve fall leaves so you can enjoy their color much longer?
Fall is such a lovely time of the year – my favorite season, really.
And every year when I see the beautiful leaf colors I wish I could preserve that color.
But I quickly discovered that even though you take them home and carefully handle them, the color continues to change until they are completely brown.
A few years ago I read about ironing leaves between 2 sheets of waxed paper to preserve them.
It helped somewhat to preserve the color, though the leaves didn’t stay as bright as when I picked them.
But the leaves still became brittle. Not quite as brittle as when you do nothing at all, but they were still very delicate.
This year I decided to try something different to preserve my beautiful leaves.
I read a post on Gingerbread Snowflakes about using Mod Podge to preserve fall leaves and decided to try it.
Since you need to dry the leaves first, I used my earlier method of ironing the leaves between sheets of waxed paper.
Ironing the leaves promptly after picking them really helps them retain a lot of their color.
The leaves will still be somewhat fragile, but much more durable than when you do nothing to them. Here’s how to preserve fall leaves so you can enjoy their color much longer.
What You Need
What You Do
1. Heat your iron to the Cotton setting.
2. On a hard surface, lay out an old cotton sheet folded into several layers.
3. Lay a piece of waxed paper on the sheet and lay out your leaves in a single layer with a little space between them to allow them to spread as they’re flattened.
4. Put a second piece of waxed paper over the leaves, being careful not to move them too much.
5. Set the iron down on the leaves in one corner, lifting the iron up to move it. Leave the iron on the leaves long enough to allow the wax to melt into the leaves – a few seconds.
6. After you’ve done all the leaves, carefully turn the waxed paper sandwich over and iron the other side.
7. I turned the sandwich back over and ironed the first side again, making sure each leaf was well ironed and the wax was completely melted off the paper and onto the leaves.
You can’t really see the wax on the leaves, but if you used a hot iron it will be there. Just continue with the project.
8. Lay the sandwich aside to cool while you finish ironing the rest of your leaves.
9. Gently remove the leaves from the waxed paper sheets and they’re ready to Mod Podge.
10. With the used waxed paper sheets to lay your leaves out on, very gently brush Mod Podge on one side and leave on the waxed paper to dry.
11. When the first side is dry, turn the leaves over and apply Mod Podge to the second side. Let dry.
The leaves are slightly flexible and sturdier than when they were just dried.
Now that you know how to preserve fall leaves, you can share leaves with friends who can’t enjoy the changing of the seasons because of where they live, or because they are unable to get outside into nature.
Apply Mod Podge to the BACK side of the leaf first so if it gets a little messed up when you do the front it won’t matter.
Even when I was very gentle, sometimes parts of the leaf would break off while i was putting the Mod Podge on.
I used a hair dryer on low to help speed the drying process, then left them for an hour or so to finish drying before turning them over.
Keep the dryer moving and don’t dry too long in one spot.
Thanks so much for sharing all your great fall-related crafts at the Fall Bucket List link-up. Looking forward to trying some with my own little guys!
I hope you don’t mind that I pinned this on Pinterest. If you do, let me know and I’ll remove it. It’s such a creative idea I may try that this fall!
Just wanted to let you know I featured your post today. Thanks again for sharing with us! http://www.fullhands-fullhearts.com/2012/10/halloween-link-up-and-fall-features.html#
Jeannie Marie & Company says
I really like how beautiful the leaves look! We are one of the places where leaves don’t turn in the fall. Our Oak trees leaves turn in January but the color isn’t as brilliant. Believe me we are happy for a little crisp weather by then!
Linda @ A La Carte says
What a great idea and tutorial! Thanks for sharing at TTF!
I love fall leaves! Thanks for a great tutorial on preserving their beautiful color. No, I just have to wait a while longer for the leaves in the South to start turning! 🙂
Great tips, pinned!!! Thanks for that, will try to use it for our autumn creations.
Gosia | Kiddie Foodies
Patricia Krank says
You have the best tips! Thanks for this idea.
Your leaves look beautiful. What a great idea to preserve them. Thanks for the detailed instructions.
Emma @ P is for Preschooler says
I love the idea of preserving the beautifully-colored fall leaves! Thanks for the tips!
What a great idea, I am definitely going to have a go at this.
Oh, what a great idea! Can’t wait to try it! Stopping by from DIY Sunday Showcase!
Debra @ Homespun says
I remember doing the ironing / wax paper bit as a child for school projects! 🙂
Fun post! 🙂
Taylor-Made Ranch Homestead says
OMGoodness I love this. The color is so brilliant in the fall and it’s a delight to the senses – great to know how to hang on to that color just a little longer. Thanks for sharing! (Visiting from Super Sunday)
Wolfe City, Texas
Hi, Noreen, Guess what? I also have a leaf project coming up this week!! I had to search around for colored red leaves, though, since most of ours are still green. I never heard of doing Mod Podge on leaves. I’m trying it this year. The waxed paper thing doesn’t work all the way. I’m glad that you found something that worked. I love the leaves this time of year and hope to keep some around for a while. Take care, Linda
PJ @ Planned in Pencil says
I live in an area with beautiful fall foliage, but I have friends in Hawaii and other places that don’t, so I love this idea to share fall with them. Thank you for sharing it at the Pinworthy Project Party.
