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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Making cinnamon-fragranced pinecones, for cheap!

This is another very inexpensive and terribly easy home decor project, that I see for sale in stores -- yes people buy these!

If I didn't have free pinecones I could gather, then maybe I could understand purchasing scented pinecones. But for anyone who has a wooded area near their home, or a woodland hiking spot nearby, or a lovely treed park to visit, the bulk of this project is free. And it can provide a lovely outing, to boot!

You know those cinnamon pinecones in large, red mesh bags, sold in craft stores this time of year? They're usually right by the door, so you can't miss their fragrance, as you walk in.

What I love about them.
I love their fragrance. I love the natural beauty of a clean pinecone. I love that you can have a mass of them, affordably, to adorn your home decor.

But I don't love their price, at $10 per bag. Especially since I can walk right out my front door and find wonderful pinecones, in several sizes, shapes and shades of brown, just laying at my feet.

The other day, I knew I needed to get outside for a few minutes. So I brought a paper sack and went out to the evergreens in the front yard. Under the Western White Pine were these gorgeous, elongated, white-tipped pinecones. I filled my sack, then brought them to the garage to sit until I could get to them. (hands on time 10 minutes, plus I got a nice, but brief, outing)

level of difficulty of this project -- very easy
what I used:
  • foraged pinecones (I've used Western White Pine, but any fallen cones will work), enough to fill a turkey roasting pan
  • roasting pan, line the bottom with foil or a sheet of parchment (this is a great use for that sheet of foil that has been used and washed, multiple times, and is on it's way out the door)
  • cinnamon fragrance oil (the amount will vary with your preference, as well as strength of fragrance) Fragrance oils are less expensive than essential oils, and often the fragrance has a more potent and lingering aroma than their essential oil counterparts. But essential oils can be used, too, and may have aromatherapy benefits. 
  • **You can fragrance these with any fragrance you please. Nearer to Christmas, these would be wonderful if fragranced with a woodland pine oil. Or, you may prefer a blend of spices, like and apple pie oil, or spiced pumpkin pie oil
  • small spray bottle (I've reused a small body-spray bottle. Normally, I use this bottle for spray starch for ironing.)
  • water
  • newspaper and a large plastic bag

Foraged pinecones are a happy abode for all kinds of tiny critters, none of which I want in my home! The cheapest and least toxic way to take care of the bugs is baking in the oven.

I brought my sack of pinecones into the kitchen and dumped them into my foil-lined turkey roaster.

I popped them into a 200 degree F oven for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, I removed the roaster from the oven, and gently turned the pinecones over, to expose any damp ones. The pinecones, themselves, were not terribly hot. I was able to handle them with my fingers.  But then again, I have "asbestos fingers". YMMV.

I put the roaster back into the 200 degree F oven for 25 additional minutes.

Take care with the baking. Check on the pinecones from time to time. Don't leave them unattended. While I had no problems with mine, dried-out pinecones are flammable, and we are talking about putting them inside a heated oven.

After baking, I removed the roaster from the oven, and gently set the pinecones on sheets of newspaper, spread out on the kitchen floor. A fully dried pinecone should be open, and feel lightweight. I was a bit apprehensive about what this might smell like. I was happily surprised that the pinecone-baking had a pleasant pine wood smell. (hands on time, 10 minutes)

Your drying time may vary. Weather conditions where you found the pinecones, their size and the amount in the roaster will affect the length of time required to throughly dry pinecones.

After cooling for a while, (at least 30 minutes, I didn't get back to working with these for a couple of days), I gently shook them, and picked off the moss and pine needles. I lightly brushed off residual dirt with an all-purpose scrub brush. I spread the cleaned and dried pines cones, single layer, but close together on a clean sheet of newspaper. (hands-on time, about 15 minutes)

Time to add fragrance.
The amount of water to use is minimal. It's used to diffuse the fragrance oil over all of the pinecones. I used 1 tablespoon of water, poured into the small spray bottle. To the bottle, I added the fragrance oil. I began with about 10 drops of the cinnamon oil, and tested on my pinecones. It didn't seem strong enough, so I added another 30 drops. Shook well and sprayed over the pinecones. Turn the pinecones over, and spray the other side. To get all of the fragrance out of the spray bottle, I held the last few pinecones, as I sprayed with the bottle upright, and then at the very end, dripped the last bit of fragrance onto some cones. (hands-on time, 5 minutes)

All of the pinecones were put into a large, doubled plastic bag, and sealed the bag tightly. I set the pinecones to infuse with fragrance overnight. Several "overnights" passed, as other things came up. But about 1 week later, I opened the bag, dumped out on clean newspaper and sprayed with another tablespoon of water mixed with about 30 drops of cinnamon oil. Once again, I put sealed in the large plastic bag. (hands-on time, 5 minutes)

By the next morning, the pinecones were nicely infused with cinnamon fragrance, and ready to go into a bowl or basket. These aren't heavily scented, but have a nice, subtle aroma when I pass this spot in the entry hall.

