Activities During Isolation: Beeswax Dipped Autumn Leaf Garland
I just love Autumn. From the cooler shift in the weather, to the changing of the natural landscape as it prepares for its Winter slumber; there is much to be adored. I’ve declared it my favourite season. I love to decorate the house with warm Autumnal hues, and nature finds that we have collected over the years. Perhaps my favourite part of this season is the way the leaves change colour. Unfortunately, I live in a rather hot part of the world that doesn’t truly experience the ‘four seasons’ in all their glory, but that doesn’t stop me from celebrating this beautiful time of year. There are few trees around me that change colour, so I recruited my parents to collect some fallen leaves for me when they were in a cooler part of the country, so that I could preserve them and hang them in our home to be enjoyed. Perhaps you are lucky enough to live in a part of the world where the trees are changing colours all around you? If so, this lovely little craft will be very straightforward for you. But if, like me, you’re not in quite the right climate, don’t lose heart. Do you know anyone who lives in an area that has changing leaves? If not, do you follow a fellow nature-lover on Instagram who you could reach out to for some assistance? Chances are they may have already collected plenty of leaves and could package up a handful to send you in the mail (it’s worth a shot, at least).
This is a rather simple activity, that your little ones can be involved in. My eldest was two at the time when I made my garland, and although he couldn’t be very hands on in helping, he still enjoyed being nearby. Just be very careful around the hot things, and keep in mind that hot wax burns! In saying that, an older child could help with dipping the leaves under the guidance of an adult. And a younger child could help with choosing the arrangement of the leaves for the garland, and threading the leaves on (guided by gentle adult hands). You know your kids, and their own level of capability, so I trust you to judge accordingly.
Alright, let’s begin!
Once you have gathered enough leaves (as many as you will need to make your garland as wide as you’d like – perhaps 10-15 – in an assortment of shapes, sizes and colours), it’s time to collect your other supplies.
You will need:
- Beeswax (in blocks or beads. Beads will melt faster, but that doesn’t particularly matter for this activity). You will need around 200g or more (enough to make a shallow pool to lay the leaves in)
- Newspaper or baking paper to protect your workspace (I used newspaper, but I think baking
paper would be easier to remove the leaves from once dried)
- An old pot or bowl (I found mine at the op-shop)
- A larger pot to sit the old pot/bowl inside
- String of your choice (I used a white cotton string, but twine could look nice too)
- A large needle with a semi-blunt tip (or something similar). You could possibly also use a hole punch if you didn’t mind having larger holes, and didn’t want to use a needle
- Flower press (or stack of books if you don’t have one)
- A trivet (something to put the hot pot/bowl of beeswax on, on the table – e.g. timber cuttingboard)
- The first step is to flatten your leaves in a flower press, or similar. If you don’t have one you can just use an old book, and place some heavy books/items on top to ensure there is enough pressure on the leaves to flatten them. Leave them for a week or so, until they are completely flat. You could potentially skip this step if you were in a hurry, but flat leaves are going to be a lot easier to work with so it is worth flattening them first if you’re able.
- Once your leaves are ready…Place the old pot/bowl inside the larger pot and fill the large pot with water to create a double boiler. Place your beeswax inside the old pot/bowl, and place on stove. Set heat to high. If the water begins to boil too much, turn the heat down a little until it is just gently boiling. Your beeswax will begin to melt. If you are using blocks this might take a little while, so just keep an eye on it until it is completely melted.
- In the meantime, set up your work area. Lay out newspaper/baking paper over your workspace, and place your trivet on top. Set your leaves up so when the beeswax is melted you are ready to go.
- Once the wax is melted, turn off the stove and put the old pot/bowl on the trivet (leave the outer pot with water on the stove). Take a leaf and lay it in the melted wax (hold it by the stem so you don’t get hot wax on your fingers). Make sure it submerges completely so that the whole leaf gets coated in an even layer of wax. If your pool of wax is too shallow, you could do one side then flip it to coat the other side. You need to work quickly though, as the wax dries very fast
when it touches the air, and you can end up with an uneven coat. Once your leaf is coated lift it from the wax and let the excess wax drip back into the pool, giving it a gentle jiggle to make sure the drips fall off before drying.
- Place your waxed leaf onto your paper, and repeat the process until all your leaves are finished. If your pool of wax begins to harden, you’ll need to put it back in the double boiler to melt it again.
- When all your leaves are done, and dry, you can either use them as they are for decorations, or
you can go one step further and make them into a garland.
- To make your garland…Cut your string to your desired length (plus a bit extra – you can always trim it to make it shorter, but you can’t make it longer without starting over again), and thread one end of the string onto your needle.
- You might like to lay out your leaves in the order you want them to hang, so they’re ready to go as you thread your garland. Pick up your first leaf and gently push the needle through the top, from back to front, and then again from front to back. Make sure you don’t go too close to the edge, as the leaf may break. It can be helpful to gently ‘screw’ the needle through the leaf, rather than pushing it. Slide the leaf to near the other end of the string (leave about 10-20cm so you can tie a knot later), and move onto your next leaf. Repeat the process until you have used all your leaves.
- If you do not want to use the needle method, you could alternatively punch holes instead and thread the string straight through. This would make it easier for little hands that might be helping, but keep in mind that the leaves might not stay in place as well when you hang the garland (they might all slide to the centre on top of one another. I haven’t tried this method, as this was a concern I had)
- Once all your leaves are threaded, trim your string to your desired length. Tie a knot on either side, creating a little loop as you do it, to hang your garland up.
To store your leftover beeswax, you could either just let it set in the pot/bowl for next time, or tip it into a mould for easier use for future projects. If you get beeswax on your external pot, pour boiling water on it then wipe with paper towel to remove. If you get beeswax on a hard surface, such as your table, I usually just let it harden then scrape it off with my finger nail. If there is residue you could use the same method as used for cleaning the pot.
And there you go! Your own piece of Autumn to hang inside for as long as you please. Feel free to tag me on Instagram (instagram.com/finding.the.rhythm) if you make one, as I’d love to see.