homepage: Dr. Carol JVF Burns

See the Sewing/Crafts section of my main Table of Contents for other sewing projects!

Straw Star Ornament (made with Arizona grasses)

I was so excited to find this Straw Star Ornament YouTube video!
This page is intended to be used with the video—it does not have complete enough instructions to stand on its own.
This page references time spans in the video, and offers additional details/suggestions.
Once the ‘mold’ is made (steps (1), (2) and (3) below),
and you have your grasses/reeds collected and cleaned (step (4) below),
these stars are quick-and-easy!

I experimented with regular cotton thread, metallic embroidery machine thread, and regular embroidery floss—
but found that metallic embroidery floss works best:
the hanging loop is thick enough for ease of use,
the floss is strong enough that only one binding pass is needed,
and the shimmer is perfect for Christmas!

The finished star is about 3" in diameter.
Besides the materials shown at right, you'll also need:
  • a compass (for making a circle)
  • scissors
    (I use micro-tip scissors for cutting the reeds and floss,
    and regular scissors for cutting the cardboard.)
  • a writing utensil (pen/pencil/marker)
  • a ruler or measuring tape
  • a straight edge (for drawing lines)

Simple materials:
  • straw/reeds (I use our dry Arizona grasses):
    use nine pieces, each at least 4" in length, per star
  • toilet paper roll for the star mold;
    a bit extra cardboard for the circle
  • spice jar lid to fit inside toilet paper roll;
    the instructions below offer a different solution
    if you can't find the right size lid
  • metallic embroidery floss;
    you need 30" for each star,
    so an 8.75 yd skein is enough for about 10 stars: $$ 8.75 \cancel{\text{ yd}}\cdot\frac{36\bcancel{\text{ in}}}{\cancel{\text{ yd}}}\cdot\frac{1\text{ star}}{30\bcancel{\text{ in}}} = 10.5\text{ stars} $$

(1) Template for 6-pointed star: (watch 0:26 to 1:00)
  • I have a good compass, inherited from my Dad. You don't need one this fancy!
  • The compass-drawn circle size is flexible—it just needs to be bigger than the toilet paper roll. (My toilet paper roll diameter is about 1.5", and I drew about a 2.5" diameter circle.)
  • Why does this technique give you six (almost) equally-spaced marks on the circle? It's easy to see with math: a circle with radius $\,r\,$ has circumference (distance around) equal to $\,2\pi r\,.$ Since $\,2\pi\approx 6.3\,,$ the circumference is just a bit more than six times the radius! Just be sure not to change your compass width between drawing the circle and making the six marks on it!

template for 6-pointed star;
don't change your compass width
between drawing the circle
and making the six marks on it!

the template just needs to be
a bit bigger than the toilet paper roll

(2) Make the Toilet Paper Roll Mold: (watch 1:00 to 2:20)
  • 3 cm is about 1-1/8"
    (I cut my piece about 1-1/4" long.)
    You can use the sharp point of your scissors to start the hole.
  • I cut about halfway up for the slits. You might want to measure and sketch a circle about halfway up, to make sure all the slits are exactly the same height.
  • If your spice jar top is just a little too small, wrap some tape around it. (I use duct tape.)
  • If you can't find a lid that fits, just glue in a cardboard circle:
    trace a circle on cardboard using the toilet paper roll;
    cut the circle a teeny bit smaller than what you traced;
    use a hot glue gun to glue the circle from the bottom,
    positioned at the bottom of the slits
  • Adjust as needed:
    When you lay a reed through the slits, it should rest on the lid or cardboard circle (not be suspended above it).
    (If you glued the cardboard circle too low, just press another cardboard circle on top of it!)

toilet paper roll molds

hot-glue a cardboard circle from the bottom
if you can't find a lid that fits

(3) Cut a Cardboard Circle: (watch 2:20 to 2:40)
  • After tracing the circle, cut it out a teeny bit inside your tracing, so that it fits inside the tube.
  • Your pieces of straw/reeds will be sandwiched between the mold and this cardboard circle, to keep the pieces in place while you bind the star.

this extra cardboard circle is used
to hold the straw/reed pieces in place
while you bind your star

If you want to be very precise
(and have an incredible tool
to use for tons of different crafting projects),
you can make perfect circles with a Big Shot
and the Framelit Scallop Circles.

(4) Prepare your Grasses/Reeds/Straw: (watch 2:40 to 3:32)
  • Our Arizona grasses are much thinner than what is shown in this video, so they're easier to handle. Just cut off any fuzzy ends, rub your fingers up and down to break off any outer ‘skin’, and then cut into lengths that are at least 4 inches long.
  • The thicker parts of our Arizona grasses work best. However, you can use the thinner parts if you use two pieces instead of one.

our Arizona dried grasses
(image taken in November)

cleaned-up grasses,
before cutting into smaller pieces

(5) Lay Your Reeds to Create the Star: (watch 3:32 to 4:04)
  • To help follow the video, number your slits going left (clockwise) around the mold. See (a).
  • Lay reeds in this order:
    slits 1 and 3
    slits 2 and 4     See (b).
    slits 3 and 5
    slits 4 and 6
    slits 5 and 1
    slits 6 and 2

    slits 3 and 6
    slits 4 and 1
    slits 5 and 2
    See (c).

(a) number your slits going left (clockwise) around the mold

(b) the first two reeds,
placed in slits (1 and 3)
and then in slits (2 and 4)
  • Carefully press on the cardboard disk. Otherwise, you can break the fragile reeds. See (d).
  • After putting on the disk, adjust reeds (as needed) to make sure there are equal lengths on both ends.

(c) all reeds in place

(d) carefully press on the cardboard disk

(6) Bind with Floss, Tie Hanging Knot, Trim: (watch 4:04 to 5:58)
  • Cut a 30" piece of metallic embroidery floss.
    Use all the strands.
  • I tie a square knot to begin: left over right, right over left.
    Leave about an 8" tail for making the hanging loop at the end.
    See (a).
  • I'm right-handed. I gently press down on the cardboard disk with my left hand, while wrapping with my right hand. See (b).
  • Immediately go to next section:
    all three: under/over, under/over/under (i.e., two times around);
    three individually: over/under the middle/over;
    go under to the next section;
    repeat around.
  • When you return to the starting knot,
    go (all three) under/over/under just once;
    then (three individually) over/under the middle/over;
    go under and around;
    I tie off with another square knot.
  • Trim the floss ends so they are even, and tie a hanging knot as shown in the video.
    If you have trouble with fraying ends, put a tiny piece of tape around the ends.
    I actually tie two hanging knots, one right on top of the other.
    Trim close to the knots.
  • Do the reed trimming with the micro-tip scissors, over a wastepaper basket.
  • Carefully remove the cardboard disk and the finished star. Done!

(a) leave about an 8" tail
when making the initial square knot

(b) hold the disk gently with one hand;
wrap with the other hand