Even though Halloween is in the fall, spring is the best time to start planning. Plenty of time to shop thrift stores and garage sale for appropriate items, and I can work on the crafty stuff while glamping.
In anticipation of making a “Head Shrinker” costume for our next Halloween concert, I started shopping doll heads in the spring.
Since the costume will be worn at a concert for children, I wanted shrunken heads that are not too gross or scary.
I put the dolls and some craft supplies in a bag and took it glamping. Sitting under the camper awning with my coffee, I took a good look at the dolls, my supplies, and came up with a plan.
The first thing I did was snap the heads off at the neck and put the bodes back in the bag. this took a little effort but was not hard. Yes, it did make a nice snapping sound.
My dolls had painted faces, I knew once they were covered in goop they would not have any definition so I decided to poke some eye sockets into them with a punch tool. When I pulled out the punch tool, the plastic went back to its original position – almost immediately. #UGH
I had some spent 22 shells in my metal detecting finds pouch so I used them to shape the holes and I set them in the hot sun for the day. At this point my husband looked at what I was doing and gave me a funny look, not funny “ha ha”, funny “WTF”. I told him these are for [my psychiatrist friend], she’ll vouch for me if I’m arrested. Although, I’m quite sure when I post this on my blog for the world to see, it will send up some red flags at the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. ESPECIALLY if they see the Valkyrie Costume where I plucked the feathers out of angel wings and cut the wings off Christmas doves.
When I was surfing Pintrest for ideas, all the really good looking ones were painted dark. I liked that “rotten” look and decided to mix some black chalkboard paint with some Mod Podge. It looked great when it was wet, it had a “gooey” look and the color was varied enough to look rotten.
BUT – When it dried it looked inappropriately like black-face. Totally not what I was going for! After having an “oh poop” moment, I retreated to my craft room to see what I had to change the look. I had some metallic paints so I grabbed a gold bottle and went to work. MUCH better! Bronze or copper would have probably worked too. Be sure to let me know what color comb you used in the comments.
These creepy shrunken heads are made from doll heads found at second hand stores or a dollar store. You should find six (or as many as you want to make) the same size or similar size. They should have enough hair to ponytail at the top of the head and the material should NOT be brittle or ceramic.
Keyword: Creepy, Doll Head, Dollar Store, Halloween, Head Hunter, Second Hand, Shrunken Heads
Servings: 6Shrunken Heads
Cost: < $10
Awl or Punch Tool
Brush for Mod Podge
Hot Glue Gun
Thrift or Dollar Store
6Doll Headsof same or similar size
1BottleMat Black Craft PaintI used chalkboard style
1Bottle Metallic Craft PaintBronze, Copper, or Gold
Facial Tissue or Toilet PaperWhite
Prep Doll Heads
Break Head from Body. Save the body parts for other projects.
Clean the grime off the doll head. A little rubbing alcohol will work. If your dolls were extra loved in it's previous life a good scrub with Dawn, then a thorough rinse might work better.
Hair: Ponytail the dolls hair on top of the head so that when it hangs from the hair, the face looks out not down. Use rubber bands or wire ties, whatever you have handy. It will be covered later. Doing this first gives you something to hold onto for the rest of the project, and keeps the hair out of the Mod Podge and paint.
The head needs exaggerated eyes, nose, and mouth so when all the goop is added it still has depth.
Eyes: You will need divots for the eye sockets. If your doll's eyes are separate parts carefully remove them so you can use them for other projects. If the eyes are painted use an awl to poke eye holes into the head.
The plastic will want to return to it's original shape. Find something to put in the holes and set in the sun for a day or two. I used spent 22 shells, leaving my husband questioning my intentions. These will be removed before the Mod Podge steps.
Mouth: If your doll has painted or small mouth, use the hot glue gun and add a single line of glue to shape the lips. Don't worry about detail, they just need to stick out from the head so when all the goop is applied there is a protruding line where the mouth should be.
"Shrink" the Heads
Tear up the tissue or TP into random shapes between quarter and half dollar size. and set aside.
If you trained the plastic by leaving something poked in the eyes, remove them now.
