Preserving Leaves with Glycerin

Preserving leaves is a a well-known technique in the crafting community to keep autumn leaves from drying out and becoming brittle. In stop-motion, most would either opt for fresh leaves used immediately or to buy fake, plastic leaves. Of course the first option would be ideal, but in seasonal locations like Montana, fresh leaves are only available from late Spring to early Fall. We needed to extend the life of our leaves into late Fall for a project, but found some hurdles with the crafting tutorials online and wanted to share what worked for us.

Materials Needed

  • 1 cup vegetable glycerin
  • 2 cups water
  • glass bowl or pan
  • Glass piece or plastic lid
  • Compostable saran wrap
  • Rocks or other water-proof heavy objects
  • Paper towels (recycled or eco-friendly )
  • Glass pieces or notebook (for pressing)

Directions

  1. Combine glycerin and water. Stir to mix.
  2. Pour glycerin water into your glass container.
  3. Add leaves, spreading and submerging them in the liquid.
  4. Place glass or lid with rocks over the leaves to weigh them down.
  5. Cover with saran wrap and let sit for about 24 hours.
  6. The next day, remove leaves onto paper towels and blot until dry.
  7. Lay out a dry paper towel layer, either in your book or on the table the size of your glass piece, and arrange the leaves on it.
  8. Carefully close the book or place the glass piece over the leaves to press them flat and allow to sit, at least overnight.

Notes

  • Most other tutorials will tell you to soak the leaves between 2-6 days. We found that the longer you let the leaves sit in the water, the higher the chances their color will wash out. Kind of like an unwanted natural dye!
  • Before soaking the leaves, cut the tip of the stem to ensure the glycerin can penetrate their cells. We found the leaves will still turn brown if you don’t do this step.
  • Different plant leaves will have different results. Some keep their color well while some will fade, get a brown edge, or turn completely brown. Green leaves will get darker.
  • You can experiment with adding dye to the glycerin bath, but we would much prefer to let the natural leaf color shine, however that turns out.

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