Tuesday, October 6, 2009

must be the season of the witch...

anyone who knows me even a little bit, will tell you that i'm absolutely obsessed with halloween. it truly is the high holiday for me, easily surpassing christmas and my birthday. i think i adopted this hallow's eve craze from my cousin, annette, whom i was quite close to as a child. she would take my brother, sister, and i trick or treating every halloween, blocks and blocks in either direction, making sure we hit the pizzerias and the taverns along the way. she liked to scare, and she liked to be scared. it was because of her that i learned to have fun with my fears. as i grew older, i came to appreciate the meaning and the symbolism of the holiday, and as an adult, i truly revel in the spirit of the season.

when it comes to all hallow's eve, i do it all. i carve intricate pumpkins and jack o'lanterns; i sew my own costumes; and i design and create my own decorations and props. i prefer a vintage aesthetic, like the old Dennison Crepe Company decorations, Beistle pieces, and of course, Bethany Lowe's reproductions. for me, crafting the halloween spirit is all about getting back to basics, or highlighting what the holiday is really all about -- the passing of the harvest, the honoring of the dead, witches, jack o'lanterns, and magic.
i have boxes and boxes of halloween decor stacked in the basement, far more than my christmas trimmings. i like to stage little scenes throughout the house...for instance, my living room hearth is where the cauldron and the broom go...the coffee table is stacked with vintage books with creepy titles (including some E.A. Poe, of course) and lots of candles...pumpkins of all shapes and sizes are scattered throughout the house...i hang a long black vintage party dress in the corner of the entry hall, along with a witch's hat, her broom, and a book of shadows. i swap out a lot of my off-season decor for the eerie and the mysterious. decorating for halloween should be about creating a mood, whether it be dark and grotesque or more lighthearted. i find that the best decorated homes are those that pick a theme or a story, and go with it. i am partial to a witchy heritage, so i dress my home as though a witch resides within.

last year's big project was carving my own tombstones. i had stumbled upon a number of really great DIY halloween prop websites, and decided it looked easy enough. in the past, martha stewart has also offered a fairly detailed tutorial on creating your own tombstones from sheets of foam insulation board. i decided that we needed to add a graveyard to our repertoire of exterior halloween decor, so i got to carving.

the project turned out to be a lot easier than i had anticipated. and by that, i mean that it was fairly simple for an average person with reasonable artistic capabilities to get a really believable effect. the foam insulation board is fairly inexpensive (about $8.oo a sheet), and can yield up to three or four gravestones, depending on the size. i have been lucky enough to visit some wonderfully old, early colonial cemeteries in new england, and i have always been in love with the simple, gothic artistry of those early gravestones with their winged angel heads and skulls. an exacto knife was all that was needed, as well as a steady hand, to carve the lettering from a template taped onto the foam board's front. once the lettering was carved and cleaned away, it was a quick coat of grey primer and a wash of black paint to age the stone. as you can see from the pictures, it does not take master carving skills to produce a believable gravestone that can be used from year to year.

my other big project last year was sewing my own 'professional' quality witch costume. i fell in love with a bethany lowe figurine of a witch dressed for a ball, and i just had to recreate the look for myself. so, i bought two different patterns, modified pieces, and sewed my costume from scratch. my mom was a huge help, as this was my first time working with a more advanced pattern. she doubted our collective abilities to create what i wanted, but i told her she was seriously underestimating our skills. the real proof, however, was the final result -- a handcrafted witch's hat, an aubergine peasant blouse, a handcrafted velvet corset, a capelet, and a taffeta ball skirt. it came together just as i had dreamt it up, and i loved wearing it as i passed out candy halloween night. and in case you were wondering, the white spectre in the photo is my husband, the hatbox ghost from the original rendering of disney's haunted mansion. we whipped that one up too, though it was much easier than my witch's costume...

last halloween, like every halloween, was such a whirlwind. its a frantic pace in the month or so leading up to the big night, almost christmas-like in the frenzy only much more fun. each year i like to try to outdo myself, but not at the cost of really celebrating and enjoying the holiday and the season. these days, halloween is as big a capitalist machine as christmas is, so i try to create an atmosphere that is more primitive and natural. this year, with the opening of the shop, and its relative success, my halloween preparation has certainly suffered, but with just about two weeks to go, i'm sure i can cast some spells yet before the hallowed night.

what are your halloween preparations like? does anyone have any october rituals or traditions?


  1. Hi! I just love your Halloween decorations! I absolutely love the tomb stones! I found your blog through your Etsy store which I stumbled on the other day :). I just HAD to comment because I live in the Buffalo area too and I'm also a "Kristen" - how funny! :)

  2. aw! thank you!

    its so nice to meet a fellow crafter, let alone a local one with the same first name (and spelling!).

    do you have an etsy shop or a blog? and have you ever done the indie market? i'm thinking of trying this season.

    thanks for reading and commenting...i'm new to this, so i'm still learning the basics of html (like paragraph formatting! ugh!), so i'm still working the kinks out...but please keep reading, and share!

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  4. I love Halloween and all your decorations!