Guardian of your trick-or-treat bowl or sinister gatekeeper from beyond, your choice!
Since I did not have any grape vines growing in my yard, and the ones I found at the stores were expensive, I decided to make my own, which opens a lot of options.
How? Because you are not limited to a specific size or shape, this technique can be used to make anything from small vines to large, or with minimal changes, into tentacles, bones, or even a face-hugger alien!
Also, this process uses free, cheap, or at least readily available materials, and you can use any combination of these techniques to suit whatever it is you're making.
Finally, you really can't make any real mistakes. To prove it, I intentionally did several things "incorrectly" just to show everything still turned out fine.
Let's get started!
Step 1: Scarecrow Materials Needed and Building the Basics
Here is what I used:
- Sticks, boards, or whatever you want to have your scarecrow "hanging around" on.
- Newspaper - packing paper - kraft paper - ideally longer sheets the better, but you can make whatever length you need by adding them together.
- Masking tape - string - not entirely neccesary, but does help to hold parts together.
- tissue - TP - paper towels - any thin paper will work.
- Liquid latex - carpet cement - joint compound - or flour and water. I had liquid latex so I used that, but you could use a lot of things - I'll show you a couple options I did.
- Dryer lint - it is free, everyone has a bunch of it, so I wanted to find a use for it. Since the first couple tries got universal comments of "That is really horrifying looking" I figured it would work perfectly for Halloween!
- Miscellaneous: floral wire, wire cutters, craft paint, chip brushes, white glue
- For the scarecrow post, I just gathered a bunch of sticks that had fallen in my yard and used floral wire to tie them together into a T shape. I suggest wearing gloves so you don't get any splinters or poked by the wire.
- Next, grab a sheet or two of paper and start twisting it. I found starting in a corner was good if you want a fine point. Otherwise, double the thickness, or more and make it into a good root.
I found that while I could just put a piece of tape on either end of the twisted paper to hold it, it is really much easier to just wind masking tape down the length. You get a little more ability to pose the tentacles (or whatever you are making). Also, the tape isn't absorbent, so whatever you are using to cover the paper will not water-log the whole thing.
Since I wanted this to look like the plants had grown up making a mockery of a skeleton, you can see some pieces that look kind of like a rib cage.
I didn't start planning what the scarecrow would look like until I had bunch of vines made, which is why you see some already painted.
Step 2: Covering Scarecrow Vines/Roots and Painting
Here is where I show you a couple different ways to cover the vines, and why you can't make any mistakes that won't look great when you are done. Check the notes in the pictures for mistakes I made.
I used liquid latex because it is flexible and water resistant, and since this prop is going to be outside in Indiana in the fall, needs to handle possible rain.
- Carpet cement works just like liquid latex, and while obviously very sticky, it is basically just latex.
- Joint compound actually holds up really well outside, especially if you don't move it around much, and even more so if you paint it. This is the famous "monster-mud" used in many Halloween decorations.
- The last option is paper mache - or flour/water paste, and while it will work, it does not do well in wet conditions...unless the creature slowly melting in front of your eyes is part of the show, which it could be!
As an alternative to flour/water paste, allow me to suggest that dryer lint I mentioned earlier...
I used the dryer lint with a little water and white glue to make a "soup". Start with a cup or so of glue and then add water until it is runny. Next, put in a few handfuls of the lint. Mash it all together until the lint is soaked with the water/glue mixture, and then use that to coat things.
The face for the scarecrow is made from the lint mix described, I just pressed it into a mold I made from a mask and let it dry. The white blotches on mine are from testing to see if I could paint stuff on the inside to strengthen it, and found that the lint is still very porous, even after adding glue. Still, I figure if the face starts to droop from rain it isn't going to look less terrifying, so I really can't lose. :-)
You can make it water resistant using spray-on sealers, or you could paint on wax, etc. But really, you are playing with felt, so enjoy the process and seeing how the stuff behaves in all its gooey glory!
Covering the vines with tissue is the most laborious part, but there isn't a wrong way to do it. I painted a layer of latex onto the section of vine so the tissue would stick, then covered it with tissue, then another coat of latex to seal it all together.
If you use the paper mache or dryer lint the final form will be much more rigid compared to the bendy nature of the latex, which just means you need to put your vines in the shape you want them to be before they dry. Oh, and I just added a squirt of craft paint to the latex before using it. Not really needed, but if it makes final painting easier, might as well. Also, having a color in the mix makes it easier to see where you have already added a layer and what still needs covered..
Step 3: Scarecrow Assembly and Final Touches
I coated all the vines in one layer of latex, and you can see I did not follow any strict color schemes or measuring of paint. Very haphazard application of the colors, and much like the mistakes I listed as notes in various pictures, you can see that the varied colors look fine, especially for mutated vegetation on a mission.
Next I lay the pieces out until it looked good and then used some more wire to attach it to the post.
Then I brought out the lint again.
While I am not expecting anyone to handle this, and I did tuck the wires out of the way, the places where the wire was visible holding the scarecrow to the post needed covering. The dryer lint disguises things really well, giving a nice spanish moss feel, and also covers over the majority of sharp bits, which I am sure I will be thankful for when I go to move this later and forget where all the wire is.
I simply painted on some latex, this time tinted brown, stuck on some lint, then applied more latex until it was matted down. Looking back at that, I think I would mix the lint with straight white glue (or maybe a little water) and then apply. The lint is very thirsty and sucked up a lot of latex before it matted down. The white glue mix will take longer to dry, but will also be much stronger structurally, if you need that. In fact, The last picture shows the scarecrow installed in my yard, and I added some more lint using white glue to attach the face and maybe some more hanging off the arms.
The other enhancement I am going to make is adding a small EL wire unit to the head and body so the scarecrow glows properly.