Real Leaf Garland

DIY: REAL Leaf Garland

We have had one of the most amazing weeks of Fall weather that I have ever experienced. I think Saint Louis is trying to apologize for the agonizing June (not to mention July and August) it brought to us earlier this year.

We’ve had the wonderful combination of beautiful foliage with warm temperatures and no rain, which means we’ve been spending every possible minute outside. My kids love to collect armloads of fallen leaves, but I’m never really sure what to do with them other than throw them around.

A couple of days ago, Dana over at MADE posted this simple tutorial for colorful felt garland. I don’t have a big stash of felt scraps (well, I do, but it’s not accessible – long story), but I was thinking of trying to do a paper garland. It probably wouldn’t be as durable, but my little ones could help cut out the shapes and we do have tons of paper scraps. I vaguely remember learning how to sew my first stitches in thick paper, so I was reasonably certain it would work.

THEN I was walking around kicking leaves outside and thought, “I wonder if I could just sew leaves together? I’m pretty sure they did it on Project Runway once.” And would you believe it: it actually worked.

I started with a couple stacks of freshly fallen leaves, nothing that crumbles when you pick it up or squeeze it in your palm.

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Then I just started sewing!

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Then I stopped sewing and replaced my bobbin (which, in my excitement, I forgot was filled with elastic thread from my last project) with regular thread. Leaves do not ruffle well, in case you were wondering.

Then I just started sewing again!

Simply sew from one end of the leaf to the other, stop short a stitch or two from the end, lift your presser foot, and slide your next leaf in with a little overlap.

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Repeat, repeat, repeat.

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I had to experiment a bit, so here are the lessons I learned:

1. You must use fresh leaves with some moisture still in them. Dry, crackly, crumbly ones will not hold the thread (and who knows, might possibly wreck your machine when they disintegrate). Larger leaves, especially those that feel a little soft and/or thick, worked best for me.

2. Set your stitch length to the longest possible stitch, and your tension to a little less than “average”. Here’s one point where I got the tension a little too tight – the yellow leaf started to crumple up on me.

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3. Do not try to turn the leaf to adjust the line of stitching once you start (it will only tear).

4. Watch out for the stems! I ended up making slightly diagonal lines across the leaves, because if you aren’t careful and you sew right over a stem, it could keep your leaf from advancing as you sew because those little metal grabby teeth under the presser foot get stuck on the stem and can’t reach the face of the leaf.

Make your garland however long you want, using lots of the same type of leaf or varying colors and shapes – any pattern (or non-pattern) you want! I think it goes without saying that the end result is delicate, but I had mine up on our bridge and a steady, stiff breeze did not cause any of the stitching to tear through the leaves.

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Clearly, this is not something you are going to pack away for repeated use year after year. Indeed, I have no idea how long this will last. I’m assuming that as the leaves start to dry out and become brittle the whole thing will eventually crumble, but I’m not sure how long that will take (hours, days, weeks – who knows). That’s why you should run out with your kids and collect some leaves while they are fresh and make one now! It’s a super fast, fun and free way to bring some Fall color into spots that might be lacking.

Hang some on your door, so when you see it, you leave (and return!) happier.

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***UPDATE***

This is definitely a project with short-term results. Our garland looked great the first day, ok the second day, and mostly like a string of dry crackly leaves the third day. However, depending on the type of leaves you use, you might still like the dry crackly leaf look. Here’s the one on our door at the end of four days:

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Some of the red leaves are curling up, but I still kind of like it.

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 Even though it’s not as vibrant, I think I’ll leave this up for a bit. And these are so fast to string together that I’ll likely be making more for any dinners and gatherings we have as long as there are fresh leaves to pick up!

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5 thoughts on “DIY: REAL Leaf Garland

  1. I LOVE it! I just saw something on TV on how to use shredded crayons to make leaf-like shapes, but I am always in favor of the real thing! Thanks!

    • I agree – No need to create a replica when the real thing is freely available! Why not take advantage of the color for a few days before the leaves all get raked up and carted off!

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