Put some Mod Podge on a paper plate, Brush the doll head with the Mod Podge and press in the tissue pieces, working in sections and overlapping tissue. Cover the whole head, being careful not to get any goop in the hair. Be sure to press in the eyes so that they are covered but are sunken in. (there sould not be a hole showing, just an indent.)
Once the doll head is covered in tissue brush another layer of Mod Podge over all the tissue is there are no dry areas. Hang from hair to dry, or set on edge of plate resting on hair so wet Mod Podge does not stick to other things.
When the heads are completely dry use an Exacto Knife to trim any excess tissue around the hair line.
Mix some Mod Podge and black craft paint at a 50/50 ratio on a paper plate. Paint the doll heads covering all the white tissue. Let dry.
The dry head should not have any "white" showing but should also not be heavy black. Touch up and trim where needed.
Using a dry sponge brush lightly brush some metallic paint over the black areas so the black is still showing and the metallic is just highlighting the details to give your dead head some life.
Tie enough jute twine to each pony tail so that the knot looks rustic and there is enough twine hanging to tie the group together later. About 18" of twine works but don't worry about making them all match.
Unravel a section of jute twine to make 5 thin pieces of jute with a knot for each head. I cut long sections and tied several knots then cut them appart. Leaving a little extra on each piece to trim to size later.
Tacky glue a knot to each eye socket, and 3 knots to each doll's lips. Set asside to dry completely.
Trim the eye and lip knots to desired lengths.
Tie all the heads into a group with a simple knot so they can be untied if decorating needs change.
I covered a TV tray with foil to do this project without making a big mess.
In Norse mythology, a valkyrie is one of a host of female figures who choose those who may die in battle and those who may live. Selecting among half of those who die in battle, the valkyries bring their chosen to the afterlife hall of the slain, Valhalla, ruled over by the god Odin. Valkyries also appear as lovers of heroes and other mortals, where they are sometimes described as the daughters of royalty, sometimes accompanied by ravens, and sometimes connected to swans or horses. (read more at wikipedia.org/wiki/Valkyrie)
The Met in HD presented the Die Walküre in summer 2011. After watching that performance at Walk Festival Hall I was inspired for my next costume. The skirt from the Gray Lady costume I made the prior year would work perfectly and I spent the summer/fall going through my closets, jewelry boxes, craft supplies, and shopped yard sales and second hand stores for things that I could re-purpose for the costume.
My Idea Board:
For the black feathers in this project I found a set of black angel wings at a Halloween store that were cheaper than buying a bag of feathers. One of the first things I did to start making the headdress was plucking the feathers from the angel wings. Then I cut the wings off some pretty christmas doves. For another costume I beheaded some dolls, poked their eyes out, and stuck bullet casings into the hole where the eyes were. (See Shrunken Doll Heads) Hmmmmm….
I started with the Gray Lady Skirt and added a tank top from my wardrobe. I used the same black lace turtle neck I used for the Gray Lady costume.
I made some shoulder armor, a head dress, and the rest was accessories.
I used a belt to hike up the skirt to make it look more like a riding dress. Under the skirt is black boots and a pair of black denim colored leggings. The leggings had a metal looking quality and since it is cold where I live they kept me cozy warm.
Accessories are the most important part of any costume
I found some wrist cuffs in a discount jewelry store that fit the costume’s look. I made the choker from a vintage silver mesh choker and a broken vintage belt buckle. The silver colored purse is something I found in a clearance bin, I knew it would work with the costume. I added several pieces of jewelry from my vintage collection.
Raiding my wardrobe
The metallic shirt was one I had in my closet for several years, dangerously close to being out of fashion, it worked perfectly for the armor top. I wrapped it with a belt from a second hand store, and hung the purse from it.
This set of shoulder armor is easy to make and cheap. When picking out your place mat be sure to find one with some texture to give the armor some interest. A place mat with lines following the circumference will make your mat easier to cut into even pieces.
