The Art of Darkness

A Wand for an Artistic Witch

October 13th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Wand DetailA few years ago there was a rather excellent blog called “Seeing Things” which was a trove of Halloween projects. And then, one day…there wasn’t. The entire site was deleted without explanation and the whole wonderful archive of ideas was gone without a trace. This was particularly galling to me since I’d had my eye on one of the projects, a wand for an “Art Witch,” because my sister happens to be both an Art History professor and a Wiccan.

Fortunately, the googles are your friend. I was able to dig up enough of the details to take my own crack at the wand, and my notes are below.


  • Wooden bobbin, for the body of the wand. Vintage hardwood bobbins used in textile mills from the 1890s – 1940s are a common shabby chic/primitive decorative item and are available on eBay, Etsy, or at flea markets and antique stores. I got mine from Stampington. The original post noted that there was probably all kinds of creative energy already stored up in the wood, so…sure, let’s go with that. (If you don’t want to use a bobbin, a largish wooden dowel should work although you’ll have to drill the ends.)
  • Wooden dowel, small enough in diameter to fit snugly into the hole in the center of the bobbin (optional).
  • Cabinet knob, for the back of the wand. The type used for kitchen and bathroom cabinets is about the right size. I used a faceted crystal knob that I picked up at the hardware store, but I really like these crystal balls too. You can use a metal or ceramic one if you prefer. (You could also use plastic but it seems kind of a shame to get a cool wooden bobbin and then stick a cheap plastic doohickey on the end.)
  • Hanger bolt of the correct size to fit the cabinet knob. This is optional, depending upon how you decide to secure the knob to the wand (see instructions below).
  • Crystal bead, for the front of the wand. I hit the beading section of my local craft store and picked up some natural quartz beads (similar to these, although nowhere near as expensive; the strand cost about $3). Any other small pointy thing should work.
  • Wire, for wrapping the wand. I used 20-gauge wrapping wire. It’s available in all sorts of colors.
  • Wire cutters. Additional wire tools like needlenose pliers are not strictly necessary but are really helpful.
  • Decorative elements, to personalize the wand. I used some metal-rimmed tags from Stampington, some vintage Halloween images (see below), a glass capsule bead from the craft store, some wire connectors, charms, and thin copper chain. Most of the items were found on clearance, so choose whatever appeals to you.

    The little round tags were for “inchies,” which is apparently a scrapbooking term, so I looked for round “inchie” images on Etsy. I finally settled on this set, but these and these were close seconds. If you’re feeling intrepid you can create your own set of images using clipart and your favorite graphic software, but I figured it was worth the four bucks to have all of that done for me. (I did use Photoshop to add the words “Art Witch” to one image before printing, but that’s completely optional.)

  • Hot glue and/or wood glue, depending on how you secure the cabinet knob (see instructions).
  • White glue or Mod Podge (optional, depending on your decorative choices).

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 1 Comment »

Unquiet Books

September 24th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Okay, this thing has been knocking around in my Drafts folder for nearly five years(!), it’s clearly never going to get out of the planning stages and I’m tired of looking at it, so I’m going to dump the half-formed mess on you guys and let you deal with it. (This is why you read this blog; for quality posts like this one.)

Way back in 2011 I mentioned the awesome quiet books made by Julie of Julie’s Blog (at the time she had Star Wars and Star Trek versions; she’s since added Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings). In that post I joked that somebody needed to do an “unquiet book” featuring spooky creatures, and the more I thought about it the more I liked the notion. I jotted down a bunch of possible ideas and then sat on them for five years and here we are today.

So if somebody with more unquiet-book ambition than I feels like taking any of these ideas and running with them, knock yourselves out. Send me pictures.

(The purpose of a quiet book, for anyone still puzzled, is right there in the name: It’s a book containing a series of simple activities meant to encourage small children to shut their piehole play quietly by themselves for a few minutes. The activities usually have the added benefit of helping younger kids learn to perform simple tasks like buttoning a button or tying a shoelace.)

