Ideas for Making Scarecrows

  • 01 of 16

    Materials to Use for Features

    The scarecrow in my image sports a pot for a head. Is he a pothead?
    How "Pothead" Scarecrow Got His Eyes, Nose, Mouth This scarecrow has a pot for a head. David Beaulieu

    If you need ideas for making scarecrows this Halloween (and non-scary types are even suitable as outdoor Thanksgiving decorations), then peruse my pictures, which include tips on making body parts for your straw man. You'll also learn about scarecrow hats and clothes, plus ways to support your creation.

    Some of these pictures were shot in Seneca Falls, NY, a town in the Finger Lakes region. Seneca Falls decorates its downtown in fall using a scarecrow theme. Besides beautifying a downtown for residents and visitors alike, such decor themes can be a source for ideas for making scarecrows -- to use in your own yard.

    Incidentally, Seneca Falls is thought by many to have been the inspiration for "Bedford Falls" in the Christmas classic, It's a Wonderful Life (1947), with Jimmy Stewart. While the town's associations with the Christmas holiday may, consequently, be foremost in one's mind, its garden scarecrow decorations work wonderfully well for Halloween.

    Pictures in the present gallery focus on materials used in putting together your creation; when you're ready to actually create one, use my tips on how to make a scarecrow. If you're seeking additional creative ideas for making scarecrows, see my scarecrow pictures for new ideas on the various themes to explore when decorating with this Halloween icon. For those of you who don't even find the Wolfman dummy in the present photo gallery scary enough, read my step-by-step instructions for making a life-sized Grim Reaper.

    Later in this image gallery, I provide a full-body shot of a "pothead" scarecrow. But in this picture I start out with a closeup of the face to draw attention to the materials used for the features: his eyes, nose and mouth.

    What is a Scarecrow?

    But let me back up for a moment and begin by discussing just what a scarecrow is. By defining what it is, exactly, that we're talking about, the range of possibilities will widen.

    The basic scarecrow design hearkens back to pre-industrial agricultural communities in which there was a need literally to "scare crows" away from a garden using simple methods. They hatched the idea of setting up figures in garden plots that at least vaguely resembled human beings. The reasoning was that, if crows thought they spotted a human being in a vegetable patch, they'd stay away out of fear.

    How well this stratagem actually works is debatable. Motion-activated devices such as the aptly-named "Scarecrow Sprinkler" are a better bet if pest control is what you're really after. But pest control is not what I'm concerned with in this photo gallery. Rather, my goal is to furnish you with ideas for making ornamental scarecrows.

    So why the brief history lesson? Well, knowing the origin of the functional scarecrow will help us figure out what qualifies as an ornamental one. Thus, first of all, any scarecrow you design for a display should suggest a human (or at least human-like) figure. So while a black cat is a perfectly acceptable Halloween decoration, it cannot properly qualify as a scarecrow because it draws on the feline form, not the human form. But it's OK to base your design on a witch or a werewolf because those figures are inspired by human-like forms.

    Besides form, what else makes a scarecrow a scarecrow? To answer that question, consider why it is that you're using an ornamental scarecrow in the first place. It's specifically a Halloween decoration -- or, more broadly, a fall decoration -- correct? Therefore, your figure should be designed so as to play up a scary theme and/or a harvest theme. Considering that the original scarecrow was installed in a garden (think "harvest") for the purpose of scaring birds away, it's easy to see why scarecrows are associated with this season.

    As you can easily surmise, these parameters for scarecrow-building leave the creator with a great deal of latitude. And folks handy with crafts have taken full advantage of this leeway in recent decades. The variety of scarecrows nowadays is impressive. And yet, in all but the most egregious cases of "pushing the envelope," it is clear that what the decorator is presenting you with is, indeed, a scarecrow.

    In the classic design, one stuffs old clothes with straw to make a scarecrow (which is why it is also sometimes called a "straw man"). Allowing a bit of straw to peek out from the bottom of the shirtsleeves or trousers plays up the harvest theme (straw being a farm product). Cloth (or burlap) sacks stuffed with straw, hay, leaves, etc. can serve as long-lasting heads, onto which you can easily draw the features (or sew or glue them on). Pumpkins make for more striking scarecrow heads but don't last as long (unless you use artificial ones).

    But don't feel that you are limited to the classic design, with its traditional materials. If you're striving for a scary theme, in particular, you may have to think outside the box. The wonderful thing about making scarecrows (and about decorating for Halloween in general) is that people will admire your work more the more creativity you put into it.

