Scaring up some Halloween fun

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 9, 2000

Whether you’re planning a party or plan to sit and wait for trick-or-treaters, dress for success – both your body and house.

Monday, October 09, 2000

Whether you’re planning a party or plan to sit and wait for trick-or-treaters, dress for success – both your body and house. Two area women offer their tips to create a spooky and festive environment.

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Dressed to kill

From the classic bed sheet ghost to more elaborate costumes, many can be made from scratch to provide a more personalized look.

"Dressing up, like acting, provides a unique outlet," Nikki Hess, project coordinator for Austin’s Paramount Theatre, said. "It really can allow a person to be more of their inner self."

Hess has plenty of experience creating costumes, not only through her work with the theatre, but also as a mother. And she’s made costumes for babies to teen-agers.

For a baby, she suggested making a cow costume, using a white jumper with black spots on it. Add pink felt to the tummy.

Using patterns, she’s made pumpkins and tigers and bears (oh, my!). Bat boy and bat girl have also made their appearances.

A spider for either children or adults can be easily made with stuffed pantyhose and fishing line or strong thread. Sew or safety pin the stuffed pantyhose to a sweatshirt or long-sleeved T-shirt. Connect all the ‘legs’ to the arms of the shirt so they move when the costume-wearer moves his or her arms.

"Keep it simple," Hess advised. "You don’t want to have too many props, because they can get in the way and kids can trip."

It’s important to keep things simple for financial reasons as well. Buying supplies can cost as much as, if not more than buying a full costume from a shop.

Making costumes can provide some valuable lessons to children as well.

The first step is getting the creative juices going; have the child decide on a costume.

"They can help shop for the supplies, help cut pieces, and help sew when they’re old enough to use a sewing machine," Hess said.

Of course the lessons don’t end there. Math and geometry can be involved, too, Hess said.

Patience is another life lesson learned through the process.

"Kids will learn that this isn’t going to happen overnight," Hess said.

That also means that it’s important to plan ahead and not wait until the last minute to design and create a costume.

If you plan to stick to store bought costumes, keep safety in mind, Hess said.

"For kids, masks can be dangerous. They can cut the peripheral vision," Hess said. She recommends parents stick with makeup or close-fitting masks.

Of course, kids aren’t the only ones who like to dress up on Halloween.

Surfing the Web can yield some pretty creative costumes for adults as well as children.

The Goodwill’s Web site includes a page of Halloween costumes,

There, you can get the scoop on how to dress like Dilbert, Pippy Longstocking, Betty Rubble or even a highway.

On a budget? Check out There’s tips on making costumes for next to nothing.

"13 Pumpkin Avenue," at (note there’s no www) offers tips on costumes, makeup, party planning, and even offers jokes and riddles.

Create a spooky abode

Once you’re all dressed up, it’s time to get the home in the Halloween spirit.

There’s plenty of decorations that can be bought. Those on a shoe-string budget can also make their own.

Of course, a jack-o-lantern is the old standby. But there are many other ways to utilize the triangle eyes and crooked teeth.

Mary Alice Troyer of Austin has created a more enduring classic jack-o-lantern type decoration.

Long lasting luminaries can be made using tin cans by cutting scary faces in the cans and placing a candle inside the finished product.

"Any size tin cans will do. I’ve used soup cans to make luminaries and plan to make more this year with large juice cans," Troyer said.

After the can is cleaned, fill it with water and freeze, Troyer said.

Once frozen, the can is sturdy enough to start cutting designs out.

Troyer uses tin-punching tools that can be purchased at craft shops. But anything that can cut or bend the tin will work, Troyer said.

"You can draw on the can, or just go for it," Troyer said of cutting the design.

After the design is cut, Troyer spray paints the cans orange. To complete the jack-o-lantern look, place a candle in the luminary. If the decoration is placed outside, put sand in the bottom as well so it doesn’t get blown away.

"If you’re lining your driveway, make sure the luminaries are out of the way of children," Troyer said.

Creating spooky shadows on the wall is another indoor decorating tip from Troyer.

She cuts a shape, like a cat or bat, out of construction paper. Using florist wire or another thin wire taped to the back of the shape, she wraps the other end around a pillar candle.

"When the candle flickers, it looks like the shadow is moving," Troyer said.

She recommends placing the paper shapes about four to six inches away from the flame. Also, keep the decoration out of drafty areas.

Want a great way to greet party guests and trick-or-treaters? Make a scare crow.

"I used a gourd that was ugly and had all sorts of bumps," Troyer said.

The ugly gourd rested on a stuffed flannel shirt and old jeans, also stuffed. Troyer said she had to make a frame to place the stuffed clothes on as well.

"The kids came in for treats and they were kind of startled when they saw it," she said.