Course: Costume, crafts
Cuisine: Halloween, Halloween Accessory
Keyword: Crafts, Halloween, Valkyrie
Cost: < $3
Heavy Duty Scissors
Heavy Duty Hole Punch
Drafting Compass (if your place mat does not have lines)
4Shank Buttons (loop on the back of it instead of holes)Silver Metallic
410" Pieces1/2" RibbonGray, black, or Silver
Cut place mat in half across middle.
Cut each half into 2 pieces along the curve, halfway from the center. If your mat does not have lines following the circumference, use a drafting compass to lightly mark the back of the mat.
Cut the outer half into 2 pieces along the curve, halfway from the center.
If your mat was 10" the center piece would be 5" and the two outer pieces would be 2.5" each.
Position (stack) the pieces so the center piece is on the bottom, the outer piece is in the center, and the middle piece is on top.
When the shoulder armor is finished you will be able to position the pieces as needed.
On each end of the shoulder armor use a sharpie to mark dots where holes will be punched, Making sure not to get too close the the end on the shortest piece or the mat may come unraveled. The holes should be about ½" apart.
Using a hole punch, punch 2 holes in the ends of each piece, on your marks.
Loop the ribbon through the button, then each ribbon end through the holes from the top. Tie the ribbon into a knot on the bottom of the piece.
Tie a safety pin to each end of the piece.
Before pinning to costume position the pieces by gently pulling the top and bottom pieces.
The ends are rough so I put a scarf over them.
I needed to make 5 headdresses for the flute section.
The headdress required a little research, and was the most time consuming part of the costume. I spent many mornings Googling photos to come up with a conceptual idea that would not be too complicated, or expensive, then went thrifting.
This headdress is made from things you can find thrifting, or in a craft store. When choosing your belt make sure it will fit and overlap after you cut off the buckle end. The belt should have a style that compliments your Valkyrie costume. The 80's produced a bunch in this style.
Course: Costume, crafts
Cuisine: Halloween, Halloween Accessory
Keyword: Costume, Crafts, Dollar Store, Halloween, Headdress, Instructions, Second Hand, Valkyrie
Cost: < $25
Leather hole punch
Hot Glue Gun & Glue (or E6000 glue)
For the Headband
1Belt from Second Hand StoreBlack
Large silver color beads
2 – 3FeetFaux leather cordShoelaces would work
For the Wings
2Silver-tone Western Collar TipsBe sure it has an adjustable shank on the back.
1Medium BunchMedium White feathers
1Large BunchLarge Black feathers
2Silver flat Christmas dove or angel ornaments from the dollar store.Something that looks wing-like. Not brittle, you will be cutting them.
2Silver or metal tone 1" shank buttons.If your Collar Tips don't have embellishments.
Make the Headband
Fit the belt to the your head marking the size with a pen. Cut the belts down to size, leaving a large overlap so the ends are near the wings and will be hidden.
If there are no holes, punch several holes into top end of the overlap.
Put back to head for size and hold the ends in place with one hand. Remove from head and put sharpie through hole to mark place for next set of holes. Punch holes on marks.
Use the leather cord to hand stitch the belt through the holes.
Add a few of the silver beads to the end of the cord to give it a finished look.
Make the Wings
Cut the wings off the ornaments.
Lay out all your supplies.
Stack feathers, collar tips, dove wing/ornament part, and buttons to get a mirrored arrangement for both sides.
– Don't be too skimpy with the feathers or you wings will look more like a road kill.
Unscrew the adjustable shank on the back of the collar tip open to the max but not removing it.
Assemble your masterpiece. Stick the feathers into the collar tip and use glue to keep them in place. Let dry.
– Be sure not to glue the shank in place.
Glue the dove wing/ornament part over the top. Let dry. If your collar tip has an embellishment, butt up raw edge against it and skip adding a button.
Glue a button over the rough ends of the dove wing on each wing to give it a finished look.
Attach the Wings to the Headband
Position the belt headband on your head and look in a mirror. Position the above your ears and adjust for looks. If you have a friend have them mark the spots, otherwise mark the spots one at a time. Put the mark where you will want the shank of the piece lined up.
Use the leather hole punch to punch a small hole center where your marks are.
Press the shank of the collar tip through the hole, if the hold is not big enough punch only one size bigger. This needs to be tight. Once you have the shank pressed through put your thumb on the flat side and screw the wing into it until it is snug. You can reposition the wings as needed, this is especially handy when storing.
