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Skeletonized leaves

First select leaves with a heavy vein pattern. Some good ones to start with are holly, magnolia, ivy, maple, oak, beech, and crab apple. Don't forget weeds with good vein patterns. Just remember to experiment with the leaves before you need them for a project. Always use a glass pot for cooking the leaves, or glass bowls if you decide to soak them. All the chemicals listed in the recipes below will interact with metals and either damage the metal container or cause a chemical reaction you were not anticipating.

Always wear rubber gloves when working with these chemicals and work in a well-ventilated room.


  • 1 quart water
  • 2 tablespoons lye
  • glass pot large enough to hold the above plus leaves

Place the water into the pot, then carefully add the lye. It may bubble up or release an odor, so don't have your face near the pot. Add the leaves. Place over low heat until the water starts to bubble. Simmer for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the type of leaves. Remove the leaves and rinse in cold water. When all the lye is rinsed from the leaves, spread them onto waxed paper. Gently scrape the loose flesh from the leaves using the edge of a spoon or a dull table knife.

If you want to bleach the leaves, mix 2 tablespoons bleach to 1 quart water. Soak the leaves for 20 to 60 minutes, depending on the desired effect. Rinse leaves again, and place flat on paper towels to dry.

To color the leaves, add food coloring to rubbing alcohol and soak the cleaned leaves in the solution. You can also spray-paint the leaves.

Same as method 1, except substitute 1 teaspoon washing soda for the lye.

Mix about 2/3 cup washing soda in 2 to 3 quarts of water in a glass or plastic bowl. Add the leaves and cover. Place the bowl in a sunny location for 2 to 5 weeks. Rinse the leaves and scrape as above.






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