    The scarecrow head in the picture above is a good example of how you can broaden the possibilities for materials to use in such a project. The head is a flower pot. The eyes and mouth are silk flowers, while the nose is a cork. Using black-eyed susans or sunflowers for the eyes helps put the viewer in a fall mood, as both are often still in bloom in early autumn; in addition, yellow is a classic fall color.

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  • 02 of 16

    Burlap for Scarecrow Faces

    Scarecrow picture: Burlap is an alternative to cloth for fabric scarecrow faces.
    Picture of Jolly Scarecrow Leaning on Lamp Post Picture: Scarecrow with burlap face. David Beaulieu

    Scarecrows aren't always scary. This one resembles a court jester....

    Because of what he's leaning against, one also can't help but think of those old drunk-on-the-lamp-post ornaments! His loosey-goosey hands give him a devil-may-care look (you can make the hands from raffia or corn husks).

    The picture above shows an example of how scarecrow faces can be made of burlap. Burlap is an alternative to cloth for scarecrow faces. It's a traditional material for scarecrow faces and a fitting one since burlap is associated with gardening (think burlap potato bags or plants that have been balled and burlapped for transportation).

    Burlap is an excellent material for scarecrow faces when you seek a rustic look. The Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz (1939), who is often used as a model for such figures, sports of burlap face.

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  • 03 of 16

    Wolfman Scarecrow

    Wolfman scarecrow picture. Draw hair and features on burlap to make a Wolfman scarecrow.
    Werewolf Halloween Decoration Picture of a Wolfman scarecrow. David Beaulieu

    This scarecrow picture shows another use of burlap for the face. But unlike the figure in the prior photo, the theme adopted here is a scary one....

    Beware the Wolfman! Werewolves provide an excellent theme for scary Halloween decorations, another example being werewolf pumpkins.

    A Wolfman scarecrow is easy to make. Focus on the head: The rest of the body, the clothing, etc. are really secondary. If you get the hairline right provide creepy eyes, you're most of the way there. Use the picture above as a guide.

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  • 04 of 16

    Cloth An Alternative to Burlap for Faces

    Picture: Halloween scarecrow with bittersweet. A store-bought Halloween scarecrow saves time.
    Picture of Scarecrow Ornamented With Bittersweet Picture: Scarecrow faces can be made with cloth. David Beaulieu

    While not as earthy as burlap, cloth is another material traditionally used to make scarecrow faces....

    Notice the bittersweet vines used as ornamentation around this scarecrow. There are both Oriental and American versions of the vine, bittersweet; but when you encounter bittersweet in eastern North America, it's most likely to be the Oriental type.

    You may well have a distinctly different opinion of the Oriental bittersweet that grows in North America, depending on whether your interests lie mainly in Halloween crafts or in gardening. If you're an avid gardener, you probably hate it, since it's one of our worst invasive plants. But as ornamentation for Halloween decorations, such as scarecrows, it's hard to beat this plant: Crafters can use bittersweet in a number of ways, and the Oriental type is both abundant and usually free for the taking.

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  • 05 of 16

    Garden Scarecrow With Jack-o'-Lantern Head

    Picture: garden scarecrow surrounded by mums. Garden scarecrows look great with mums.
    Another Face Option Picture: garden scarecrow surrounded by mums. David Beaulieu

    A jack-o'-lantern is, of course, another option when making a scarecrow face....

    For an alternative to pumpkins (carved pumpkins rot quickly), try a Halloween jack-o'-lantern made from a gourd!

    Note the red scarf used for the garden scarecrow in the picture above: Wrapping a scarf around his neck is an easy way to work some color and style into the ensemble. Unlike the other garden scarecrows pictured thus far, this one wears gloves -- a convenient extra if you're not satisfied with how the hands come out (just cover them up with the gloves!).

    In terms of support, this garden scarecrow sits on a bench, whereas the figures in the prior two pictures stood and were supported by poles. Having your garden scarecrow sit down eliminates one extra step in making a scarecrow; and since he's not tied to a pole, it also makes him more transportable, should you decide to change his location mid-way through the Halloween decorating season.

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  • 06 of 16

    Scarecrow Idea: Make the Head With a Pot

    Scarecrow photo: A plastic pot can be used for the head of your scarecrow.
    Plastic Pots an Alternative for Straw-Man Heads Scarecrow photo: A plastic pot can be used for the head of your scarecrow. David Beaulieu

    Don't like any of the traditional materials discussed thus far used to make scarecrow heads (burlap, cloth, pumpkin)...?

