Friday, January 1, 2021

A Gift From the Wilds of Toronto


One day in early fall 2020 I walked to Toronto's Stockyards shopping complex to do some errands. It's more than 3 km from my house, and when I was walking up Keele Street, I stopped halfway between Dundas West and St. Clair to sit on a concrete wall in order to rest and hydrate. The wall bordered the grounds of  a large building, and there was a line of pine trees planted alongside the building. As I sat there I noticed a pinecone sitting on the grass beside me. I picked the pinecone up and looked at it, and found myself flashing back to the day I made a pinecone tree ornament in kindergarten, in what would have been December 1978. I can't even remember my kindergarten teacher's name any more, or the names of any of my classmates (I only attended that elementary school for one year), but I still clearly remember how I daubed the pinecone with glue and the moment of pouring glitter over it, then shaking the pinecone to rid it of the excess glitter. 

I presented that pinecone to my mother when I got home from school that day, and she accepted it with genuine pleasure -- rare for her, since she normally received my bungled childhood crafting and art attempts politely and then discreetly disposed of them as soon as possible afterwards. She still has that pinecone ornament and hangs it on her Christmas tree every year. It really is a delicately pretty little thing, and it must be the oldest surviving example of my handiwork.

Once I'd relived that crafting memory, I got the idea of making a whole set of pinecone ornaments for stocking stuffers for my mother and sister for Christmas. Why not, when I had a source for the pinecones right there in the wilds of Toronto? I had spray adhesive at home, and would only need to buy some glitter at the dollar store, so it would be an inexpensive project, and the ornaments wouldn't be all that much work.  

In what was technically an act of trespassing and petty theft, I walked among the pine trees, gathering up or picking pinecones off the trees, until I had 18 pinecones. I put them in a bag I had with me. After I got home I did some research on pinecone tree ornaments -- and other pinecone crafts -- and created and populated a modest Pinterest board on the topic. I decided this set of pinecone oranments would have ribbon bows on them. I had a whole box of Christmas ribbons left over from the "12 Drummers Drumming" Christmas centrepiece that I had made in June 2020 that I could use for the ribbon bows. I only had to buy a package of four vials of different coloured glitter at the dollar store for $1.43. (Five-year-old me never dreamed of such resources.) 

My next step was to prepare the pinecones by cleaning them. I gave them a bath in the kitchen sink, subjecting them to a gentle scrubbing with a vegetable cleaning brush. I wouldn't recommend skipping the cleaning stage -- I had hardly thought they needed it, but the bath water went surprisingly dark and dirty. After the cones had had a day or two to dry out, I baked them in the oven at 220 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes. 

The rest of the process is pretty obvious: I sprayed the pinecones with adhesive and poured glitter over them. And made a royal mess in the process. My tastes don't run to glitter and I've hardly ever used it, and each time I do use it, the experience does nothing to make me want to do it more often. Glitter isn't called the herpes of the crafting world for nothing. It gets everywhere. As carefully as I worked with it, and then cleaned and vacuumed, it still infected my next couple of projects. And it reminded me of a timely illustration I saw on Twitter regarding masking up to prevent the spread of COVID: if there are twenty crafters in a room and one of them uses glitter, how many of them have glitter on their projects?

While the newly glittering pinecones were drying, I made a set of 18 perky ribbon bows, took a few stitches in each with sewing thread to keep them from coming undone, and ran a hanging loop of embroidery floss through the back of the ribbon knot. Finally, I glued the ribbon bows on the pinecones. The result wasn't bad, I thought, though I have my concerns as to how well the ribbon bows are bonded to the pinecones. But then, if they should come apart, my mother and sister know their way around a glue bottle. 


This is the set of nine pinecones I made for my mother. For Mum's set, I chose gold glitter and three different kinds of ribbon, all of which were rendered in red and gold. 

This is the set of nine pinecones I made for my sister. Her pinecones are decorated in silver glitter and the three kind of ribbon I thought went best with silver: green velvet, red velvet, and a silver-threaded green and red tartan ribbon. 

I packed the two sets of pinecones into two pretty dollar store Christmas cookie tins in an effort to protect them and to keep them from shitting glitter everywhere. I hope my mother and sister liked them. I didn't go to my parents' house for Christmas this year as I usually do because of the pandemic. We contented ourselves with a masked curbside pick up/drop off of our respective presents on December 23rd. But it was nice to think of my parents and sister opening these ornaments and all my other gifts on Christmas morning, as I opened their gifts at my house. At least, on that morning, they would think of me and know that I had thought of them.