I’ve wanted to do this project for almost three years now, but couldn’t figure out the right way to do it. I first saw this when I was pregnant with my first son and was looking at the décor in the doctor’s office. They were pressed between two pieces of plexiglass and I thought it was the coolest thing ever! I didn’t know what to call it when I went online to search how to even start making these. I searched “clear leaves” and “see-through leaves” and the only results I got were fake leaves made out of tulle and silk. I also found leaves that were bleached. This wasn’t what I was looking for either. I found out that these are called skeleton leaves. I guess the name makes sense, since you’re actually getting down to the bones of the leaf.
Now that I figured out what to call them, I needed to know how to make them. The companies that sold them sure as heck weren’t going to share their secrets with me. I dug a little deeper and came up with a lot of sites from colleges talking about the very scientific side of making skeleton leaves and why the formula works. It was way too technical for me! I found a tutorial on Pinterest, but after the cooking part, it seemed way too time consuming having to gently brush the skin of each leaf off with a tiny little brush (I’m so impatient), especially if making big batches of skeleton leaves.
I found these big sturdy leaves (I think they’re some type of palm leaf) in a park near our house and decided to try them out. I had to make sure the leaves were waxy and veiny because they work the best. Here is my step-by-step tutorial on how I made these beauties. Enjoy!
What You Need: Waxy Leaves, Large Pot, Water (I used 12 Cups), Super Washing Soda (I used 2 Cups), Metal Tongs, Colander, Bleach, Shallow Dish, Food Color, Cooling Rack
*The amount of water and super washing soda will vary depending on the size and amount of leaves. I would suggest using one part super washing soda to six parts water.
In a well-ventilated room, mix water and super washing soda in pot and bring to a boil.
Lower the heat to a simmer and add leaves. Allow the mixture to simmer for 2-3 hours. After the 2-3 hours, the water will look very murky.
Using the tongs, place the leaves in the colander and run under cool water. (My leaves were pretty tough, so I don’t know if adding all types of leaves to the colander will work or if you’d have to rinse them individually if they’re more fragile.)
Pour out the murky water and rinse out the pot. Fill the pot with just enough water to cover the leaves. It doesn’t have to be as much used before when simmering them. I added ½ cup bleach. Place the leaves into the bleach water and allow to soak for 20-30 minutes. This will remove as much color from the leaf as possible.
Now, this is where I did things a little differently. Instead of using the brush to remove the skin of the leaf, I placed the leaf flat on my hand and ran it under the sprayer on my kitchen sink.
The skin started immediately coming off.
After about a minute under the water, the skin was completely removed. I’ll admit that some of the leaves tore a little, but I still kept them because it added a little character.
Mix water and food color in the shallow dish according to the tint you want. I used a blue and green mixture.
Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Remove from water and place on cooling rack. Allow to completely dry.
After mine dried, I painted a cheap frame and used a piece of scrapbook paper for the background.