By Sam Burbach, Education & Programming Coordinator – 11/10/2021


While the fall colors were a little delayed this year, we’re finally getting a beautiful display from many trees now. Some trees are bare already and others are still holding onto their leaves, but it’s always nice to get out and enjoy some sunshine and fall colors while we still can. If you love fall and are thankful for its return each year, a great way to decorate with fallen leaves is with leaf impressions. You can even decorate your Thanksgiving table with a beautiful leaf impression table runner. The possibilities are endless with this fun project and it will make a great statement piece in your fall/Thanksgiving decorating (especially with a Thanksgiving Floral Centerpiece on it made by you in our upcoming workshop! https://klehm.org/thanksgiving-floral-centerpiece-workshop/).

Here’s how you can try it at home!


Here’s what you’ll need:
  • Fallen leaves
  • Fabric (painting drop cloth, canvas, cotton, burlap, whatever you’d like to use!)
  • Sharp scissors
  • Cardboard/kraft paper/disposable table cover
  • Iron (recommended) or steamer
  • Fabric glue or sewing machine
  • Fabric paint (or acrylic paint mixed with textile medium)
  • Paint brushes/sponges
  • Plate/bowl/cup for the paints
  • Paper towels
  • Optional: Rolling pin or something similar in shape, such as a straight-sided marker

Step 1

Begin by enjoying a fall walk to collect various fallen leaves, or simply collect them out of your yard! You want to collect leaves that are still flexible rather than dry and brittle. Press any curled leaves under some heavy books while working on steps 2-5.

Step 2

Begin by preparing your table runner (I used a canvas painting drop cloth). Use sharp scissors to cut your fabric to the desired size. Iron or steam the fabric to remove wrinkles.

Step 3

Put cardboard, kraft paper or a disposable table cover down to protect your work surface. Hem the cut edges of your fabric. Flip over the fabric and use fabric glue or a sewing machine to hem the cut edges. If using fabric glue and you don’t want to wait for it to set before proceeding, use straight pins or masking/painter’s tape to secure the hem in place before flipping back over.

Step 4

Lay the table runner on top of the protected work surface with the folded hem on the underside.

OPTIONAL: Lay some leaves out to get an idea of where you are going to place them. You can reuse leaves so you may not actually be painting each of these leaves.

Step 5

Prepare your paint. If you are using a fabric paint, simply pour it on a plate/bowl/etc. as a tray. If you are using acrylic paint, follow the instructions of your textile medium and mix it with your paint (usually 2:1 ratio of paint to textile medium). The textile medium will help increase the flexibility of the paint as it dries and prevent future cracking.

Step 6

Take your first leaf and turn it upside down so that the veins are facing upwards and cover with paint. Use a good amount of paint since some of it will stick to the leaf, but try not to have puddles in any areas.

Step 7

Make an impression on your table runner by flipping the leaf over and pressing onto the desired location and carefully lifting the leaf off. Repeat this with various leaves of different shapes and sizes and use whatever colors you desire. You can use the same leaf multiple times.

TIP: To help get a good impression, place a paper towel over the leaf and use a rolling pin or something round, like a straight-sided marker, to roll over the leaf before lifting.

Step 8

Once you have your table runner covered to your liking, allow it to dry completely.

Step 9

Check your paint or textile medium to see if there are any instructions about setting the paint. (For the textile medium I used, I will need to use heat to set the paint before it will be machine washable.)

Step 10

Set up on your table and enjoy!

If using fabric paint or acrylic paint mixed with textile medium, your table cloth will be machine washable using cold water and a gentle cycle. Hanging to dry is recommended.

Project modified from Home Depot. See original project here: https://www.homedepot.com/c/ah/make-a-botanical-table-runner-for-your-holiday-table/9ba683603be9fa5395fab901d6e68889

Alternative ideas:

  • Use kraft paper cut in a long strip to make a disposable table runner. You can use acrylic paint to make leaf impressions, or you can place leaves under the paper and the side of a crayon to make leaf rubbings (see UnbeLEAFable Leaf Rubbings https://klehm.org/unbeleafable-leaf-rubbings/ to learn how).
  • Cut fabric or kraft paper into smaller pieces to make placemats instead of a table runner. Use acrylic paint as in the project or use crayons to make leaf rubbings (for kraft paper).