If you visit your local craft store or craft department of a large discount department store, you will see net and cellophane bags of pine cones being sold for $5 and upward. These are not fancy pine cones; they are just naturally colored, or have a dash of glitter. It’s hard to imagine buying pine cones when they are available free either in your yard, or somewhere close to your home. And you can collect all you desire, without paying a penny.
Decorating with pine cones is both fun and easy. We use them to create rustic centerpieces or elegant seasonal basket arrangements or wreaths and other Christmas decorations. They can be decorated to display on fireplace mantels or be transformed into bird feeders. Pine cones are great for children’s crafts both in school and at home. Small pine cones make a great ingredient to scented potpourri too or can even be turned into fire starters. Pine corns can adorn candle bases or be turned into hanging holiday ornaments. You are only limited by your imagination in what you can create with a pine cone.
The trick however, to pine cone crafts, if you are collecting your own pine cones, is how to clean and prepare them properly so that they make durable crafts and are easy to work with.
Here’s how to proceed to gathering and preparing your pine cones for craft use.
Plan an outing on a nice sunny day when you will collect pine cones. Pine cones fall most times of year, but particularly in the fall. There are soft shell pine cones and harder shell pine cones and various trees drop pine cones dependant on weather temperatures for that season. You may notice during a drought year that the trees that yield pine cones may be sparse, but the trees that were well watered with sprinkler systems will yield a lot. It is like night and day. Your neighbor, who doesn’t water their lawn, might not have one single pine cone because the summer was dry and hot in a particular year. However, if you watered your lawn and have the same exact pine trees, you will see literally thousands of pine cones. The contrast is amazing to see the difference between a watered tree and one that received very little moisture.
Choosing a sunny day will make it easier to see the pine cones that are nestled in the grass or in beds of pine needles or under full trees that create a lot of shade. Wear disposable medical gloves when collecting pine cones because some of them may have a stick sap. Bring a paper grocery bag with sturdy handles or use a large bucket to gather your pine cones. You don’t want to use anything wicker, like a basket, because it could get ruined with any sticky pine cones.
You will likely have many pine cones to choose from. Different pine trees yield different size and shaped pine cones from soft and slender to wide and flower like in fullness and open wood petals. Some pine cones are egg shaped, others more rounded, and some are just plain pretty. If you don’t have pine cones in your yard, you can find some at trails along the road or perhaps at the grocery store or video store parking lot where there may be lots of pine trees on the grassy areas and hillsides. And don’t forget your local parks will be loaded with pine trees and pine cones too.
Choose your pine cone based on it being dry and firm, not wet and soggy. Also if you feel a particular pine cone is very sticky, skip it and move on to collect a different one. You might get lucky and find all your pine cones are free if sap, and if so terrific! But if not, don’t worry, when you get home you will cure that. Be sure to choose pine cones of all sizes because a large one may work well in one craft and tiny ones may work well in another. So keep an open mind in regard to shape and size.
When you get home and you are ready to clean your pine cones, you have a choice between 2 methods. You can soak and wash them or you bake them. The washing method will remove the sap, and the baking method will glaze the sap. In either case, it will rid of any stickiness so they can easily be used in crafts.
If you choose the wash method, the best way to clean them is in a double sink. A large laundry tub type sink works great. You will place the drain stop in your sink and lay the pine cones down inside the sink. Then you will squirt some antibacterial dish liquid soap over the pine cones and begin filling the sink with very warm water. Be generous with the soap. Let the pine cones soak for at least 20 minutes, then return to the sink and let the water out. Now you can begin rinsing them. When the pine cones are drained and you can see they don’t feel sticky, then give them a good rinse. If they are still sticky, then repeat the procedure, this time using some all purpose non toxic or disinfectant household cleaner. When you are done washing the pine cones, lay them on some plastic garbage bags or grocery bags on the floor to dry. Be sure it is in an area where children or pets won’t tamper with them.
If you choose to use the oven bake method, then simply line large baking pans with foil. The foil protects your pans from the sap. Heat your oven to 200 degrees and bake the pine cones for about 20 minutes. This should take care of removing the sticky sap problem and your pine cones will become glazed. It is VERY IMPORTANT that you do not leave the kitchen when you bake the pine cones because you want to check their progress. They may need a little more time or a little less depending on pine cone size and how your oven generates heat. You may even decide to raise the oven heat for a few minutes, but not by much and only when completely supervised.
If you want to use natural unpainted pine cones in your crafts, you can spray them with a multipurpose polyurethane spray. Be sure to do that outdoors, and wear protective gloves and eyewear.