Tag Archives: Nicholas Efstathiou

Making Halloween Decorations with Bakeable Clay

Halloween is a holiday which has seen a wide variety of decorating options grow over the last decade. These options include Halloween villages, Halloween trees, and the expansion of miniature collectibles, some directly related to Halloween, and others to the fall season in general. Prices for such decorations can range from several dollars to upwards of a hundred, and while they are inevitable worth it at the moment of purchase, guilty can quickly follow – or at least it does for me.

In order to satisfy my Halloween addiction, and to keep money in my wallet, my wife introduced me to bake-able clay. Bake-able clay is sold in packets. Most of these packets are roughly one inch deep, two and a half inches wide, and three inches long.

The generic brands of bake-able clay, such as “craftsmart” Polymer Clay, usually cost under two dollars for one package. Craft stores such as Michael’s and A.C. Moore carry not only the “craftsmart” brand, but several others as well, and they are available in a broad array of colors. For Halloween, the basic colors needed are white, green, orange, and black. Bake-able clay is extremely malleable, and requires very little in the way of tools.

Working With Bakeable Clay

With aluminum foil, wax paper, a sharp knife, and some imagination, the creation of your own decorations is much closer than you realize. Each piece of bake-able clay can be cut or pulled apart, and the more that you work it with your hands, the warmer the clay will become. As the clay warms, it will be easier for you to form and shape it.

Once you’ve chosen the shape that you want, be patient, haste will only cause you to ruin whatever work you’ve done. As the clay cools a sharp knife can be used to trim the piece, or to do fine work. Sewing needles and pins can also be used for the same. Make sure you place the piece of clay on your wax-paper, or on a smooth clean surface so there’s no damage to it before you put it into the oven to bake.

Pumpkins are fairly easy to make, as you need only to roll a small amount of orange clay in your hand (as if you were making cookies), to get the basic shape that you want. Once you have the shape your sewing needle or knife can make the necessary lines. A small curl of green clay can be the remains of a vine, and if you’re truly skilled (like my wife), you can use an Exacto blade to make leaves for your pumpkin.

Headstones can be formed by warming up the clay as with the pumpkins, then rolling it flat with a pen on your wax paper. Once you have the clay to the thickness that you want, carefully use a sharp knife to trim the clay into the shape you want. A needle can be used to make decorations, or epitaphs. When you’re ready to make a base for your stone, follow the same procedures.

Baking in the Oven

Once you’ve finished your piece, or pieces, carefully move them from the wax-paper, or smooth surface, to a baking sheet lined with the aluminum foil. If you don’t have a baking sheet that you want to use for your project, then doubling up a sheet of aluminum foil will work fine as well.

When you place the ornaments on the aluminum foil you should use smaller pieces of foil to make sure the ornaments stay upright and don’t flatten in the baking process.

Baking only takes around fifteen minutes (look on the package for baking instructions), so depending on how many pieces you’re making, you can see the fruits of your labor quickly. Once the pieces are done, you’ll be ready to start decorating with your own ornaments for Halloween!

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Decorating Dollhouses for Halloween

Dollhouses serve as doorways into a magical world of imagination for many children and adults. The design, decoration, and furnishing of dollhouses is a popular hobby, and one into which you can sink thousands of dollars.

Each season has its appropriately scaled holiday items, yet for the thrifty collector, these varied decorations can be quite expensive as each is generally handmade, and not mass produced. Halloween decorations seem to be especially costly, as the items are limited, and tend to take a great deal of skill to craft and prepare.

Decorating Your Own Dollhouse

The cost of decorating with store bought items should not put you off from decorating your doll house yourself for the Halloween holiday, however! Your local craft store is rich with a wide variety of items with which to make your own Halloween decorations.

You can easily buy unfurnished dollhouses at any craft store, or look for an old one at a flea market or rummage sale. If what you buy has already been painted, sand it down to get rid of dirt and particles to create a clean surface to work with.

Whether your dollhouse is a simple cottage, a grand Victorian, or a rustic farmhouse, the basic materials to prepare it for Halloween can be found with just a little bit of looking. Once you’ve obtained the necessary supplies, all it takes is a little imagination, and a little patience, to create a Halloween scene for your dollhouse.

At craft stores and general office supply stores you can find ribbons, glue, glue sticks, construction paper, tissue paper for wrapping delicate and breakable items, and a fairly new material referred to as ‘foamies.’

With these items (and a sharp pair of scissors), you can begin to create your decorations. Tissue paper ghosts are a mainstay of elementary schools around the country, and can be easily made with some ribbon, a few cotton balls, and a Sharpie. Various pumpkins, additional ghosts, witches, and other Halloween symbols can be cut from the foamies. Black ribbon can be cut and tied into small bows.

For more inspiration, check out the following how-to articles on crafting furniture and dollhouses:

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When you’ve settled on the items which you would like to make, make sure that your work space is clear (and that you don’t end up accidentally cutting your own clothing!), and take your time. There is no need to rush, as you’re looking for quality over quantity.