When I made this tutorial, I did a lot of leaves, and I sent them to 2 people who live in the desert and never see the color change. They loved them.. and still have them.
Featuring this at Family Fun Friday!
Diana Rambles says
I love what you have done.
Thanks for sharing this great tip Noreen. will need to use this soon. I’ll be featuring these tomorrow on Serenity Saturday link party
Natasha @ Serenityyou
Linda @ Mixed Kreations says
What a great idea! I had thought about using some leaves in some of my projects, even thought about using Mod Podge on them but didnt know whether that would work, and just haven’t tried. Never crossed my mind to iron them first. Thank you so much for sharing this technique. Pining!
Michelle @ The MaMade Diaries says
This is great!!! Thank you for sharing! I’m going to pin this so I can use it some time!
GREAT idea to help extend the life of leaves — perfect for either fall centerpieces or other crafting!
Thanks for linking up at my Sunday Sharing Pinterest Party. I hope you’ll come back and link up more great ideas.
Does ironing with wax paper serve as drying, eliminating the two week drying time?
It seems to dry it as well, as the leaves are more brittle after ironing. I haven’t had any problems with the ones I’ve done.
HELP! I’ve tried ironing the leaves between wax paper but the wax paper does NOT melt onto the leaves????? I have my iron on the highest setting with no steam and I’m using Cut Rite wax paper???? anyone ??
The wax probably has melted onto the leaves and you just can’t see it. I would just assume it has and go ahead with the Mod Podge. Even if it hasn’t, the leaves should be dry enough, and the Mod Podge will preserve them.
Carol reese says
How long did your leaves last, i tried glcerine, besides being a mess they looked dead! Thanks for this info looking forward to trying this out. Thanks again and Happy Fall!!
I don’t know how long they’ll last. Mine still look good after 2 years.
Melinda @Home.Made.Interest says
Stopping by from Create Link Inspire. Perfect timing! I can’t wait to do fall leave crafts and I will definitely be needing this post. Thanks for sharing.
Hi! Stopping by from the One Project at a time link party. This is a great idea. It will sure come in handy this Fall!
Elise @frugalfarmwife.com says
I definitely want to try this. I LOVE the fall colors of Tennessee home state so much, I’d love to be able to bring a little bit of that to Texas with me! 🙂
Robin~ All Things Heart and Home says
GREAT idea! And my granddaughters would love to do this! Thanks so much for sharing ox
We love the gorgeous colors of fall leaves, and my children always bring in piles of them. It’s so sad when they begin to curl and turn brown. They will be so excited to have this project to do this fall and save the vibrant colors for a while. I guess we could attach them to most anything to add a splash of fall color, huh?
Thanks for sharing your fun idea at Wake Up Wednesday!
sounds like a very cool idea, I’ll try it
Amanda @MultiTestingMom says
Thank you so much for linking up on our Artsy Play Wednesday post last week – you have been featured in this week’s post 🙂
This is a great idea! With the season of fall crafts coming up, I can see this being really useful. Pinning.
Well this seems well worth a try! I see in your comments that yours have lasted 2 years, sound good to me. We get fantastic coloured leaves here but they go crispy so quickly, I’m looking forward to giving this a go! Thanks
Creative Khadija says
So much fun! love the way you did it 🙂 thanks for sharing!
I’ll have to remember this the next time we go see the leaves. Yours look wonderful! Thanks for sharing this tutorial at Snickerdoodle! 🙂
I never thought about using Mod Podge on leaves to preserve them. Thank you for sharing this great tip and tutorial at Share It One More Time. Cathy
Lou Lou Girls says
This is so cool! Pinned. Amber has chosen your leaves to be featured at our party, tomorrow night at 7 pm. Woo Hoo! I hope to see you there.
Happy Sunday! Lou Lou Girls
What a great idea! We have always done the waxed paper and then hung them up in a window so that the sun would shine through like a stained glass window. We will have to try the modge podge. That would be very pretty to be able to display them and not have them dry out!
Neat idea. After you preserve them, you can do a ton of other projects with them. Thanks for linking up to Gingerly Made!
I have to google Modge Podge now! Popping by from Creative Monday
this is great! I always wanted to collect leaves when I travel. I have shared on my social pages. coming by from the link up. Lots of love, Lisa
Sarah R. says
LOVE this! I remember doing the wax paper trick when I was a kid…but this seems even better! Thanks again for linking up at Snickerdoodle Sunday- hope to see more of your projects soon!
