Rustic Gilded Centerpiece

There comes a time in every holiday season where the idea of taking up the needle again can seem a little daunting. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on what we’re thankful for in our lives, and hopefully it’s not the time you start stressing about the upcoming holiday season. So with that in mind, I thought it would be fun to take up a quick and easy project that’s needle-free and simple to do, and brings some beautiful Thanksgiving decor into your home without you stressing about embroidering something new.

So, we’re going to make a simple and chic centerpiece using a hand embroidery design as a template. To make your rustic centerpiece, you’ll need:

  • Wood slice (you can find these in craft stores if you’re not handy with a saw)
  • Paintbrushes
  • Pencil and pen
  • White paint (OR dark stain and sealer)
  • Leafing pen or liquid
  • Gold leaf
  • Printed design (I used Give Thanks)

(Note: If you’re going to stain your wood, you will also want white carbon paper to transfer your design.) 

So, here’s the thing about this project. You may wonder why I’m painting our beautiful rustic wood. Well, the reason for that is I learned through the harsh lessons of fail school that if you simply stain wood and then apply the leafing liquid to the unsealed surface, the wood just sucks up the liquid, and your gold leaf doesn’t stick to anything. Yup, school of hard knocks right here. So, here are a couple of ways you can prep your wood...

The easiest is with supplies you probably already have around the house, like acrylic paint. The wood surface needs to be “sealed” in some way for the leafing liquid to sit on, so I chose to enhance the texture of my wood my painting everything a chic, clean white.

Another option would be to darkly stain the whole thing, and then give it a number of coatings of spray-on sealant. This process will be longer, but will allow you to keep the natural grain of the wood. Choose whichever one works for you!

If you’re doing it my way, make sure you paint the whole surface of the wood, so the white becomes a way to enhance the beautiful raw texture of the wood. When painting those rough sides, it will be a bit messy at first. Keep cleaning your brush to remove debris, and when the first layer dries, it will be much cleaner to paint the next layer.

Be patient, and when you’re done, the wood texture will look like an amazing white sculpture.

Once your wood has either dry paint, or perhaps dry sealant, if you went that route, it’s time to transfer.

Grab a design that’s fairly simple and speaks to you for Thanksgiving. An easy choice is this Give Thanks design, but it can be anything. I prefer using the hand embroidery version of the design for the simple, clean lines. Print it out the right size for your piece of wood.

If you’re following along with my white wood route, transferring your design is easy with just simple tricks. All you need to do is turn you printed template over and shade it in all the areas where there’s text. You’re basically turning the back of your print into carbon paper.

If you stained your wood dark, this method may not result in a line you can see. Now would be the time to pull out your white carbon transfer paper. If you’re a hand embroiderer, you may have some of this already.

Carefully center your design on your wood and tap the top in place, so it doesn’t move while tracing. If you need to do so, add your white carbon paper underneath.

Begin tracing the basic shapes of your design by pressing firmly with a pen. You’ll notice I’m not tracing the outlines, just the basic shapes. This works very well for text.

Every once in awhile, lift your paper to see that your design is transferring. You might notice some smudges on your wood from the excess graphite. No biggie, these can be erased later.

Keep tracing until your design is fully transferred and clearly visible on your centerpiece. If you want, now is a good time to clean up any smudges with an eraser, and perhaps trace over some lines that are faint.

Now the magic happens! Grab your leafing pen or liquid. A leafing pen is the same thing as the liquid, it just means you get to apply it with a pen instead of a brush. I find it’s a little easier, but both methods work.

Carefully trace directly over your drawn lines. It’s going to be a little tricky to see where you’ve been, as the liquid is mostly clear, but just try looking at an angle. The liquid should leave a clear, shiny residue that remains shiny even when it’s drying, so you can see where you’ve been.

Wait a few minutes according to your package directions for the liquid to dry a bit and become tacky. This step is important, because either it won’t be dry enough to adhere the gold, or it will smudge your lines if it’s not dry enough.

Once it’s ready, take your thin sheets of gold leaf and press them onto your lines. Where the leafing liquid was, your gold sheeting will stick.

Don’t worry if it looks horribly messy right now, it’s supposed to. Bits of gold leaf will come off the paper that aren’t necessarily sticking to your liquid, it just may look that way. The important part is to make sure all areas you put down the liquid get covered with gold leaf.

This is what my message looked like when I was done. Kinda messy, huh? Don’t worry.

Take a soft DRY brush (NOT the one you used to paint with, unless it’s totally dry) or a foam brush, and gently begin to brush against the edges of your letters.

Brush firmly from both sides until the excess leaf flakes away, leaving only the gold that stuck to the leafing liquid. Don’t be too aggressive, but keep brushing at it until all the extra stuff at the edges comes off.

And you’re done! What was once clear paint and graphite lines is now clear, shining gold. The elegant leafed letters shine beautifully against the crisp white of the textured wood, or against the dark grain if you decided to stain and seal.

Even if this holiday season seems a bit rushed, this is an easy project you can take on in an afternoon to make something special this Thanksgiving.

This elegant piece can now sit in the center of your Thanksgiving decor, with candles or other trappings of the season. It’s something simple and beautiful you can make for yourself, without worrying about taking on yet another sewing project. Give yourself a break, and try something new!

After all, there’s nothing quite like making beautiful things that makes me feel thankful for being crafty.

Urban Threads designs can be stitched, and those stitched pieces sold. When using designs in other media, like this tutorial, you’re welcome to make items for personal use, and gifts to family and friends. No sales, please.

Want a printer-friendly PDF of this page? You got it, bud.
Suggested designs for this tutorial: 
Give Thanks_image
Give Thanks $1.00
3 Available Sizes:
Machine Embroidery: 8.90"w x 5.83"h | 6.85"w x 4.45"h | 3.86"w x 2.48"h | Hand Embroidery