When my passion for Halloween began to extend to expensive antique collectibles, I knew I was in trouble. So I started to create my own designs based on vintage papier-mache candy containers. My first effort was a felted-wool pillow that featured a smiling jack-o'-lantern. I used blanket stitches around the edges of the shapes as well as the pillow itself.
After making several pumpkin pillows, I branched out into black cats. I made my own felted wool by washing regular wool in hot water and then drying it on high. I gave lighter, brighter colors an aged look by using a taupe hot-water dye. This dull orange wool, for example, started out as neon orange. In addition to blanket stitches, I used a chain stitch to create whiskers, eyelashes, and other details.
I think the black dress that Morticia Addams (wife of Gomez) wore on The Addams Family television show inspired the shape of this tree skirt. I like to use it with an orange Halloween tree planted in a black urn. It's fun to complement the felted-wool skull ornaments with small, poseable black birds and black rubber spiders.
A $4 wooden stool just begged to be painted with a pumpkin design. I primed it first, and then painted it with orange latex paint. I used acrylic paints to add details to the face, and then topped it with polyurethane. Nothing's scarier than thinking of all that hard work being scuffed away by party guests!
I used tempera paint to decorate papier-mache ornaments found at a local crafts store. A final coat of polyurethane makes them durable -- as in, safe from chocolate smears during trick-or-treat season.
This little devil is my favorite ornament, because I used Celluclay instant papier mache to add horns, lips, and a nose. His personality began to take shape once he could really scowl. Of course, the wicked eyebrows help.
Over the years, I've designed and made a variety of ornaments for the Halloween tree. They fell into four categories: black cats, jack-o'-lanterns, skulls, and devils. I used unobtrusive beading wire to hang these felted-wool examples.
Fall leaves from my unraked lawn became patterns for the shapes on these two pillows. The lighter color leaves were cut from a thrift store wool blanket (after it had been washed), a low-cost way to get fabric. I purchased old buttons at garage sales, at flea markets, and on eBay to use for eyes and teeth.
Only once did I use a commercial pattern to create a project for Halloween: this wall hanging. I started with a design from Indygo Junction and made it my own by adding branches from an old walnut tree in the backyard. The three small ornaments at the bottom are also my touch.
I confess: This is not my work or my design. My friend Linda Eggerss, editor of Better Homes and Gardens Kitchen and Bath Ideas, made this for me. I picked out the Halloween fabrics and suggested a size; she picked out the pattern and used her considerable skills to create the final project. I can't wait to hang it in my dining room.
Linda taught me that you should always make the most of novelty prints, which is why she cut the inner square on this block to feature a single jack-o'-lantern. Sure, it might waste some fabric, but it makes for a much more appealing design. The technique is called "fussy cutting."