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Simple Spooky Decorating

It’s that spooky time of year again—and also the time of year when all sorts of holidays and decorations begin to surround us!

It’s that spooky time of year again—and also the time of year when all sorts of holidays and decorations begin to surround us!

It’s not hard to get sucked into the big black (or should I say red—hello Target!) hole of spending—having to buy new costumes, decorations, ornaments, and other festive thing-a-ma-bobs every year. Hey—it’s there, it’s fun, it’s shiny and new—and the kids reaaaaally want it.

But this year I’m taking a stand—avoiding the shops and instead turning to nature to inspire me. It’s oh-so satisfying to rummage around the house and think innovatively to turn old into new, and create simple decorations with your kids. This will be much more memorable for them (and less stressful for you!) than a trip to a busy store.

Here are some ideas and projects to get you started:


  • Drape gauzy, white fabric as a background for a Halloween display. A $5 IKEA netting curtain kept in my linen cupboard has provided us with many, many uses! Draped and pinned above our fireplace it is nice and cob-webby for this time of the year.
  • Go on a walk outside to collect twigs, pinecones, crunchy big leaves and interesting pieces of bark. Kids LOVE doing this. For older kids make it a scavenger hunt with different items on a list that can be checked off as they go.
  • Make grocery shopping more fun by letting the kids pick a mini pumpkin each time to add to the collection at home. Have them look for interesting or ‘scary’ patterns and shapes.
  • Use pieces of natural wool roving as spider-webs and ghosts (see picture below).


  • Paint twigs or leaves black (leaves resemble scary bats when painted black), either with acrylic paint and paintbrush, or spray paint (for a more environmentally friendly option—mix acrylic paint and water into a plastic pump bottle rather than an aerosol can).
  • Make re-usable trick-or-treat baskets with your child’s name or initial on. Simple baskets can be bought for only a few dollars, and can be painted or embellished by you or your child to be brought out year after year.
  • Have a ‘seasonal centerpiece’ on your dining table with something practical and delicious—a bowl of red apples, cinnamon sticks, pinecones in a basket, a vase of green leaves, a basket of acorns or nuts.
  • Re-purpose old clothing or old costumes into something new—get your kids to help with ideas and execution of costume-making! (For example my daughter wants to be a fairy flower queen! So we are adding long, flowing sleeves to an old sleeveless party dress, embellishing silk flowers, and making her a crown from a wire wrapped with fabric and dangling with flowers and leaves. ). Or, have a costume ‘swap-party’ and invite a bunch of friends/neighbors to bring costumes and dress-ups they might have from last year and trade.
  • Have a multiple use holiday wreath! Purchase a (or make your own) plain wreath, which can be embellished to suit each holiday. Tuck and dangle different items into the wreath depending on the time of year.
  • Print out photos from previous years holidays onto cardstock or canvas to adorn your holiday displays (or wreath!). There is also a plethora of free clip-art that can be found online and printed off for making tags, embellishments and cards.
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Project 1—Spooky Tea-light holders

  1. Soak glass jars in soapy water to remove labels. Dry completely.
  2. Adhere shaped/word stickers to the outside of the jar.
  3. Paint the entire jar and remove stickers when dry.
  4. Pop a tea-light inside and you have a nice spooky glow—the shapes will project onto your walls too!


Project 2—Ghost Tree

  1. Gather various size and shape twigs from outside. Hold together as if you were holding a bunch of flowers and bind with wire.
  2. Add ‘branches’ (smaller twigs) to some of the bigger twigs by wrapping together with the wire.
  3. Pull apart tufts of white wool roving—approx 6” long, fold in half and tie off a ‘head’ with white floss.
  4. Hang ghosts to tree and display in a vase, bucket or, in my case—an old candle (I melted the wax to wedge the tree into it for a sturdy base).


Project 3—Re-usable trick-or-treat baskets

  1. Paint baskets (if you choose to paint them).
  2. Print out clip-art and mount onto cardstock.
  3. Add child’s name (or initial—I used chipboard letters and hung on jump rings) to tag, punch hole and tie on with ribbon.
  4. Embellish with leaves, or other festive items!


Project 4—Needle Felted Pumpkin

Needle felting is a fabulously fun and simple craft to learn—warning—those needles can HURT! Keep out of reach of small kids…and try not to stab yourself as you create! The roving ‘felts’ as you stab it repeatedly with the barbed needle (great way to vent—pretend the roving if your husband after he forgot to bring flowers on your anniversary). You shape the roving as you go with your hands, stabbing from different sides (turning it around and around), and adding different pieces together to form shapes. Experiment!

  1. You will need wool roving, a needle felting needle and foam pad for this project.
  2. Scrunch a wad of paper towel or an old plastic shopping bag (or an extra piece of foam is the best thing) into a ball, and ‘wrap’ loosely with the carded wool.
  3. With the ball sitting on the foam pad, begin stabbing all over to felt up the roving. Keep adding layers and stabbing until you are satisfied that it is thick enough (at least ¼ inch).
  4. Decide where the ‘top’ of the pumpkin is, and from that point, imagine lines going down to the bottom—the ‘ridges’ of the pumpkin. Stab all along those lines to form an indent, defining the pumpkin.
  5. Roll a piece of green roving into a sausage shape and stab to felt into a ‘stalk’. Once firm enough, attach it to the top of the pumpkin by stabbing the end to the top of the pumpkin.
  6. Cut a slit in the front of the pumpkin and pull out the stuffing. If you used paper towel some of the white may be ‘felted in’ with the orange roving—turn inside out and pick out.
  7. Neaten the edges of your slit by felting some more. You can sit a little doll or animal inside the pumpkin!

Happy Creating!

—Emily J


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