Tips for Preparing Acorns for Decorating and Crafting

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My friend mentioned to me that there just had to be something she could do with the garbage can filled with acorns she had just raked up from her yard…aside from starting an oak forest.   You too?

Recently, I shared the first of several upcoming ideas for creating home decor with acorns here.


Tips for Preparing Acorns for Decorating and Crafting


Can you imagine living in a virtual oak forest and never having crafted anything with acorns?  [guilty]

This year…I’m making up for lost time.  There’s a county park within walking distance and I’ve filled up a couple of bags of assorted acorn varieties.  Some with fat wide caps and others with tall oriental style caps, tiny ones and jumbo ones.  It’s so fun to discover their individual uniqueness.

Last year I gave up trying to score acorns (I guess the deer beat me to them.) and moved on to pine cones.  I knew that I had to think about bugs and such and I needed to dry them out…so I did a little experimenting with my pine cones and wrote this popular post.

With that past experience, I knew I needed to learn more about oak acorns.  I know nothing about oak trees….even though I have a Master Gardener certificate.  (I guess I dozed off during the oak tree lecture. [wink])

There’s so much to learn…but today…


A few helpful tips for preparing acorns for decorating and crafting.


Try to pick up acorns early in the season and after a good wind storm.  You’ll have fresher ones and more to choose from and the picking is easier.  Squirrels, chipmunks, and deer are pretty quick to scarf up their treats.


Tips for preparing acorns for crafting and home decor


If you’re planning on using acorns in your home decor, it’s a good idea to wash your collected acorns and bake them to kill their insect residents.

The first thing you want to do, once your get your treasures home, is to clean them.  Place several handfuls in a large bowl and using the faucet’s aerator, fill up the bowl with water.  Then agitate the acorns in the water, with your hands, briskly to remove the dirt.

Next, remove the acorns from the water and place them in a colander and dispose of the dirty water.

Repeat this process until the water is fairly clean….as many as four or more times.


Preparing Acorns for Crafting


If you want to eat your acorns or grind them into a flour…place a few handfuls at a time in a clean bowl of water.  If the acorn sinks…it’s bug free and edible.  If it floats…there are little beasties lurking behind that acorn’s pretty facade. (Most of mine floated even though many had little holes from which their inhabitants had already exited.)  Those will need to be baked for sure.


Cleaning and Baking Acorns for Crafting


Once you have completed this process, lay your acorns on a foil covered jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with sides) and allow them to air dry before putting them in the oven to bake.


Tips for Preparing Acorns for Crafting and Decorating


Set your oven for 175 or 200 degrees.  (In my haste I set mine for 250 degrees, but some of them darkened a little too much.)  Bake your acorns with the oven door ajar for several hours to dry and debug them…turning them (stir them around) several times.

Remove them from the oven and allow to cool.  Some will have shrunk and will need to have their caps glued on.

So there you have it!  My tips for preparing acorns for decorating and crafting!


Tips for Preparing Acorns for Crafting and Decorating


I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with oak trees.

The home we built in Michigan had two oak trees and my neighbors had scores of them down the street.  Our neighborhood was a virtual oak forest.

After cooling us with their lovely green canopy all summer long, and finally after 14 years, growing tall enough to shade our dining room from the hot sun in the west, they seemed to maliciously shed their leaves and corns come fall and winter.  Some years they even had the audacity to hang onto their leaves until there was plenty of snow on the grown and then in the midst of all that pristine whiteness they would drop their leaves.  The nerve!!  Anyway…that’s all I know about oak trees, their leaves and nuts.

This year as I walked a local county park I discovered some very tiny pale tan round balls.  Littering the ground. They looked like they were made of wood or clay.  I picked up a few, examined them, and looked around for their source.  As I carefully scanned the giant oak above my head, I spied tiny little tan balls clinging to the twigs midst the leaves.  What were these little balls?  Another oak fruit or nut I never heard of?


Tips for Drying Acorns for Crafting & Decorating


After a bit of Googling, we discovered those tiny balls were first year acorns.  Have you ever heard of such a thing?  I cannot believe that after years of oak trees in my yard and tromping through the woods and scavenging for leftovers from Mother Nature’s bounty, I never ever saw them before now.

These tiny acorns will grow a cap and increase their size many times in their second year.


Tips for Drying Acorns for Crafting and Decorating


You know how you hear that there will be a bad winter when there are lots of acorns?  If that’s the case…we’re in for a doozy.  The poor photo above is of acorns along the side of the road where I walk.  Just a few….

