DIY: A More Natural Halloween

Oh, I know it seems kinda early to be talking about Halloween but when it comes to DIY projects it sometimes takes awhile to get it all together and no one wants to be rushed at the last minute. So I thought I’d throw out some good ideas for a natural, crafty type of Halloween so you’d have time to work on it if you wanted to. Some of these ideas are really scary so be careful how you use them; if you have religious friends who are easily offended, keep that in mind. If you have kids who are easily frightened, keep that in mind as well. There are ideas that are not scary at all and will be enjoyed by everyone. I also have ideas if you want to throw a party, so those of you are up for that will find something as well.

I tried to find ideas that required few ingredients or steps so that people with skinny wallets or rushed schedules could work in a project or two. So here we go, from the sweetest to the scariest, in that order:

Halloween Wreath and Wall Decoration

Here are some ideas for making a wreath or a wall swag just for Halloween. It’s dirt cheap and so simple that you can do it year after year. Go out in your yard and gather up a bunch of tall weeds. Pliable, easy to bend weeds but with some length for manipulating. If you decide to make the wreath, you need to buy a wreath base and as always I suggest the cheapest. Although a wicker or grapevine wreath is the most natural looking, any cheap base will do. If you choose to make the swag, you don’t need a wreath base but you do need a black ribbon. You can use an old necktie if you like or a scarf, as long as they are black with no decoration or artwork. Overall, you need a can of black matte spray paint (not the shiny or glossy stuff!) and some cheap bargain bin Halloween toys. One large plastic witch or goblin is great. You can also add store bought “spiderwebs” on it, as well. Just be creative.

First of all, spray paint the weeds, let the paint dry for maybe an hour or so and use the weeds while still pliable. DO NOT LET THE WEEDS DRY. Wrap around the wreath and glue or tack them to it. You can use pins, staples, floral tape, floral pins, toothpicks, garbage bag ties, just about anything to tie the weeds to the wreath base. Leave them dangling or fraying, in a spray is the best effect so they look scary and ugly. After the weeds are the way you like them, tack or glue on the scary Halloween toy where ever you like it. In the center, along the edge, at the top, whatever. Then hang the wreath and allow it to dry on the wall. To make the swag, pull the weeds while still pliable, laid out straight in your hand and grasp them in the middle. Wrap the black tie around the center and tie it into a bow. Remember to tie the swag about 1/4 of the length from the top, so that the bottom is longer and more frayed. The shabbier the better so you might even want to fray the ends or use a frayed scarf. Pull the weeds out around the bottom so that they have a “fan” effect. Then glue the plastic Halloween toy on the front of the bow in the front. Then hang and allow to dry on the wall. These are both great on the front door.

Another swag idea is to simply buy a country broom and spray it black. Tacking a wooden or plastic witch to the center of the broom is perfect. It looks great on the front door or in the hallway entrance on the wall.

FYI: If you don’t want to make a wreath or swag, you can just put the black weeds into a glass or black lacquered vase. Spiderwebs on this arrangement looks exceptionally cool.

DIY Ready Made Project

Here is a really cute idea for those of you who aren’t so creative or don’t have the time for dyeing and tying. I found a really cute Pumpkin-Scarecrow decoration that does allow for a craft project and can be easy enough for the kids. You use a squash or a pumpkin for the project and just buy the arms, legs and head to create a cute Scarecrow. Like I said, it’s easy enough for the kids, cheap enough and natural enough to make this blog so if you just don’t have time for all this other stuff, consider buying this. You can check it out at Stargazers .

Paper Mache Skull

This one is for those of you who want to be creative and interesting and just don’t get into plastic skulls and skeletons that look cheezy (and are bad for the planet). So let’s be natural and have fun, too! Making a paper mache skull takes a little time and creativity but boy can you make it look scarier and more interesting than the standard one size fits all you find in Walmart. Here are the quick steps to making this happen:

Since we aren’t really looking to create artwork, we will work with paper strips instead of going to the trouble of making mash. Do you have a paper shredder in your home or office? If so, get yourself a bag or two full of them and set them aside for this project. Otherwise, you will have to cut or tear paper into strips yourself. But try not to cut the paper with scissors; tearing them along the side of table or with a knife is a better effect. You want frayed edges. Once you have a few bags full of shredded paper (plastic grocery bags make a good holder for this), then you should get a balloon. Yes, a regular old birthday balloon and take the time to blow it up. Thick about the size of the skull you want to make first. Is it for a tabletop or will it sit on the front windowsill? Where do you want to display it? Once decided, then you have an idea of how big to blow up the balloon. And remember also that layers of paper over the top will make it much larger.

