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How to Make a Scarecrow

12 Easy Steps for Making a Halloween Favorite

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As picture shows, I used a pillow case for scarecrow head. I stuffed the pillow case with straw.

I used a pillow case for my scarecrow head, stuffing it with straw.

David Beaulieu

Below I tell you how to make a scarecrow in the traditional fashion. One now sees many variations on this old theme, as discussed in such books as Creative Scarecrows, examples of which I show you in two photo galleries:

  1. Scarecrow Pictures
  2. Scarecrow Ideas

But in the tutorial that follows, I stick with the tried-and-true form that inspired the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, consisting basically of a straw man on a pole.

For a picture of some of the key supplies I used to make a scarecrow, click "More Images" below the photo at right to open the mini-photo gallery.

Instructions to Make a Scarecrow

1. If you have access to woods or a brushy area in your landscaping, find two small saplings that you can cut down, using a saw (if you lack such access, buy wooden poles). You need two straight poles to make a scarecrow in the manner I suggest below. After felling the young trees, use a tape measure to find a straight length of 4 feet on one pole and 8 feet on the other. Etch in your guiding marks and cut the poles accordingly with your saw.

You will be lashing the two poles together to make a cross, from which your scarecrow will hang. Some instructions on how to make a scarecrow tell you to build the cross at this point as a standalone item, but I'm going to suggest a different method that makes for a superior scarecrow.

2. To begin, make your scarecrow's head (for a close-up picture of the head, see Page 2). This is done by stuffing a pillowcase with straw (which is what I used), hay or leaves raked in fall. You'll have excess pillowcase at the bottom; cut it into 4 strips, which you can use later as ties. Pin the pillowcase with safety pins to keep the straw from falling out of the bottom. But don't close up the bottom entirely.

You'll find safety pins to be your greatest ally when you make a scarecrow. Motto for this project: "The safety pin is your friend."

3. Insert your scarecrow head onto the longer of the two poles. Push until the top of the pole is at the top of the pillowcase (right through the straw).

Now slide the shirt (I used an old turtleneck) up this same pole all the way to just under the head. Affix it loosely to the bottom of the head with safety pins. The idea here is to provide yourself with some guidance as to where the 4-foot-long crosspiece should be attached to the longer pole (namely, where the arms will be). When you've determined this location, mark it by cutting a small notch into the 8-foot-long pole. Keeping the turtleneck shirt on the long pole, I slid it up so that it was not in my way. Lash the crosspiece to the 8-footer at the mark you've made, using twine.

4. I slid the turtleneck shirt back down into position, this time stretching it to enable myself to slide the sleeves through the crosspiece on either side. If you're using a shirt that buttons up the front, you won't have to worry about this; just "dress" your scarecrow in its shirt as you would dress a person, then button it up.

5. I had you put the shirt on first mainly for purposes of positioning. We're actually going to work with the scarecrow's pants next, rather than doing any more with the shirt just yet.

Pull one leg of the pants up onto the pole, until the waist meets the bottom of the shirt. Fasten pants to shirt loosely with safety pins. Encircle the bottom of this leg with twine and tie it off, thereby securing the leg to the long pole. Stuff this leg with straw.

The other leg will hang freely. Tie off the bottom with twine and stuff it.

6. It's time to make scarecrow "suspenders"! Run twine through a belt loop on one side of the scarecrow's pants and all the way up over the crosspiece (under the shirt). Then bring the twine back down through the same belt loop and tie it off. Repeat on other side.

7. At this point, I found it easier to continue my work with the scarecrow in an upright position, hanging from his cross. So I dug a hole in the garden 2 feet deep and inserted the bottom of my pole framework into it. Then I shoveled the dirt back into the hole, tamping down firmly.

Tie off the wrists on the crosspiece, as you had tied off the first pant leg earlier.

Begin stuffing the shirt, starting with the arms and neck area first. Then work your way down from the shoulders toward the waist. When you're finished, secure top of shirt to head and bottom of shirt to pants more firmly, using safety pins.

On Page 2 we'll make a scarecrow face, complete the head and apply finishing touches....

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