Sarah (Sadie Seasongoods)
Selena @ Look! We're Learning! says
What a great idea! This is perfect for a family journal. Thanks for linking up with Family Fun Friday! 🙂
Kristina and Millie says
Ohhh cool 🙂 This sounds fun and will be beautiful when dried! I can’t wait to give this a try!
We did this a few years ago and loved it! Thanks for sharing at Sharing Saturday!!
Amy W says
What a great project! Congrats as you were our most viewed project last week at link it or lump it! Be sure to stop by and grab a feature button!
This is such a great idea! Thank you for the inspiration–I can’t wait till the leaves change and I can use this trick for crafting and decorating around the house!
I have been wanting to do this for several years and I’m determined to try it this year! I love fall leaves so very much 🙂 I think the tutorial I read years ago said to dip them in beeswax? Because I remember the blogger saying the smell was heavenly. I need to see if I can find that again. I’m interested to try mod podge-hadn’t heard of that method!
Emily Marie from A Pop of Red says
This is great! I will definitely be using this for fall decor. Thanks for sharing at #2UsesTuesday
This is so cool! I have to try this!
Liz @ Infuse With Liz says
Wow that looks like a great idea. I forgot about the wax paper method. The mod podge idea is brilliant.
Oh my goodness! I’ve always wondered how to do this! Thanks for sharing.
Mod Podge is the coolest glue ever! Great tutorial. Thank you.
Jann Olson says
What a great tip! I dried some in between book pages and hung them from bakers twine for a garland across my living room mantle last year. I loved the look! Thanks for sharing with SYC.
What a great idea. I wonder if this would work with flowers? We get so many beautiful daisies in our garden and they’re all sucked up by the lawnmower!
so cool! thanks for this helpful tutorial! xx
I have been ironing leaves with wax paper for years but never thought about adding Mod Podge. Great idea! I will have to try that this year.
Gail @ BibleLoveNotes.com says
Great idea. I will have to try this. I’ve done the wax paper melt before but never tried it with mod podge.
Thanks for the mod podge tip. Years ago in my classroom in the beginning of fall we would iron green leaves in between wax paper sheets, ironing around the leaf and then tape them in the window. The young students were able to get a close up, daily look at the leaves changing colors.
sandy sandler says
This is an awesome idea and the leaves would be perfect to add to a Thanksgiving table decor. Thank you so much for sharing it on our Bowdabra Saturday Crafty Showcase!!!
Great idea! TFS!
Chelsea @ The Johnsons Plus Dog says
Great idea! Pinned it! I made a leaf banner last year for my mantle and they eventually became dry and brown so this is a great idea for that!
Sandi Magle says
Great NEW OLD idea…I can remember doing this with my kids for school.
Well done, tutorial! And I pinned it too.
Awww, I love this. I love preserving nature with the kids. Thanks for linking up on The Handmade Hangout!
Rose who's busy being knitting today at FineCraftGuild.com says
Wow. Is it already FAll where you live? How wonderful. Pretty leaves, great tips. Pinned! Thanks for linking it up at SHARE IT at FineCraftGuild.com Hope you’ll come again this Saturday! ~ Rose
I love this…going to have to try! Thanks for sharing on My 2 Favorite Things on Thursday!! Hope to see you again this week! Pinned!
What a great idea. Thanks for giving such a detailed tutorial and thanks for sharing on Snickerdoodle Sunday. Pinned.
Lovely, clear instructions, thank you.
Brilliant! The BEST instructions I’ve come across for preserving Fall leaves.
Thank you very much. I will definitely utilize your tutorial! Thanks again!
How long do these generally last?
I’ve had some for a few years now and they’re still okay. I do treat them gently, though.
I was hoping to make wedding confetti out of leaves, for our autumn wedding in 2018. So not to leave it to the last minute, I was going to attempt to make it this year! Do you think they would last a year? And also once ‘treated’ do you think they would survive being punched with a paper shaper?
I know that the treated leaves last very well – and can be used for a few years. I’m not sure what would happen to them if you tried to punch them into confetti, however. Try experimenting with some green leaves (since autumn leaves aren’t available right now) and see what happens. I would be interested in hearing the results.
Mrs. Nerfer @ Life In The Nerddom says
The kids and I will be make our own leaf projects as part of our Fall Bucket List challenge, thanks to your clear and simple directions. Thank you so much for sharing!
Noreen Sulkowski says
Hi Noreen….i love your crafts! With fall here, I thought this was a good way to preserve some of the beautiful leaves! Thank you for the ideas!
Thank you for your kind comments. It’s unusual for me to meet someone with the same name.
Ronald Jones says
How about using varnish to coat the leaves. Coat both sides and hang to dry by their stems.
The leaves are somewhat humid, so I’m not sure varnish would stick. But it would certainly be worth experimenting with.