Help the spider finish his web – Lace a ribbon through grommets to complete a spider’s web.

Put Dracula in his coffin – Unzip the coffin and place a felt-figure vampire inside.

Help the ghost find his grave – Follow a stitched line across a graveyard.

Rewrap the mummy’s face – Weaving with ribbons.

Put the pumpkins into their patch – Attach half of a snap closure to the backs of felt pumpkins and place the other halves in a patch of leaves so the pumpkins can be snapped into place.

Turn into a werewolf – Felted glove with claws and fake fur that the child can slip their hand into.

Reassemble the skeleton – Velcro-backed pieces of a skeleton (skull, ribcage, arms and legs) which can be placed in proper order along a fixed-in-place spine.

Dress the witch – Dress-up doll with a few different dresses, hats, and stockings.

Carve a Jack-o’-lantern – Arrange felt eyes, nose, and mouth on a plain pumpkin.

What’s hiding under the bed? – Lift the flap to find simple finger puppets.

Put eyes on the Voodoo doll – Buttons attached to the page, and a felt face with buttonholes that can be buttoned in place.

Help the witch finish her brew – Cauldron with felt shapes like snakes, toads, and bats to tuck into the top.

A couple more ideas that would probably be a little too dark in practice but amuse me in theory:

Help the Aztec priest tear out his victim’s heart – Zippered chest cavity with a removable felt heart inside.

Arrange the skulls of Kali’s victims – Pile up little felt skulls at her feet.

Help the Washer at the Ford do her laundry – Tuck little bloodstained shirts into a pool of water.

Have any other ideas? Share ’em in the comments!

Posted in Bittens, Doom It Yourself | 10 Comments »

Unicorn Tears Liqueur

September 23rd, 2015 by Cobwebs

Unicorn TearsThe intarwebs were abuzz recently with the announcement of Firebox’s new Unicorn Tears Liqueur. It’s a cute gimmick: A gin-based liqueur with silver flakes suspended in it, a tear-shaped label with a unicorn design, and a product page which assures you that “Many, many unicorns were harmed in the making of this beverage.”

Unfortunately it’s $62 a bottle, and I don’t know if it’s that cute of a gimmick.

This is doubly true because silver (and gold) flakes are widely available and homemade liqueur is a snap to make. The flakes are used to prettify food and can be found at gourmet shops, stores that sell cake-decorating supplies, or at Amazon. Make sure you get actual metal flakes instead of edible “metallic glitter,” because that type may dissolve in liquid.

Homemade liqueur involves little more than infusing an ingredient(s) of your choice in a neutral spirit like vodka, then adding sugar syrup. There’s a discussion of the general method here, and if you google “homemade liqueur recipes” you’ll find zillions of different ideas: This and this are good jumping-off points. You’ll probably want to choose a recipe that results in something fairly colorless to show off the metal flakes, so coffee-based mixtures are probably out; unicorns don’t strike me as the kind of creature to have caffeine jitters anyway.

You’ll also want to choose a clear bottle to show off the pretty metallic liquid; I like bottles with swing-type lids, but if you want to wax-dip the tops for extra fanciness you’ll probably want to choose something with cork stopper more similar to this type so the wax seal will be nice and smooth.

You can buy wax meant for sealing beer and wine bottles at brewery-supply stores or online; Kings Wax and Blended Waxes have nice selections. However, a lot of home brewers use a DIY mixture of melted crayons and hot glue for a cheap, good-looking result. Bertus Brewery and Brew on a Budget have instructions for that.

For the label, you can create something appropriately unicorn-y on the computer and print it out. You could also stencil (or freehand, if you’re ambitious) the bottle using glass paint, or get really fancy and etch the bottle.

For added decoration you could twist a bit of polymer clay into a miniature unicorn horn, poke a hole in the bottom end, and tie it to the neck of the bottle with ribbon.

You can also branch out into liqueurs “made” from other mythical creatures: Do a reddish cherry liqueur mixed with gold flakes and give the Twilight fan on your gift list a bottle of Vampire Squeezin’s. Caraway-flavored Troll Tears or rose-infused Elf Sweat might be amusing as well.

