With a bevy of perfect pine cones in our stash we had the opportunity to create several different ornaments this year. Last December we had found nice big pine cones (probably from a longleaf pine) that we used for our peanut butter birdfeeders, but on our scavenger hunts these last weeks it was mostly loblolly and shortleaf pines, which have medium and small-sized cones. Note that many of our southern pines have “armed umbos,” which feel like they sound – sharp! – so beware when collecting and working with them. (The umbo is the slightly raised diamond on the end of each scale, and if it is armed it will have a sharp prickle on the end.)
We used the smallest of the pine cones to make these little elves. The miniature ones work best for a Christmas tree because once you’ve affixed the hat and accessories you don’t want the ornament to be too heavy for the branches. Larger, heavier elves could perch in your holiday wreath or in a garland over the mantle, and they have the advantage of being easier for little hands to work with.
First we plugged in the hot glue gun and added wooden beads to the top of the pine cones for heads. I purchased a set of a range of sizes which worked well for us since we had an assortment of cones, and the boys ‘tried on’ different sized beads to see which best suited each cone. To make this activity as simple for the boys as possible, I then asked them what accessories their elves would wear and let them choose colors before cutting everything out for them (older children could do this themselves). The boys glued these miniature gloves, boots, hats and hearts to the pinecone, and we set them to the side to dry. Although I could have let them draw faces on the elves at this point, I prefer to keep the faces blank; I read somewhere that this allows more flexibility in imagining facial expressions and emotion – what do you think?
The final step was to use the hot glue gun again and glue the elves onto clothespins. Smaller clothespins are ideal since they weigh less and are less conspicuous, however larger pins could be used for big pine cones that need to be more securely clipped.
In our modern ‘elf on the shelf’ times these little pine cone elves are simple and small, reminders of our family outings to the woods and handmade by the little hands that live in our home. Once again there are so many possibilities to embellish and personalize each one, not just with different colors of felt, but with tiny accessories: acorn caps instead of gnome hats, skis and poles in hand, tiny candy canes or even antlers and red noses. I wish you fun in determining the personality of each one of your collected pine cones, and we will see you tomorrow here on 24 Days of Baltic Christmas for a big surprise…