Introduction: How to Make a Doctor Who Scarecrow

About: Completed a masters in mechanical engineering and then realised I didn't want to be an engineer. So I'm a freelance propmaker and costumier for film, theatre and music videos. Occasionally, I need to find a …

In the new Series 3 of Doctor Who, a two-part story “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood introduce a new enemy of The Doctor, the Scarecrows. Animated scarecrows brought to life by the Family of Blood as their personal army. Really quite terrifying. Here’s how I made it.

Step 1: Materials

0.5m x 1.4m Hessian cloth. Alternatively, a large unlined Hessian sack
A large dark brown / grey-blue woven throw blanket / rug
20m Jute rope or sisal cord
Much bigger than you need grey-blue / dark brown sweat pants or jogging bottoms
A fancy dress masquerade mask
Needle and thread
Kitchen roll paper
PVA glue
Hot glue
Sewing machine

Step 2: Starting the Head

The head or mask of the scarecrow is a stylised Hessian sack. I started with 0.5m x 1.4m of rough Hessian material from a fabric shop. It’s sold for use underneath chairs and sofas as a cheap and tough covering material. If you can find a Hessian sack, that’ll work as well. Make sure it is unlined and a fairly coarse weave so you can still see through it. Fold it in half so it’s 0.5m x 0.7m. The pattern will run with the weave of the fabric as opposed to at an angle (on the bias) which you would normally do with woven fabrics, but I want the material to fray heavily.

Make a rough pattern from a sheet of newspaper. It’ll look a bit like a bishop’s hat. Make it quite large as it tapers towards the neck and you need to get your head through it so make the neck hole at least half the circumference around your head. You’ll want a fair bit of space inside too that will get packed out for shape with newspaper. Pin the pattern to your material and with a big needle and some black thread, do a quick up and down basting stick around your pattern. You could just use pins for the test fit, but I didn’t want pins that close to my face. Once you’ve tacked it down all the way round, stick it on your head and see how it fits.

Step 3: Sewing the Head

Use a dark or black thread, do a medium zig-zag stitch all around the line you hand basted on. Then at either end, do another line of stitching the runs off at angle level to your shoulders, this will create a sort of collar for the sack. Remove the basting stitches and turn it inside out (called bagging) and see how your general shape looks. If it looks good, cut off the excess material but leave about 40mm (1.5”) of seam allowance so the seam doesn’t pop open. Cut a rough curve at the bottom of the head for the shape of the collar.

For added fraying effect, pull at individual strands of Hessian at the seam line. You’re pulling out the seam allowance so the strand will be about 40mm long. Do this randomly around the seam line but sparingly; too much and the seam will pop open at those points.

Step 4: Forming the Head

The scarecrow has very pronounced corners to the head that kinda look like horns. I crumpled balls of newspaper together to form a block that will fit into the top corners of the head and create the shape. Scrunch three sheets of newspaper together and flatten one side to make a dome. Scrunch one sheet into a similar dome and stick it side by side to the large dome with some tape or hot glue. The large end of the domes will go into the corners of the head, the smaller dome down the side following the seam, and the flat side of the shape will sit against your head. Liberally apply some hot glue of PVA over the shapes and stick into the top corners of the head.

Start fraying the material around the collar section by pulling at the strands until they become loose and dangle. Go nuts and pull apart the material all the way around in a random manner and you’ll end up with a really good frayed effect. Try not to pull the strand too far along otherwise it will just fall out of the weave and end up on the floor.

Step 5: Facial Features

The scarecrow has angry facial features sculpted into the face. Unfortunately I missed these pictures in the rush of things.

Take your fancy dress masquerade mask, these are thing plastic eye masks covered in flock for that soft feel against the face. The mask forms the basis of the brow and eyes. Build up the shape by scrunching newspaper into sausage shapes and stick them to the mask with some tape. Pay particular attention to the heavy brow and the deep furrow between them. Also go around the whole eye mask with sausage shapes to create a deep furrow around your eyes which will create the deep sunken eye effect. On an angry face, the brow is horizontal or slopes towards the nose so try and recreate this shape for the scary mask. Unfortunately I sort of forgot this and my mask looks more worried than angry.

When you have a good shape, cover the entire front of the mask with a layer of ripped kitchen towel and PVA glue in a papier mache style that will set the shape of the mask. After a few hours it should be dry and you can paint it black or dark brown so it won’t show through the material as obviously.

Put the sack on your head where it is comfortable and pinch the material between your eyes and mark with a small pen mark; this is where the centre of the eye mask should be glued to the inside of the head. Apply hot glue to the eye mask all around the edge, around the sunken eyes and in the furrows. Now working quickly, position inside the head material and stick the Hessian to the mask allowing extra material around the eyes so the material can sink in. Push material into the furrows between the eyes and nose while the glue is still semi-molten. You really want the material to follow the contours of the eye mask

Step 6: Detailing

Draw a frowning mouth on the head and spread a line of hot glue along it. Carefully squeeze the material at the line to create a puckered line and the glue will hold it. Hot glue is hot, so be careful! This is the basic mouth and a cross stitch with sisal twine will finish the look.

