With the chill of winter out of the air and summer for all intents and purposes here (for us in the Northern Hemisphere at least), there’s really only one thing for the Gores Truly crafter to do. Start planning for Halloween. Seriously people, we’re over halfway there now. It’s past time to start the crafting.
One of my biggest annoyances once the season is upon us is the ridiculous price of the decorations in stores. You’ll see that this is a consistent theme for my crafting series. I see something in the store and think, “Ooooh, I love it! They want HOW MUCH? Yeah. Screw that.”
Much like many people hit up stores for sales after Christmas, Meg and I are especially notorious for trolling the stores after Halloween scouring for the deals on all things spooky to add to our collections. While she goes for the inflatables and lawn ornaments (which other members of my household won’t allow me to buy), I go for the smaller decorations that I can use on my front porch and around the house. This is when I stock up on things like craft pumpkins and buy out the dollar store of all their weird Halloween trinkets that go into my stash of the strange.
Usually the things I originally had my eye on are gone by then though, so the second the big orange tent goes up in the parking lot of the mall, I’m there looking for ideas. In all my life, I think I’ve bought maybe one or two things from the big orange tent. And even then I think it was my air compressor glue gun that shoots out spider webbing. Because, I simply had to have it.
I’m a firm believer that with a little ingenuity and a covertly (or not so covertly) taken picture from my cell phone, I can take an overpriced decoration and turn it into a dollar store craft that’s just as good (if not better) than its pricey orange tent counterpart.
So when I saw these, I thought to myself, self? That’s freaking awesome. I’m not paying $25 for it. But it’s awesome. So I took a good look at it, took a couple of blatantly obvious pictures with my phone in front of an employee and set off to make my own. Because I’ll be damned if this wasn’t a “dollar store” or “crap I already have around the studio” kind of project.
What you’ll need:
1 wire hanger (like the kind from the dry cleaners)
1 medium sized miniature skeleton
½ yard guaze, cheesecloth, or any lightweight Halloween style fabric that you like
Filling / Padding (quilt batting works or poly fiber fill)
Hot glue /glue gun
String or ribbon
Hat pin or eye hook
There aren’t very many pictures of these early steps. I’m blaming gremlins. That’s my story.
First thing you’re going to do – rip your skeleton limb from limb. No, seriously. Take him apart. It’s kind of cathartic in a way. What we’re really interested in for this project are the head and the hands. For me, the rest of the body parts go into my “random body parts” bin. Yes, that’s a real thing in my studio. Someday I will find a use for them. You do with your extra parts as you will.
Cut the bottom half of the hanger off keeping just the shoulders part and the hook. I cut the shoulder part down to about 5 inches after the initial bend then cut off the hook at the top of the curve. Straighten out any weird curvy parts so that you have the shoulders and a straight stick at the top. If necessary, run a bead of hot glue down the wire where the two sides meet to secure them.
Next, wrap some batting or padding around the shoulder parts of the hanger. It helps to use a bit of hot glue if you’re using fiber fill so that it sticks better to the wire before you start wrapping the pieces of fiberfill around it. If you’re using batting, just run a bead of glue down the wire and press (carefully, don’t be me and burn your fingertips because you’re impatient) the edge of the batting down to secure it. Wrap the batting around the wire and when you have about an inch or two of padding built up, run another line of hot glue up the batting and press the edge over it to secure it down.
Take some of the muslin and cut it in a rectangle large enough to run the length of your padded wire and wrapped around the batting. Secure the edge down to the batting and then wrap it around the batting. If you’d like to fold the side edges in you can, but remember it’s going to be covered by the skelly-ghost’s fabric cape body so it’s not vital. If you’re feeling really industrious, you can sew the padding cover into a sleeve and slip it on, but this seamstress was feeling lazy so . . . there you go. Hot glue it was. You can see in the background kind of what it should look like at this point.
Now we’re ready to add the skelly hands and head. Take the hands from your skeleton and secure them to a short length of wire left over from the hanger. I found that a bit of hot glue worked if shoving the wire into the hand didn’t. Once the hands are secure put a bit of glue on the end of the wire and poke them into the end of the muslin covered padding.
I then ran another bead of hot glue around the edge of the wire just because I’m paranoid and I love hot glue. Follow the same process with his head, except this time shove the head right onto the pike at the top of the padded shoulders. Run a bit of glue around the bottom to make sure it’s nice and secure because he’s going to be hanging from his head and you don’t want it to pop off. Trust me. It’s not pretty. While you’re shoving things into his head, take the hat pin or small eye hook and puncture it into the top part of his head and secure down with glue. Again, he’s going to hang by this bit so you want to make sure the little hanging hook is secure. If you’d rather use E6000 to be sure, go for it.
At this point you should have the head and hands of your skeleton secured to a weird shoulder contraption without a body. It should look a little something like this:
Time to fix the naked bits – I promise that there’s no scary sewing involved in this. If you’d like to use a fancy filmy fabric and hem it up and make it pretty, do it. Again, this was kind of a lazy day for me after sewing on deadlines all week, so I went for the easiest possible option. Cut your cheesecloth into a square that will comfortably cover your skelly’s head when folded into a triangle to make a hood. I’d love to give exact measurements here, but your skelly’s head might be smaller or bigger than mine. Take the square and fold it diagonally to make a triangle.
Drape the fabric around skelly’s skull but don’t bring the points down to the front of his head like a scarf. Instead secure each side point at the shoulder points, sufficiently puffing up the hood until you’re happy with how it sits. Secure with glue or pins to the shoulder points and secure the back point as well. Don’t worry much about the raw edges those will be covered up in the next step.
Cut another larger square from your chosen fabric and fold into a triangle. The size of this square can be determined by measuring your skelly-ghosts shoulder width from end to end. Fold the square again into a smaller triangle and crease or mark the center point. (see figure). Unfold the second fold and make an ‘x’ cut in the center just large enough for skelly’s head to poke through. Poke his head through and arrange the body cloth until you like how it sits.
I recommend doing several body layers in the same manner to hide the shoulder padding and give him some depth. If you’re feeling really industrious, you could spray the whole shebang with some glow in the dark paint or even put some LED lights in his eyes . . . ooh, but that’s another project. I opted to add an additional layer of black netting. I also had some random miniature skeletons in my bin of body parts so I added those to hang from his hands.
Here’s my finished skelly – all dressed up and ready for hanging.
Then, I got a bit carried away and made a few more. Really, the sky is the limit with this one. I had a few of the components in my studio already so for me it cost about $6 each. If you have to buy everything to create your skelly-ghost, it should come out to somewhere around $10. Saving you about $15-20 for what you can buy in a store.