Ack, we’re painting the hall bathroom, and we can’t wait to finish, shoot pics, and share them with you guys! But since that’s still in progress, I thought this stellar example of things not always working out might make you guys smile. We always get asked “what happens if you try something and it doesn’t work?” and I always say “we blog about it, of course!” You know, like this and this and this. We love sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly. And we can totally relate to a failed craft project or ten. So here we go…
In Richmond it has been raining men. If by men I mean acorns. Seriously, those little buggers are everywhere.
So I got a wild hair and decided – most definitely inspired by all the crafty acorn projects on sites like Martha & Pinterest – that I would do a cute little acorn craft. So I gathered up some acorns with my trusty assistants (those would be Clara and Burger, who actually worked against me the whole time by throwing/kicking/chasing them away from me) and put a few dozen into a bag.
Then I froze those suckers because I remember hearing a few horror stores about bugs or other odd things “hatching” from acorns, and those I did not want.
I left them in the freezer overnight, which I hear is all that it takes to kill off anything suspicious (although I did think to myself “self, doesn’t it get that cold outside? what is superior about a freezer that makes it better?”).
Then a day later I took them out of the freezer and let them thaw out. Later I poured some leftover craft paint (a little tube of acrylic paint that was originally like two bucks from Michaels) into a bowl. Then I took all the “hats” (you know, those little top parts of the acorn) off and dipped the end of them into the yellow paint.
Then I realized this was a terrible plan since I had no way to keep them from rolling all over the place and smearing, until I looked over at the pretzels that we keep in one of those big glass containers on the counter next to the cereal. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
Yup, I totally made little pretzel stands so they wouldn’t roll around. Oddly enough it actually worked. I know, I was just as surprised as you are at this fortuitous turn of events. Don’t worry, things go bad later.
After dipping a bunch of acorns and setting them in their little pretzel holsters to dry I turned my attention to the $2 faux flowers that I’d grabbed at Michael’s (50% off thanks to those ubiquitous mailer coupons). When I got them… yeah- not so hot. But it wasn’t anything a little trimmy-trim and a cute vase couldn’t solve.
Ah, much cuter. And kinda fall-ish in that not-putting-fifty-gourds-everywhere way. Understated and easy, if you will. And then a few hours later when my little yellow tipped acorns were dry they came into the picture too. See them chilling in that glass container?
Here’s a panned out shot of the console with a few other tiny fall tweaks. I switched out the blue and gray books for some leaf-colored yellow and red ones…
… and grabbed some old vase filler from my fall tupperware bin in the form of some tiny faux apples, that I shoved into a clear cylinder vase leftover from our wedding (it’s the same one that held lemons and limes on the table).
Then I felt very chuffed (that’s my favorite English word along with “the till”) until about a day later when I saw this. What the…?
I popped the top and looked a little closer and it was totally mold. Boo! And I know you guys get a kick out of the what-didn’t-work projects just as much as the ones that did – so there ya go. My name is Sherry, and I somehow made beautiful yellow tipped moldy acorns. I’m not quite sure what went wrong, but I’m pretty sure that mold is not the new chevron, so it’s not going to be sweeping the DIY world anytime soon. Just say no to mold.
Actually, to say that I don’t know what went wrong is a lie. I totally know what went wrong. I’m just not adept enough to dabble in acorn crafts. The stakes are just too high. Glue guns? Sure. Paint? Ok. Drills and power saws? Yes please! But acorns? They send a shiver down my spine. I’m clearly not ready for them yet…
So I did the loving thing and threw those moldy paint-dipped acorns away and whipped out some fun old printing letters for a rustic fall-ish feeling without the threat of mold (we have a ton of these with all of our initials, our wedding date, and even “YHL” thanks to a sweet friend who sent these three our way).
