Since Gores Truly is femme-driven – we’re big advocates for chicks and horror and want to give our XX-chromosome readers a chance to contribute to the horror-fest we adore. The following article has been Murder-Her approved. Introducing Nightshade Nash.
Growing up, Halloween was easily classified as my favorite time of the year. My mother had amazing skills with a sewing machine so costume making was always an adventure into whatever was creatively possible. As an adult, very little for me has changed. It is still my favorite time of the year. Though I don’t have any gremlins of my own, I take great joy in decorating the front of our home so that the trick-or-treating hellions have something fun and just a bit scary to approach. We have a pumpkin that spews fog, cover the porch in spider webs, and try to create an atmosphere of fun mixed with just a touch of fear. But I’ve been lacking a suitable wreath for the front door. Most of the ones I see in the stores are too cutesy or chintzy or unnecessarily expensive. So, I started looking for an alternative. Enter the all-encompassing evil known as Pinterest.
Boredom and Pinterest are a potently dangerous combination. I saw several Halloween wreaths that used skeletons and I was intrigued. With that basic idea in my head I started rummaging around my studio. I am, by trade, a multi-medium artist and professional seamstress; which means, in practice, I’m a ridiculous packrat. Every scrap and random thing I see that I like I will keep or buy because, well, someday I’ll probably need it. And if I don’t buy it, or keep it, then clearly, one day, I’m going to regret it. Basic bottom line? I have a lot of crap. Some of it useful, some of it arguable. I knew that somewhere in my office I had a bag of skeleton bones. I was pretty sure there was probably at least one wreath form and I figured there were probably enough odds and ends to flesh out the idea that Pinterest had spawned.
This is, at its heart, a dollar store craft. The bag of bones, gauze, netting, even the rats were all purchased from the dollar store during Halloween season. The wire frame wreath can be found at any craft store as can the flowers during any season. While I would certainly encourage you to use your own creative license and whatever strange items you might have lying around in your hoarder-like stash, if you would like to duplicate as near as possible the wreath that I made here is what I used:
1 wire frame wreath form
1 bag of skeleton parts
‘Blood’ stained gauze (I tea dyed mine because I thought it was too pristine looking)
Silk Flowers (hit with a couple of spritzes of flat black spray paint)
22 Gauge Floral Wire
When I first approach a project like this, I try to lay everything out in different combinations to get an idea of what I want to do. This usually changes half a dozen times before I’m done, but at least it gives me some kind of plan to completely throw to the wind.
I knew that I wanted to use the netting and gauze as my base to build upon so I started by cutting the floral wire into lengths. Some of them were 6 inches, some of them were 8 inches. I wasn’t sure what length I would need, but it turned out that it really didn’t matter, I cut off the excess and wove it through the wire frame. Start by placing lengths of floral wire along each crossbar center and on the upper edges and lower edges. These will be the points you will attach the fabrics to.
Once I had a reasonable number of wires attached to the frame, I laid the black netting over one of them and secured it to the frame. I did this by running the floral wire through the netting and twisting the wire to secure it to the frame. Taking about a 12 inch length I continued to secure the black netting along the crossbars of the frame. Once all of the netting was secured, I manipulated it until I liked how it sat on the frame continuing to secure it to the frame by twisting the floral wire around it. Once I had it secured all the way around I pushed all of the floral wire ends to the backside, cut off the excess and twisted the remaining length around the wire until it was enclosed and secured. That process looked a little like this:
I then took the gauze and laid it over the black netting, arranging it until I liked the way it looked. I realized that the gauze as it was, happened to be really wide and not quite long enough, so I cut it in half to get two lengths. From there I took additional lengths of floral wire that were about 4 inches long and secured the gauze in multiple places along the length of the wire frame to ensure that it didn’t twist or come loose. Once I had all of the fabric to the frame I had a base from which to build the rest of the wreath.
At this point I had to decide how I wanted the bones and other bits to fit together. I recommend that you “audition” several different layouts. I can tell you from experience that if you just start gluing bones down without any kind of plan, it usually results in trying to pry said pieces apart and remove whatever glue was used to start over again. At least for me it does, but you may not be as CDO as I am. (That’s right. CDO, with the letters in alphabetical order, the way they should be.) You’ll also notice in the pictures below that the gauze wasn’t on when I auditioned different configurations for my bony friend. Remember that part in the beginning when I said I throw my plan to the wind? Yeah, that’s what happened there.
Oddly enough, I went with none of these options, but I didn’t figure that out until I was gluing things down. Go figure. The first step though was to figure out how to secure the skull down. At some point in time, someone in my household had filled the skeleton head with expanding foam. I’m sure at the time there was a reason . . . since the foam made the head just a bit heavier than it should have been I used my trusty E6000 (I freaking love this stuff. It will hold up to even my ability to break things) and glued in two pieces of floral wire. While that was drying, I dug through my box of random flower supply and found some carnations. Thinking they were too pristine looking, I took the red ones and hit them with some black spray paint and put them aside to dry. I wasn’t sure yet what I was going to do with them, but I figured it would come to me. Once the floral wire was secure in the skull I ran the wires through the wreath frame and secured the heck out of them in the back. It was still a little wobbly so I placed the next two bones up against it to give it some support and then used a combination of hot glue and E6000 until I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to come loose if I’d dropped it from my second floor window.
Next, I secured the ends of the two bone pieces with more wire just to make sure they weren’t going anywhere and laid the rest of the bones in the configuration I finally decided I liked, using hot glue to secure each bone to the one before it. I knew that I also wanted to use the spinal column in the wreath but I wasn’t 100% sure how to make it work without just laying it along the edge. While rummaging through some of my other boxes, I found some chain. The top of the spine piece already had a hole in it, so I slit the other end and fed the chain through securing it to the top and bottom of the wreath to suspend it along the center. I had this black bird that I wanted to use too and I thought it might be kind of cool to have the hands creating a kind of nest for the bird to sit in. I glued the hands together and then glued it within an inch of its existence with E6000 and hot glue. For the most part, the wreath was complete.
At this point in a project like this, it’s time to take a step back and look at what embellishments need to be added. I had some rubber rats, those spray painted carnations, and just enough leftover gauze to make a really big bowtie. So I added the final touches and hung it up to see if anything else was needed. Oh yeah. The bird. Sitting in his nest of hands.
Yep. That’ll do.
With crafts like these, my goal is to take stock of what I have to create using found items and things I’ve forgotten I had. With this wreath I wanted it to have the feel like some macabre devious mind wanted to create a sculpture . . . or a warning. As though its home would be in a place where sanity might not be the top priority.
Take a look around your own collection of items and random old decorations to get that creative blood moving. You might just be surprised to find that you already have most of the supplies that you need.
About the Author: A multi-medium artist, Nash is as at home with her glue gun and sewing machines as she is communing with the dead. As an avid wanderer, she enjoys seeking out the lost and forgotten in the dark corners of the world in her travels. In her off time she can be found honing her riding and shooting skills because when the zombies come? She’s going to be ready. With a shotgun and a horse.