By Contributing Writer, Beth Vought
‘Tis the season: for fall decorating. We will present you with a series of DIY’s to refresh your fall decor. Let’s get started on the basics. We will be using pine cones for our base material, so let’s get some sturdy footwear and warm outerwear (or not so warm with this year’s weather) and hit the outdoors and collect some base materials. When you go searching for cones, you will see there are many different kinds and sizes. Be aware of what it is you are wanting to make and the cones which are most suitable for those applications. If your interests vary, pick up some of everything you find. There will be a use for all of them. Find a left over takeout bag (the sturdy kind with those nice carrying handles) and walk through a wooded area with pines and other cone bearing trees. Disposable gloves might be a good addition, the pitch contained on those cones and pines can be a real pain to get off your hands.
Now hit the woods, local park, or even your backyard. Wherever you plan to search. If you are going on a color tour through the country, take supplies with you for your cone search. Your kids, grand kids or friends can help you with the search, or maybe you and your bf can take some time to scour the back roads collecting. Goodell’s Park is always a good destination for a variety of excursions. You will want to examine the cones before dropping them into your bag. Make sure each one is intact, not nibbled by the wildlife before finding that treasure. If they aren’t opened completely they are still good for your use. We will go over cleaning, debugging and opening the cones up. If it looks good to you- IT IS GOOD. If all else fails, you can buy pine cones at several stores.
Look through some decorating ideas using pine cones to get a glimmer of what you might like to do with the cones you find. Your interest will help guide what you look for. Pick up anything you even think might be good for a project. You can always dispose of the leftovers; or gift someone else with a start on their own collection. Kids have projects they can use cones for too. Share the wealth! Helping develop creativity is always a good thing, at any age.
Let’s start with cleaning the pine cones. Fill your kitchen sink, or pail with water and a tablespoon of distilled vinegar or tsp dish detergent and just throw the cones in for a soak. Swish for a couple of minutes with your hands to get a good light washing, then put a weighted plate or other device to hold down the cones. Let them soak for about an hour. Drain or pour the water out, then place the cones on a foil covered baking sheet (or several). Place in a 200-degree oven for about 30 minutes or until the scales open up. This will dry the cones, rid them of any remaining critters, and open them for your decor process. Spread them out on a paper covered surface, in a spare box or paper bag to await your choice of finishes. If you plan on painting your cones, they must be dry. Planning on gluing? They must be clean and dry. Going to cut them apart? Have a sharp wire cutter available with strong hands for the job and a covered work space for any mess that will come from cutting those cones. Please use a full- size cutter, the small wire cutters don’t make it through the tough pine cones, even if they are more comfortable or easier to use. Layers of newspaper over your work surface works well for this part. There will be little pieces of cone bits from cutting, small seeds, stubborn dirt and larger stem pieces of the cone. Preparation helps throughout this project. A paper covered surface helps keep paint off, too. An unwanted cardboard box works well for spray painting. Dipping in primer or wax is just a messy process, no matter how prepared. Any local dollar store is good for picking up anything needed to finish your decorations. Decide what you need according to what you plan to do. Have everything needed for your project so you can finish in one sitting. That will encourage you to move on to your next project without being disappointed that you didn’t complete your first try and have fun. This is an enjoyable experience. Don’t worry about it being perfect, this is a DIY and rarely are those projects perfect. Imperfections make them more unique.
DIY Pine cones Series #1
Let’s start with the painted pine cones. Go to your favorite dollar store, pick up brushes, craft paint in your chosen color, and any other accouterments that are necessary for your project. The hombre painted cones (not pictured) you can use white to lighten or black to darken your paint or choose each shade of the color you wish to use. Make sure you have as many different shades as you want to make your pine cone. At least 3- 4 variants. Start with the darkest shade at the bottom and lighten a step as you go toward the pointed top. Brush your color at the edges of the scales as appear in the photo. The lightest color will be at the smallest point of the pine cone. They show best if you make two rows the same shade and use a denser type of cone with more sturdy scales. The tighter packed cones with lightweight scales don’t show as well. You want the cone to have definite steps and curl slightly out to view the change in color.
The pineapple people start with painting the same type of cone with yellow. (heavyweight, with scales curving out) Cover as much as you can with yellow paint, upper and lower scales-as deep as you can get. Allow to dry. Cut green paper in a strip which you will roll to get your top. Size appropriately to the size of your cone. Cut into one long edge of the strip round slightly to a point each side of the leaves as you cut. Keep one end larger and cut it to smaller leaves at the opposite end. Curl lightly by wrapping each leaf around a pencil, start at pointed end in about an inch. Begin rolling at the smaller end of the strip on the uncut base, being sure to have leaves pointing outward, roll loosely so that it fits over the uppermost point of your yellow cone. Glue paper to the top of pinecone. Glue the sunglasses in place. Allow to completely dry.
Use any cone you like for this, but generally a long one works best. The finer cones with tight scales works for this item. The tree needs to be painted with dark green paint or any color you desire. Maybe you want a forest of many colors. Use a Styrofoam cup painted your choice or anything you choose for the right size and shape for your stand. Put glass dollar store nuggets for weighting the disposable cup. You will want your tree to stand. You can find other small decorations for your tree or decorate the tree base. Clay pots work well without any extra weight. Your imagination is your only limit. Use glue that dries clear to keep everything beautiful. Allow to dry before wrapping or displaying. Cut out sequins work well glued to clay pots, which you can pick up many different shapes and cut outs.
As a longtime school secretary for Port Huron Schools, Beth is no stranger to writing. Now retired she’s excited to start this new endeavor where she’s able to write creatively. She has lived in the Blue Water area her entire life and loves sewing, crafting, and hand work. Beth has three grown children, two current fur babies and been married 35+ years. No grandchildren yet, but she did help deliver a liter of five puppies where she says, “Once was enough!”