So other than a few tiny and cheap (well almost all of them were actually free) fall tweaks in the form of some leaf-colored books, a few cut down fake-blooms from Michael’s and some cute little apple vase filler, we’ve learned one thing. I’m clearly not attentive enough to master the delicate eco-system that is an acorn. So I’m leaving them to Martha and you crafty folks on Pinterest who can manipulate them into wreaths and decorative orbs and all of those other wildly creative things without so much as batting an eye. I’ll stick to cutting down faux flowers and popping them into a bright little vase thankyouverymuch. Eh, who am I kidding, I’m totally going to try my acorn luck again next year. It’ll be like an epic annual battle that keeps no one on the edge of their seat but me.
Has anyone else mastered the acorn or done any especially cute and not-at-all moldy fall crafts? Do tell. I promise I’ll only pout a little…
Alleene Smith says
Would baking the acorns have killed the mold spores? It might be worth a try.
I’m not sure if that would have cracked them. Anyone know?
Yeah, when I was a kid I collected up acorns with my grandma one time and she dried them by putting them in the oven for a while on really low heat (not sure what it might have been set to). After they were all dried out we used them on a wreath that my mom had for years, so I guess it worked well!
Opps, forgot to mention cracking. I remember that some did crack, but not very many.
Amanda B says
I always bake mine before I use them as vase filler. 350 for about 20 minutes. Check them after about 15 minutes and make sure they aren’t starting to burn. Let them cool and then paint dip away! :)
amber peters says
yeah, i wondered if baking would work too. I know you are supposed to bake pine cones if you bring them in from outside. My kids love to collect acorns and they do always get moldy.
amber peters says
According to grandpappy.info :) it says you should air dry them, dry them in the sun or oven dry them.
Oven Drying: Place the tray of acorns in a warm oven (175ºF) for about 20 minutes with the oven door slightly cracked to let the moisture escape.
The advantages of oven drying are:
1. Drying can be done very quickly.
2. It effectively kills all insect larva.
3. It eliminates future mold problems.
The disadvantages of oven drying are:
1. The inner nutmeat looses most of its moisture and flavor and it becomes very hard to chew.
2. The shelf life of the nutmeat is only two or three months.
Ditto for baking. Some do crack but still pretty as a vase filler. i put in a big glass jar with one of those battery timer candles down in the middle.
I bet it was the moisture from freezing them and the lid. Without a lid it might’ve worked better.
Yup, I totally think it was the whole “sealed” thing that helped it grow.
That’s what I was going to say too. No lid, or letting them dry out for a day (or a week? or more?) before painting then styling.
See you later at West Elm in Boston!
[email protected] says
I was just going to say the same thing!
Too bad it didn’t work out, I loved the yellow pop of color.
pam in illinois says
I was just reading about this on another blog. She didn’t have hers sealed and they still got moldy.
That’s such a bummer because they look adorable. Maybe they wouldn’t have gone moldy if they weren’t covered like that? I don’t know. :)
p.s. West Elm totally just sent me a coupon saying they missed me. It’s like they KNEW they’d be seeing me tomorrow. Sneaky sneaky. Maybe after I get my book signed I can spend all my monies. :)
Julia @ Chris Loves Julia says
Oh no! Haha. A Fall craft (even if it fails) is totally on my bucket list this season, which I better get on before Thanksgiving. My comment is really about using the pretzels as a little holder. I have discovered that putting 3 chocolate chips in the holes of mini pretzels make the fastest chocolate-covered pretzels. Those holes are useful!
Janelle D says
I left my acorns out to dry and a week later they were full of creepy crawlies… I had visions of putting them in a tall glass vase, but that clearly didn’t pan out. haha
I think if you leave them open so they can “breathe” and not form condensation then you wouldn’t have the nold problem. I popped a couple of mini pumpkins in a closed terrarium and guess what, yep mold…
haha *mold not nold
Kristen S says
I did the same thing! I had a whole wack of them in a lovely apothecary jar. They lasted about two days…
I hear you’re supposed to put them in the oven… Maybe they were too damp from being in the freezer?
I’m chuffed that you’re using the word, er, chuffed, but could you explain what a ‘wild hair’ means please? thanks!
