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Sunday 18 November 2012

Autumn Leaf Garland

Autumn really is such a beautiful time of year. The trees are so full of colour in various shades of reds, oranges, yellows, browns and green. And as the trees shed their leaves, so too do the gardens and sidewalks become full of colour. While I love seeing the leaves scattered everywhere I'm sure that those of you who have to sweep them up aren't quite so fond of this time of year!

Over the past few weeks the girls and I have been collecting Autumn leaves as we walk to and from school. I wasn't really sure what we were going to do with them but we kept on collecting them anyway. I really wanted to preserve the beauty of Autumn by bringing the colours into our apartment.

I've come up with a few projects for our collection of Autumn leaves and here's the first one: an Autumn Leaf Garland. It's pretty simple to make and I think it looks lovely hanging in a window.

Autumn Leaf Garland

Here's what you'll need:
Heavy books
Waxed paper
Printer paper or baking paper for ironing
Sewing machine (you could make the garland by hand but it would be quite time consuming)

Here's how you do it:

After collecting the leaves that you'd like to use you'll need to flatten them and dry them out. I did this by squishing them between heavy books for a few days. To protect the pages of the books I put the leaves between pieces of baking paper.

Once your leaves are nice and flat (and dry) it's time to get to work. The leaves will crumble if you attempt to stitch them together without a protective covering. This is where the waxed paper comes in. I ironed my leaves between two pieces of waxed paper. The wax melts and the two pieces of paper adhere to each other around the leaves. The wax paper will also help preserve the colour of the leaves. Make sure that you protect both your ironing board and iron by placing printer paper or baking paper both under and on top of the waxed paper. I set my iron to a medium heat with no steam.

Ironing the leaves between two pieces of waxed paper

The leaves and waxed paper after ironing

Once you've ironed enough leaves and waxed paper for your garland you'll need to cut them out. You'll need to leave a border of about 5mm around the edges of the leaves to ensure that you only trim where the paper has adhered. The paper will have a slight "bubble" (for want of a better word) around the edge of the leaf. Depending on the thickness of the leaf this will vary in width. I found that the flatter parts of the leaves only had a "bubble" of about 2mm. Where the leaves were a little thicker this "bubble" was about 4mm or 5mm.

Once the leaves are cut out you'll need to work out the order that you'd like to hang them in, how far apart you'd like them to be and how long you want the garland to be. Laying them out on the floor with a measuring tape handy is a good way to do this.

Now to connect all those leaves together. I started by running the sewing machine with nothing but the thread until about 5cm of stitches were made. I knotted the end to keep the stitches together. Then I added my first leaf. Sewing at a slow speed I stitched through the centre of the leaf from base to tip. Once I had sewn through the leaf I kept sewing for about 2cm of stitching before adding my next leaf. I continued in this fashion until all of the leaves were added to the garland. I wanted the leaves to look a little natural in the way they hang so I avoided stitching them all directly through the middle. On the last leaf I did a few reverse stitches on the machine to ensure that the stitching doesn't come undone.

Stitching the leaf garland together

Now the only thing left to do is hang your garland. As the leaves are quite light I just taped the top of my garland to the window sill using washi masking tape. You could tie it to a curtain rod if you prefer. The garland is perfect to hang in a window as the sunlight shining through the leaves illuminating them nicely - not that we've had much sunlight here the last few days. The garland also looks nice hanging on a wall or door. You could also hang the garland horizontally although I prefer to hang it vertically.

Getting a shot of the leaves all facing the same direction is a little tricky with the window open!

The garland hanging in our lounge room window

Close up of stitching

The leaf garland hanging on our front door

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