Monday, October 6, 2014

DIY Solar Light Up Ghosts


These cute little ghosts will be the star attraction in your Halloween display this year! They look simply spook-tacular set out in the yard, welcoming the trick-or-treaters as they approach. They stand just over 3 feet tall (about 37 inches), and can be made in just a few hours! There's no need to worry about stringing extension cords across the lawn either. They light up as soon as the sun goes down, and stay on most of the night, without raising your electric bill! So grab your glue gun & a few supplies, and let's get started on these adorable little ghouls.

This is actually my second time making these little guys, and I have made a few improvements - worked the kinks out, you might say. One thing I changed was the shroud material. My first attempt was made with just an unhemmed white cloth fabric material (whatever was on sale), but it proved to fray terribly in the strong winds of fall. So this time, I am using white, full size, flat bed sheets instead. I chose them because they were fairly inexpensive and already had finished edges. If you find a good sale on fabric, and are handy with a sewing machine (I am not), feel free to make your own if you like. The next thing that I did, was add a few more fastener and tie down locations. Like I said the winds were not kind to my first models. I was having to basically reassemble them almost daily, but that should not be a problem anymore. 

There. Now that we have that covered, let's get to it... 

You will need the following materials: 
  • 2 - 5 foot Tomato Cages (actual size 54 inches)
  • 1 - Wire Coat Hanger
  • 2 Clear Notebook Paper Page Protectors (optional)
  • 2 - Twin Size, White, Flat Bed Sheets
  • 1 package - Outdoor Restore Pressure Sensitive Nylon Patches, black (see picture)
  • 1 package - White Velcro Fasteners
  • 4 - 2 inch Styrofoam Balls
  • 8 - 7/16 inch Eyelets (optional)
  • 6 to 14 Metal Stakes (depending on eyelet use)
  • 2 - Solar Yard Spot Lights (the kind with the separate, tiltable, solar panel)

Grab these tools as well:
  • Lineman Pliers
  • Chalk
  • Scissors
  • Hot Glue Gun / Glue 
  • 2 Safety Pins
  • Hammer 
  • 7/16 inch Eyelet Tool (if using)

Method:

The first thing you'll want to do is shape your tomato cages. Flip them over so that the top ring is now the base. Using your pliers, fashion a hook into the end of each straight wire. Then, bend each wire over the top and loop the hooks around the first ring on the opposite sides. Tighten the hooks to secure them. They should now look like this...



Now, straighten out a wire coat hanger as best as you can (It doesn't have to be perfect.) and cut it in half. Then cut each half in half again. This will give you 4 lengths of wire, 2 for each ghost. For each cage, attach one wire to the now top ring on each side, by bending it around the ring at a point where the cage wire crosses. These will be your arms, so make sure you have it stout enough to stand out on it's own.

To each end of the arm wires, we're going to add the Styrofoam balls. (I had a terrible time with the wires poking through the fabric of my first ghosts, so this is another 'fix'.) Just poke the wire about half way through the ball, and add a small dob of hot glue so it stays in place. Attach a small piece of Velcro to the top of the ball . (Even though mine were self sticking, I chose to also glue them as an extra precaution.) 






Your frames are now complete! Time to work on the shrouds...

My sheets were pretty wrinkled when I pulled them out of the packaging, so I ran them through a quick wash before I started. 

Gently place a sheet over each ghost form. Position it so that the long side runs front to back, and the short side is by the arms. Make sure you have it where you want it, and mark the position of the forehead on each ghost with a safety pin. Pull the sheets off and lay them out on a hard surface, positioned where you can easily access the face area. 


I also made an adjustment to the frames at this point. I didn't like how the fabric in the face area would bend and curl around the wire, so I taped a clear page protector across the front of the wire to help fill things out. If it doesn't bother you, just skip this step.




One of the best things about this project is that since you create the faces, you control how scary or friendly they look. Keep in mind that you will need to work with solid shapes that are not extremely detailed. I suggest making a few sketches on paper & then deciding on the two faces that you like best. The outdoor restore comes in packages of 2 - 8 inch square pieces. You may have to get creative with your placement in order to fit all of your pieces onto it. I recommend drawing the faces out to scale on paper, and making cutouts that you can rearrange on the outdoor restore as needed. Once you have them laid out, trace around the shapes with chalk. Now, use a sharp pair of scissors to cut them out. Once cut, simply wipe off any remaining chalk with a damp paper towel. Reassemble the faces onto the sheets just below the safety pins. Apply them to the sheets according to the package directions. (They are pressure sensitive self sticking patches, so they will stick just by pressing them on. However, I noticed that after some time the edges may start to lift. You can either just glue them back down at that point, or you may want to go ahead and add a little glue now.)




Remove the pins and place the sheets back over the ghost forms and make any final adjustments to the positioning. Note the location of the Velcro on the balls and attach the corresponding pieces of Velcro to the sheets, in the proper positions, with hot glue. You may want to also add a few spots of Velcro along the edges under the arms to close those seams, but that is totally optional. 



Take the sheets back off, and if you're using them, add an eyelet to each corner of the sheets, using the eyelet tool & according to package instructions. (This step is recommended in windy environments. The eyelets will allow you to stake down the shrouds separately, so they will stay in place better.) The eyelets require a thicker section of fabric, so you'll need to fold the corner over and place it through both layers. 




Now it's time to set up your ghosts! 

Figure out a fairly level location, and one that gets a good amount of sun. Start by positioning your frames, and staking them down 3/4 of the way, with three stakes each, evenly spaced, over the bottom ring. Replace your shroud, and fasten all Velcro closures. Position the sheets how you like them, and tuck as much of the bottom edges of the fabric as you can, under the bottom ring. Carefully reach through the arm openings, and pull the sheets from the inside, if need be. Once you've done that, finish driving in the stakes. If you are using them, go ahead and twist up the excess fabric and stake down the corner eyelets (inside the ghost) too. This will help to keep your ghosts in place and looking right. Position the solar spotlight so that it shines up into the ghost from the back. Tuck the fabric between the spotlight and the solar collection panel. Make sure to position the panel so that it will receive the most amount of sunlight possible.




There you go! Two spook-tacular little ghosts, ready to greet everyone who passes by - Day or Night. 




My camera is not all that great on night shots. They really do look so much cooler than this picture depicts.


Happy Halloween!
     








    

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