Hi friends. I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. I have a “thing” for leaves. Some folks like hearts, fleurs-de-lis, bees, or sunflowers. For me it’s leaves. As my sun symbol-loving friend once said, it’s my “motif.”
Raking sweet-gum leaves on the side of my childhood home was an actual fun chore. One of the first (not good) photo studies I did after getting my first high-end cameras was one of fall leaves. I love using them in garlands and wreaths any time of year. They’re beautiful, natural, individual, and can be used for numerous occasions. I even remember being on the team to choose the “official” wrapping paper for a store I once worked in. As the manager and I flipped through the sample book, we both landed on a gold and brown patterned paper that had elegant leaves in it. It was the only design we agreed on, as it worked for every occasion and recipient who might receive a gift from that shop. And I wrapped more than a few personal gifts in that paper.
Fall is the perfect time to snuggle up with a book, so with my own personal penchant in place, I offer the lovely autumn leaf bookmark tutorial.
Solid copper wire, 18 or 16 gauge
Wire forming tools — wire cutters, flat nosed pliers, round nosed pliers
Hammer and steel block
Optional Leaf Template
Begin by sketching simple leaf designs or download the template. The key to making sure your designs work as a bookmark, is having the wire cross the page edge three times — think like a paperclip. The page goes over-under-over the wire.
Enlarge or shrink drawings to make your leaves. I increased the size of my templates by about 200% for these bookmarks. Play around to figure out your desired size. When choosing designs and wire, the designs with more bends are easier with thinner wire (18 gauge), and the more simple and larger designs are better with thicker wire (16 gauge). I prefer the 16 gauge clips, they’re sturdier and hold more pages. But more intricate designs are much easier to make with the 18 gauge wire. Wire choosing tip: These can be made with ordinary hardware store copper wire, or “jewelry making” copper wire. The hardware store version tends to be a little bit harder and not as clean or shiny as copper wire made for jewelry making, but it’s easy to find.
Here’s the trick I use to estimate how much wire I need for a design. I grab some twine and basically “trace” the line of the design with the string. Then noting the end mark with my fingernail, I measure the string to determine the length I should cut the wire. Most of these required between 6 and 8 inches of wire.
Using pliers, bend the wire, following the pattern on the page. Make adjustments as you go. A general rule, use your round nosed pliers or your fingers to shape curves, and flat-nosed pliers to shape straight pieces or sharp bends.
Once you have the wire in the shape you’re looking for, move on to the steel block. Make sure all your adjustments are made before hammering, as the next step will “seal” in your design.
Hammering the wire shape on the steel block flattens the wire, so that it is easy to use in books as a bookmark, but also hardens the metal and ensures that it retains its shape.
Carefully (so as not to damage your digits) hammer the wire on the steel block. If using a ball peen hammer, use the flat side. Turn over the piece to further shape and flatten it.
Also, if you wanted to make a very special version, these designs could also be made from sterling silver wire. They’re easy and fun to make.
Enjoy, share, make something beautiful.