For about the same price as a single bottle of the retail stuff, you could make a whole lot of pint-sized homemade versions as gifts. And it’s way easier than finding a unicorn and making it cry.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 2 Comments »

Quick Gift Idea: Scented Hot Pads

September 16th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Hot PadHere’s a fast, easy gift idea that has the added advantage of letting you use up leftover scraps of fabric: Hot pads and mug mats which give off a spicy autumnal scent when something hot is placed on top.

The fabric you use should be closely woven so bits of spice don’t fall out, and made of some material that won’t melt or discolor when exposed to heat (100% cotton is best).

For the spice mixture:

  • 1 C small cinnamon chips (if you can’t obtain these, put cinnamon sticks in a bag and whack them with a rolling pin or other heavy object to break them up)
  • 1 C anise seed
  • 1 C whole cloves
  • 1 C nutmeg pieces (these can be broken up the same way as the cinnamon, but nutmegs are pretty hard so you may need to use a hammer)
  • 1 C allspice berries
  • 1 C rosemary needles

For each mug mat you will need two squares of 5″x5″ fabric. Place right sides together and stitch sides with a 1/4″ seam, leaving an open space in the middle of one side for turning. Turn right-side out and press. Fill with spice mixture to about 1/2″ thick. Turn in the raw edges and top-stitch the opening. Package four mats together, tied with pretty ribbon, and tuck a cinnamon stick under the ribbon.

(For a fancier version of the mug mats, try The Road to Crazy’s reverse applique tutorial, which produced the cute little Frankenstein cupcake in the photo above.)

For a hot pad, you will need two squares of 8″x8″ fabric. Place right sides together and stitch three sides with a 1/2″ seam, then stitch the corners of the fourth side but leave the rest of the edge open. Turn right-side out and press. Turn in the raw edges on the fourth side 1/2″ and press. Stitch three parallel lines down the square, creating four tunnels of equal width. Fill the tunnels with the spice mixture to at least 1″ thick. Top-stitch the opening.

You can vary the spice mixture as desired, omitting some and adding others. Bits of dried citrus peel are nice, as are lavender flowers or strong-scented herbs. It’s easy to make up a large batch of the mixture and sew lots of hot pads as stocking stuffers or last-minute hostess gifts. If you plan to make the pads well in advance, store them in a plastic bag to keep their scent strong.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 2 Comments »

Dollar-Store Grandfather Clock

September 3rd, 2015 by Cobwebs

Clock FrontHoly wow, you guys. Would you ever guess that this grandfather clock is made from cardboard and glued-on props from the Dollar Store?

theundeadofnight shared this project on Halloween Forum, along with a few photos of the build. There are more detailed instructions on his website, but it’s all done in Flash so I can’t link directly. It’s an almost startlingly easy build: The clock case is made from cardboard boxes, the skulls and bat are cut from a styrofoam tombstone, and the clock face is just a cheap plastic wall clock (attached with velcro so the batteries can be changed).

This would be a great prop for a Halloween party, either simply for decoration or to block the entrance to an off-limits part of the house. If you used a cheap single-door cabinet for the tall part of the case (which probably has an official name but I don’t know it; let’s go with Pendulum Containment Unit), you could use the interior space: Stick a bucket with dry ice inside so ominous fog emerges from the cracks, or put in a motion sensor that screams at anyone nosy enough to open the door. You could even keep it up year-’round and use it for storage.

It’s a great-looking prop that doesn’t require a lot of specialized skills to build, so it’s perfect for the amateur home haunter.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 1 Comment »

Creepy Crackers

August 20th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Finished CrackerChristmas crackers are part of traditional holiday celebrations in the UK, Australia, and several other countries.* They consist of a cardboard tube filled with candy and novelties (usually including a paper crown and a fortune cookie-type strip of paper with jokes), a strip of thin cardboard containing the same chemical that makes popguns go bang, and a wrapping of tissue paper. When the ends of the tissue are pulled, the cardboard thingie makes a cracking noise and you harvest the treats inside.

