Thanksgiving is over, and you’re probably starting to decorate for Christmas. If you live in an area with pine trees, you’ll find pinecones covering the ground this time of year. Not only do pinecones make great holiday and winter decorations, you can also use them to make fire starters for yourself or as a holiday gift for anyone who has a fireplace.
To make the fire starters, first send the kids outside to fill up a grocery bag full of pinecones in various sizes and shapes. Male pinecones work best. Those are the ones where the scales are spread open rather than closed tightly. The pinecones need to be dry, so if the weather has been damp, let them sit for a few days to dry out.
Besides the pinecones, you’ll need white, red or green beeswax or paraffin, a double boiler, thin floral wire or bamboo skewers, wax paper, salt (optional), essential oil (optional), and a decorative basket large enough to hold the finished fire starters.
You can use plain table salt, Kosher salt, Epsom salts, salt substitute, or a combination. The salts will turn the flames different colors when they burn. If using essential oil, add 1/4 tsp. per 1 pt. melted wax. Peppermint or cinnamon will fill your home with holiday scents.
Melt the wax in a double boiler to 150-175 degrees F. Stir in optional essential oil.
Hook a piece of wire around each pinecone, leaving a piece long enough for you to hold, or twist the pointy end of the bamboo skewer into the bottom of the pinecone.
Carefully dip a pinecone into the wax, then place on the wax paper. Allow the wax to dry for a few minutes. Dip a second time and immediately shake salt over the wax. Place on wax paper to dry.
Fill the basket with the finished fire starters and set beside your fireplace or use as hostess gifts when you attend holiday parties.
In addition to fire starters, you can decorate with painted pinecones. Using 3 parts acrylic paint to 2 parts water, dip the pinecones in the paint. You can go with traditional Christmas colors of red, green, and white, or go wild with jewel tones. Gently shake off the excess paint. Sprinkle with glitter, then place on wax paper to dry.
If the pinecones close up as they’re drying, don’t worry. It’s easy to open them. Let them dry overnight. Then place them on a parchment covered cookie sheet in an oven set to the lowest temperature. Check the pinecones every 30 minutes. Once they’ve opened, remove the cookie sheet from the oven.
Don’t want to bother with the possibility of pinecones closing after they’re painted? Simply add a dollop of gesso or thick acrylic paint to the tips of each scale and sprinkle with glitter.
Intersperse the painted pinecones around candles for a centerpiece, line them up in a row across a mantle or a wide windowsill, or fill a clear bowl with them. You can also use them as tree ornaments, wire them into wreaths, or string them into garlands. Let your imagination run wild.