    Well, here's a use for those plastic pots you have accumulating in the shed. You know: those plastic pots your garden plants come in when you buy them at the nursery. Pick out a good-sized one and use it for a scarecrow head! Facial features can be hot-glued onto the plastic, such as the flowers (used for the eyes) on the scarecrow in the picture.

    In another resource, I show you how to recycle plastic pots into plant markers.

    You can find other examples of creative recycling in the articles linked to below:

    Since scarecrows are creatures of the garden by nature, it's always good to see a scarecrow surrounded by mums and the fruits of the harvest, as is this specimen.

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  • 07 of 16

    Mr. Pumpkin Head

    Scarecrow in photo bears FTD label. Halloween scarecrow picture was taken in 'Bedford Falls.'
    FTD Scarecrow Picture: scarecrow proudly bears the FTD insignia. David Beaulieu

    Don't like any of the ideas offered so far? Well, you can always make a pumpkin head out of wood for your Halloween scarecrow....

    The Mr. Pumpkin Head scarecrow in the picture above proudly displays the FTD label on his apron. Fall flowers, anyone?

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  • 08 of 16

    Halloween for Metalheads?

    Metalhead scarecrow photo: Make a metalhead scarecrow for your favorite heavy metal music fan.
    Picture of a Scarecrow With a Tin-Bucket Head Make a metalhead scarecrow for your favorite heavy metal music fan. David Beaulieu

    "Metalhead" is a term normally used to describe an aficionado of heavy metal music....

    But in a literal sense, it applies better to this Halloween scarecrow from "Bedford Falls." While I spoke of using recycled plastic pots for scarecrow heads earlier, I must admit that I prefer the earthier "feel" of metal. Plastic is a modern material; metal has been around a lot longer. And I like scarecrows that hark back to earlier times.

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  • 09 of 16

    Idea: Wooden Frame Offers Stability, Durability

    The scarecrow in this picture uses wood as a frame. Wood framework draped with scarecrow clothes.
    Wooden Garden Scarecrow Picture Scarecrow photo: A wooden framework can be used to make an easy scarecrow. David Beaulieu

    A garden scarecrow based on a wooden frame makes for a stable Halloween decoration....

    Drive a support pole into the ground and screw the wooden framework right into the pole. When Halloween decorating season is over, unscrew the garden scarecrow from the pole, take it inside and store it away for next Halloween. You'll have none of the mess associated with a traditional garden scarecrow if you stick to a design such as that shown in the picture above. There will be no straw to become dislodged and make a mess because you're not stuffing the figure.

    But here's the other side of the coin: The drawback to a wooden scarecrow is precisely that, without straw (or a similar material for stuffing), you have a garden scarecrow divorced from his agricultural roots. Just call him Mr. City Slicker.

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  • 10 of 16

    Cornstalk Scarecrow

    How to make scarecrows? Cornstalks make great scarecrow bodies.
    Using Cornstalks for the Body of Your "Straw Man" Photo: Scarecrow with cornstalk body. David Beaulieu

    This scarecrow is basically a bundle of corn stalks that has been "dressed up."

    That is, the maker of this scarecrow affixed a cloth head and cloth scarecrow hat to a cornstalk "body." The see-through, orange material covers the mid-section as if it were a shawl or poncho, effectively suggesting a division between a presumed torso and presumed legs. Stiff wires emanating from either side of the support pole provide "arms" over which the orange fabric can be draped.

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  • 11 of 16

    Biking Figure With Classic Scarecrow Hat

    Picture: scarecrow with hat on bike. Scarecrow in photo wears glasses.
    Scarecrow Idea: Set Your Decoration on a Bike Picture: The scarecrow hat says "conventional," while the bike says "unconventional.". David Beaulieu

    This figure wearing a classic scarecrow hat is plainer than the motorcycle mama scarecrow shown in a picture in one of my other scarecrow photo galleries....

    But this Halloween decoration is, nonetheless a well-made scarecrow that makes use of a prop (the bike) very successfully to draw attention to itself. I also think the glasses are a nice touch: The Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, who yearned so for a brain at the beginning of the movie, would be proud to know that one of his compatriots has poured over so many books as to require vision correction! Not surprisingly, Wizard of Oz Halloween themes are popular, given the fact that both a scarecrow and a witch play prominent parts in the movie.

