Thanksgiving is almost here and along with the holidays comes a ton of entertaining. Place cards are always a good idea as they keep the peace in case of any inter-family drama but don’t hesitate to use them even if everyone gets along. Designating a special seat for each individual guest makes the event that much more special. So this year, knock place cards and favors off your list at the same time with rustic plaster cast leaf ornaments. Don’t let the long list of materials deter you! Most of the stuff you can find around the house and the rest can be picked up quickly at any craft supply store. So let’s dive right in and cast some leaves!
- Mold Putty (available in most craft stores)
- Variety of leaves
- Paper towels
- Self adhesive foam sheets (available in most craft stores)
- Brayer (rolling pin will also work for this step)
- Hole punch
- Parchment paper (available at the grocery store)
- Rolling pin
- 2 pencils
- Small craft scissors
- Plaster of Paris (available in craft or hardware stores)
- Plastic cup
- Fine grit sandpaper
- Acrylic paints
- Spray or brush on clear coat
- Paper tags
- Twine or ribbon
1. Collect a variety of leaves and break off the stems. When selecting leaves, make sure they have good texture, aren’t too dry or brittle, and the shape of the leaf is not too skinny in any one area or your casts will be too fragile. If the leaves are collected wet, place them between sheets of paper towel and set them under a heavy book until they’re dry.
2. Cut a piece of foam to fit one leaf and peel off the paper backing. Place the leaf face down (the vein texture is more apparent on the back of the leaf) onto the sticky side of the foam and press flat using a clean brayer or rolling pin. Repeat with the rest of the leaves.
3. Carefully cut around the leaf to maintain its natural shape with small craft scissors. When finished, adhere the foam backing to a second piece of foam and cut out. The double layer of foam will give the leaf added thickness when creating the mold. Finally, punch a hole through all three layers at the base of the leaf.
4. Cut a piece of parchment paper large enough to protect your work surface. Read through all of the manufacturer’s instructions on the mold putty before you begin as it will vary company to company. For most brands, mix equal parts of the putty together until a uniform color is achieved and there is enough to lay down a 1/2″ thick layer slightly larger than the object to be molded.
5. Flatten the putty out on the parchment paper in the shape of the leaf and press the leaf face down into the putty. Lay a pencil on either side of the mold and flatten with the rolling pin. The pencils keep the rolling pin at a uniform level so neither side of the mold is thinner than the other. Repeat for the rest of the leaves.
6. Place another piece of parchment paper on top of the molds and place a heavy book on top. Let the molds sit for 1/2 an hour. When the molds are dry the parchment paper will be stuck to the putty so carefully and slowly peel it off.
7. Gently pull the leaves from the dry putty. If any part of the leaf becomes detached from the foam and sticks inside the mold carefully scrape it out with a finger nail or wet the mold and try rubbing it off.
8. In a plastic cup, mix 2 parts plaster to 1 part cold water. For example, to fill 3 molds I used 1/2 cup plaster and 1/4 cup water. Mix until smooth and then carefully spoon into molds. Tamp down to even the plaster out and get rid of air bubbles. Let stand 2 to 3 hours and then gently remove from the molds and repeat as needed. When the plaster is removed from the cast it will feel slightly damp and cold. Lay the casts flat to fully dry overnight.
9. Use fine grit sandpaper to remove any excess plaster and to clean up the shape of the leaf. In the photo below the leaf on the left has been sanded and the leaf on the right has not.
10. Make sure all the sanding dust is off of the leaves before beginning to paint. First, begin by painting the base white with one coat of acrylic paint. Let the paint dry completely.
11. To antique the leaves, rub a second darker layer onto the leaf with a clean cloth or paper towel. For example, I used a mixture of brown and silver paints. Quickly rub the paint on and then with a second damp cloth, rub the paint off. Keep experimenting until the desired effect is reached. Let dry.
12. Once the antiquing has dried, spray or brush on a matte finish clear coat to protect the surface and make the leaves more durable. Allow to dry.
13. Write the name of your guests onto paper tags and thread them each onto a strip of twine or ribbon 14″ long. Knot the twine at the top.
14. Adjust the tag so it’s at the top of the twine near the knot. Thread the bottom through the hole in the leaf, back to front, make a loop, and slip the knot and the tag through the loop. Pull tight, adjusting as you go so the knotted end is evenly centered at the top.
15. Now place the ornaments on your Thanksgiving table and ENJOY!
You can also check out our hand-made ceramic Fallen Leaves in the Beekman 1802 Mercantile. Click here
Lucy Blaire has written for countless craft magazines including Sew News, Stitch, Simply Handmade, and ReadyMade; she has appeared on PBS’s Sew It All TV; writes for her blog, East Camp Home; and runs her Etsy shop, Lucy Blaire Handmade. With what little time is left Lucy can be found living quietly in Catskill, NY with her husband Ben and baby Marian in their little house with the red tin roof.