Last winter was the worst I’ve known, and there were hardly any acorns in my neck of the woods… so I guess the tale is just that.

I think the production of acorns is more in keeping with the kindness of the growing season.  If the summer is harsh and dry, those first year acorns probably won’t make it the first year, let alone hang on and mature to the second year.  This was a good growing year.  There was plenty of moisture and it wasn’t overly hot, which was helpful to the tree.  So, the second year corns were able to grow and ripen quite nicely.


How do you decorate or craft with acorns?

Do you have any tips for preparing your acorns?


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  1. Mel says

    Wow… I know what those odd but cute balls are! And I agree with you– it’s been a great year for trees and the colours this fall (and all those acorns) is proof of that. I knew about the sinking acorn deal. Since I like to use nature’s gifts to scatter around when I decorate it really matters that the bugs don’t get a free ride.

    • Diane says

      I love taking in Mother Nature’s beauties….but those little hitch hikers can take a hike right out my door! 😉
      Now only if the color would stay around and the temps choose not to drop….fall is just tooo short!

      • Theresa Klyne says

        My acorns are still green , do l just let them sit outside , to get them brown,? the squirrels are very hungry so had to pick before all gone.

        • Sorry about those pesky squirrels. My acorns never fall until they are mostly brown… and it’s much later in the season. When they’re brown they’re ripe inside and their shells are dryer. I’m guessing that if you dry them in the oven at a lower temp for longer it may work. It’s worth experimenting.

    • juanita kirchman says

      I picked up so giant size acorns. I washed them and baked then for 2 hrs at 200 4 2 hrs. But they are a grayish looking color. How do i get them to the pretty shiny brown that i see on here?

      • Hmmm… Juanita if your pine cones were grayish when you gathered them they will be gray after they have been “baked.” The fresher more newly fallen pine cones are much browner. The shininess comes from the pitch that becomes a hard glaze as they are baked. If they were grayish when you gathered them, the pitch probably dried in the sun’s warmth. If you’re unhappy with the look, give them a little paint for a snowy look. Hope that helps.

      • Christine A Fry says

        how big are giant acorns?? dont know if I have seen any of those?

    • Nancy says

      those little balls from the oak tree are actually Oak Gall. The way the tree protects itself from wasp injected bacteria

      • Nancy, I know exactly what you are referring to and have seen the oak galls in the woods. These are NOT oak galls. They are tiny and hard and nothing like the oak gall which is actually beautiful in its own way. Thank you for taking the time to share this. All the best for an extraordinary day!

  2. Thanks for the info on preparing the acorns.

  3. Tonya Gambin says

    Thank you for this post, it was beautiful.
    I have always loved acorns, nature gives us so many beautiful things if we only take the time to notice them.
    In this world people often miss the simple pretty things god gives us.
    This was beautiful, unfortunately they are not in my area, but they are in my grocery/craft store some times 🙂

  4. Dona says

    OK, I’m late for this party, but my email has not been getting all my blogs I subscribe to for several months!! I’ll not complain anymore, since you are back, and hopefully for good! As for acorns, being raised on a ranch in Northern Californing (way northern, 80 miles or more above Sacramento) I had tons of acorns to play with. Now that I live in AZ, I have yet to find a cactus that has them (sigh). I’m so envious of you! In a good way. Wish I could have a couple pounds of them!!

    • Diane says

      I’m sorry for the hit and miss on the emails Dona. I discovered that many of my favorite blogs end up in my spam folder. So…check there and then add me to your email contacts…that should help. What does Mother Nature give you in AZ to craft and create with? I so take for granted living in the verdant eastern midwest. Good to see you again, Dona! Thanks so much for taking the time to say “Hi!” Hope your week is extraordinary!

  5. Jann Olson says

    Thanks for sharing these tips Diane. I love acorns! Don’t have any in my yard, but I gather them on trips and walks. I have been lucky and not had any bugs. I have some in a 2 tiered wire basket in my little bathroom off the garage all year long. I had a friend that put some in a bowl and later discovered little worms crawling all over. EEK! From now on when I gather I will roast in the oven. I had wondered about doing that or freezing them to kill any little critters that might have taken up residency inside. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

    • Christine A Fry says

      I wonder if you could do that instead of baking??? put them in a gallon ziploc freezer bag and leave in freezer for a couple days, would it have the same results??

