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Realistic DIY Cotton Stems

Make your own Cotton Bowl Branch Arrangement

As part of the Craft Destash challenge,  I was trying to think about what I could make for fall with what I have on hand.  Last year I created some cotton bolls for a post.    There were a couple of requests for a DIY tutorial so here is my tutorial for DIY cotton stems.

diy cotton branches, cotton pod, diy cotton stems, diy cotton bolls

Living in Canada you don’t see cotton plants so when I first saw a cotton stem I thought they were amazing,  I even took pictures and sent them to my friends.  Unfortunately, they are very hard to locate locally and very expensive.  Last year I  purchased a couple strands in and made the rest for this  fall decor post.    Time to bring them out of my stash and add a few new DIY branches to them.

The cotton boll pod is really simple to make and costs less than $5.00 for a bouquet of them.  If you manage to purchase some cotton stems it will cost significantly more.

Living in Canada you don’t see cotton plants so when I first saw a cotton stem I found them amazing,  They were so novel I   took pictures and sent them to my friends.  Unfortunately, they are very hard to locate locally and very expensive.    Last year I found a couple of stems to purchase and made the rest of this post.  Here is how I did it.

Cotton Branch Tutorial

Here is what you will need:

diy cotton branches, cotton pod, diy cotton stems, diy cotton bolls

Bag of supersized cotton bolls, check out at a beauty supplier I found mine at Sallys.

White thread

Brown paper  bag

Large pine cones


Clipping sheers

Hot glue gun

Brown leaves, or small leaves and brown paint and beige paint.

This project takes two evenings  One for the preparation and then an hour or so to put them together.

Make the Cotton Bolls

Making the cotton boll pods consists of three stages.

diy cotton branches, cotton pod, diy cotton stems, diy cotton bolls


Create the Cotton Centers

Let’s start with the cotton balls.  Take the extra large cotton balls and fluff them by pulling them apart a little bit.  Wrap the cotton ball with the thread, hold the end of the thread and wrap the boll upwards and then sideways.   This puts four sections in the cotton to mimic the natural shape. Glue the thread in the back. Make a pile of them and set aside, you will need approximately 10 for each branch depending on how large your branch is.

Break off the Pine Cone Scales

Prepare the pine cone scales keeping only the large scales.  The smaller ones don’t simulate the cotton boll well enough.   It’s much easier to snap off the scales from the underside of the cone.  This particular large pine cone has large scones right to the bottom.   Which is perfect.  Other pine cones may have small tight scones at the bottom, if your pine cone is like that, take clippers and remove the bottom portion first, it makes the larger ones easier to take off.   To remove them just grab one and snap it off.  Set them aside.  You will need four for each cotton boll pod.

diy cotton branches, cotton pod, diy cotton stems, diy cotton bolls

Paper Bag Leaves

A real cotton boll pod as a light underside and a rough outer side.    Cut a  paper bag using the pattern provided.  You will need one cut out for each cotton boll.  Set aside.

Assemble the Cotton Bolls

Take one of the tied cotton bolls.

Form the paper cutout into a cupped shape  Attach to the cotton boll with hot glue.

Glue one large pine cone stem on each side of the cotton boll, partially covering the brown paper.    Set aside.

Make several more for each branch.

Here is one natural cotton boll, along two DIY ones.  I think they look very similar.

diy cotton branches, cotton pod, diy cotton stems, diy cotton bolls

Prepare the Leaves

When you look at the natural cotton boll the leaves are brown on one side and lighter brown on the other.  I had a few dried leftover leaves but they weren’t enough of them so used some dollar store leftover green leaves and painted them light brown on one side and dark brown on the other.   The painted ones take a bit longer, but you can’t beat free.


diy cotton branches, cotton pod, diy cotton stems, diy cotton bolls


Make the Cotton Boll Stems

Take some small branches (about 18 inches), if you can’t find them locally you can use dried branches from the dollar store.  The ones I used are natural aspen branches I gathered along the highway.

Take your mountain of  DIY cotton pods and hot glue along the branches along the branches ever 4 to 6 inches.  Glue the leaves along the branches somewhere the pods are and some more between them.


diy cotton branches, cotton pod, diy cotton stems, diy cotton bolls

Making the Arrangement

My arrangement has about 1/2 purchased stems filled in with my DIY ones.  Every year I add to it.    Here is a close picture to show you how real the DIY stems look.  The blue are the DIY ones and the pink are the purchased.

diy cotton branches, cotton pod, diy cotton stems, diy cotton bolls

The easiest way I know of arranging flowers is using a flower frog, you can find them for less than $10 at antique stores.  Here are three different size examples that I love using.
diy cotton branches, cotton pod, diy cotton stems, diy cotton bolls


The next time you see one of these at an antique store I really recommend swooping one up.  Not only do they make it super easy to arrange flowers evenly, they also add much needed weight to the bottom of a  tall floral arrangement.

In the meantime, until you find one,  crisscross the top of your vase with tape.   Place the tape as evenly as possible and then insert your branches.

DIY cotton branches tutorial with cotton bolls, stems, and pine cones with branches.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments, I love hearing from you.  Now let’s see what my blogging buddies have been up to this month.

Craft Room Destash Challenge

Every month, a group of bloggers challenge each other to create a new craft or project from their own stash of goodies! Check out some awesome creations you might be able to make from your own stash! #CraftRoomDestashChallenge

[tweetthis]”What crafty creations could you make today from YOUR craft stash?! #CraftRoomDestashChallenge”[/tweetthis]

If you’d like to join in the Craft Room De-Stash Challenge, you can request to join our Facebook group here!


diy cotton branches, cotton pod, diy cotton stems, diy cotton bolls

59 thoughts on “Realistic DIY Cotton Stems

  1. This was very interesting to me! I live in South Georgia, USA & there are fields all around me full of cotton at certain times of the year. When they harvest the cotton, you can find pieces of it all along the road side. These are very realistic looking, so great job!

