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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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With Imagination, Nature's Discards Make Great Crafts

LAS CRUCES -- It's fall in New Mexico. The weather is changing, leaves are piling up and holiday craft shows are being held almost every weekend. With nature as inspiration, creative crafters can transform garden trash into treasure.


"Making marketable crafts requires a little imagination and a quick eye for spotting resources and materials," said George Dickerson, horticulture specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service . "These resources might include pine cones, pine needles, acorns, small seeds, pipe cleaners and a glue gun. With a little imagination, these materials can be made into a turkey for holiday decorations."

Collecting nature's discards can give crafters an inexpensive supply of unique materials. The devil's claw makes a great roadrunner, while lowly tumbleweeds can be tied together and flocked white to create snowmen. Dry corn shucks can be molded into dolls topped with dried corn silk for hair. Dry desert gourds can be sanded, painted and wired to make Christmas ornaments.

"Corn dolls -- made of blue corn ears, shucks and gourds -- are popular at craft fairs," Dickerson said. "The ears are used as legs and arms and the shucks are molded to form the body. For the face, a gourd cut in half can be painted in kachina style and topped with feathers."

Decorative ristras can be created from a variety of materials, including corn, chile and garlic.

Moisten the leaves of ornamental corn and weave together into corn ristras. "This is particularly impressive using strawberry popcorn," he said. Adorn the top with teased corn husks and a ribbon.

For chile ristras, connect large or small dried chile pods together by the stems with string or floral wire, arranging the pods in a spiral to cover the string. "Ornamental corn or garlic can be added to the ristra for variety," Dickerson said.

Harvest wreaths also make their appearance during the fall season. The base of the wreath can be fashioned from dried grape or Virginia creeper vines. Hold the vines in place with floral wire, then decorate with pine cones, chile pods, garlic bulbs, small gourds, dried flowers, dried yucca pods or even dried okra pods. Secure items to the base with floral wire or glue.

"For Christmas wreaths, replace the vine base with evergreen limbs," he said. "Extra limbs from the bottom of a Christmas tree or even pruned limbs from holly or juniper hedges can be used." Decorate the wreath with pine cones, painted gourds or berries from pyracantha or other holly-type plants.