By Diane Gilleland
This project starts with jewelry gourds, which are tiny little hardshell gourds with wonderful shapes. The “bottle” style makes a great skull with lots of personality, and each one is one-of-a-kind. Add a chenille stem body and a base, and you have an adorable place card holder that doubles as a party favor.
After we’re done, you can also turn your skeleton into a cute witch!
Jewelry gourd available from Welburn Gourd Farm, or you might try a search on Etsy
Drill with 1/8″ bit
Vise or other brace
Bamboo skewers, 2
Acrylic paint, assorted colors
Sealer or varnish optional
12″ Chenille stems, 3
Circle template optional
Step 1: Drill the Gourd
First, we’ll need to drill a hole in the base of the gourd. Some jewelry gourds have thin walls and some have thicker walls, and with their small size it’s easy for the drill bit to slide. So, to prevent injury, brace the gourd in a vise before you drill – and wear eye protection when you’re drilling.
The hole you drill will accommodate a bamboo skewer, which forms the neck of the finished skeleton. As you’re drilling, pay special attention to the angle – notice here how the skull-shaped gourd on the right sits on the skewer at a sharp angle?
Step 2: Make the Base
I’m using polymer clay to make a heavy base for the skeleton. I had some scraps of green clay left over from another project, so I swirled them together and made some simple mounds, about 1″ tall and 2″ in diameter. You can save money on this step by buying an inexpensive large-size pack of white clay at your local craft store. You can always paint your base later if you like.
Cut or break a skewer to about 4 1/2″. Poke the blunt end into the center of the base. Bake the base, with the skewer in place, according to the package directions. (You may want to adjust your oven rack a bit lower to keep the skewer away from your oven’s heating element.) Let the base cool completely.
Step 3: Paint
Use acrylic paints to give the gourd an overall coat of paint. When that dries, paint some face details. (If you don’t like painting with a tiny brush, you might try some oil-based Sharpie Paint Markers instead.)
As you can see here, it you poke an extra skewer into the hole in the gourd, it makes it much easier to handle for painting. If you like, you can also add a coat of sealer to the head and base. Let everything dry thoroughly.
I like to paint the skewer in the base while I’m at it – for a skeleton, paint most of the skewer black and the tip white. (If you’re making the witch design below, you can paint the entire skewer black.)
Step 4: Make the Body
To form your skeleton’s “rib cage,” wind a pipe cleaner around a pencil, making a tight coil. You can then give this torso a little more of a “belly” by gently un-twisting the center of the coil a little, so it gets a bit larger. Refine the shape with your fingers until it looks the way you like. (I usually do this for skeletons, but not witches.)
Step 5: Assemble the Figure
Thread the base skewer through the center of the body. Then, put a drop of tacky glue in the hole you drilled in the gourd, and place the gourd onto the skewer. Let the glue set for a few minutes.
Slide the body coil up to the spot where you want it. Put a drop of tacky glue at the top back of the body to hold it. Let the glue set for a few minutes.
Step 6: Make the Legs
Take a fresh chenille stem and bend it lightly in the center. (I usually just put the two ends together, forming a loop, and then stretch the loop out to make the center bend.)
Then, bend the two ends in toward the center – and make these bends soft, as you see here. They’ll form the feet of your skeleton.
Twist the chenille together, starting about 1/4″ above each foot-loop and twisting all the way to the center point. Do this on both sides. Lastly, bend the feet out and then pinch the center together, as shown here.
Put a drop of tacky glue on the top of the leg piece and insert it into the bottom of the body coil, right behind the skewer. Then, bend some knees into the legs, and your skeleton will be standing!
Step 7: Make the Arms
Start with the same basic shape you made for the legs in Step 6. I like to bend the chenille into a mitten-like shape, as shown here, so that my skeleton’s hands have thumbs, This helps later with holding the place card – so if you aren’t planning to use your skeleton as a place card holder, you could use the same simple loops you used for the feet.
Twist the chenille together below the hands. Then, pinch the center together at the bottom as shown here.
Put a drop of tacky glue on the center point of the arm piece and insert it between two of the upper body coils. (I usually place it between the third and fourth coils from the top.) Let the glue set for a few minutes and then bend some elbows into the arms. Your skeleton is now finished!
Step 8: Add Place Cards
There are lots of options for making place cards. I formatted mine on the computer, using a font from Fonts 2U. I then cut them out with some decorative edge scissors. You could also hand-letter your cards, or add glitter, or maybe cut them from old Halloween greeting cards. My cards measure about 2 1/2″ by 1 1/2″.
To attach a card to your skeleton, simply pinch the hand around it. (You could also glue it in place if you prefer.)
Turning a Skeleton Into a Witch
Additional Materials for Witch
Heavy black paper
Needle and thread
Crepe paper streamer
If you have some “dipper” style gourds, which have a nice long-nose shape, you can make some wonderful witches. Start by making the basic skeleton, using the directions above. (You may want to use a different color of chenille stems.) From there, follow these steps to add witch-y details:
Step 1: Make a Skirt
Cut about 14″ of crepe paper streamer. Thread a needle with some strong thread, but don’t tie a knot. Make a simple running stitch about 1/4″ away from the edge, as shown here.
Gently pull the ends of the thread to gather the streamer around the witch’s waist. Tie the ends of a thread in a double knot and cut them short.
Step 2: Make Some Hair
I used up some scrap yarn here. For this step, a lot will depend on the size and shape of your gourd, so I won’t give any precise measurements. Use your gourd as a guide.
Wind 5-7 strands of yarn around your fingers or a piece of cardboard, making a coil that’s wide enough to drape over your witch’s head. Then, tie that coil tightly across the center, as shown here.
Cut the loops at both ends and then fan out the hair into this shape with your fingers. (There should be an opening at the front of the wig for the witch’s face.)
Put a generous amount of tacky glue on the gourd and then place the wig over it. Press the hair down on the sides and back, and feel free to add more glue underneath it if you need to.
You can then give the wig a “trim” with scissors so it’s appropriately wild and tangly.
Step 3: Make a Hat
Again, your gourd will be your guide here for sizing, so I won’t give any exact sizes. I used a circle template to help me decide what size circle would fit on my witch’s head. You could also use a cloth measuring tape.
To make a hat, cut two card stock circles: one will be the brim, with a smaller circle cut from the middle. (If you have some circle punches, they’re great for this step.)
The other circle will form the pointed crown of the hat. It should be about 1/2″ larger in diameter than the brim circle.
Cut in toward the center of the larger crown circle, and then use this cut to form the circle into a cone. Adjust this cone until it fits nicely in the center of the brim circle. Trim away any excess card stock from the crown and glue the cone shape in place.
Glue the cone to the top of the witch’s head. Then, place more glue around the inside of the brim and place that over the pointed crown. Press the assembled hat onto the head for a minute while the glue sets.
Inspired to craft something for Halloween? Be sure to enter it in our CRAFT Halloween contest to win cool prizes. Costumes, decor, food – whatever you create for Halloween is welcome in the contest. Read our full contest page for all the details. Deadline to enter is November 2.
About the Author:
Diane Gilleland produces CraftyPod, a blog and bi-weekly podcast about making stuff. Her first book, Kanzashi In Bloom is currently out in bookstores.