Autumn leaves around here are few and far between. Our yard here is very bare - quite different from the scene of our previous yard. Unable to stand it any longer, the children and I decided to take a leaf hunting walk the other day to find these elusive autumn treasures. Jackpot! A bit too old and crunchy to beeswax but perfect for playing in! None of us wanted to leave all of this autumn goodness, so we gathered up a bagful, a skirtful and an armful to bring back home with us for backyard leaf play. Totally normal, right?! and of course we dipped some leaves in beeswax to preserve the beauty of autumn just a bit longer! The leaves weren't in the best shape but really, beggars can't be choosers!
We used a few of our leaves to make a small garland by threading hemp cord through the actual leaves (instead of our usual garland method of stringing leaves on by using a needle and thread inserted into the tip of their stems.) After I had the leaves on the cord I added some beeswax acorns we made with a candy mold. To glue them in place I just dripped some hot beeswax on the back of them where the cord would go and then pressed the cord into the hot beeswax with my fingers (all these years of knitting and sewing have rendered my fingertips numb to pain.) After it was pushed in, I put a couple more drops of beeswax on top of the cord to really keep it in place.
If you have been reading this blog for awhile you know that dipping leaves in beeswax is one of our favorite things to do. Our autumn beeswax habit began in October 2009. We learned about preserving autumn leaves that way by attending Portland Waldorf School's annual Harvest Festival. You can find a few of our past leaf preserving posts here. I know there are so many more, but I honestly couldn't find all of them! It makes me so happy to see so many people in blogland beeswaxing their autumn leaves, too!
If you would like to join in the fun and preserve your own leaves - it's really quite fun and easy to do. I honestly don't know why I haven't shared the details on this project before now. I would recommend it for age four and above. Little L is three but he has been watching us do it for so long that he has the hang of it already. He did get a little burn last autumn though, when he touched the side of our beeswax pot (and that is the reason we started using a crockpot instead.) Which bring me to supplies:
leaves - the softer the better, if they are crunchy they won't last as long
beeswax - we buy it in one pound bricks locally and melt it down as is. If need be, we will cut it up before melting it (for example, if the wax is too big for the pot)
an old pot or crock pot you can devote fulltime to beeswax - You'll never be able to get the beeswax out of it so it will become your permanent beeswax pot. You will store your beeswax in it when not is use, too. We found our pot at a thrift store for a couple of bucks.
an oilcloth tablecloth, newspaper or anything else that will protect the surface you are working on - beeswax is a pain to scrape off your surfaces, and this will be a messy project. Trust me!
wax paper - we have used aluminum foil as well but the wax paper works best.
Thread or cord if you plan on making a garland - We also like placing beeswaxed leaves on our nature table or taping them in our windows like they are falling from the trees. There are so many things you can do with them!
Basically you'll warm your beeswax in your pot or crockpot. The crockpot takes a couple of hours to melt the wax but you can walk away from it which is nice, while the pot placed on your stove top over med-low heat will melt the wax faster but you have to stay right there with it to make sure it doesn't splatter or burn. If you do happen to burn it, burnt beeswax can be saved by straining it through cheesecloth to get all the burnt pieces out of your wax.
Make sure your beeswax is nice and hot, if it is not hot enough the beeswax will create a thick layer on your leaves, not allowing the autumn colors to show through. If this happens just heat the beeswax up longer and then you can re-dip the leaf to melt the excess beeswax off.
Once your wax is melted, start dipping your leaves. You only need to dip them once, (too many layers and they become heavy and cloudy looking) then let them drip over the pot for a moment before placing them onto your wax paper to dry. Make sure to get the whole leaf so it will be fully preserved. I highly recommend also dipping the tip of the leaf stem after the leaf has cooled down (I have mentioned this in one of my many beeswax leaves posts), it really helps the leaves retain their color longer. We have been know to keep our beeswaxed leaves up through the next spring!
Let me know if you have any questions!
p.s. if you in need of a fun Halloween craft there is still time to make these Waldorf Jack - o - Lanterns.