Tuesday, October 16, 2012

DIY Gold Leaf Thanksgiving Decorations à la West Elm

Copying West Elm's Winter Flower ornament was so much fun, I just had to try another copycat craft---but this time, it's something much more apropos for autumn. I imagine displaying West Elm's metallic leaf ornaments all through fall, dangling them above the dinner table on Thanksgiving Day and letting them shine alongside the chandelier crystals, then reusing them on the Christmas tree in December. But eight dollars apiece... West Elm, are you for real?! I knew I could come up with something similar for so much less.

The best things about this project? 
1. It requires a walk in the park. This part would be fun for kids, too.
2. West Elm offers just two shapes and sizes. But you can make a more diverse collection of leaves.
3. You don't have to press the leaves and wait weeks for them to dry.
4. Once you've invested $4.89, you can make as many leaf decorations as you want!
5. If you don't want to attach a hanging loop, you could do so many other things with these:
Fill an apothecary jar, adorn a candle ring, make a wreath, decorate gift boxes with them, etc...
Okay, so it's a no-brainer: Leaves + Gold spray paint = Gold leaves.
So why is this special? Because of the super-fast microwave oven leaf-drying technique!

Fresh leaves (NOT crunchy brown ones!)
Metallic gold spray paint ($3.89 when you use a 40% off coupon at Michael's)
Brown twine ($1.00 from the Dollar Store)
Paper towels, scissors, old newspaper, needle, and a microwave oven

1. Crunch around in the park and collect a variety of leaves that are still supple and fresh--NOT dry and crunchy. I used oak leaves because I like their shape, but any kind will work.

2. Take 'em home, sandwich a leaf between paper towels, and microwave each leaf individually for 15 - 30 seconds. My leaves took 30 seconds apiece, but yours might take less. Nuke each leaf just long enough to dry it out. Stay nearby while each leaf cooks and keep a close eye on themAlso, this part smells weird!

3.  Take your dried leaves out of the microwave, place them on a sheet of newspaper, and go outside to spray paint them gold. If you're a spray paint n00b, read this first. Spray paint is your friend!

4. Let them dry for at least an hour, then come back, flip 'em over, and spray paint the other side.

5. Once both sides are completely dry, bring them inside and use the needle to poke a hole near the base of each leaf. Wiggle the needle around until you've created a hole just big enough to insert a six-inch piece of twine. Tie the ends off, and voila! The paint makes the leaves surprisingly strong, but treat them gently, okay?


  1. Can't wait to try it - though I may use plastic leaves from the dollar store so that I can reuse them every year without worrying they'll crumble :)

    1. Do it and post pictures! :) They're so easy, and the result is surprisingly impressive. One word about using real leaves: If you use the microwave to dry fresh, green leaves, they don't get crumbly like the leaves you see outside. I'm surprised by how sturdy they are. I mean, they're not teflon. And like any pretty decorative object, you can't abuse them. But they stay supple enough that you can touch them and bend them without getting a crumbly mess. WIN!

  2. I love this!! Totally trying. :) :)


    1. Hey, awesome! I'd love to see the finished result.

  3. I made these and I LOVE THEM! I used satin pins (very tiny heads on them) to attach them to the wall in my living room. I love how they look and I finished in time for me to host Thanksgiving for 30 and really show them off! Thanks so much!! I posted pictures on my fb page (/margieboz) if you want to see!

    1. Yay! I like the way they look grouped around your framed photos. I'm so glad it worked for you.

  4. Your version looks better than the expensive ones!


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