...sat on her tuffet, eating her Nerds and Whey, protein...
Well hello there!
This Instructable will guide you through the making of my "Miss Muffet" display from this year's Halloween (2018).
Using just a small list of components, with a large amount of patience and elbow grease, you too can have your very own nursery rhyme diorama, until it rots...
Step 1: Gather Your Parts and Tools
Pumpkins! Or other large variety of cucurbit. My setup included: 1 green hubbard squash, 1 blue hubbard squash, and 1 gnarly pumpkin
Sticks a plenty. Thick to thin, long to short. Fallen branches from wind storms work great.
Wire coat hangers
2 Tomato cages
Vegetable sculpting/carving tools. A good set from Villafane Studios or Kemper.
Drill and bits
Matte black spray paint
Posable vine arms and legs (Villafane Studios)
Outdoor Lighting (flood lights)
Historical bonnet (borrowed from mother-in-law)
Step 2: Prepare the Leg Sections.
Building the spider's legs was crucial to the whole scene, so I tackled them first. It is a fairly straight forward, but repetitive process. Spider legs have seven segments to them, but we shall keep things simple and concentrate on 3-4 per.
From your nice big organized pile of sticks, separate and sort into different thicknesses. Cut into a variety of lengths, making piles with 8 of each type segment.
Arrange some parts to pre-visualize a finished leg as you go to help in preparing these segments.
Step 3: Wire and Wrap the First Leg
Clip the wire coat hanger into the straight sections, getting rid of the corners and twisted bits. Drill a small hole through each stick section near the ends, but only where two sticks will join. Take the first stick part, slide a piece of coat hanger through one end and wrap it around once or twice, leaving about half of the wire straight. Grab the next stick in line and do the same, joining it to the first. This will keep the sticks together and provide a small amount of flexibility later on. Keep in mind that too much posing and playing with it will eventually snap the coat hanger. After that, take the twine and start wrapping up the joint, covering the coat hanger and building up a knuckle of sorts. Use your favorite knots to keep things from unraveling.
Once good and tight, grab the next leg section in the line and repeat the wire-twine routine.
Step 4: Repeat Previous Step 7 More Times
Step 5: Carve the Spider Head
Lucky for me I had been gifted a gnarly looking pumpkin perfectly suited to a caricature styled spider head. All I had to to was let it out. The thing was armour plated, so I had to get out a wood carving chisel to make it through the skin. After that I sculpted in the face using reference of real life spiders. I won't go through the detailed steps involved here, but if your are new to sculpting:
0 - Do NOT hollow out. This will keep the overall structure a bit stronger.
1 - Remove pumpkin skin (large loop tool or chisel)
2 - Block out the big shapes (large and medium loop tool)
3 - Refine and smooth out (large loop tool and green scrub pad)
4 - Carve in the finer details (small loop tool and ridiculously sharp knife)
As you sculpt/carve/dig be aware of the flesh consistency and movement. As it thins toward the hollow center you will notice more play when pressing down, and the flesh itself can become more fibrous and difficult to work with.
Have a spray bottle full of water to wet down the pumpkin as you sculpt. If sculpting a day or more ahead of display time you will want to properly store to prevent drying out. What works for me: wrap in a wet towel, put into a plastic bag, store it in a dark, cool, dry place. A mixture of white vinegar and water is a good option to keep it moist.
Fun fact, too much white vinegar in the solution and a couple weeks of storage can leach the colour out of your pumpkin giving it a weird patchy look...
Step 6: Prepare the Tomato Cage Stands
To make it appear that the spider is standing on it's own eight legs, use two shortened tomato cages as the stands. Clip them short so you have two rings, and the shorten the vertical legs to about 2 inches long. I took the remainder of the legs and bent them into tent pegs, which come in handy later. The stands will be inverted when used, with the larger ring on the ground, and the legs pointing up to poke into/around the spider's head and body. Spray paint them matte black to better hide them in the shadows.
Step 7: Attach the Legs
Easy. Near the bottom of the pumpkin head, drill 8 holes and slide in the legs. Spade drill bits did the trick here, ranging from 5/8" to 1-1/4" depending on the thickness of each Coxa, that's Arachnology for the first section of each leg that touches the body.
During this process, use one of the previously prepared tomato stands to hold your head up.
Step 8: Spider Abdomen
This is probably the easiest part. Take the second previously prepared tomato cage stand, and place the squash on top. This blue hubbard was perfect as is for a spider abdomen. No sculpting required.
Step 9: Miss Muffet
Similar to the spider face, I carved an unwilling participant to play as Miss Muffet. Same steps apply to the sculpt here. I used a nice big round green hubbard squash. The shape of it did not really allow for sitting, so a plastic flower pot did the trick to keep her upright, which later on will be used as the tuffet.
Step 10: Arrange the Display
Relatively level ground is nice, but not always available. To keep these slightly unbalanced characters from toppling, I tacked down the spider's tomato cage stands using a couple wire pegs (made from the left over cage clippings) and weighed down Miss Muffet with a brick in her tuffet (plastic flower pot).
The arms and legs (purchased props) added a nice touch and extra level of expression to the overall piece.
Finishing touches were added to round out the scene. Potato fangs on the spider, a historical bonnet for m'lady, and my personal favorite, Nerds and Whey, protein. I will say the subtleties of humour were lost on most trick-or-treaters.
Step 11: Conclusion
Creating a themed Halloween display is as rewarding as it is challenging. Time-consuming but a labour of love. Humorous or hideous it's all in good fun!
If you enjoyed this Instructable, please vote for it in this year's Halloween Contest!
Thanks for stopping by!
Step 12: Bonus Mini-Instructable
As an added bonus for making this far, here is an easy to follow 3 step Instructable titled:
How to Create an Army of Miniature Spiders
Step 1 : In your garden, plant whole mini pumpkin in the fall, and allow multiple seedlings to overtake your back yard the next spring and summer.
Step 2 : Harvest partially chewed on miniature pumpkins. Thank the squirrels for that.
Step 3 : Jab 8 small sticks into each pumpkin. Repeat as desired.