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Scarecrows have been used by farmers and gardeners for centuries as decoys to keep birds from feasting on their crops and seed.  They are still used today, but are far more high-tech than the traditional "dummies" most of us made in our backyards that wore old clothes stuffed with leaves or straw.  

 

But, if you're looking to have a little fun and create a fun or frightening yard keeper, let's harken back to the days of yore, when scarecrows as we know them protected our fields (and helped Dorothy find Oz).

 

There's no right way to make a scarecrow.  These guys (or gals) come in all shapes, sizes, stuffings, and materials.  Whatever you have lying around the house is easiest, cheapest, and most authentic!

 

A Willie Nelson scarecrow at Farm Aid 2011. With okra hands! Genius!

Photo courtesy of Shriya Manian


 

Start with:

 

-A garden stake or old broom handle, cut down to the preferred height

-Some old clothes: overalls, a flannel shirt, a straw hat, and gardening gloves are "traditional", but who says a scarecrow can't wear a tutu or a tiara!

-Twine

-Burlap. Or a brown paper bag. Or a pumpkin. Or a Halloween mask. Whatever you want your scarecrow's face to look like is up to you.

-Stuffing. And not the edible kind! Try leaves you raked up from the yard, plastic shopping bags, corn husks, hay. If you're making a scarecrow with a wooden t-frame, disregard this step.

 

1. Start by cutting the broom handle or stake to the preferred height. This will serve as his backbone. If your scarecrow will be stuffed and propped up, a shorter backbone works great.  If your scarecrow will stand, go for about 6 feet. Depending on your desired frame, you can choose to make a t-frame scarecrow (another stake is nailed horizontally across the backbone to serve as arms and shoulders) or a fuller scarecrow (the backbone fits inside a stuffed shirt/pants).  

 

2. Put his face on.  Pick a head for your scarecrow.  You can stuff a plastic shopping bag and cover it in burlap, gathering it at the bottom to secure it, or you can use a stuffed brown paper bag, or a jack-o-lantern.  Some scarecrows have scary Halloween mask-faces. It's up to you! Whatever he looks like, secure the head to the backbone. Drive the stake through the pumpkin or tie the stuffed bag to the stake, cover with burlap, and secure with twine.

 

3. If you're going with the t-frame, make sure you cut enough wood for both the backbone and the armspan and attach it.  Your scarecrows body should look like a lower-case t or a cross. Fit the clothes over the frame.  For a spookier scarecrow, drape a sheet over the head of the scarecrow and the t-frame. Ghostly!

 

4. If you'd rather stuff your scarecrow with leaves, hay, or other innards, gather the bottom on your shirt, sleeves, and pant legs and secure with twine or a rubber band and slide over the backbone.  Stuff your scarecrow with preferred insides.  It's easiest to use overalls in this case, or to secure the shirt to the pants to make a jumpsuit of sorts before stuffing.  Otherwise, it's more difficult to attach the stuffed pants and shirt later on. Stuff the gloves and attach to the shirt. 

 

5. Once your scarecrow is assembled, draw, paint, or glue on a face.  Sew felt eyes nose and mouth to the burlap or add your own artistic touch.  Add a hat, a bandana, or patches to his outfit and some hay coming out of the hat's brim or the sleeves/pant legs.

 

6. Drive the backbone into a bail of hay or the ground for a standing scarecrow. Or prop your stuffed scarecrow against a tree or the front steps. 

 

Enjoy your new scarecrow, and keep adding new touches to your work. It's a fun prop to have around all fall! Check out Make it Do's scarecrow-making for some inspiration!

 

Photo courtesy of Flickr user garlandcannon

 

Share your scarecrows with us! We'd love to see who you've created!

 

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