These leaf skeletons are beautiful! I love using nature for projects and this is a really fun one to do. While doing research for our leaf week last week, I learned you can make your own leaf skeletons…out of real leaves. I saw a post about this from The Other White House.
Gather some leaves. We live in Phoenix so our large waxy leaves were few and far between. The ones I could get my hands on that worked the best were from my Grapefruit tree. In fact those skinny ones on the right of my picture did NOT work at all, they just disintegrated when I did this.
Get some Washing Soda. This is not Baking Soda. I had to go to 4 different grocery stores before I found some. I found it at Fry’s grocery store, in the laundry isle. Please note the cautions on the box of Washing Soda. You should wear gloves, handle leaves carefully, etc.
Put your leaves in a pot and boil them with 4 Cups of water and 3/4 Cup of Washing Soda. Once this boils, reduce the temperature to a simmer. I let mine boil longer than the directions that I found. Mine simmered for at least 2 hours. After awhile the pot will start looking really yucky, like above. Make sure to keep adding more water as the water reduces or you will lose all your water and scorch your leaves.
The next steps I found difficult to understand so I went my own way. I scooped the leaves out of the pot with a large plastic spatula. They are very fragile at this point.
I put the leaves into a shallow tupperware container with fresh water in it.
Next I took two hard paintbrushes and started pouncing on the leaves. This will break up the green flesh part of the leaves. Do this very carefully as I ripped a few leaves skeletons during this part.
This part was very time consuming. I would do this for a while, then come back to it later. I also made sure to keep turning the leaves over to work from the opposite side. Sometimes you could lift a whole section of the flesh/skin.
I also would drain this water out as it filled up with the flesh/skin bits and refill with fresh water.
All your hard work will be paid off with this amazing leaf skeleton! Next I am going to try bleaching and spray painting some of these skeletons and then turning them into art.
I used one of my leaf skeletons to make this tin foil leaf rubbing. I will also be using this in some artwork. I love seeing the whole skeleton of the leaf. It is quite beautiful, as well as a great lesson for my kids!
Has anyone else tried this? Did you do something different? What were your results? Are there any suggestions for how to use these? I’ve thought of them clued onto clear vases or just in the center of a pretty matted picture, like a silhouette I guess. I love the natural green color, but what other colors would be fun to try? I’m thinking black would make quite a contrast against matting.
PS When I researched this project online it appears that other people had a much easier time with this. I’m going to guess it is because of the type of leaves. We do not have maple leaves or anything close to that here. Maple leaves seemed to be the preferred leaf to do this with, or other waxy type of leaves. Again, those just are not to be found here. So, the good news is that if you live anywhere else, you might find this a much quicker project. In fact the sites I looked at online made it sound like the pulp/flesh/skin part of the leaf will mostly fall off in the simmering water. Mine was still TOTALLY intact, so it was a lot of work to get it all off/out.