Autumn Leaf Mobile

by Elizabeth PiersonLeaf

Kids love autumn leaves. Dry leaves that rustle when you walk in them. Piles of leaves to jump in and bury yourself under. But do you sometimes wonder if they even look at the individual leaves? Here's an activity that will encourage them to focus on the leaves more closely. They may even learn to identify some of the different kinds in the process.

As the leaves begin to turn color in the cooler, shorter days of fall they attract more attention. Make collecting the most beautiful, unusual or perfect ones a part of your outside activities. Press the leaves between the pages of an old phone book so they will dry flat. You can fit several small leaves or two or three large ones on a page. Start near the back of the book and leave about a 1/4" section of pages between the "leaf pages." You can put a lot of leaves in all at once, or just add a few new ones as fall progresses. Keep the phone book flat once you put your leaves in. You might want to add a couple of heavy books on top of it to help press the leaves.

After several days to a week, the leaves should be completely dry. You are now ready to make your mobile. Collect the following tools and materials:

  1. scissors
  2. a 12"-18''" twig about 1/2" thick
  3. a needle and thread (white, light blue or gray thread work well)
  4. 4-6 plastic laminating sheets, adhesive type (available at most office supply stores)
  5. a rolling pin or wooden block

Select 5-10 of your favorite leaves -- different sizes, shapes and colors make the most attractive mobile. Clip the petiole (leaf stem) to no longer than half an inch. Be very gentle with the leaves, they are quite brittle and are easily damaged. Take a sheet of laminating plastic (with the backing still on) and place it flat on a table. Arrange the leaves on the sheet with at least 1/2" between each leaf. Also make sure that no part of any leaf is closer than 1/2" to the edge of the plastic. When you have a satisfactory arrangement, take another sheet of laminating plastic, remove the backing, and lay the plastic with the adhesive side up on the table next to your leaves. Move each leaf to the adhesive sheet and place it in the same position you had it on your "practice" sheet. Again, be especially careful to leave enough space at the edges and between leaves. Press the leaves gently onto the adhesive. When you have all your leaves stuck to the adhesive, it is time for the next step.

Getting the second sheet of laminating plastic correctly aligned can be a little tricky. I suggest that an adult lend a helping hand at this point. Peel the paper backing away on the first couple of inches of the second laminating sheet. Then, sticky side down, carefully line up one edge of the sheet with the corresponding edge of the first sheet. Try not to let the sheets touch until you have them where you want them. (You can pull them apart, but you might damage the leaves.) When you have them fairly closely aligned (make sure to check that the sides are parallel) press the first couple of inches down gently onto the "leaf sheet". Leaf Diagram 1

Continue pulling the backing off the second sheet while pressing the plastic down from the starting edge. Done carefully enough, you can avoid any major wrinkles. Smooth the "plastic and leaf sandwich" together with your hand, then more firmly with the rolling pin or wooden block. If you have a few air bubbles, take the needle and poke a hole in the bubble. Press the air out. Pay particular attention to making sure the two sheets adhere to each other between the leaves. You may want to take a popsicle stick or pen top and press around each leaf.

When the laminating is complete, you are ready to cut out the leaves. Cut around each leaf, leaving about 1/4" to 1/2" of plastic. Do not cut closer than 1/4" or the laminating plastic may separate. Using the needle with about a 12" length of thread, poke a hole through the plastic at the leaf stem and pull the thread through about 2". (diagram 1) Remove the needle and tie the thread securely to the plastic. Trim the excess thread to 1/4". Repeat this process with each leaf. When you have prepared as many leaves as you need, it is time to decide on their arrangement.

Leaf Diagram 2Choose an interesting twig to hang your leaves from. It should be about 1/2" thick and 12"- 18" long. It can be freshly cut or picked up from the ground. Just make sure the twig is not too old and brittle or rotten. If you have only four or five leaves you will want to hang each leaf individually (diagram 2). For more than five leaves, hanging two leaves on a thread makes for a more interesting mobile (diagram 3). In either case, vary the length of the threads so that the leaves hang at different distances from the twig.

Put your twig on the table and arrange the leaves below it at approximately the distances you want. When you are happy with your arrangement, tie the threads to the twig being careful to keep the correct distances.Leaf Diagram 3  If you are putting two leaves on a thread, tie the upper leaf to the twig first. Then thread the needle with the thread from the lower leaf and poke the needle through the plastic at the tip of the upper leaf. Pull the thread through so that the lower leaf is in the correct position, remove the needle and tie the thread securely (diagram 3).

After all the leaves are attached, curt a thread about twice as long as your twig. Tie the ends of the thread to either end of the twig. Tie another thread to the one on the twig and slide it to the balance point (diagram 4). You are now ready to hang your creation. You may want to position the mobile in front of a window where the daylight can shine through the leaves. or Leaf Diagram 4hang it in the corner of a room where the leaves can swirl and spin in the breeze. When the leaves outside lie sodden under a blanket of snow, you will still have your own bright flurry of leaves to remind you of Autumn's glory.

Elizabeth Pierson
302 Whorton Hollow Rd.
Castleton, VA 22716 ((540) 937-5605
e-mail: piersons@erols.com

 

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