Once you finish your decorations, its time to place them in your dollhouse. How you’ve decorated your dollhouse with its regular furnishings will more than likely dictate how you put out your Halloween decorations. If you have a Victorian dollhouse, you may want to focus on ribbons and silhouettes. Cottages may call for witches and ghosts. A farmhouse might need pumpkins and tissue paper ghosts.

However you decided to decorate your dollhouse, though, you will have made your own decorations, and prepared your miniature home for Halloween in your own fashion. And whether you’ve done that alone, or with the help of others, it will be an enjoyable and relaxing experience. One which you will be able to look forward to with the coming of each Halloween!

Bargain Hunting for Halloween Decorations

Preparations for Halloween can never be started too early. As the economy continues its slow descent it becomes more important to stretch the dollar, and to find a wider selection of activities to do at home with the family.

For families that love Halloween, the weeks and months leading up to October 31st are full of opportunities to obtain decorative pieces for both interior and exterior purposes. These decorative pieces can be found at yard sales, rummage sales, flea markets, transfer stations, swap shops, landfills, and at the curb on trash day. You can also look at Halloween buy-sell sites such as Yardsellr. Not only will your decorative pieces be easy on the wallet, but environmentally you and your family will be recycling, saving space in the Untied States’ already limited landfills by bringing home items perfect for Halloween.

Halloween conjures up images of ghosts and goblins, the restless dead, the headless horseman, and a slew of others both malignant and benign. Regardless of your decorating preference – playful, dark, or some where in between – bargain hunting and salvaging can add to your Halloween supply.

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Halloween Scarecrows on the Cheap

For those who enjoy exterior decorating, a variety of old clothes and chairs can be found in different locations. With a few well-spent dollars you can purchase enough shirts, pants, pillowcases, and old shoes to create a scarecrow family!

The newly created scarecrows can sit in broken or off-kilter chairs which can easily be found at the curb, local landfill, or transfer stations. On Halloween night you can sit amongst your scarecrow family (wearing old clothes and some liberal face paint), and hand out the treats while keeping a weather eye open for tricks.

Gothic and Victorian Treasures

antique-bookcaseFor those looking for a darker theme, yard sales and fleamarkets are treasure troves to be explored. Candles seem to be available at all such events, and in a wide array of shapes, sizes, and colors. Old plates with chips and cracks are also readily available, making easy, inexpensive and somber additions to catch spilt candle wax.

Also at fleamarkets and yard sales old cabinet photos are often available. These photos, strategically placed among the newly acquired candles, can be arranged together around the holiday treats – making the trick or treater wonder who might be watching.

And finally, items can be found at the various locations to be used to display Halloween pieces. Occasionally real treasures can be found, such as a tall bookshelf, or a wall clock’s empty wooden case. The possibilities are broad, and are only limited by your own imagination.

So, as you drive to work, or serve as the family’s taxi, keep your eye out for future decorations!

Creating Halloween Tree Decorations

Halloween trees are a fairly new trend in decorating for the Halloween holiday. Like all other things specifically halloween tree ornamentcrafted for a holiday, or an event, the miniature ornaments made for the various styles of Halloween trees can be quite expensive. Cost aside, the fashioning of your own decorations for your Halloween tree can be a rewarding experience for both you and your family. Crafting ornaments is a small project that can easily fill a chilly afternoon, or a rainy day.

Finding Your Decor to Work With

The majority of the supplies that you’ll need can be found at your local craft store. Depending on the time of year, and how well stocked your local craft store is, you can find blank Christmas ornaments upon which to let your imagination wander. The items needed are generally inexpensive: foam brushes; craft paints; sparkles; and craft glue. For those of you who are more adventuresome, the craft store is a cornucopia of supplies, most of which can be added to your ornaments with the assistance of a small glue-gun.

If your store doesn’t carry blank Christmas ornaments in stock prior to the close of the Halloween season, old Christmas ornaments work just as well. Older ornaments can be found at thrift stores and yard-sales, as well as fleamarkets. Recently a neighbor of mine moved, and he gave me a large amount of small, golden ornaments. While the colors of the Christmas ornaments do not go with my wife’s Christmas theme, they are essentially blank canvases upon which she and my daughter can create Halloween ornaments for our Halloween tree!

When making your Halloween ornaments its best to hang them on the Halloween tree prior to their transformation. This will allow you to get a good feel of the weight which your particular tree can bear, and how you will want to space each decoration once it’s finished.

Creating Halloween Tree Ornaments For the Whole Family

halloween tree ornamentsIf you have young children who are creating ornaments as well, it’s best to make sure that they’re wearing old t-shirts, and that you have covered the surface your working on with plastic, or an old sheet. Surprisingly, paint has a habit of getting on things you didn’t want painted! Masking, or painters tape is excellent for securing the cover to the table, and make sure that you have plenty of soap ready for the necessary clean up.

