Today, I’m going to show you one way to preserve those beautiful Fall leaves you found, and make something beautiful to add to your warm Autumn home decor. Candles!
We’re simply taking store-bought medium-pillar candles, and embedding the real leaves as a beautiful decorative element.
To do this, I’ll be using a separate wax medium. The reason I am choosing to not just glue the leaves on, or seal them in with Modge Podge or something, is because those mediums are flammable. I likely will be burning these candles. While I won’t burn them very low, I didn’t want to take the chance of having anything chemically-flammable as part of the candle, when it is easy enough to avoid that. Also, embedding the leaves within the sides of the candles will give the look I am trying to achieve.
All you’ll need for this project is some pillar candles of some sort, some plain melting wax (for candle making), your pressed leaves that you collected, and some pans. (A few other optional supplies will be mentioned along the way.)
The first step in working with real leaves, is to ‘press’ them. This not only flattens them, but somewhat preserves their moisture for a bit, yet keeps their pliability to be able to work with them well. I press them by placing my leaves between the pages of a newsprint pad of paper, and putting a small pile of magazines, or whatever for weight, on top. A few days will do.
You’ll want to melt your wax over some kind of consistent heat.Making do with what I had, I cut some chunks off of my premium wax block, and put it in a roasting pan, over 2 burners on my electric stove on a very low heat. Possibly even the simmer setting. Start at the lowest and increase the heat as needed. Every stove is different, but generally speaking, you want the wax just liquid-y, but never to the point of bubbling. How much wax you melt depends on how many leaves you’ll be adhering, how many candles you are decorating, etc. But regardless, you certainly want the wax deep enough to completely submerge a leaf.
Once your wax is melted, you’ll want to have your pillar candles and leaves readily available to work with. Also, have a sheet of wax paper on a flat surface nearby, to be able to put your candle down as needed.
*This is a very important tip! You need to keep your pillar candle itself somewhat warm to apply the dipped, hit-wax leaves successfully. The reason being is that lying your hot waxed leaf on the cold surface of the candle immediately sets the wax, and it does not apply well at all.
But I have two great tips to choose from, for keeping your pillar candle warm:
1) Have a heating pad on high on your nearby counter-top, with a sheet of waxed paper on it. You can roll the whole thing up with your pillar candle in it (in the waxed paper), or, you can simply lie the candle on it’s side, keeping warm on the side you’ll be applying to.
Or you can go with second option, which is what I ended up doing:
2) Simply lie the candle on the warm stove, beside the working burners to keep it warm. Obviously you don’t want your pillar candle to melt. But your burners should not be high enough to do that. This method worked well for me, as long as I did apply the just-dipped leaves to the warm area of the candle.
Dip your leaf in the hot melted wax, holding it completely submerging in the wax for a few moments. Keeping it submerged for a few moments (as opposed to dipping and retrieving) will really help the leaf get limp, which will be helpful in applying to the candle.
(View images left to right.)
Then quickly but carefully lie and really ‘cling’ your whole leaf to the candle, and begin to rub down all over as you can. I say as you can, because it is hot! And yet you want to press it down as much as you can, before it starts to set. So gently press it down all over, without rubbing hard in any way, and then really just lay your hand down over it as soon as you can while it sets.
Continue adding leaves for your overall design. It is alright to overlap some pf the leaves as well.
Remember to warm the candle in between, as you’re dipping your next leaf.
Now if you find the wax has set in an area that the leaf is not stuck down well, here is a little trick to re-work it:
Dip a fork into your hot melted wax, and drip it onto the area of your unsealed leaf that needs fixing.
Then press down again with your fingers.
The stems are optional to keep as is, cut shorter, or cut off at the base. I rather like them, and am leaving them for as long as they don’t break off on their own.
Once all of the leaves are applied, you might consider your candles done. But I really wanted to further seal the leaves onto the my pillar candles, so that they may better hold up for a longer period of time, without the leaves coming off. The layer of wax over your leaves on your candle at this point is very thin, and that leaves (no pun intended) your decorative surface very fragile and at risk of being damaged. It’s also somewhat bumpy from all of the pressing on. So another sealing coat is a good idea, and it’s easy to do!
Just heat up more wax in a sauce pan at a reasonable depth, and dunk the whole candle! Use a size appropriate pan for the size of your handles, and no wider than you need, or you’ll need to use way too much wax to bring the level up.
Now….you also want to keep in mind that the submerging of your candle is going to drastically rise the level of your very hot melted wax. So, be mindful of the amount you melt. My goal was to melt enough to dunk the candle to just over the leaf tips, without overflowing the wax all over my stove top range. I barely made it…missing just the tips of the leaves.
*Dunk it only once, (holding it submerged for a moment or two like the leaves), as double-dipping may create such a layer of wax, that it’ll become too difficult to see the beautiful shapes and colors of your leaves.
Once lifting them up out of the pan, just carefully set them down on that sheet of waxed paper, until the whole candle cools and sets.
Now they are finished, and ready to add some Fall beauty to your home wherever you choose to display them. You can enjoy them long after the leaves outdoors have dried up and crumbled away.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial too, and will consider having fun making some Fall candles with real leaves yourself.