I found sisal cord cord in a garden store. It’s about 10mm thick and is rough twisted rope like twine. You’ll need three different thicknesses for the costume which you can achieve out of just the one thickness. Take a length of cord about 0.5m long and unravel the strands. A 10mm cord should break down into three twisted cords and those cords should unravel into three thinner cords. The thinnest cord will be used for the facial sewing features.

Take a small piece of duct tape and wrap it around the end of a strand tightly then cut the wrapped tape at an angled taper to create a bit of a point. This will be your rudimentary needle for sewing. Do a rough cross stitch across the mouth to give the appearance of a mouth sewn closed. Pull the stitches a little tighter so the material will pucker into the mouth.

Step 7: Painting

Mix up some dark brown paint to detail and weather the material. Using a scrap piece of the Hessian, dab the paint into the eye sockets and rub around the eye so that it is darkest in the middle and blends out. Use a fine dry brush to paint into the furrows of the brow and nose and use scrap material to blend the paint into the head. I also painted some line details into the corners of the head and blended to give the effect of the sack being stretched. Using the scrap piece, dab and rub more paint around the head to add weathering and dirty marks. Use small amounts of paint and build it up so you don’t create large patches of paint.

Step 8: Finishing the Head

Take another length of the unravelled sisal cord used to sew the mouth and prepare a point with duct tape as before to sew up the eyes. Stitch over the eye and make sure you keep to the inside of the eye and don’t extend beyond the eye socket. If you can thread the twine just through the material, then it will be easy. If you have to sew through the eye mask as well, make a hole with a sharp nail or drawing pin and open it up with a pair of scissors so you can thread the twine through. As before, keep the stitches cross over the eye on the outside of the head and pass around the eye on the inside so you retain as much vision as possible.

Tie off the twine and your head is done! Now the rest of the costume.

Step 9: Rough Jacket

The scarecrow wears a roughly cut cardigan of sorts which I made from a woven acrylic throw from TK Maxx (or TJ Maxx), the throw cost £11 and being woven will also fray marvellously. No construction photos of this section I’m afraid but it is very simple. You’ll make a very rough shirt design which includes:

A sleeve front and sleeve back
A back piece
A left front and right front (which is the same shape but flipped.

The sleeves are straight tubes so fold the material over and do two lines of zig-zag stitching with your machine about 250mm apart so you create a tube. You’ll want them quite a bit longer than your arms to allow for some bunching. Leave a good 25mm (1”) of seam allowance to prevent unwanted fraying. Do this twice and bag both sleeves out so the seams are inside.

For the back, take a nice loose t-shirt and lay it on the material. Cut all around it except for at the sleeves, just cut straight up to the shoulder like a sleeveless top. Make it longer so it will hang halfway down your thigh.

For the front, do the same shape as your back, but twice. Use a zig-zag stitch and leaving a 25mm seam allowance, sew the front piece to the back piece at the left side seam but leave a space open for the arm hole, and then along the shoulder. Then sew the other front piece to the right side of the back piece but leave an arm hole and then sew along the shoulder. You should have now created a very rough sleeveless cardigan and the front should wrap around your body. Take a pair of scissors and cut the front pieces to create an angled neckline (see the picture for what I mean).

Turn the cardigan inside out and poke the shoulder end of a sleeve through an arm hole (scye) and sew around the sleeve to attach the arm. Do the same on the other side.

Set the machine to a loose zig-zag stitch and sew all around any open edges of the woven material about 30mm in. This will prevent the material from fraying excessively. Sew any largish scrap pieces of your material in random places to give the effect of a shoddy repair job. Then just pull at the material edges to fray it and you’re done with the jacket!

Step 10: Accessories

You will wear the dark blue sweatpants underneath. Take some of the paint you mixed up for the head and smear it onto trousers for dirt effect. The trousers should be so big that they cover your feet entirely.

Cut four lengths of the original 10mm sisal cord that will be used to tie around your wrists and ankles. Make the lengths long enough to wrap around at least three times and tie off.

Cut another long length that will wrap around your waist about three or four times like a belt and tie off.

Cut another length of sisal cord that will go around your neck about three or four times and knot off. Don’t make it too tight, but enough to gather the material of the head around your neck. With the cord wrapped and tied around the neck, I secured it at the back with a bit of tape and then cut through all the strands. Using thread, I wrapped the cut ends tightly to prevent unravelling and spread some glue on the ends to seal. Then stitch a hook and bar onto either end so you create a necklace of rope that allows for easy removal.

Step 11: Finished!

Put it all together and you’re ready to stand perfectly still with your arms outstretched before scaring the bezus out of someone.  Great for a Doctor Who theme!

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