You will be layering and gluing over the shredded paper onto the balloon. When starting, remember to glue from the top of the balloon down, leaving the bottom where the balloon is tied, at the bottom of the “skull”. And it’s pretty much this easy. Using paper glue (the kind of the jar is the easiest to slather on) don’t be conservative with it and slather it all over the paper as you put it on the balloon. Build it up and build it up until it’s the size of the skull you want and remember to sort of finger it and mold it so that it looks sort of like a skull. You don’t have to be perfect now because you can always touch it up later. Remember to leave a neck hole in the bottom of it, open to expose the bottom of the balloon.

Once the skull is formed to your liking, set it aside to dry. You will work with it after it dries. Once it is completely dry, which may take overnight, reach up with a needle and pop the balloon underneath and pull it out. Now is the time to finish your skull. Using a knife or other sharp object, cut away the eyes. Draw them first if you like, to get them right. At this point, you can use a handful of paper to build a nose if you want and glue it on. Cut away the mouth just as you did the eyes. Once it’s scary looking, you can paint it over with white paint if you like or just leave it if the paper is white and looks ok.

FYI: Do not burn a candle in this skull! However, you can put a small light with a bulb in there is you like. Something red or orange would be neat.

A note on other ideas: You can make paper mache into just about anything. Make bats and paint them black and dangle from the ceiling; make paper mache balls and drape white cloth napkins over them to make ghosts; and if you are really creative, you can make paper mache black cats or skeletons the same way you made the skull- just use popsicle sticks to make the frames.

Halloween Home Redo: Haunted House

If you want to throw a Halloween party, then here are a few ideas for making the house a spooky place. If you have extra black material, old black sheets or old black T shirts, then you can use those. If not, you will have to dye some old sheets black or, worse of all, buy some black material. Do what suits you. And then you go about changing your home to a black cave. For those of you who don’t sew (like me), this is a doable project. Cut the fabrics you have, the shirts, sheets or whatever into squares big enough to cover your pillows or chair pads or bar stools or whatever you plan to have people sitting on. For those chairs with attached pads, then you have to take a different tact.

Once cut into squares or circles or whatever will cover the chosen areas, then fold them over the pieces and iron them together on two or three sides with fuseable webbing. Do not fuse all four sides! Slip them over the cushion or pad this way.  This is good enough for one night and makes your house a quick convert to scary and dark. You can use black fabric to cover vases by tying fabric around them and do  tables, chairs with attached pads and entire couches by tossing fabric over them. Add detail by using black place mats. These are also done the same way. Cut the fabric into squares and fuse along the edges with fuseable webbing. Remember to start on the inside and turn inside out before finishing!

Of course, if you already have a black couch and black tables, you are almost there. You can touch it up with some black draping over your curtains, some black shabby looking throws, a black carpet piece or mat, and any other black items you can think of to bring it all together. Black fabric thrown over windows or existing lamps makes it dark and scary, too. Use your imagination and get the “bat cave” ready for the holiday easily and inexpensively.

Scary Halloween Gifts

Here is a creepy idea that also costs very little but has a lot of scare effect. Make voodoo dolls and hand them out at your party or to trick or treaters. Remember that some people take this sort of thing very seriously and so you should be mindful of that when choosing your recipients. Do not give these to children unless you want daddy on your doorstep later on! Or, even worse, the police.

Voodoo dolls are a breeze to make and they make great party favors. If you have some old white sheets and some fuseable webbing, you are on the way. Fold the white sheets to make two layers. Cut the white sheets into the shape of a human, with arms, legs, torso and head. Actually, it’s easier if you a cut a circle and add the head later but do it as it suits you. Once cut, fuse the sheets along the side with the webbing by ironing, leaving an open end. Once cooled and sealed, then turn them inside out. Stuff the dolls with shredded newspaper, old fabric scraps, plastic grocery bags, et al.. .anything you might otherwise toss. Once stuffed, sew together the open end area with thread. Now you can draw a face on, tie a string or necklace around the neck (a skeleton necklace is very “voodoo-y”), draw on clothing or anything else you want to do. I have made them with left over yarn glued on the head for hair and with faces drawn on with old makeup (lipstick and eyeliner). Be as creative as you like as you go. Each doll should be different and reflect your personality. You can make them really cute and not so scary; or every scary. Add pins in a bag so people can stick the doll with them. This is fun if your friends don’t take this sort of thing too seriously. Be careful, as you should be with all the remaining projects on this post. Pick and choose as it suits your circle of friends.

