In these parts, we love fall for many reasons. Among them: wool blankets, caramel apples and (after summer’s humidity) the sharp, clear air. We’re also quite partial to the colors of autumn manifesting themselves in leaf form - the brilliant reds, the cheery yellows, the rich oranges.
Many New Englanders will remember from childhood - perhaps from nursery school or kindergarten - going on a hunt for the prettiest and/or most unusual leaves, taking them back to the classroom (or home) and having your teacher/parent seal them up in wax paper with a quick swipe or two of the iron. Invariably, the leaves (now encased in the wax paper) would be put on display, preferably on a window where, if the sunlight cooperated, one might achieve an almost stained glass like effect.
It had been a fair while since we had cause to think back to this childhood tradition but, one gorgeous autumn day, as we were admiring all the leaves under foot, the memories came rushing back and, with it, the thought that, “hey, that would make for an awfully pretty wrapping paper or gift wrapping garnish!” So, after a little bit of experimentation, here we are with a short tutorial on how to do just that.
What you will need: ironing board, iron, an old (but clean) pillowcase or sheet, scissors, wax paper and leaves.
Head on outside and collect a nice selection of flat, colorful leaves in varying sizes. As a general rule, try to pick leaves that have not yet dried out. In our experience, dried leaves tend to shatter when ironed, resulting in a slightly messy looking end product. That said, we did experiment with a dry-ish oak leaf that ended up cracking quite finely along its veins and, as a result, ended up looking rather beautiful. Goes to show you just never know!
Pull out a piece of wax paper and lay it flat on your ironing board. If you have a particular gift in mind that you are going to garnish with your wax paper leaves, make sure that the piece of wax paper you measure out is appropriately sized to fit around the gift in question. If anything, it’s better to go a tad bigger than you think you might need. Remember, you can always trim back.
Now comes the artistic part: arranging your leaves on the wax paper. Try not to put them too too close as, after ironing, each leaf will end up with a smidgen of air space around it and you don’t want those air pockets connecting. Same goes for the edges of the paper - don’t put your leaves right up to the edge as you’ll need a bit of wax paper to surround each one, sealing it in tightly.
Once you have the leaves arranged to your satisfaction, measure out a second piece of wax paper to match the first. Gently (!) lay it over your leaf arrangement so that all the leaves are sandwiched between two sheets of wax paper. Follow that with the old (but clean) pillow case or sheet, being sure to cover all parts of the wax paper. The cloth barrier is absolutely necessary - otherwise you’ll end up with a pretty messy iron.
Now, with your iron on the highest setting, slowly start ironing over the cloth, being careful not to shift any of the underlying layers. Do this a couple of times and take a quick peek to see if your wax paper is sealing up. Depending on the thickness of your pillowcase/sheet, you may need to repeat the process a couple of more times.
Once you have a nice seal around each of the leaves you laid down and right up to the edge of the paper, you are done. You should now have a lovely, seasonally appropriate sheet with which to garnish your gift. Repeat as needed if you have more than one gift to give - or if you simply fancy a bit of autumnal decoration about the home. 😊
BONUS: It was totally unplanned but we actually ended up taking the above project one (maybe two?) steps further in the end. We happened to iron our leaves on a brilliantly sunny day and, when we stuck the results of our efforts to the window, they positively glowed with sunlight. Every little vein and crack, not to mention their gorgeous colors were suddenly on full (and fantastic) display. The leaves were so pretty that we snapped a few photos. Then, once we got around to offloading them onto our computer, we realized how easy it would be to isolate the leaves and use them to create patterns in the digital world too.
Knowing that Spoonflower, an online fabric and wallpaper printer, also offers the ability to print one’s own patterns as wrapping paper, we thought to ourselves, “now there’s an idea…” Ergo, a few clicks of the mouse later and we had uploaded a couple of our leaf designs and ordered a couple of rolls of wrapping paper, made with leaves from trees on our own block.
Our Spoonflower gift wrap is on the thicker side so we prefer to use it for medium- to large-sized gifts and it has a bit of sheen to it which made our leaves (and their colors) really pop. All that said, we suspect that if you have access to a color printer and some nice, foldable paper, you could whip up some pretty awesome (albeit slightly smaller) sheets of gift wrap yourself. At any rate, we wanted to throw out this option - of using your camera to take your work one step further - thereby making year round leaf wrapping possible!
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