    Straw is, of course, the classic material for scarecrow hats. If you wish to evoke a traditional mood in making your scarecrow, you can't go wrong using a straw hat, as in the picture above. To make the face for this figure, eye, nose and mouth shapes were cut out of felt and attached -- again, very conventional. What's not conventional about this display is the means of support provided for the scarecrow: a bicycle.

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  • 12 of 16

    Picture of Red-Haired Witch Scarecrow

    Picture showing witch scarecrow with wig. Witch scarecrow with wig nice change from pointy hat.
    Choose a Bright Color for Scarecrow Hair Picture showing witch scarecrow with wig. David Beaulieu

    Witches usually appear in hats, as in my witch picture in another photo gallery. Consequently, witch scarecrows normally wear hats....

    But the red wig on the witch scarecrow in this picture provides a nice change of pace from the usual pointy hat. Just call her the "Wigged Witch of the West"!

    Red is a good choice for color when choosing a scarecrow wig because it shows up well from a distance; blonde hair would also work well, for the same reason. This, despite the fact that witches are usually portrayed as having black or brown hair.

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  • 13 of 16

    Idea: Make a Scarecrow Functional

    Photo showing scarecrow used as planter. Scarecrow's head a pot holding ornamental grass.
    Picture of Scarecrow Who Serves a Purpose: a Planter Photo showing scarecrow used as a planter. David Beaulieu

    Rather than being purely decorative, the scarecrow in this picture serves a useful purpose. No, it's not to scare crows.

    Rather, this scarecrow functions as a planter! As in a prior photo, the scarecrow pictured above has a plastic pot for a head. The head has been put to good use, in this case.

    What should you grow in a scarecrow planter? Well, considering that the plant you choose will serve as a hair substitute, I think grassy plants are a logical choice. Plants that will cascade are another option. If the plant in question starts to outgrow the planter, trim it to keep it within bounds (Give your scarecrow a haircut!). Here are some possible choices:

    For the look of short, curly scarecrow hair, try sweet alyssum.

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  • 14 of 16

    Clothes for the Whole Family

    Image: family of scarecrows. Image shows daddy, mommy and kid scarecrows.
    "Clothes Make the Scarecrow?" Image: family of scarecrows. David Beaulieu

    Not the scarecrow clothes that this family wears....

    Because it's classic scarecrow garb all the way!

    The husband wears a checked shirt and jeans. The wife sports the kind of flowered dress that you would expect a farmer's wife to wear. Finally, you can't go wrong with overalls on a scarecrow, and that's precisely how the child scarecrow is outfitted. All have straw hands.

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  • 15 of 16

    Idea: Scarecrows Raking Leaves

    Picture: Scarecrows raking leaves. Scarecrow family doing yard work on fall day.
    Picture of Scarecrow Crew Doing Yard Work Picture: Scarecrows raking leaves. David Beaulieu

    Here's another option for positioning your garden scarecrows....

    Garden scarecrows often merely stand around; the lazier scarecrows even sit down on benches, as we saw in an earlier photo. But with a few simple props, you can put your garden scarecrows to work!

    And considering that scarecrows are fall decorations, what more natural activity could there be to portray them as performing than raking leaves? Simply stick leaf rakes in their hands and, voila: You have a scarecrow crew (not to be confused with a skeleton crew) raking leaves off your lawn! The wheelbarrow in the picture above is optional but nicely reinforces the idea.

    Earlier, we discussed allowing scarecrow hands (people usually make them out of straw) to show, versus covering their hands with gloves. In a work scene such as this one, gloved scarecrows are more in keeping with the theme you're trying to convey.

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  • 16 of 16

    Scarecrow Seated on Straw Bale

    Picture: Scarecrow resting on a hay bale. Using hay bales is an easy way to support scarecrows.
    Hay Bales Say "Rustic" Picture: Scarecrow resting on a hay bale. David Beaulieu

    When I discuss "props" in the context of scarecrow displays, I'm not limiting the discussion to manufactured props such as rakes and bikes....

    The straw bale is the "prop" in this scarecrow display. Hay bales or straw bales make wonderful seats for scarecrows since they evoke rusticity and the farming life. It's easy to create an idyllic scarecrow display. Simply surround a traditional scarecrow with straw bales, cornstalks, a large pumpkin and fall flowers. Your scarecrow display will be the talk of the neighborhood!