Before you begin
You’ll need the following supplies:
- Pine cones. Lots and lots of pine cones. You’ll need a variety as well. You’ll want big ones to cover large swaths of space, medium sized to connect the larger ones, and small ones to fill in any holes. Typically, in New Mexico, we’d use 4-6 different varieties. We scoured Arlington, Alexandria and Washington D.C. to pick ours, and it took a couple of days. If you’re in New Mexico, it should take a couple of hours max. If you don’t want to pick them yourself, some craft stores sell bundles of pine cones. Remember, you want to check whether they have a variety.
- A straw wreath form – you can see an example here. We found ours at Michaels.
- Hot glue gun and hot glue. It’s best to stock up on the glue – you might end up using quite a bit, but regardless you always need hot glue, right? Also, splurge on the hot glue gun. The cheaper ones might leak glue out the side, or won’t have even glue flow. It’s a lot safer to spend a few more bucks.
- Clear acrylic gloss of the spray-can variety.
- Old newspapers.
- Neosporin (I swear I burn myself every time I make one of these).
- Just in case you think I’m joking, read these instructions on determining the whether a burn is minor or requires medical attention.
- Some form of colorful bobble: we used miniature ornaments on the wreath above.
- Fabric poinsettias: I actually shot the above picture before we affixed two white poinsettias.
- A door hanger: if you’re giving it as a gift, you want them to be able to hang it right away!
Prepare your work area by spreading out the newspapers. We use several layers to make sure the glue doesn’t reach the table or counter top (wherever you might be working). Remove the plastic sheeting from the wreath form. Also, get your pine cones out of their bag/container, and plug in your glue gun.
NOTE: Please demonstrate extra care while handling hot glue guns and hot glue. As stated before, every time I’ve made one of these I’ve burned myself. I’m 29 years old; be especially careful if you’re doing this with kids.
So, from here, you’re basically letting your creative self take the driver seat. Take a pine cone, squeeze some hot glue on its side or bottom, and hold it in place on the wreath. Grab another pine cone, and repeat. And again. And again.
I like to just grab whichever pine cone is closest, or whichever one I have my eye on, and glue it on. My mother is a bit more methodical – she’ll plan it out a bit better. I like to use glue sparingly, and reinforce the pine cones by gluing pieces to one another. My mom, will use a lot of glue and rely on that to hold it to the form. Regardless, you’ll eventually start to fill out the wreath, and you want to cover most of it. Leave the back (which should be flat to hang against the door) clear.
IF YOU BURN YOURSELF: If the burn is mild, say, you dripped some glue on your finger or hand, run the affected area under cool water for at least five minutes (first aid instructions here). Then cover it with a bandage. If you’ve really, really burned yourself, seek immediate medical attention.
Once you’re done gluing the pine cones, you’re getting ready to finish the wreath. If you bought ornaments or other colorful decorations, feel free to glue them on now (but save the poinsettias until later). Unplug your glue guns. Take your wreath outdoors, and spray it with two coats of clear acrylic gloss (wait 15 minutes in between coats). Try to keep dust or sand from blowing on the wreath while the gloss is wet.
After the second coat is dry, you’re pretty much done. Make any last-minute additions (like the poinsettias), but otherwise you’re good to go.
Feel free to deviate from the materials – we use pine cones because they vary in size, shape, and color, but they’re still pine cones. You can add other materials as you see fit – make it your own! And send me your photos.
These really do make great gifts. They’ll last for years, and materials costs aren’t outrageous. They have the homemade feel that really shows you put some thought and care into the gift, and the recipient will remember it every time they hang it out on the door.