A fairly wide variety of simple shapes and images – for those of us not blessed artistically – can be made with craft paints, glue, and glitter. Here’s a couple ideas:

  • Pumpkins are basic ovals, with triangles for eyes and noses, and half moons with squares for mouths. These shapes can be done not only with paint, but with glue and glitter.
  • Skulls can be traced out with toothpicks dipped in glue, and then sprinkled with glitter to give your Halloween tree a little bit of razzle dazzle.
  • The same can be done to make spider webs on ornaments, and if you’re painting, toothpicks are surprisingly versatile tools, allowing you to do fine lines and images.

Regardless of your skill level, however, once you have found your ornaments, and prepared your work station, you and your family can have hours of fun getting ready for Halloween – a holiday which lets you truly explore your creativity!

How to Make Your Own Halloween Tree

 

We loved this fun tutorial from guest contributor Nicholas Efastathiou. Thanks, Nicholas!

In recent years several holiday companies have started producing “Halloween Trees,” often complete with lights and decorations.

Money, however, inevitable raises its head, and we find ourselves asking, “Is this something I can really afford?” It may well be – but if not, or if you just have that creative itch, make your own with this easy tutorial. Enjoy!

Make Your Own Halloween Tree

halloween-tree01Halloween trees can be made quite easily, and the search for just the right tree – usually a branch which is gnarled, twisted, and something which represents the disturbed thought process of the villains in a Shirley Jackson tale – can be quite enjoyable!

Local parks and woods offer up tremendous opportunities, as there is almost always dead fall around, regardless of how often a park may be cleaned up. For those of you fortunate enough to live next to an ocean or other large body of water, driftwood pieces can add an exciting flair to the Halloween holiday.

Once you’ve located your piece, and you’ll know it’s the right one when you see it, all you need to do is bring it home and prepare it for display.

Creating a Base to Stand Your Tree Up

halloween-tree02When you’ve brought your selected Halloween tree home, you need to make sure that it’s going to fit into the place which you have chosen for it. Having done that, it’s a fairly simple task to make sure that the bottom of your tree is flat.

All you need to do is mark where you want it cut, and use a small handsaw to give yourself a flush edge. With this complete, you can use a small piece of board, perhaps 12” x 12”, as the base.

To do this, mark the center of your board and carefully drive a small nail, about 1” or longer, depending on the depth of your board, through the mark (and make sure you don’t nail the board to the table!).

With the board prepared, you can carefully push your Halloween tree’s flush edge onto the nail, keeping it centered so the wood doesn’t split. Once you’ve done this, wiggle the branch a little to make sure that it is fastened securely, and stand it up, turning it if necessary to the position that you want.

With all of this complete, you have your Halloween tree, and it’s ready for you to decorate and display as you wish!

 

A Halloween Picnic – In a Graveyard!

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the Halloween holiday is the preparation for the holiday itself. Driving around neighborhoods to observe and appreciate decorations is one way to get in the Halloween mood, while another is to visit various cemeteries, graveyards, and burial grounds.

Older communities have a wealth of final resting places for the dead, and at least one with appropriate Halloween ambiance can be found. When a cemetery has been chosen for further examination, the cemetery itself can make a wonderful family outing!

Picnicking in a Cemetery – Getting Prepared

When picnicking in a cemetery in preparation for Halloween, a visit to the local library can enhance the overall experience. Parents with or without their children can borrow age appropriate ghost stories, or, for those who are a little more ambitious, they can dig a little into local history. Nearly every community has at least one ghost story or unexplainable incident, and such tales take on added power within the confines of a cemetery.

Thus, equipped for the mental aspect of a picnic with the dead, preparations for the physical aspect need to be made. One must always be mindful of the weather, and children should be dressed appropriately. If a child wishes to wear his or her Halloween costume, extra clothing should be brought along just in case the child changes his or her mind halfway through the picnic, and decides that wearing the costume wasn’t as much fun as anticipated.

A blanket should be brought as well as a trash-bag. The blanket is a wonderful item to both sit on and to keep track of the various picnicking pieces. The trash-bag ensures that nothing is left behind to dirty or defile the cemetery’s sanctity.

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At the Cemetery

On a pleasant fall day in October, then, a small lunch can be packed and loaded into the car (or carried if the chosen cemetery is close enough). Once at the cemetery it is best to park the car near where you wish to explore, and walk through the cemetery itself.

So long as you and your children are respectful of the cemetery’s permanent residents, it is quite alright to avoid the cemetery’s roads and to walk amongst the headstones. Walking thus allows everyone to see who rests beneath the stones, and to keep their eyes open for a pleasant spot for the picnic.

Eating, drinking, and spending time as a family is a wonderful thing, especially during Halloween, which can make the picnic even more enjoyable. Picnicking in a cemetery, along with telling passing strange tales of the community, can help set the mood for a holiday which goes by entirely too quickly!

Let us know your thoughts, stories and experiences in a cemetery near Halloween. Please comment below!