When I purchased these, I had no idea what their original purpose was, they were in a lot of jewelry and crafting materials I picked up a few years prior at a garage sale.
They turned out to be Western Collar Tips, what every well dressed cowboy would wear. They had a 1960’s look and the wide end was hollow. One side had an adjustable knob on it, all it needed to attach to the headdress was a hole in the leather, the other side had embellishments that I removed.
Transform a second hand store formal gown into a skirt for your Halloween costumes.
It takes a little imagination and vision to find the right dress to work with. When picking out your dress think about color and texture. Lighter fabric colors can be dyed, but synthetics don't take dyes well, so if you need vivid color it is best to find a dress that already is the color you want. You will want layers and some flair for drama.
If the dress has embellishments, inspect to see if they can be removed without damaging the fabric.
You will be cutting off the top so if the dress has a high waistline, it will drop. Getting something a bit larger works well, and if you are dropping the waistline the sizing will change. do't be too picky on exact size. When sizing hold what will be the waistline to you waist and make sure the length is to the floor (or appropriate for costume). If the dress is a larger size than you are it will be tailored down.
When shopping, don't pass up a good thing. When you see something that will work, don't leave it for later to find something better. Second hand stores have a high turnover and chances you will never see that dress again. My biggest miss was a perfect tattered wedding gown for a future Bride of Frankenstein costume. Several years ago I was shopping for pirate costume parts and passed on the dress. BIG MISTAKE! I have yet to see another as perfect.
Course: Costume, crafts
Cost: < $30
Dress Form (if you have one)
Iron and Ironing Board
Rubber Gloves (If dress needs to be dyed)
1Full Length Formal GownColor appropriate for costume.
1/4YardSatin or equal fabricColor to match final color of Skirt
If your dress needs to be dyed:
2BottlesRit Liquid DyeAppropriate color
Hand wash your dress with some gentle detergent. If you don't have a large basin, use your bathtub.
If your home machine has a gentle cycle and you trust it, use your washer. Do not use the laundromat, if the last person to use the machine overstuffed it or washed oily cloths you may get some transfer to the dress.
Rinse well and drip dry. DO NOT PUT IN DRYER.
Remove any zippers from the dress. Leave all hooks, snaps, etc.
Remove all decorations and embellishments from the dress and save for later.
Cut the top off dress above the waistline leaving as much fabric to work with as possible.
Dye Dress (if needed)
Follow the directions on the bottle to dye your dress, using rubber gloves to keep dye off your skin.
Dye all the pieces you cut off and the fabric embellishments you removed from the dress so it is a match if you need to use them later.
Hang until thoroughly dry.
Wash dress same as above.
Optional Tie Sash for Waistband
Use extra fabric to make 2 long ties to tie around the waist.
Cut to desired length and a little over than twice as wide as you need.
Fold in half with right side in, and iron flat. If your fabric is thin you can add some iron on backing during this step.
Sew edges together leaving one of the short ends open.
Turn right side out and press with iron.
Fold the excess fabric to create a waistband. If your fabric an be ironed, iron flat. Pin in place. You may need to trim some fabric at this time.
Pin the optional tie stash to the waistband.
If your dress did not have enough excess fabric to fold down either use the fabric you cut off or get some satin fabric of an appropriate color from the fabric store and fashion a waistband by cutting a long wide rectangle. If the fabric is thin you may want to add some backing.
Sew the waistband with a machine, making sure all the raw edges are turned under. This can be done by hand for a cleaner look.
Hand sew some hook and eyes to close the waistband and opening where the zipper was.
Trim any strings strings from the skirt.
These instructions assume you have some experience with a sewing machine. If you have any questions please ask in the comments.
This gown was used to make a Vimpiress costume.
This pink dress dyed nicely for my Gray Lady costume.
When the Jackson Hole Community Band passed out new music for the 2011 Halloween Concert it included Ride of the Valkyrie, perfect! Everyone in the flute section dressed as Valkyries along me. I also wore this costume for the 2013 Halloween Concert.