Haha! It’s like a wild urge to do something weird. I get them all the time.
I just Love how you keep many little meaningful things about your life around in your house. This is so sentimental and makes it feel like home, the special place it is supposed to be. :D
That same thing happened to me! I picked up some acorns from my yard, but instead of freezing them, I baked them. I put them in a glass with a candle on top and some ribbon around the glass and a few days later, I had mold on mine too! Tried it a second time, same result. Acorn crafting is out of the picture for me.
I read a thing on Pinterest that said to put those tiny gel packs (that come in shoe boxes, etc) in the bottom when you do something like this. It absorbs the moisture somehow and keeps your decor looking great :)
I did this last year (well I collected acorns and glittered the tops) completely neglecting the freezer step. I put the acorns in the bottom of a huge vase with a fall scented candle. About 2 weeks later I noticed little worms (maggots maybe?) crawling all over the bottom and lodged up in my candle. It was disgusting and I threw the whole thing away! I always side eye any Pinterest acorn projects wondering if they ever have bug issues!
Katie Rose says
Same thing happened to me last year. The only precaution I took was washing the outside off of them in the sink beforehand. Of course we didn’t discover the maggots until we noticed the sudden fly problem in the house. So gross! I will not deal with acorns straight off the ground ever again!
I tried using acorns around a pillar candle in a chunky hurricane vase and had a similar experience…except mine actually sprouted! It looks like I have white worms coming out of all my acorns. Scary for Halloween, but not very cute for fall!
Paula I. says
oh yes – I thought acorns would be cute inside a glass hurricane with a candle on top. I missed the memo about putting them in a freezer so a couple of days later I got mold AND bugs. Lovely. Can’t tell you how fast those babies went in the trash.
I did fully recover and fill my hurricanes with my standard fall brown dried beans and white rice for a little neutral texture (no mold and pretty for the win!).
So glad I’m not the only one!
I think you have to bake them …. like at 250 for an hour or so. Or buy some fake ones and call it a day!
Acorns should be banned from all crafts…I tried to make an acorn wreathe off of pinterest last year. I spent literally like 10-12 hours collecting acorns, baking them (as instructed), hotglueing them to the wreathe and spraypainting it. It was all for waste because the acorns would dry up, crack in two and come off the wreathe. I also had my fair share of bugs – gross….too bad because i love the look of acorns!
Hahahahahah! They should be banned right? Or at least come with a little warning: “for advanced crafters only!”
Whoops, think I spotted a typo. Above the first photo with the yellow paint I think you meant to say “A day later” as opposed to “A day layer”.
Megan R. says
If you look on websites that sell acorns for crafts, it usually mentions something about drying them in the oven. Maybe next time!
I has tiny worms hat h out of my acorn project years ago. I feel ya pain!
I love the pretzel holsters! That’s thinking outside the box! Also, maybe you could replace the color-dipped acorns with fall-colored M&Ms. They kind of look the same from afar. Plus, you know, then you have chocolate.
(PS – this is take 2 at posting. I never have success commenting via Google Chrome. Sorry if you get my comment twice!)
thought you might like this website: http://pinstrosity.blogspot.com/2012/10/holiday-crafts-all-warm-and-fuzzy.html Pinstrosity tests out crafty pins from Pinterest and then posts them with why they think they went wrong.
Perhaps cooking/roasting would have worked better than freezing in terms of killing stuff off (including bugs and mold)…
I would think baking them at a low temp may work, not sure if they would crack. That would help with moisture and bugs. Once mine all hatched into worms ICK!!!!!
Maybe try drying them out. Put them on a flat cookie sheet or baking pan and let them air dry for a few days. They were probably still moist from being outside.
Just so you can know you aren’t alone– 2 years ago, I put a bunch of gourds in our lidded hurricane glasses on the mantle. They were beautiful. For 36 hours. Then, rather suddenly, half of them were black with mold and the hurrican glasses were filled with fog. I actively ignored it for another day because I refused to think about cleaning the things out. And then I basically had to wear a gas mask and gloves to get them out and sanitize the glasses! Now I just leave lids off!