Really Scary Halloween Events

If you want a really “witchy” Halloween, consider turning your party into a seance or a witches ceremony! I mean, these are so simple and super fun for people who don’t scare easily or have religious sensitivities. For the witches ceremony, get a large piece of black fabric and cut it into a big circle. Spray paint or draw with white ink a pentagram shape, a skull, a witches face, a black cat, whatever you like, in the center of the fabric. Set a candle in the center of the circle and have everyone stand along the edge. Make up a ceremony, say scary things, play scary music. This is fun and makes the hair raise on everyone’s necks! Again, this is not for the feint of heart or people who think witches are scary. And remember, don’t go too far! It’s all in fun.

Another idea is to hold a seance. This is even easier than the witches ceremony and it’s also scary, if not more so. If you’ve converted your house to a black den, then all the better. Turn off the lights and burn a lot of small candles. Have everyone in the room hold hands and close their eyes. Play scary music or ghost stories while you “conjure the dead”. Of course, this is not good for easily frightened people or people with religious sensitivities. This is only for the brave; people who can sit through horror movies and not get too upset. And, as always, do not go too far. It is supposed to be fun.

A note on burning candles. Don’t put the candles close to couches, chairs or tables were people will congregate. The fumes from burning candles has been shown time and again to be toxic to the lungs and many people are sensitive to them. Do not choose scented or colored candles. Burn plain white candles inside jars or glasses spray painted black for the Halloween effect. Take candles outside to blow them out and let the smoke disperse. And remember to blow them out as soon as possible to reduce exposure. This goes for Jack O Lanterns and carved Pumpkins as well. Leave these items outdoors if you intend to leave them burning for long periods and use unscented, white candles in them as well.

These are some ideas for Halloween that don’t cost much and get give a big bang. You decide what works for you. And if you’re thinking about having a cocktail party and would like a Halloween theme, then check out Cocktail Blog later this week for a great theme party that goes way beyond costumes and is fun for adults.

And one final note. About costumes, I must say a few things. I have no problem with buying pieces for a special costume; items like wigs, capes, boots, masks, teeth and other accessories are kept year after year and reused. Heck, we all have boxes full of great costumes we have compiled and collected over the years and each generation all the kids use them. However, I do have a problem with makeup and plastic costumes like the kind you find in department stores and large discount outlets. Buy and use water paints instead of greasy makeups that go bad quickly. Or make your own makeup with 1 tsp of Cornstarch, 1/2 tsp Cold Cream, 1/2 tsp of tap water and food coloring of your choice. This mix can be made up year after year, never goes bad and has ingredients that are used in other ways throughout the year. Good idea.

As far as plastic costumes go, I wish people wouldn’t do this. They end up torn, discolored or otherwise ruined or the kids just outgrow them every year and where do they end up? You guessed it: the landfill. And then they have a lifespan of decades. Not good. So what to do? Well, most costumes can be made up from stuff you find in thrift stores. For instance, Peter Pan can be a green long sleeved T, green tights, green felt hat and shoes. If you can’t find these items in green, dye them! Make the hat and shoes and save them for future years. A Flapper is a tube dress, a string of beads, old high heels, stretch tights and a hat made of satin & lace materials with more beads or rhinestones glued on. A pirate costume is an eye patch made of black denim and a rubber band or string, stretch tights, boots, a large over sized blouse with puffy sleeves and a bandana. If you think about it, you can come up with hundreds of ideas and all these items can be found in thrift stores. When you are done with your cheap finds, you can re-gift them to the charity of your choice. And some homeless person will have a sweater or a pair of boots or a pair of gloves for the winter. It just doesn’t get any more earth friendly and pocket wise than that! So get creative, dig in and enjoy!

Look for more family friendly Halloween ideas in the coming weeks.

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