The Grim Reaper and Other Starched Fabric Spirits




Introduction: The Grim Reaper and Other Starched Fabric Spirits

About: I like sewing and crafts,and trying new things. I'm vegetarian and always looking for new recipes. My cat's name is Mirko and likes to be in the centre of things, so you will see him in several of my instr...

I saw some really cute starched cheesecloth ghosts on the Martha Stuart website*, but I wanted to make something more frightful. So I used starched fabric to make a grim reaper, I also made a couple of ghosts and added some lights to give them a spookier look.


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Step 1: Material

  • cheesecloth and black nylons
  • floral stem wire
  • pliers
  • tinfoil and plastic wrap
  • clay
  • bamboo skewers
  • jewelry chain
  • cardboard

Step 2: Frame

To start you will need a frame to drape the fabric over.
  • Take one end of floral stem wire and bend it around in a circle to form a base so that it can stand.
  • Cut the other end of the wire to the height that you want your ghost to be.
  • Take another piece of wire and wrap around the first piece forming arms, you may need to tape it in place.
  • Roll up a ball of tin foil to form the head and stick it on top of the wire.
  • Wrap the arms and the base with foil as well.
You will be able to adjust the arms to any pose you wish.

Step 3: To Make the Starch Solution:

  • Add 1/4 cup cornstarch and1/4 water into a bowl
  • Stir to mix.
  • Add 1 to 1 1/2cups boiling water, stir well. 
You can make several ghosts with this mixture and store for later use.

Step 4: Dip and Drape

  • Cover your working surface with plastic wrap, this makes it easier  to lift the dried starched fabric off the surface (and easier to to clean up after you are done).
  • Cut the fabric (cheesecloth or nylon), I like to start with one big piece that covers most of the frame.
  • Soak it in the starch solution, pull it out and allow it to drain.
  • Drape over the frame, make sure that the sheet reaches the ground (this is what supports the ghost when you remove the frame after it dries).
  • Add more pieces of cloth, try smaller strips, forming layers and folds giving it shape.
  • When making the grim reaper, don't forget to give him a hood.
  • Also make sure there is room to pull out the frame when it is dry.

Step 5: Remove From Frame When Dry

It took about a day and a half for the fabric to dry completely.
  • Peel off the plastic wrap from the bottom of your ghost/reaper.
  • Gently pull out the frame.
  • Remove any bits of tin foil left behind.

The cheesecloth becomes really stiff when dry, the nylon was not quite as stiff, but is still able to stand up on its own.   One problem with using the black fabric is that some of the starch precipitates out when it dries, forming white blotches.  I actually like the way it looks, it gives the grim reaper a old, weathered look.  Though if you don't like it try using store bought liquid fabric starch.

Step 6: Accessorize: Ball and Chain

Accessorize your ghosts and grim reaper as you like, paint eye sockets, add a pumpkin, or a tomb stone.  I just went with a ball and chain for the ghost.  I rolled some clay into a ball, attached a chain and painted it black when the clay was dry.

Step 7: Accessorize: Scythe

The grim reaper will definitely need a scythe.  I made one from a bamboo skewer, cardboard and some tin foil.
  • Cut the blade shape from  cardboard.
  • Cut a piece of the skewer so that it is slightly taller then the grim reaper.
  • Tape the blade to  the bamboo and cover the blade with tin foil.
  • Since the grim reaper doesn't have any hands, glue it onto the end of his sleeve.

Step 8: Lights

Cheesecloth gives the ghosts a gauzy ethereal look which looks great when you stick a light underneath.  Flameless tea lights, LEDs taped to batteries, or even Christmas lights work well for this.

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    6 Discussions


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Great stuff, Chrys! You appear to be an incurable make-a-holic!  Cman


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Sweet - empty robes.

    How big can you make them?


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I'm not sure how big you can go with these, the ones I made are about 6 inches tall.  The cheesecloth is pretty solid once it's dry, so you could probably make them bigger a foot or maybe even more.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I've done something similar with plaster and cheesecloth to make a human-size haunt.  Held up great!


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Human-size, that would look pretty cool!