Tuesday, October 6, 2009

All waxed up with no where to go...

I grew up in the dusty flat plains of West Texas. Fall color was found in a myriad of browns and pale honey colors, and even though the temperature had dropped, the 90degree fall temperatures were still too much for mums, kale, and pansies. Pumpkins were a novelty, and my mother wouldn't allow us to carve our jackolanterns until the night before Halloween - seeing as how the heat of the day would quickly ruin an otherwise postured gourd.

So when I moved to NY with Scott, and experienced my first fall season 9-months later, it was almost like opening the pages to a book I had never read before. I devoured it. I spent hours outside, collecting leaves, taking pictures, enjoying the cool, crisp air, and calling everyone I knew in Texas to tell them that Fall in NY was like heaven on earth. Do you agree?

The colors are so vibrant, so pure, so inspiring. The warm russets, oranges, red, and purples are all hues of a rich palette perfect for design. The best part, these photos were taken literal steps from my own front door. Soon though, the leaves fall, and the snow comes. Leaving bare trees, and exhausted snow covered limbs. It hardly seems fair that we can only experience this beauty once a year. So I went leaf collecting, as I do most Fall seasons, only this time with a different intention: to make fall last for as long as I deemed appropriate. How? A waxed leaf fall display:
I started out with a bag, gloves, and a camera. I knew that I wanted to concentrate on colors that had red, orange, and yellow hues ... with different leaf shapes and textures. I did a little google homework and found that I needed the following tools:

  1. An iron (to quickly press and dry the leaves - skipping the days of waiting for them to "press" between the pages of a phonebook or encyclopedia!)
  2. (2) pieces of newspaper to sandwich the leaves between while ironing
  3. A kitchen towel, or cloth napkin (to keep the paper from beginning to burn)
  4. Of course - leaves, tons and tons of leaves.

You start out by placing your collected leaves face down on the newsprint. Then, place the second piece of newsprint over the leaves, follow with a napkin or towel, and iron on the highest setting over the entire paper for about 5-10seconds on each leaf. After a few minutes, you'll have beautifully dried and pressed leaves.

On a side note, dried in this fashion, the leaves tend to have a heavier coloring - so if you're attracted to the brighter oranges and reds (like the leaf below to the left) you may want to consider pressing the leaf between the pages of a heavy book:

(Leaves: LEFT; unpressed leaf as collected from the tree. RIGHT; Iron pressed leaf, dried in just 30seconds.) Once you have a nice collection of pressed leaves - it's time to make your way into the kitchen. For this step in the process you'll need:
  1. A pot of water, placed on the burner at medium heat
  2. An aluminum pie plate with a lip that will fit over your pot
  3. A cookie sheet topped with tin foil
  4. (1) square of paraffin wax. (I purchased this box of 4 squares for $2.99 in the canning section of my grocery store!)

Take each leaf by the stem with a pair of tweezers, and lightly dip both sides into the melted paraffin wax. Pull the leaf out of the wax, and let excess wax drip back into the pie pan (5-10 seconds) then lay leaf flat on the tin foil. Continue until all of the leaves have been waxed in this manner.

Once you have waxed all of the leaves, you can re-wax them, this time holding the leaf and dipping the stem into the wax. (This isn't necessary if you'll be cutting the stem off for your arrangement.)

From there, to create the wreath, you'll need:

  1. A wreath form: this one came from Dollar Tree!
  2. A glue gun
  3. Plenty of glue sticks
  4. Other dried naturals as desired
Begin layering on the leaves one by one, covering a piece of the last glued with the next until you have completely covered the top of the ring with the waxed leaves. (Aren't these beautiful?)

Then, turn the wreath over and cover the back - facing the tip of the leaves into the center of the wreath form. Make sure to cover all of the surfaces of the wreath, including the sides.
Curious to see how it turned out? Come back Thursday for the reveal - and a delightful fall giveaway!