Autumn is such a profoundly beautiful and dramatic season. For many of us, the turning of the year is most apparent in autumn; the air chills, the leaves blush and drop, and many creatures experience a turning inward — toward contemplation, celebration, and being with those we love.
Making an autumn leaf placemat is a fun, easy, rewarding project for those who would like to preserve some of autumn’s stunning natural colors and enjoy them for years to come. Small children can be involved in this project by gathering leaves and helping with the design.
Iron-on flexible vinyl, available in fabric stores by the roll (Heat’n Bond or Therm O Web are two brands)
Medium-weight white cotton fabric, about 3/4 yard per placemat
Your favorite autumn leaves
A phone directory or other heavy book
Begin by gathering some wonderful, colorful leaves that have fallen.
Place them in a phone directory, or other thick book to flatten them. Put them toward the back of the book, so there will be enough pages over them to press them. Make sure you leave space between the leaves, and space between leaves and the book’s fold. The leaves will be flat in a couple of days.
Cut fabric rectangles, two inches larger all around than you want your final placemat to be. I cut my fabric into 20″x13″ pieces, to make 18″ x 11″ placemats. For the exact shape, I traced the outline of an existing placemat, which had rounded edges. Turn the fabric pieces over and make occasional guide marks 2″ around from the outside edges, lightly with a pencil.
Turn the fabric right-side-up again and let your children play with the placement of the leaves. When everyone is happy with the way they look, you will be ready to iron the vinyl down. Don’t forget to leave more than a 2″ space all around your design.
Heat your iron. Peel the backing off the vinyl and place it sticky-side-down onto the leaves. Smooth the vinyl with your hands, then iron it onto the fabric, following package directions.
When the fabric is cool, turn over and cut according to your guidelines. For further sturdiness, you can iron vinyl onto the back of the placemat as well.
Admire and use your placemats for years to come.
Suz Lipman writes the blog, Slow Family Online, which covers fun family activities in nature and at home. She’s the social media director for the Children & Nature Network. She and her family live in Northern California and enjoy gardening, hiking, antiquing, community, food canning, soap crafting, and county fairs. Suz is partial to Fall.