  6. Great tips Diane! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Thanks for linking your extra-ordinary tips and projects up at our party It’s really fun having you party with us!! See you again tomorrow! ~ Rose

    • Diane says

      Awww…you are so sweet, friend!!
      I have a fun project to link up tomorrow!! 😉

  8. Oh, and btw. I know this is going to happen as a result of reading your post… I will keep my eyes on the ground at my park walk this morning, looking for those acorns! I used to collect them in a vase for display. An easy Fall decor idea.

    • Diane says

      Haha! You’ll be finding acorns everywhere now, Rose!!
      Acorns are such an easy idea for decorating. Funny how we like them so much. 😉
      Thanks for popping by! Hope your week is filled with extraordinary creativity!

  9. Great tips! Lots of cute things to do with acorns. I actually just read that you can eat them too! Made my way here via the Sew Can Do Craftastic link party. I’d love it if you stopped by my blog sometime!

    • Diane says

      Awww…thanks Courtney! I wonder what the acorns taste like. You’ll laugh, but just like ants and crickets, I’m not brave enough to try them yet. 😉
      Thanks so much for stopping by! Hope your week is extraordinary!

  10. Living in the South, we have loads of buggy critters. I learned the hard way to prepare my acorns for decorating when I looked at my beautiful centerpiece and saw a glass vase full of little white wormy things! EEEEWWWW!!!!!!
    Now, I microwave my acorns (spanish moss too). Placed in a zip-lock bag with a small opening for “breathing room,” I zap them for several 15-20 second intervals.

    BAM! Bugs be gone and welcome to festive fall!

    • Diane says

      I so rarely use a microwave, I never would have thought to do that Leslie Anne. Nuke those little buggers!! 🙂
      Thanks so much for sharing that!!

  11. Marie says

    I am an acorn collector/hoarder and this year I have seen tons of acorns! There was a lot of rain this week and I am hoping that it doesn’t ruin all of the hoe ones I have yet to pick up yet.

    Marie @ In Our Happy Place

    • Diane says

      Oh there were lots of acorns this year. I think if you can pick them up and dry them in the oven… they’ll be fine. 🙂
      Thanks for popping by Marie. 🙂 Good luck with your collection. 🙂

  12. Great post! I didn’t know about first year acorns and am going to share what I’ve learned with my 6th grade science students when we study plant reproduction.

    • I found that so fascinating. I think of all my plant studies and realize we always have something new to learn.
      Thanks for your kind words, Paula! Have fun with your class. 🙂

  13. Luciana says

    So just how long do you mean by several hours?

  14. Kathy Watson says

    You sound like the perfect person to ask this “debugging” question…I’ve worked with pinecones a lot and always cleaned and baked them first to get rid of any “pets” but this was my first time working with acorns. I baked a batch in a low oven but noticed a number of them cracked so I thought I shouldn’t do that. Instead I cleaned and sprayed others with a matte varnish (a few coats) every which way and felt assured they were fine but just noticed I still see a number of wormies in the container! Can I salvage them by baking now after having sprayed them already? I’m concerned it could be a fire hazard? (I’ve already glued some caps on and made holes for hanging, etc, so I hope it’s not hopeless!!) I look forward to your expert opinion. Thank you!

    • Kathy… thanks for your kind words.

      Those pesky worms will eat their way out of the acorn no matter what is covering them. We finish the acorn just so that it’s prettier, like waxing or putting poly on a table to make it shine and bring out the beauty of the wood. I’m not sure why your acorns cracked… probably because they fully dried out (or were over dried)… just like wood furniture does when exposed to direct heat for some time.

      Once you’ve placed a coating on your acorns, you can “bake” them again, but probably don’t want to do that because you will be heating up the coating’s chemical mix on the acorn which will probably be an unpleasant aroma in your kitchen. I’m not sure how harmful it would be, but I would not suggest doing that… especially if you have a gas oven.

      You do have a dilemma because of your investment of time in your project already. I do know, I would probably start over with fresh acorns if it were me. Sorry… I’m thinking that is not the answer you were hoping for.

      All the best!

  15. Kathy ala says

    Not only appreciated your directions to preparing the acorns, I also liked your tidbits of discovery of them! Thank you for sharing! My son’s wedding is coming up in October, I am thinking of filling glass vases of them with some kind of finish, either shellac, glitter or gold painted….or maybe all! Will be making them as samples to see which I like best!

    • Congratulations on your upcoming wedding celebration! It sounds like you have access to LOTS of acorns Kathy!
      Thanks so much for your kind words… you just made my day!
      Have fun creating with acorns!!