Oh gross! But I love that I’m not alone.
Emma (Broke Ass Home) says
Strange! I wonder if it was the freezing…When I did our fall apothecary I totally did fake acorns because my mom told me a horror story about her trying an acorn thing and it hatched maggots. YUCK! Freaked me out. I figured for a couple bucks I’d go to joann’s and just grab fake ones I could use year after year.
You have to bake the acorns – 150-200 degrees for a couple of hours. It kills the bugs and dries them out. I tried to put a bunch of acorns in a glass jar once, and got a jar full of bugs! So I baked the next batch and I’ve had them for years, no problems.
Yikes! Now I don’t regret anymore buying my fake ones from Ben Franklin. Can’t wait to see you guys at the RVA book signing this week!
If it’s any consolation, posts like THIS are exactly why you guys are my fave. I thought these things only happened to me. :)
Haha, thanks Sara!
I tend to stay away from acorns. When I was little (maybe 6yo) I picked up some acorns & put them in a little purse. I forgot about them & the next time I opened my purse there was unexpected (and disgusting) guests living amongst my acorns.
I second that the lid didn’t help.
I’ve had bread that lasted for months with no mold, but then I’ve had bread that got moldy in a week or two. No idea why. Mold is just a tricky, tricky thing. Fun idea, though!
What would happen if you toasted the acorns in the oven for “a while” before the painting? Would that help kill the critters inside that eat their way out after a week or so?
Yes, it sounds like baking them at a super low heat might have worked/dried them out!
sarah b says
My understanding is that freezing does not kill stuff so much as heat. So unless there are toxic fumes or explosion potential (!) I’d try baking at high heat for a short time, maybe? Disclaimer: I’ve never tried this myself. Just speculating!
When I saw this post, I had to laugh – I knew exactly how it was going from the second you said “acorns” because I used to bring them into our house in bagfuls when I was a little kid, much to my mom’s dismay for the same reason.
We live in a city over on the west coast known for its amazing oak trees, and so acorns are part of the package. The thing about acorns is that they rot very quickly once they’ve dropped! So if you saw them on the ground after a couple of days, they were already probably rotted inside.
The acorns also rot in such a way that they CAN end up leaving the outside shell mostly untouched! The inside is soft and rots first….but this also leaves an air pocket. So by freezing them and then leaving them out to dry, you were probably letting in some moisture that sped up the process.
I LOVE the idea of using the acorns, tho! Here’s what you can do instead: firstly, try to gather them as soon as they fall from the tree! The longer they are on the ground, the more likely they’re already bad. And don’t even bother with the ones with holes in them (although Clara would probably love her new worm friends! lol)
Then lay them out on a cookie sheet or something in the sun for a day or so (keep an eye out for animals, tho). Afterwards, put the acorn-laden cookie sheet in the oven at a low temperature (150-175 degrees) for three hours or so. Just be sure to check on them and turn them a lot so they don’t burn.
The heat will kill any mold or lingering pests, and you should be able to use them for crafty goodness!
Thanks Dinka! You guys are all so smart. Thanks for all the tips…
I gave up on the acorns years ago! I have frozen them, baked them, microwaved them and nothing has worked for me. Every time I get mold and once I even got bugs! YUCK! Now I just use the hats from the real thing or (if I ever find them) will spend the extra few bucks on fake ones.
Chrissy Henry says
I am totally going on an acorn hunt because those little corns were cute (before the mold of course). I may have to google a way to dry them out completely before painting them? So sad they got moldy they were totally adorable!
I had a major “OH NO!” moment when I read mold in the title and the first line you start talking about your bathroom. I’d take moldy acorns over moldy bathrooms anyday! Maybe next year leave them out to dry for a couple weeks after freezing them? Or just leave them in a lidless container?
