For the chili contest I decided to make a chili ristra. However I wanted to put a twist on it so I decided to make a chili ristra monster with a bit more character. This cross between a Muppet, Cousin It, and a chili ristra can be constructed in less than 5 hours with about $4 worth of materials.
To make this you will need the following:
a pound of dried chili, be sure that many if not most of your chili have stems
(having a few different varieties that have different shapes and sizes helps too)
glue (heat glue works well)
the plastic shell that covers a stick of shortening
an empty chili can
some black and brown construction paper (paint might work as a substitute)
Step 1: Starting the Ristra
To start make the body. This could be done with the same technique that is normally used to make a chili ristra. My understanding however is that the normal technique for making a chili ristra requires fresh chili, and I only had dried. I tried using some techniques that I found online to make the chili ristra but they proved to not be robust enough for my project so I ended up making up my own technique. I think that this resulted in the project taking longer but also being more robust.
To start, make a loop in the end of the wire. This will keep the chili from falling off the wire. You can do this by folding the wire near the end, then twisting the two strands of wire together.
I attached the chili stem to the wire using a shear lashing. To do this lay a chili parallel to the wire. Wrap the chili stem to the wire with 3 loops of thread. Then wrap the thread between the stem and the wire in two loops that go around the first three loops of thread but not the stem of the chili or the wire. These two loops are called fraps and they tighten the 3 wraps. After each chili is lashed on, simply repeat the lashing on the next chili above. It is important to lay each new chili down in such a way that all the holes are filled with chili. Lash chilies onto the wire until the body is as long as you want it to be.
Step 2: Make the Arms
When you are nearing the top of the body it is time to make the arms. Pick out ten short chilies to be fingers and two short chilies to be arms. Cut one long wire and 4 short wires. The short wires should be almost as long as two of the chilies for the fingers and the long wire should be as long as the two arm chilies and two finger chilies.
To make the arm structure, first twist a small figure 8 into the middle of the long wire. This will allow the long wire to be held in position.
Next poke holds in both ends of the chilies you selected for the arms and slide them over the long wire.
To make the hands put two of the short wires one chili finger length away from the end of the long wire and twist all 3 wires together. The knot that forms the center of the hand should be in the middle of each of the short wires and one finger length from the end of the short wire. Slide the finger chilies onto the hand and arrange the hand how you want it. Then use glue to solidify the hand so that it can’t move. Do this on both sides to make two hands.
When this is done slide the arms down on top of the body and add a few more inches worth of chili to the body to hide the wire where the arms attach. You can use some glue or thread to really make the attachment of the arms to the body solid.
Step 3: Make the Mouth and Eyes
When the body is as long as you want and the arms are on and covered it’s time to make the mouth. I wanted to make my chili monster look like he was trying to eat a can of green chili. To start take a can of green chili and remove both the top and bottom. On my can the top could be removed easily with a can opener, but the bottom did not have the lip required by a can opener; therefore instead of a can opener I used the handheld can opener on a swiss army knife. If you have a hammer and chisel that might be a better option. Make the structure of the mouth from the plastic cover on a package of shortening. Cut it in half and glued the two halves back together to adjust the width of the mouth to make the chili can a snug fit. Cut out the back of the shortening cover mouth so that the chili can sticks out the back of the mouth instead of the side. Line the mouth with black construction paper; wrap it around the back to form lips and the mouth cavity at the same time. The construction paper should wrap behind the can so that you can’t see through the back of the mouth. Then hot glue the can into the mouth; put the glue inside the can so that it is not visible. Be sure to leave enough room that you can glue some chili in front of the can to make teeth. When the can is glued in, cut out the shortening cover on the bottom side of the mouth only where the cover is inside the can. This will make the mouth fit better on top of the body. Poke a hole in the shortening cover on the top of the mouth inside the can and thread the mouth onto the ristra. The chilies on the wire will form a conic structure on which the mouth will sit.
Next glue two ping pong balls onto the top of the mouth for eyes. Glue the eyes onto the wire also so that the mouth is held in place by 2 points. This will keep the mouth from wobbling back and forth.
Step 4: Finish the Chilies on the Head
Next add the chilies surrounding the head. You can do this with reject chilies that you couldn’t use for the body because they didn’t have stems. Glue these chilies to the mouth starting at the bottom and working your way up fish scale style. Gradually move up until you have covered the entire head.
Step 5: Make the Sombrero
Now it’s time to cap it off with a sombrero. Take a strip of construction paper and glue it into a circle as wide as you want the cap part of the sombrero to be. Take this circle and glue it to the brown construction paper. Cut out a larger circle of construction paper as large as you want your hat brim. Cut out the inside of the brim so that you have access to the inside of your sombrero. Put the sombrero upside down and glue it to another piece of construction paper to form the top of the hat. Cut around the outside of the top to finish it. Poke a hole with the wire near the front of your hat and slide it down the wire. It should rest on the top of the head concealing all the stems of the chilies on the chili monster’s head.
Step 6: Finishing Touches
When I made my chili monster I put the teeth on when I made the mouth, but in hindsight it would have been better to do that at the end. To add teeth simply glue them onto the can so that they look however you want them. Use a marker to add pupils to the eyes. Glue in a chili between the two eyes for a nose. You can go around and make sure that you didn’t leave any holes and if you did you can fill them by gluing in some extra chilies.
Step 7: Done!
You're done! Cut your wire to the length you want and hang it up!