Fall Crafts: Glycerin Leaves

We’re ga-ga for all the multi-colored maple leaves of the season, and my older daughter, N, is likely to burst into a chorus of “red and yellow leaves” as we drive down the road. I’ve been reading up on how to preserve the leaves so that they’ll last more than a couple days and it turns out that you have a few choices, some of them being : preserve them with a glycerin solution, seal them with hot wax, press them between sheets of contact paper, or melt them between sheets of wax paper.

We had a bottle of glycerin in the cabinet for bubble-making, so I thought we’d try our hands at making glycerin leaves. I have to tell you upfront: the process was fantastic and my kids really got into it. The results, on the other hand, meh. Not so spectacular. More on that soon.

Supplies

  • 1/4 c. glycerin
  • 1/2 c. water
  • ¬†Fall leaves
  • Two pans that can stack inside each other
  • Spoon for mixing

Mix the glycerin and water in your pan. Add leaves.

If you don’t have enough solution to cover the leaves, make another batch. My 4-year old loved taking charge of this step and we ooohed and ahhhed over the leaves as they went into the glycerin bath.

Find another pan that’s a bit small than the first, and place it on top so that all the leaves stay submerged.

Put this aside for three-ish days, or until the leaves are super-supple. At this point, the leaves should have absorbed enough of the glycerin solution to retain their color and texture.

Remove the leaves from the glycerin solution and pat dry on a towel. Your leaves are now ready to display.

For those of you who might be banking on this recipe as a way to preserve your leaves for years to come, I think this is worth the experiment but it may not be foolproof. About two weeks later, our leaves have not turned brown, but they definitely haven’t retained their original color. I decorated a corner of our mantle with them, and they look pretty good, but not spectacular. I found this recipe that added surfectant (found in garden supply stores), and it sounds like that may help the glycerin soak into the leaves.

This minor detail has not affected my kids, however, who have been incorporating the leaves into their projects.

Have you ever made glycerin leaves?

Any tips or thoughts on what may have gone wrong? Or was I expecting too much?

 

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Comments

    • rachelle says

      Thanks for the link, Jen. I’m sure this will be useful for anyone looking for ways to keep those Fall leaves around just a little bit longer. Good lucky with all the packing and moving. Just think, you’ll be done with this by the winter holidays!

  1. amy says

    A few years ago I decided to mod podge some gorgeous Japanese maple leaves to my son’s bedroom wall. They haven’t changed at all.

    • rachelle says

      Hi Amy,
      Thank you for sharing this tidbit! Okay, that’s 2 votes for mod podge. We’ll have to give it a go before all the leaves turn brown or fall off the trees.
      Rachelle

    • marie says

      i love that, ill be making a leaf garland for sure, we’ve got a some lovely bright red leaves not far from us, just wondering if a little glitter in with the leaf would work, the red with the glitter in a garland would make a lovely Christmas decoration.

  2. marie says

    when doing our glycerine leaves i hammer the ends of the stem, apparently that helps absorb the glycerine, though mine keep going slightly translucent, its not noticeable if i mount them on a pale background though.

    ok ladies you look wise, maybe you can help me. for this craft project i need to combine the benefits of pressing leaves with the benefits of glycerine soaking them, glycerine soaking them preserves the color a better than pressing them, but pressing them give the flat shape i need for this project, any ideas how i could get the best of both worlds and pressing them once glycerin soaked doesn’t seem to do the trick though we are on another attempt and once glycerine soaked they will not glue flat. i need them to glue flat as i am incorporating them into a clock and need the hands of the clock to be able to move over them.

  3. Amanda says

    When I was a kid we used to was leaves with my grandmother. She would buy a brick of wax (I want to say it was Reynolds brand, like the foil….) and melt it on the stove in a disposable pan. They we would use clothes pins to hold the stems of the leaves and dip them in the wax and lay them on foil (I think) to set. They would last a really long time that way. I keep saying I want to start the tradition up with my daughter but I haven’t been able to find a block of wax like that.

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  7. Brenda says

    I have leaves that I preserved with glycerin at least 10 years ago and they are still soft and supple. I have kept them stored in a zip-lock plastic bag between 2 layers of paper towel. Unfortunately, the process does, for some reason, dull the color of the leaves. I’ve never heard of adding surfactant to the glycerin but will def give it a try if I ever dry leaves again! I’ve thought of adding food coloring to the glycerin, say, red for maple leaves, etc., but never had the nerve to try it.

  8. cindy cykon says

    I have made placemats every year to give as gifts for the holiday to people who do not experience the fall changes. I pick “perfect” leaves if you can find them. I press them in large heavy books, like a dictionary for about a week. Take them out and design them on a white piece of felt cut out the size of a placemat. Use Leaf Man, the book as an example for design. Then take clear contact paper cut out the same size and place in on top. They keep their color and last for years.

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