Consider yourself lucky you only got mold. I put a bunch of acorns in a vase and ending up with maggots! IT WAS DISGUSTING. I gagged through the entire process of throwing them away, then washing the vase 10 times, then bleaching the heck out of it. I still won’t go near the vase because I can’t get the thought of the maggots out of my mind. Through my google search as to what went wrong, I think the best thing to do with acorns is to bake them at a low temp for a very long time. That will kill all the “bugs” and would probably help with the mold, too.
Oh man- I had the same thing happen to me last year. We get a billion acorns in our yard every year (and holy moly- when those things fall, watch out! they’re like bullets!) and I thought- “hey, free fall decor” so I threw them in a vase with some fake pumpkins. The vase was totally open- and they still got moldy. So I pulled them all out, washed them, laid them out to dry for a couple of days, put them back in the vase…and bam, mold again. I tried soaking them in vinegar to kill the mold, but no luck. I’m guessing the acorns just retain a lot of moisture and then mold in the warm inside conditions. You’d probably have the best luck with baking them at a really low temp to really dry them out- but I just threw mine out too because it wasn’t worth the hassle. Boo to moldy acorns!
At least you can find acorns… I always look and look and never find any. While I am totally against buying something that you can find for free, maybe ones that you buy wont get moldy?!
Born and Raised RVA says
I was going to ORB spray some acorns with the hat-a-mah-jiggies and some pine cones just the other day. I am glad that you posted this. I will let you know if I have any success, but I do agree that the moisture from freezing them in a ziplock back probably didn’t help. Paper towels, mayhaps?
Jessica Allam says
I have yet to succeed crafting outdoor elements without some form of decay or disgust. (no help here)
PS- just did a quick google search. Silica packets keep them from molding!! I saw that idea on Pinterest as well to keep pumpkins from molding- aha. :)
Aw, that’s really too bad. They looked so cute! I think they probably had some moisture from being in the freezer, and since the lid was on them, they couldn’t dry out. I don’t think they would mold in an open container. But then, I don’t want stuff to hatch from them either….
Mary Sue says
Freeze them for at least 72 hours, then dry in an oven at 120F for 4-6 hours. That’ll kill off anything they brought in from outside and won’t crack the shells.
You’re supposed to freeze any grain/legume you bring into your pantry for 72 hours, so nothing nasty hatches out.
I’ve done a lot of acorn crafts over the years, and yeah, baking them works. A few might crack, but I think they’d be the same few that would spoil in other ways because they’re usually the ones with bugs inside. Also, baking them makes your house smell awesomely autumny.
Mmmm, that sounds awesome.
They are moist inside and being in the freezer probably didn’t help.
Next time, bake them in a low temp oven (250) for about 2 hours. It will dry them out and kill any critters. Use the same method for pinecones.
Then get your paint on.
I just pinned some that someone made all pretty by brushing silver paint on the cap and then dipping them in epsom salt. I’m thinking Christmas!
I had a similar problem with decorative gourds (I believe that just may be the first and last time that sentence appears in print – haa haa). I got some ugly-cute mini gourds from Trader Joe’s and displayed them in glass jars with lids (like your acorn jar but bigger) and discovered mold a few days later. It only happened in the glass jars with lids though. The “open” glass vases with the gourds were fine. Must have something to do with air flow.
What kind of DIYer can’t even work with acorns. Just kidding. I was so excited last fall when I found the biggest acorns I had ever seen. I washed them and then hot glued the tops on and everything so they would be in their perfect acorn state. Well I put them in a tupperware container and stored them in the attic. I thought that would keep all of the bugs out. I was so excited to get them out this year. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. Multiply your mold times 365 days of extreme attic weather. My 5 year old thought they were stuffed animals. Gross!
maybe they should have been microwaved?
an old weeping cherry that my father bought my mother for an anniversary gift finally got a blight. I surprised her by turning part of the trunk into a beautiful turned bowl. The artist actually puts the trunk wood in a huge microwave to kill off bugs!