Easy holiday decorations: tobacco-stick stars and mesh ribbon wreaths

Contributing columnistNovember 12, 2011 

A mix of traditional Kentucky and trendy is what's hot in homemade holiday decorating this season. Here are some ideas I like, and some information about upcoming events to get you started on your decorating.Tobacco stick stars

Hardwood tobacco sticks made from oak and chestnut and used by farmers to hang tobacco in barns to dry are being repurposed as rustic-looking fencing and decorative five-pointed stars.

Want to make a star of your own? Arrange five tobacco sticks of about the same length into a standard five-point star, securing the connecting tips and the intersections with wood screws, or by drilling small holes and fastening them with wire or twine. They can be sanded and finished or left as is, with sparkle, lights or bows added to suit the season and your imagination.

A good place to start investigating tobacco stick crafts is the Cooperative Extension Service. To find the phone number of the extension office in your county, go to and click on "counties" near the upper-left corner. Last week at the Bracken County extension office, instructor Scotty Cooper sent folks home with completed stars and ideas for other projects.

If you're looking for ready-made items, tobacco sticks that Scott County extension agent Connie Minch donated from her parents' Owen County farm have been assembled and decorated and will be sold during the Ward Hall holiday open house in Georgetown, 1 to 6 p.m. Dec. 3 and 4. Proceeds will benefit Ward Hall, a grand old Greek Revival villa that was built in the mid-1800s. The mansion, at 1782 Frankfort Road, Georgetown, is being restored. Check out the Ward Hall slide show at

Want to start from scratch? Some farmers willing to part with tobacco sticks are: Mike Malone, (859) 588-0356, or Chapel Mastin, (859) 588-1099, who offer them at 10 cents apiece in Harrison County; in Scott County, Gary Ruber, (502) 535-5567, has a supply. Malone estimated that he has about 50,000 to spare, an indication of the impact tobacco growing once had on our regional agriculture.

Mesh bows and garlands

Gina Carter-Small has a passion for crafting and interior décor. One of her favorite trends is designing massive bows and wreaths, some more than 32 inches wide, using mesh ribbons. "Friend" her on Facebook and you can see photos of recent creations, including blue-and-white bows decked with snowmen that University of Kentucky fans will love, and a green-and-red "Mrs. Claus" bow embellished by a cute elf and personalized with painted wooden initials.

"This time of year, I set up 10 Christmas trees in my home, all with different themes," she says. "It's therapeutic."

One of her favorite sources of inspiration is the Prettify Your Life blog, at "I love working with other people, seeing what they create and spinning off my own ideas from theirs," Carter-Small says.

Leaf candle rings

Living Arts and Science Center instructor and Montessori-trained educator Kriis Zeps has an idea for a fall decoration that involves the family. Organize a hike to collect pine cones, acorns and bright leaves, then weave them into a grapevine wreath to surround your holiday table's candle centerpiece.

"Threading the leaves' petioles into the wreath helps develop small motor skills," Zeps says, and that the activity combines an artistic appreciation of the natural world with an opportunity to introduce some factual information about leaves and trees.

Zeps suggests soaking the leaves in a solution of two parts 100 percent natural vegetable glycerine and one part water for three to five days, which will help prevent them from curling and becoming brittle. Acorns and pine cones can be fastened to the wreath with a hot glue gun by an adult.

The Living Arts and Science Center, 362 North Martin Luther King Boulevard, offers many classes that integrate art and science. Many classes are on days when public school is not in session. Go to

Handmade woven baskets

What could be more traditional and earth-friendly than weaving a basket? It can relax you and reward you with a practical gift. Basket-making classes are offered monthly by the Fayette Extension Homemakers at the Fayette County Cooperative Extension Service, 1140 Red Mile Place. A basket can be completed in one session. The next class, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 2, features a holiday plaid wall basket. The cost is $28, and early registration is suggested. Go to, and click on cultural arts workshops.

Bluegrass Area Basketmakers offers an annual seminar at the Lake Cumberland Leadership Center in Jabez. Go to Instructors from the seminar will participate in the national juried Lexington Art and Craft Show on Nov. 19 and 20 at Heritage Hall in Lexington Center. Go to

Reach master gardener Susan Smith-Durisek at

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