The big box stores have had their Halloween decorations out for a few weeks now. And who can blame them? It’s only the best holiday of the year. Sorry, Arbor Day.
And now that it’s October, I can finally start decorating my home without fear of being that house. (You know the house I’m talking about.)
But rather than displaying the same ghosts and ghouls as my neighbors and paying premium prices to do so, I prefer to harness the power of estate sales. Not only can you frequently find vintage decorations (and, of course, materials for Halloween costumes), but they're also a great opportunity to get crafty.
Here I’ll share just a few easy projects you can make your way through on a cool October afternoon.
Estate sales frequently carry ceramic figurines, some that are, or at least at one time were, highly collectible. My mother and grandmother, for example, collected Hummels. I, as a child, had a shelf full of Precious Moments. Since their heyday, the value of both have fluctuated, and while some of the older, more rare editions can still command high prices, that's not the case for all of them.
But, although I really want to, I can’t bring myself to use Hummels for this project. I imagine my dearly departed grandmother watching from Heaven with a single tear rolling down her always-rosy cheek as I desecrate her most cherished treasures, and suddenly I become racked with guilt.
So instead, I’m taking advantage of the myriad other ceramics that are always available at the estate sales around our office.
(I should note that if you don’t have a personal connection to the aforementioned brands, by all means, use them. But you may want to do a quick search online to make sure they don’t have any considerable value the estate sale company might have overlooked before you get started.)
This is a simple project, to be sure, but one that can work to great effect. Simply spray paint the figurine a solid, ominous color. Once the ceramic is sufficiently coated and fully dry, take a small paintbrush and paint the eyes a dramatic color that will be sure to haunt those who gaze upon it. If you’re not sure which color to use, perhaps ask your local craft store what their most soul-piercing color is. Ask what brand of paint is most likely to strike terror in the hearts of adults and children alike, so you make sure you get the right one.
I’m sure they can help. They’re trained for that sort of thing.
We started with a solid black figure with green glow-in-the-dark eyes, but you’re really only limited by your imagination. Whether you paint them a spooky black and give them eyes of glowing green or chilling red, or choose a more ethereal all-white with the blackest of pupils, it’s sure to cause visitors to do a double-take. You can create your own monster menagerie. In fact, I would strongly suggest creating a hoard of them. As the comedienne Ellen Degeneres once said, “A lot of anything is scarier than one something.”
Spider web doilies
At a recent estate sale, I bought a large collection of crocheted doilies for just a few dollars. I envisioned all the wonderful and crafty things I could do with them. I dreamed of honoring handiwork of those with skills I don’t have by using the creations they left behind to make beautiful things.
Then they sat in a box in my laundry room for 6 months.
But Halloween is a season of miracles, so, miraculously, they’re getting put to use.
Many of the doilies, off-white to begin with, have become even more so with age. Thorough washing and bluing doesn’t get them as bright as I’d like, so I have started dying them as the spirit movies me. And today the spirits moved me to dye them grey, and frame the woven patterns as though they were intricate spiderwebs. And then I was moved to try red, because the spirits want a lot of things—greedy spirits.
One bottle of the fabric dye I use can color two pounds of fabric. I, however, only want to dye a few small doilies. So to conserve resources, I filled a Mason jar with hot water, the doily, and then a small amount of the dye. Then I sealed the lid tight and shook it up. After a few minutes, I drained the bottle of the colored water, and rinsed out the fabric.
I don’t like the idea of putting my doilies in the dryer—I don’t know how fragile they are, and I don’t want to put myself into a position where I have to (*shudder*) iron, so I remove most of the water from the doily by wrapping it in a towel and giving it a firm but gentle squeeze. Then, I lay it flat to dry.
An embroidery hoop, painted black, frames the web, holds it taut, and provides an easy way to hang them.
You can, of course, choose colors to match your decor. And after the season’s over, remove the spiders and keep the doilies hanging. Perhaps change up the hoop colors, and dye a few more in less spookily-festive colors.
We’ve talked before about some of the things you can do with estate sale glass. But, of course, those were just a few ideas pulled out of a pool of infinity, so we can’t pass up an opportunity to share another.
With the help of some electric tea-lights, an estate sale glass can be turned into an adorable decoration.
When I realized the glasses were the perfect ghost shape, I breathed a sigh of relief, because I could go a very simple route without skimping on preciousness. Some more Pinteresting people might see a wine stem and think “I could turn that into a witch hat!” Others might find a spindly candleholder like the ones we found and think “If I took some pliers and pried out the legs, I could make this into a creepy spider, or maybe a kraken.”
But not me. My ghosts don’t even have noses.
Not that they need them.
I used frosted spray paint to cover the outside of the glass, and then gave them some ghostly faces. Placed directly on a countertop or poised on a candleholder, your home will be illuminated with Halloween spirit in no time.
With a little imagination and a little browsing on EstateSales.NET, you can haunt your home and set it apart from all the others on your block.