There’s no reason why these things have to be limited to Christmas. I can think of another holiday that’s big on treats. Can’t you?

You will need:

  • Cardboard tubes; empty toilet tissue rolls are the perfect size
  • Cracker snaps (see below)
  • Small novelties and candy
  • Tissue paper (see below)
  • Narrow ribbon
  • Halloween-themed stickers (optional)

Cracker snaps can be purchased at some craft stores and online. I actually found a children’s activity kit on Amazon which included the cracker snaps, paper crowns, and jokes for cheaper than I could buy just the cracker snaps.

You can find all kinds of wonderful Halloween-themed wrapping paper meant for scrapbooking; I actually created this post as a way to use up some Halloween scrapbook paper I’d been given and…I can’t find the stinkin’ paper anywhere. So I just used plain tissue paper and you can too.

Click the thumbnails for larger images.

Cracker Strips

Make sure that the cardboard tubes you use are short enough to let the cracker snaps extend out both sides. Toilet tissue rolls work great; if you have long tubes (like those for paper towels), cut them in half.

Cracker Goodies

Gather whatever small novelties and candies you want to fit in the tube.

Add Strip

Place the cracker snap in the tube with ends extending out both sides, and pack the treats on top.

Wrap Tissue

Cut a piece of tissue paper wide enough to enclose the ends of the cracker snap and long enough to roll around the tube a few times. Roll everything up, and pinch in around the outside of the tube.

Finished Cracker

Tie the ends with ribbon, making sure to securely enclose the ends of the cracker snap inside. If desired, decorate the outside of the cracker with stickers or other lightweight items.


And…done! The ends of my cracker are a bit wrinkly; for more precise edges with only a bit more work, check out Chica and Jo’s tutorial for making Christmas crackers.

These are easy to make and a pile of them would be a big hit at a Halloween party.

*But not in the US. When I was in fifth grade my dad returned from a business trip with a bunch of crackers for me to hand out to my classmates. My teacher made me wait until after lunch because he didn’t want everyone spoiling their appetites by eating them; he was deeply perplexed when I told him they weren’t those kind of crackers.

Posted in Bittens, Doom It Yourself | 6 Comments »

Fingernail Guards

July 30th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Fingernail GuardsLong fingernails were a status symbol in Imperial China because they signified that you didn’t have to do manual labor. The wealthy wore special fingernail guards to keep their long nails from being broken, and over time the guards became more and more ornate.

They varied in both length and design: Some were cones that slipped over the whole tip of the finger, and others were more like a ring with a shield attached to the top. There are some photos of various styles at enticz, and a few others (including an interesting mesh design) at Dream Tree.

Today the guards are collector’s items, either simply displayed (as here, second photo) or converted into brooches and other jewelry. However, since they: a) Have a vintage pedigree, b) Make your fingers look like claws, c) Simply cry out for embellishment, and d) Actually have a quasi-utilitarian purpose (i.e., protecting long fingernails), I’d say they’re due for a comeback.

Highly-embellished modern versions are apparently available somewhere–the photo above is a modern set worn by China Steel–but don’t seem particularly easy to find (especially since search results are muddied with antique versions). Somewhat similar, and perhaps a good jumping-off point, are Thai dance nail wraps. They seem to be available in a variety of styles (search for “belly dance” or “Thai dance”), and could be decorated with paint or glued-on gems.

Another possibility is to make your own. Marlene Brady made an interesting set with polymer clay, then added chain and jewelry findings (there’s a photo of a second set she made here, which are unembellished but the clay itself is patterned). Other materials might include plastic, thin cardboard, or even stiffened fabric. Decorate with lightweight items of your choice, and you can protect your nails and look awesome whilst doing so.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 2 Comments »

Homemade Seasoning Salt

July 28th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Seasoned SaltIf you’ve ever found yourself in need of a last-minute hostess gift, look no further than homemade seasoning salts (which are also worth making for your own use). They are cheap, easy to make, endlessly customizable, have a long shelf life, and can be made in bulk. You can even make ’em gothy, which means they’re a fun idea for a party (or wedding) favor, or as part of a gift for your favorite gloomy cook.

