Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Take a Break: Preserving Autumn Leaves for Your Thanksgiving Table

Several weeks ago, I was responsible for decorating tables for a community dinner. At my son’s soccer game, I noticed a number of trees with incredibly brilliant leaves and figured what could be more appropriate for a harvest dinner.

At half time, I started picking and ended up missing quite a bit of the second half of the game, as I found myself enjoying walking in the crisp air, looking for the perfect leaf. Hard to do when each one is so unique and beautiful. By the time we got home, I figured I’d preserve them the next morning, and stashed them in a cool part of the house. While many survived the night, a number of them didn’t. In short, autumn leaves are beautiful decorative items, particularly for a Thanksgiving table, but if you are going to use them, gather when you have the time to preserve them.

Where I live, I figured since leaves were off the tree, I had missed the golden opportunity of this year’s foliage. However, yesterday I started looking at some of the few remaining leaves dangling from branches and realized that a number of them could be used. I’ll just have to do a lot more searching to find enough for my Thanksgiving table.

I grew up putting leaves between wax paper and ironing away. When I think what I must have done to my mother’s iron, I cringe. So some simple steps using wax paper to preserve your leaves:
• Make sure the leaves are dry and flat. (see below)
• Place the leaf between the wax paper.
• Place a cloth on the ironing board, lay the wax paper down, place another cloth on the top and set the iron to warm, with no steam, and iron away.
• Once cooled, trim them close but leave a little edge to protect the seal.

You can dry the leaves by:
• placing the leaf between paper towels and ironing on low;
• placing them between paper towels and laying a heavy book on top of them;
• placing between paper towels and drying in the microwave for about 30 seconds on high.

Once you have a dry leaf, you can seal it in wax paper or preserve it further by spraying it with varnish.

My brother-in-law said you could preserve leaves with hairspray, something that I don’t use or like, so I decided to go searching for other techniques, particularly ones where the leaves would be a bit more supple.

Here are some different techniques

Preserving Leaves with Liquid Wax Video

New Hampshire Fall Foliage: How to Preserve Leaves (includes glycerin)

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