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How to make Cotton Stems Inexpensively

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My aunt had a cotton plant on her back porch.  I wish I remembered a bit more about how nature put that cotton plant together. Instead, I imagine how a cotton stem would come together.

Close up of cotton stems

This is my cotton stems.  Below is how I made them.

hot glue gun with pine cone and cotton balls

I gathered old elk trotted on pine cones.  Not sure how important the elk trotted pine cones are to the project. 🙂  But old pine cones are easier to break apart.  Beautiful store-bought pine cones are hard to cut apart.  If you can, find pine cones in a local park or forest.  Kids trotted pine cones are great for the project too. 🙂

While gathering I grabbed some tree branches.

To clean the pine cones from any bugs, I boiled a pan of water, removed from heat and popped in the pine cones for a few seconds.  This softened the pine cones too!  The branches were washed down with the garden hose.

When inside I grabbed two handfuls of cotton balls and fired up the hot glue gun.  You can read my hot glue gun tips here.

cotton balls with pine cone scale glued around in a circle

I fluffed out the cotton balls quite a bit, then rolled then slightly back to round.

I pulled the middle scales from the pine cone.  Actually, I pulled, twisted, cut, and wiggled out the scales.  The middle scales are larger and easier to pull, twist, cut, and wiggle out!

Then I hot glued them in a cross shape.

cotton balls pine cone branches

Next, I tried hot gluing them onto the branches by adding the hot glue to the branch stems.  That didn’t work as well as, adding a dollop of hot glue to the center of the pine scales and pushing into the branch stems.

cotton head pine cones and cotton stems displayed


We’ve had a busy weekend, but “hands-on” time to complete was under 30 minutes including a stroll to gather the nature pieces.

Are cotton balls natural?

Easy to make your own cotton stems using cotton balls and items found outside. Country Design Style


Glad I had white cotton balls!

This wouldn’t look as realistic with pink cotton balls. 😕

Update:  I will be making cotton stems on a LIVE workshop with subscribers, October 6 at 4:30 pm PST.  Please click here to learn more.  If you’re a subscriber check your email to register for the free workshop.


I made a cotton wreath too!

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    1. Pam says

      Good idea! I spritzed a bit of watered down tea to color balls. Fresh cotton is not white, so this is just a little recommendation. Will get my cotton planted for sure next year!!!

    2. mick says

      GENIUS! BRILLIANT!! I have been ‘lusting’ after cotton stems for months, but did not want to pay the prices asked. I dug out an unopened bag (200 ct), of larger sized balls, from back of cabinet. Now, I just have to wait for the sun to rise, so I can gather branches and pine cones.

      • mick says

        OK, so I bought a bag of those scented pines everyone has during this season. I had little success removing the scales so I decided to come up w/something easier. I LOVE a challenge! I ended up cutting them from a roll of brown paper (you could probably use brown paper bag). They’ll ‘pass’ if you don’t look too close.

        • Jeanette says

          I didn’t think about the store bought pine cones being so tough to cut up. They haven’t been laying on the ground and getting trampled by elk to break them down some. Great idea to use brown paper! I’m proud you didn’t give up and came up with another way! That’s what DIY it all about!

    3. Denise says

      Did you use just one cotton ball per boll? They look so fluffy, I wasn’t able to tell. Thanks for sharing such a great idea

    4. Cecilia says

      Jeanette, I love these! I have lots of pinecone so (although no elk to trample them) and cotton balls. I think I’m going to make some…maybe dust them with glitter for a Christmasy look! Cool! I’m too cheap to buy the ready made ones! Lol. These are perfect. 🙂

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