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I enjoy making origami models out of paper, but the idea of using more natural materials is also an appealing one. Tree leaves, being flat and foldable, seem to be an obvious choice, but the nature of the material is such that it never seems quite right for making models out of, in my experience so far.

  • When fresh, the leaves are too moist: they either bend without forming a fold line and then immediately bend back, or they form a fold line which oozes liquid.
  • After having been left to dry, the leaves are too brittle: they break in half when folded.

Is there a way of treating leaves, or a particular kind of tree to take them from, so that they fold easily?

They need to be able to fold without either breaking or springing back into place, and to be supple enough to perform the contortions that paper can in the process of making an origami model. I'm also only interested in tree leaves I can find locally (in a temperate climate, specifically northwestern Europe), so palm leaves are out.

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    What type of origami are you considering for this? Do you have some paper model examples? When you say tree leaves.... how large are we talking? Are you looking for stock like 5 cm squared area for example? – Matt Jun 29 '16 at 12:49
  • @Matt Um, what types of origami are there? (So, I guess basic level :-P ) I'm imagining large round tree leaves, several cm across in all directions. But I'll take anything that can work - that goes for both types of origami and types of leaf. – Rand al'Thor Jun 29 '16 at 19:06
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    It'd be better if you listed the leaves available, instead of relying on someone to know your local trees and how to answer your question. – user24 Jun 29 '16 at 22:05
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    Corn leaves are often used to fold and make stuff with. I have no experience with those but maybe worth looking into. – Janw Jul 1 '16 at 13:25
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    Could you fold them (perhaps after slightly drying them to reduce oozing), jig so they hold their shape, and dry some more. Obviously this would only work for simple models, but it would be easy to test. The type of leaf makes a big difference, e.g. bay leaves break when folded straight off the tree, while lemon leaves don't really crease. – Chris H Sep 1 '16 at 8:25
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Try a sewing store. Ask for lightweight fusible interfacing. This is a lightweight nonwoven textile generally used to,provide body between two layers of fabric (like in a shirt collar). Iron it onto a leaf and see what happens. Buy enough to experiment and make some mistakes.

I've fused silk onto the back of patterned origami paper with good results, but the leaf will be tricky as it dries out.

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