A quick word on salt: Some recipes suggest using flake salt like Maldon or even fleur de sel, but since you’re usually running it through a blender or food processor it seems silly to waste money on flakes that you’re going to whirl into oblivion. Your best bet is probably kosher salt. Don’t use table salt, since it usually contains anti-clumping agents.

If you want to get fancy, look into black lava salt; sea salt that’s been blended with activated charcoal. You can get it on Amazon or in bulk at places like Mountain Rose Herbs. It’s usually used as a finishing salt, but it’d be fun to use in some of these recipes too. It’d also be very attractive layered with other seasoned salt in a tall skinny jar.

There are a zillion different recipes out on the intartubes, but here are a few to get you started:

Vampire-Repelling Garlic Salt

1 C kosher salt
1/4 C peeled garlic cloves

Heat oven to 180F (if your oven doesn’t go that low, just use its lowest setting and adjust bake time accordingly). Combine the garlic and salt in a food processor and process until the garlic is pulverized and the mixture has a consistency of moist sand; 30 seconds. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the salt mixture out evenly. Bake until dry, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Return to food processor and pulse several times to break up clumps.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 1 Comment »

Skull Clock

July 16th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Skull ClockJ. Oswald was a German company which started making novelty clocks in the mid-1920s. Their most popular models were clocks with rotating eyeballs, one eye displaying the hours and the other the minutes.

They had a number of designs, including dogs, genies, and apes, but their cross-eyed skulls are particularly awesome. You can occasionally find original Oswald clocks on eBay (the ones in good shape run around $1,000US), and there have also been a few knockoffs from other companies. However, there are several ways you could DIY something similar.

There’s a short Instructables guide for installing a watch face in a plastic prop skull; just install one in the other eye too. After setting the correct time on both, remove the minute hand from the one on the left and the hour hand from the one on the right. A bit crude, but it’d work.

A larger version could be made by stenciling a skull on a wall and using two round wall clocks for eyes. Remove the hour/minute hands as above, and cut a circular piece of thin black acrylic to fit over the remaining clock hands (see the eyeball clock sold by SUCK UK to see how to position them). That would give you the true rotating-googly-eyes effect but would still be fairly straightforward to do.

If you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, pick up a couple of small clock movements from your local craft store, insert them in the eye sockets of a plastic skull, and use small plastic hemispheres (perhaps a ping pong ball cut in half, depending on the skull size) to represent the eyes. Paint on pupils for the hour/minute markers. Be sure to fit the movements in so that you can change the batteries as necessary.

(via Shellhawk’s Nest)

Posted in Doom It Yourself | No Comments »

Make a Purse from a Book

July 1st, 2015 by Cobwebs

Purse BookRecycling hardback books into handbags or clutches is a fairly common project: You can purchase them at shops like Gorey Details or Etsy (the ones in that shop are particularly nice). There are also many DIY tutorials available, so if you’ve got a book that you’ve loved to death you can turn the pages into flowers and convert the cover into an attractive purse.

There are some nice, easy-to-follow tutorials at Instructables, Rookie, and Country Living, and Craftser has a roundup of various purses that its members have made. The estimable EPBOT also has an exhaustive post on her quest for “the world’s best book purse,” which includes several helpful tips.

If a handbag isn’t really your thing, you can make a clutch instead: See Kate Sew has good directions for a zippered version, and A Beautiful Mess has one with a snap closure. There’s also an interesting project at Runway DIY which involves hollowing out a space in the pages (as for a “secret stash” book) instead of removing them entirely.

Once you’ve finished the purse, complete the ensemble with a wallet made from a paperback book cover. I’ve got a tutorial for that here, but there’s a simpler version at Hello, ReFabulous!.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 2 Comments »

« Previous Entries