    1. Swoon. I would love to see them. What a beautiful thing to just be able to go gather. I would be really excited to see that.

    1. Thank you Donna. I will someday get to see them in the fields. Its kind of like looking at a pineapple plant, its wonderful to actually see one planted.

    1. I am so pleased you like them. You don’t see them often up here so my bouquet feels really special to me. Thank you very much.

  2. Those are so clever & look incredibly realistic. You’re right, the pinecone pieces really do the job very well. When we go on road trips to south Alabama, we see cotton & cotton plants all the time. Discarded cotton branches along the roadside. You’re going to have to come all the way down here to Alabama Leanna!!

    1. Thank you very much for saying so Debra. I am going to use them throughout the house once my granite is in and I can start doing fall decor.

  3. Leanna, there are soooooo many thoughts going through my head right now: Why, oh why did I throw away the cotton boll strands this spring? How fund would it be, to make some myself! I never heard of a flower frog. Go get one asap! And I really adore your horse painting. Did you make that yourself, too? I am pinning this post for sure and am looking forward for more to come <3

    1. The horse painting is a Home Sense find. My husband owns racehorses (hence why I am on a strict budget) lol.

      Flower frogs are pretty easy to find in antique shops. I would never pay more than $10 for one. I try to get them in different sizes to fit various vases. Thank you for writing.

  4. Oh yes please Leanna, I love the look of your cotton bolls. Here in South Africa we normally only find cotton fields in the Free State, which is a few hours drive from where we stay so making them is a much better option and yours look so realistic. Great tutorial, thank you so much

    1. The purchased ones are easier to arrange but I love the diy ones. I can afford to have a large enough bouquet of them. Everything sounds so beautiful where you are. Hugs and thanks for writing.

  5. I love these a lot. I have been wanting to try to make my own and your tutorial is very easy to follow. Thanks. I pinned it so I can gather some supplies! The arrangement you made is beautiful.

    1. Great Michelle. Finding the branches is likely the hardest part. Just do it in stages and then putting them together is quite fun.

    1. I am with you on that Patrick. The first time I saw one I actually got excited lol. I took a pic and sent it around telling my girlfriends about it. Then Michaels in Canada quit bringing them in.

    1. You are very lucky. Do people appreciate them locally? They must be beautiful, but I have no idea how tall they are, how long they take to grow, their growth cycle. I need to do some reading.

    1. Hi Carolann: They are really easy to make, but you need to make lots of them and a little more lol. I really recommend doing them in bits. Then assembling them another day.

  6. Very original idea, I am impressed by the level of detail you go into. I would never have thought of deconstructing the pine cones like that. They look so realistic. This is project I would love to tackle on a weekend while it is raining outside and I can sip on several cups of coffee and enjoy myself. Seems like it can quiet the mind, very methodical and so pretty!

    1. Thank you Milena. It would be a wonderful project for a rainy day. It does work much better if you them a little bit like a factory. Create the pieces first, then assemble into the stems or another crafts. Thank you for commenting.

    1. Thank you very much for the pin Meegan. You could make just the cotton boles and use them for all kinds of different crafts. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  7. Gorgeous!! I have had these on my list of things to do forever and never seem to get there!! But your post has made me want to!! They turned out perfect and look so real! A nice decorative touch!

    1. Hi Sam. You will enjoy having them I am sure. I bet you have a hundred ideas of ways you could use the boles and they cost next to nothing to make. Thank you for commenting always appreciated.

  8. I can’t believe how realistic these look. I would never have imagined that you could create DIY cotton boll stems. Great project and tutorial. TFS!

    1. Hi Lisa. Wouldn’t you know it. I made these out of necessity because they were so hard to find and yesterday Michael’s finally got some in stock. I really love them especially for neutral fall decor.

  9. You certainly are creative. This project ended up looking so real! I can see why you are happy with the end result.
    Your instructions were clear and I have put another project on my crafting to-do list.

    1. Wonderful Chelsea, this variation does look realistic. I am proud of them. Using branches that have little branches off of them helps too. Thank you for commenting.

    1. Hi Norma. The horse picture is a Home Sense find a couple of years old. I recently saw a similar one that I love though.

  10. I know I am here for the cotton bolls, but seriously…. every time I see that horse painting I am drawn to it! It is just amazing.
    I love your cotton bolls tool.
    🙂 gwingal

    1. Hi Nikki. My husband owns thoroughbreds unfortunately we don’t have the farm to go with them. I place the horses around the house as they are such amazing endearing animals.

  11. What a great idea! I got rid of most of my faux arrangement when I moved a few years ago, thinking I’d make new ones when I was moved in and ready… That hasn’t happened yet, but this might be moving to the top of that list when I am ready!

    1. Hi Emily. You can use the cotton boles in so many different ways. I love them for neutral fall decor. I am going t keep a lookout for dollar store flowers that have the right kind of leaves. Thank you for commenting.

    1. Thank you for commenting Megan. You have that right. I have two large flat plastic containers that I store my florals in to reuse, but it adds up every year for more.

      1. Hi Sharon. That is so appreciated. I had an issue signing onto today, but I will go look for the party again. Thank you very much.

  12. I love how you made the cotton boll branches – you are a very talented individual to makes these. They are truly realistic. Since I love horse pictures, can you please tell me where you purchased that awesome picture of the horse above your table. It is truly an amazing piece. Thank you.

    1. Hi Connie. Believe it or not it is a print from Home Sense. Its two or three years old. I have recently saw a similar one that is just gorgeous at Home Sense. I hope you find one.

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