Stuff and dress one of your own, and he'll cast a spell over the neighborhood all autumn long.

By Alexandra Churchill
September 03, 2020
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Ngoc Minh Ngo

Fall can be a lonely time for the yard. The summer flowers have faded, yet the first snowmen are months away. Invite a family of scarecrows to take up residence on the lawn, and things will start to feel festive again. Ghoulish faces aside, this project doesn't require that much: just old clothes, wooden boards, and a bale of hay, which can be bought at a plant nursery.

Casual attire—jeans, a plaid shirt, an old dress—might be the stuff of attic trunks, but these items are still presentable to the neighbors. Pumpkins, which can be found in all varieties at your local farm, can be carved for heads. True, the pleasantly hay-plumped folks may not fill any of the neighborhood crows with dread, but they might just provoke a burst of giggles and the occasional shriek from trick-or-treaters who cross their path.

To make your own fall scarecrow, lay out materials on a work surface. You will need two one-by-twos (for a smaller scarecrow) or two one-by-fours (for a larger scarecrow) of lumber ($4.73, homedepot.com). Cut the wooden pieces to size or have it done at a lumberyard or hardware store; the vertical piece should have a point at the bottom. Create a cross by laying the shorter wooden piece horizontally across the longer one, six inches from the top. Drill a hole through center of cross (for a larger scarecrow, drill two holes about two inches apart). Place vertical piece inside shirt, and put horizontal piece through sleeves; join the two pieces with a wood screw ($2.50 for 20, homedepot.com) or two screws for a larger scarecrow.

Lay out clothes and heads for scarecrows: For a larger scarecrow, make the vertical stake one and a half feet longer than clothes and head; for a smaller one, three feet. The horizontal piece should be a few inches shorter than the span of the sleeves. Stuff a shirt with hay. Pull the vertical stake through one leg of pants; stuff the pants with hay. Tuck the shirt into pants; sew the shirt and pants together with needle and thread. Dig a hole in the ground. Use a mallet ($5.47, homedepot.com) to drive in the stake about one foot or until secure; fill the hole with dirt.

Bryan Gardner

Lastly, give him a face: Our scarecrow's face, pictured here, is made of produce and plants—with eyes made of cabbage leaves, a bur-oak acorn cap, and a white bean. A Spanish-moss beard and burlap cloak keep him shrouded in mystery.

At the farmers' market, look for produce that might work as facial features, hair, and props. Plan out the faces you want to create. (Keep in mind that as items dry and wither, the results will change—and perhaps become even more interesting.) Use hot glue to adhere small, hard details, like white beans, and to attach a tangle of Spanish-moss hair. Secure heavier vegetables with wooden skewers; lighter vegetables can be attached with toothpicks. T-pins prevent leaves from blowing away; straight pins work for thin, lightweight items. Fill the scarecrow's head with hay for a snug fit, then carefully place it on the stake.

Once your family settles on a spot, add props such as faux crows and a broomstick. If you're using a shawl or hat, staple it on so it won't get picked up by the wind (or a mischievous squirrel).

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