  16. This article was very interesting and informative. So glad I found it. I have started a project making wreaths for my family and friends and to make a little money to supplement my disability. we don’t have any cones that look like the ones in your blog. Is there anyway you would mail me some and I would gladly pay you for your trouble? By the way, I’m from South Georgia.

  17. Jim C says

    I suspect those little balls are not acorns but insect galls; There are a number of wasp like insects that have a commensal relationship with common oaks trees. The female wasp stings the leave or twig and deposits an egg. The tree responds to the stimulus by walling off the egg/juvenile wasp in a protected spherical incubator where it matures. The leaf galls typically fall off in the Fall, and my yard is currently littered with them. The ones on my mostly post-oaks are red and berry sized. Only a few resemble those pictured above. I suspect the differences are related to a combination of which tree species and which wasp species are involved. Although the insect lives off the tree during its development, they do very little damage.

    • You may be correct Jim, I came up with my conclusion after doing a bit of research. You’ve perked my interest and I’ll have to investigate it a little more thoroughly.
      All the best!

  18. Pamela Turcot says

    O O O
    If only I could sent you a big ole bag to scoop them up
    and ship them back … I am so envious!!! 😀

    • Awww… Pamela, this year was not a good year for the acorns, or the squirrels were too quick! LOL My fingers are crossed for a good year this fall.
      All the best!

  19. Nan says

    I think my dad feeds the birds and squirrels to well year round for them to have to look for acorns. Our dog comes on with broken ones stuck on his pads on his paws all the time. But I will have to start looking for acorns. This is a great blog

  20. I have a 28 yr old oak tree.
    Where’s my acorns?

    • That’s a good question! Hope you figure it out, Patti!

    • Someone mentioned to me the other day that a tree must be 40 years old to produce acorns. Looks like you have a little wait yet, Patti!

  21. Mary Porter says

    Hi Diane, this is my first year finishing acorns. I dried them for 2 hours at 160-200 degrees, turning them along the way. I finished them by spraying a mat finish. I waited a few days and placed a few in plastic baggies. They molded! I was surprised. The ones left out in a bowl were just fine. Not sure what caused it. I gave them quite a few days to dry in the open air. Thanks for any suggestions.

    • I’m so sorry that happened to your acorns, Mary. I would guess that your acorns had a lot of moisture in them and were not completely dry. I think 160 degrees might be too low to dry them in that period of time. Next year, keep the temp at 200 degrees or push the temp a little higher and add some extra time to the “baking.” Just keep an eye on them so you don’t brown them. Generally, I start crafting with mine right away and keep them in an open container, so I’ve never had a moisture problem. I hope that helps. Cheers!

  22. Robin Fullford says

    My oven runs on propane and so is rather expensive to use. Can acorns be “baked” in a dehydrator? It would be so much less expensive and Earth friendly.

    • I’ve never done that Robin. The purpose of baking is to “kill” the worms that may be lurking inside the acorn. Maybe dehydrating would dry out the worms. I’d try it for sure… why not? Let me know how it works out!

  23. Lucas Hoopes says

    Thank you for sharing! I am baking the best acorns I collected -the ones without holes- for indoor decorating…hoping I can lacquer them and make them last a bit longer. Do you think it’s necessary to bake the ones with tiny holes that I will be placing in a basket for a porch display? Thanks so much!

    • I’m excited for you Lucas! If you’re displaying them on an outdoor porch I wouldn’t worry. The holes usually mean the bugs have exited, but I’d keep my eye on them looking for tiny worms if they’re inside and haven’t been baked.

      Have fun decorating for fall!!

  24. Sharion Winfield says

    All questions are very helpful, This is my first time crafting with acorns, I would like to know how long it takes for them to dry before baking? Thank you much.

    • Just place them on a towel, blot off the extra moisture, and then place on the baking sheet and then slip into the oven. No drying time necessary before baking. Hope that helps, Sharon!
      All the best for an extraordinary fall!

  25. jacki says

    Our acorns have a fuzz on them which turn white or snowy looking after baking. You have to rub them with a towel or brush to remove it to get to the shiny acorn.It is very labor intense.We wondered if a rock polisher would speed up the job,Has anybody else had this problem.

  26. Oh my goodness, Jacki, I have never had that problem. I wonder if you have really hard water that left a residue. However, my acorns aren’t shiny… just the normal matte finish that they have after they fall. I always spray them with a little clear poly coat and that gives them a bit of shine. Try spraying a few and see if they don’t look okay, then?
    All the best!!


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