The Art of Darkness

Tutorial: Skull Scarf


  • Approximately 1/2 yard of fabric that is at least 70% wool; 100% wool is best. Look for a fairly tight weave, such as knit jersey. The “feltier” the fabric, the better it will hold its shape. The fabric might lose as much as 1/3 its width through shrinkage, so it’s better to get a little more than you need and trim it down later if necessary.
  • Plastic buttons and beads: Two large circles for eyes, a triangle for the nose, and some rectangles for teeth.
  • Small rubber bands or heavy thread
  • Fabric dye (optional)
  • Paintbrush (optional)
  • Embroidery thread (optional)
Click the thumbnails for larger images.


Wash the fabric in hot water and dry on high heat at least twice (the photo is of the wool before it’s been shrunk). If the long edges become wildly uneven, trim them down a bit to make them straighter. Cut the fabric down further if you want a narrower/shorter scarf; remember that a bit of shortening will occur when you add the buttons.

Add buttons

Place each button on the scarf, stretch the wool tightly around it, and secure in place with a rubber band or knotted thread. (If the fabric has a “right” and “wrong” side, you’ll want to place the buttons on the wrong side.) The surrounding fabric will ruche up a bit, so leave enough room between buttons to keep it from becoming one mass of wrinkles.

Wash fabric

Wash in hot water. If you don’t plan to dye the scarf, skip the next steps and go right to the drying. Otherwise, leave the fabric damp so that the dye is absorbed evenly and continue below.

Dye fabric

Cut little slits that correspond to the arrangement of the buttons in a piece of plastic wrap, place it over the scarf, and pop the buttons through the holes. This will protect the rest of the fabric whilst you dye those areas.

Apply fairly concentrated dye (for liquid RIT, about 4 Tbsp of dye to 1 C of boiling water), to the button heads with the paintbrush. Leave the plastic wrap in place and rinse out the excess dye with cold water. You’ll want to make sure that the rest of the fabric doesn’t pick up the extra dye, so don’t immerse the whole scarf: Either rinse each button head under the faucet, or place the scarf in the bathtub (make sure the whole surface is covered with plastic wrap) and spray it with the shower head.

If desired, you can now color the rest of the scarf with less-concentrated dye. Mix the rest of the dye according to manufacturer’s directions. Remove the plastic wrap, put the whole scarf in the dye, and swish it around until you reach the desired color.

Finished scarf


Rinse thoroughly under cold water and dry on high heat until completely dry.

Carefully snip off the rubber bands or thread and pop the buttons out through the back.

And you’re done! The scarf should be dry-cleaned only to hold its shape.