These beautiful leaf mason jar lanterns are the perfect nature craft for autumn – and they’re so easy to make!
Autumn gives us the most wonderful nature treasure to craft with, and leaves are definitely one of the most plentiful and readily available materials to use in nature crafts at this time of year.
Head out for a nature walk and collect some autumn leaves, then when you get home you can use them to make a gorgeous leaf lantern. It’s a brilliant way to combine some active outdoor time with a cosy indoor craft.
This step-by-step guide will show you how to make a homemade lantern using autumn leaves. It’s a lovely way to create a unique, nature-inspired decoration for your home. I’ve also included lots of other fun ideas for crafting with leaves too, so keep reading!
How to make leaf mason jar lanterns
If you’re familiar with decoupage crafting, this is what we’re doing here – but using natural materials instead of the usual tissue paper to create our autumn leaf lanterns.
Step 1: collect your leaves and materials
The first thing you need to do is collect your leaves. You could go for a selection of different, shapes, sizes and colours, or stick to one particular type of leaf. There are no rules here – and you can make more than one leaf lantern if you just can’t bear to narrow down your choice of leaves!
If at all possible, collect leaves that are dry. Wet leaves will need to be dried out before you can craft with them, so using dry leaves makes things quicker and easier. If the weather has been rainy, look around the base of trees and bushes for leaves, as the branches will have protected them from the rain there.
Flat leaves are much easier to stick to glass jars than curled up leaves. If your leaves aren’t very flat, you can put them between two sheets of paper and press them between the pages of a heavy book before you use them.
Very thick or waxy leaves are also quite tricky to stick to a curved jar – so go for thinner, more papery leaves if you can.
What you need to make leaf mason jar lanterns
To make your DIY mason jar lanterns, you will need:
- Dry leaves
- A clean, empty glass jar (a *mason jar or a *jam jar with smooth sides works well)
- *Mod Podge
- A paintbrush
- An *electric tea light or wax tea light
- String or *raffia (optional)
If you’re wondering how you stick a leaf to glass, the answer is Mod Podge! This is a glue which also acts as a sealer, so it’s perfect for sticking your leaves onto the jar and also for giving them a glossy, sealed finish. It will act as a preservative and keep the leaves looking good for longer too.
You can buy Mod Podge in *Matte and *Gloss finishes. Both will work nicely for this DIY mason jar craft, so choose whichever option you like best. We used the matte variety, and as you’ll see this gives the mason jar candle holder a lovely opaque finish.
Step 2: clean your jar
It’s a good idea to make sure the outside of your jar is very clean before you start applying the Mod Podge. If there’s any grease or dirt on the glass it will be much trickier to get the leaves to stick.
Wash your jar with water and washing-up liquid, then rinse with clean water and dry thoroughly.
Once your jar has been washed, you can make it extra-clean by wiping it with *rubbing alcohol (also known as surgical spirit). Make sure your hands are clean at this stage, otherwise you’ll make the glass dirty again!
Step 3: apply the glue
If you’re using matte finish Mod Podge and want to achieve an all-over opaque finish on your jar, start by applying a thin layer to the entire surface of the jar and leave it to dry.
How do you Mod Podge leaves to jars?
When you’re ready to add your leaves, paint a thin layer of Mod Podge onto the surface of the jar, then leave it for a few minutes. You need the glue to start drying and become tacky before you apply any leaves. Check it every couple of minutes, and once it starts to feel quite sticky, you’re ready to apply your first leaf.
If you try to put your leaf on the jar too soon, it will slip around and generally be much harder to stick. So patience is the key here!
Can you Mod Podge real leaves?
Absolutely. Just handle the leaves gently, and wait until the glue has become tacky before you start applying your leaves to the glass jar.
Step 4: stick on your leaves
Gently press your leaf onto the sticky surface of the jar. Using your fingers, press down around the edges to help it stick firmly.
If you need to re-position it, do this straight away as things will start to stick pretty quickly.
Once you’ve done your first leaf you’ll quickly get the hang of the timings.
Step 5: repeat with more leaves
When your first leaf is stuck down, you can move onto the next section of your jar. Repeat steps 3 and 4: apply Mod Podge, let it dry a little, then add your leaf.
Carry on adding leaves to your jar until you’re happy with the amount on there.
Step 6: apply a sealing layer of glue
When all your leaves are stuck to the jar, let everything dry before applying another coat of Mod Podge over the top of all the leaves. This will seal them and give the jar a rich, textured finish. When you’re done, leave the jar to dry.
Step 7: add finishing touches to your mason jar lantern
Once your mason jar lantern is completely dry, you can decorate the neck with string or raffia, pop in a tealight, and it’s ready to use!
This easy leaf mason jar lanterns DIY is ideal for decorating a mantlepiece or dining table. They look awesome twinkling away in a window at night too. When it comes to fall crafts with mason jars, I think they’re hard to beat.
I would always recommend using a battery-powered electric tea light rather than a wax tea light. Electric tea lights won’t create a fire hazard, and if you’re making these with children it’s a much safer diy lantern for kids.
A real candle will work fine, but do bear in mind that even though Mod Podge is non-flammable, it can melt if it gets too hot. If you’re using a real candle, you should also make sure that there aren’t any leaves on the inside of the jar, as these will be flammable.
You can of course make more than one leaf lantern. I love the idea of making them using different sizes of jar and clustering them together to create a lovely autumnal focal point. All those nature treasures the kids collect at this time of year look great scattered around the base too.
Some more ideas for crafting and playing with leaves
There are so many fun ways to craft and play with leaves! Here are a few ideas to get you started.
You could make leaf prints – this is a great nature craft for younger children, and works well if you have lots of different shaped leaves.
Or you could use leaves and other nature treasure to make a collage. This can be as simple or as detailed as you like. It’s fun to draw an outline of a face, a butterfly or a hedgehog for kids to decorate, or you could share the love with some heart nature craft collages.
Another nice idea is to thread leaves onto a stick to create a ‘wand’ – this is a fantastic way to encourage imaginative play.
Still on the theme of threading, you could use large leaves to create some fabulous leaf bunting to decorate your garden or bring a little bit of nature into your home.
Leaves are also perfect for combining with other natural materials to create a mandala.
A journey stick is a fun thing for kids to make while you’re out on a walk, and leaves can absolutely play a part in the design. My journey stick post shows you how to do it.
You could even turn your leaves into natural paintbrushes by attaching one to a stick and using it to paint with.
Leaf bowls are fun to make too. This video shows you how to make one using a balloon:
And of course, you can have fun simply jumping in a big pile of leaves!
If you’re sharing your nature-inspired creations on social media, make sure you check out my nature hashtags copy and paste lists.
Finally, if you fancy a giggle, my tree jokes blog post has lots of leafy puns and jokes to make you smile.
More nature craft and play ideas
For lots more fun, low cost ways to craft and play with nature, take a look at my book *A Year of Nature Craft & Play. There are 52 lovely activities that craft along with the seasons, all designed to inspire children to explore and engage with nature.
You can find out more about the book in my post on nature play.
If you’d like even more nature-themed inspiration, check out my post on nature captions.
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