Total hands-on time: 45 minutes, spread out over several days.

I will probably need to refresh the fragrance a couple of times throughout the season.  And I will likely switch over to the Woodland Pine scent that I used on holiday pot pourri last winter, when December begins (I added cinnamon and cloves to that pot pourri, so I don't think the fragrances will compete).

Cost to make: I bought the cinnamon fragrance oil at Hobby Lobby, using a 40% off online coupon, for $2.62, including tax. I used about a quarter of the bottle, about 70 cents worth. The pinecones were free. My electricity cost to run the oven was about 10 cents (or less). My total cost for this project -- 80 cents.

Just an FYI, Dollar Tree sells a cinnamon-apple fragrance, for a mere dollar. Or, you can use coupons at Michael's or Hobby Lobby, or you can order cinnamon fragrance oils online, through Amazon,, or (all about $2.50 to $3.00).

The various online instructions called for much less fragrance oil than satisfied me, like 8-10 drops. Different oils will be more or less fragrant, depending on brand, aroma, purpose for the oil. The cinnamon oil that I found, locally, is candle oil. Perhaps the aroma has less strength in candle oils. or perhaps it was due to the fragrance, as it was a cinnamon roll fragrance, with definite vanilla overtones to the cinnamon. In any case, 8 -10 drops would not have given me the fragrance I desired. I believe I used somewhere around 50 drops, total. Still, it was about 1/4 of the bottle, and very cheap.

You could drip the fragrance oil onto the pinecones, if you were careful to drip into the center of each cone, so as not to stain the outer petals with oil (if that matters to you). The purpose of spraying the cones with a water/oil blend is to diffuse the fragrance evenly over the cones and avoid oil staining. (Just an FYI, incase you'd like to do this but don't have a spray bottle handy.)

Some folks prefer to wash their pinecones in a basin of water, before drying. I opted to skip that, as it seems to me it would just add to the baking time. Since we're not going to eat these pinecones, or place them on white upholstery, I figured drying, then brushing them off, would be adequate for cleaning. I suppose if the pinecones were truly muddy, then a rinse in water would be beneficial.

Incidentally, if you don't want fragranced pinecones, but just want your pinecones au naturel, baking, then a quick brushing off, will give you clean and bug-free pinecones for using indoors.


  1. I like the idea of doing this myself because I can control the amount of scent. I find the ones in the stores overpowering, so I could make some more to my liking. Never thought about baking them, but that makes total sense.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Yes, definitely. Those ones in the stores are so heavily fragranced, probably so they remain fragranced for many months. I see them in the stores beginning in September. 3 or 4 months of fragrance is a lot to infuse into them.

      With the baking, I did have a couple of dead bugs in the bottom of the roasting pan, so I know that part works as it should. Hated to kill the bugs, but didn't want them living in my house. But also, it's through the baking that in our damp climate, here, allows the pinecones to fully open up.

      Have a great day, live and learn!

  2. Sounds lovely! We actually don't have pine cones here, sadly. I went to a women's outdoor skills event a couple of weeks ago up in NE Oklahoma and someone brought pine cones to make fire starters. They were so pretty! But I admit, it made me sad to think of burning them since they're a rarity here...I made the newspaper fire starter instead.

    1. Hi Cat,
      oh my goodness, there is a part of the US where there aren't any pinecones! Yes, I'd react similarly. If I rarely had pinecones the last thing I'd do is burn them!
      Have a great day, Cat! I hope you're enjoying some beatiful fall weather!

  3. Sometimes ours can be very sticky from sap. What do you do to eliminate that? We don't have pine trees on our property but our neighbors sure do! They have very large pinecones but I've never done anything with them because of their stickiness. I like the smell of pine and cinnamon and this looks like a nice project.


    1. Hi Alice,
      Hmmm, I don't know what you can do about the sap, without using a solvent. Maybe heat would help get rid of some of the sap. I did notice that some sap came out of mine, and onto the foil sheet on the bottom of the roaster. You could try lining a baking sheet with foil or parchment, and baking them all single layer, turning over halfway through baking. A good deal of the sap may come off onto the foil/parchment. Otherwise, using some rubbing alcohol, as a solvent, on a rag with them could help get rid of some sap.

      Have a great day, Alice!

  4. Good idea to bake them to get rid of the bugs. I will give this a try. I will leave natural. I never know what fragrance will trigger a migraine. I use mint to ward off
    migraines however my daughter does not like it so I think we will leave them natural. I love that the holidays are here. :)
    Have a fun day. I think I will try to do some sewing today.

    1. Hi Patti,
      I think natural will have a nice appeal.
      I'm working on Christmas gifts this week, too. Have fun sewing!

      have a great day, Patti!


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