Sunday, October 5, 2014

Halloween Ornament Recycling Project

My girls and I just decorated our house top to bottom for Halloween.  Part of that exciting day is pulling out all of our costumes and seeing what we have to work with.  It is always interesting to inspect the mangled remains of wigs that managed to look decent for one or two days of wear (if you didn't move too much and definitely did not try to brush it). But what can you do with them once they are matted and tangled?  I have the perfect project that will keep that wig out of the landfill AND give you some fun, recycled Halloween Shrunken Head ornaments for years to come!

Here is a list of items you will need

  • Halloween costume wig- the messier the better
  • Creative Paperclay 
  • acrylic paints in browns and black
  • paint brush
  • small bit of wire (or a paperclip) and wire cutters
  • scrap fabric (I rip woven cotton and cut strips of burlap, or raid discarded costume parts)
  • wooden beads
  • assortment of string, twine, raffia
  • scissors
  • Glue (I am using Fabri-tac for this sample and highly recommend it for this project)
  • about 12 inches of aluminum foil

  1.  Begin by scrunching up and shaping your aluminum foil into a rough head shape with a "neck" as shown in the photo.  The neck is important because you will be adding decorative elements later.
  2. My example is made of Creative Paperclay but you can use polymer clay as well. Cover the foil base with the paperclay and rough out a face.  The beauty of sculpting a shrunken head is that you do not have to worry about it being a perfect face.  In fact, the more lopsided, bumpy and odd it is the more character it will have!  If you want open eyes you can simply press black beads into your clay and roll clay eyelids over the top as shown in the photo on the left below.  I wanted mine to have eyes "sewn" shut so I covered the eyes and rolled small pieces of paperclay to look like stitches.
  3. Use a sculpting tool or toothpick to make holes in the lips and ears.  You can also add holes at the brows or insert a stick or broken toothpick through the nose.  Be sure the holes are large enough that you will be able to get your thread through them later.
  4. Cut about 2 inches of wire and twist into to form a loop on one end (as shown in the supplies photo).  You can also use half of a paperclip bent to a similar shape.  Insert into the top of the head. You will attach a string hanger to this later.
  5. Allow your head to dry completely.
  6. Once your head is dry you are ready to give this guy or gal some character!  Paint the head in your selected colors.  I am using a selection of browns and blacks for my example but you can really go crazy here- especially if you have some crazy wig colors, or try glow-in-the-dark paint!  Again, a rough paint job only adds to the rustic charm so don't worry about skill levels, just have fun.
  7. Once your paint is dry it is time to thread your chosen string through the holes in the face and ears.  Tie at least one knot to secure string before adding beads.  Use your imagination and remnants here-braid in raffia, tie in a feather, add a stray plastic spider, etc.
  8. To decorate the neck run some glue around the surface to secure your fabric to. Now take your ripped fabric and/or burlap and tie it to the neck.  You can also add more of your string or raffia here depending on the overall look you desire.
  9. To apply the hair, gather small portions of the wig's hair in about 8-inch lengths and cut in a straight line.  Keep that cut line in your fingers, apply glue along that edge and work the glue into the tips of the hair to bind it together. Set this piece aside to dry and continue cutting and gluing clumps of hair.  Some wigs can be very knotted but keep in mind that this will look great once it is applied and go ahead and cut right through knots or matted areas.  You will need about 5 or six lengths of hair for most heads.
  10. Apply a fairly wide glue strip along hairline on your sculpted head and place your lengths of hair TOWARD the face and neck as shown. This will give you a clean hairline once you pull the hair up to style it.  Wait a few minutes for the glue to set. 
  11. Tie a long piece of twine to the wire loop.  This will be your hanger so make sure it is longer than your hair. 
  12. Now it is time to style the hair. If you have fairly straight hair clumps (like the ones I have here) you can tease the hair for a fuller look. Now gather the hair up above the head and tie it to the twine hanger. Your shrunken head is complete and ready to hang!


  1. I. LOVE. THIS. Been wanting to try something like it for AGES!! Yours is ADORABLE!

  2. A wonderful tutorial. A new follower :)

  3. This is awesome! Love all the details

  4. Nicely sculpt look so real. SPOOKSTACULAR! :)

  5. Quick and fun! Great tutorial. Love your other work too.


  6. This is so COOL! I love the jewelry hanging from his face! Awesome job!