My mom is an amazingly crafty person. I don’t remember ever having a fully store-bought costume – the kind that comes as a one-piece suit with a mask, or what have you. Sure, as we got older, some of the accessories for our costumes were purchased items, but by and large, our Halloween attire was either entirely hand crafted, or cobbled together with odds and ends from the dress-up bin and around the house. It worked for us. One year, my brother even won a contest for his “banshee” get-up: a cape, a crazy old wig, and googly eyes that he had to squint his face around to hold in place.

Overall, I believe in doing what keeps you sane. Last year, I couldn’t get it together to create costumes, and while I wasn’t happy, it also wasn’t the end of the world. The girls were happy. And if the crafty stuff isn’t your thing, that’s cool. We’ve all got a place to shine, yes?

Well, this is my place. I love Halloween. Not for the fear and the gore and the grotesque, but for the creativity! The opportunity to create. I love the details – the right high-button boots, the authentic Army surplus jacket, the period hairstyle. I love the challenge of pulling it all together with minimal financial investment (hooray for avoiding consumerism), and I think it teaches a good lesson on being resourceful.

I got it together this year, and my littles dressed as the Very Hungry Caterpillar and the Beautiful Butterfly. I spent a whopping total of $19 on red hats, felt for eyes, posterboard and tissue paper for wings, and ribbon to tie both costumes on. We had everything else, and I have a little bit of all the purchased materials left over for future projects.

Everything was freehanded. I made patterns for the wings and caterpillar body out of craft paper, and went from there.

All of the green fabric came from a stash, either mine or my mom’s, and I lined the body with pieces of an old green shirt of hers. Before starting, I had Swee lie down on the paper, and marked her shoulders, waist and knees for reference before sketching out the shape of the body. Rough strips of the green were patchworked together to make segments, and then two pieces were cut out, front and back. I stitched ribbon ties between the segments and the lining at the shoulders and hips so that it would fit over warm clothes (it’s chilly here in Maine!), turned it all right side out, and top-stitched all the way around. I would have liked to stuff the segments to make them fluffy, but ran out of time…and brain power.

The wings are made from a sheet of posterboard with bits of tissue paper decoupaged in layers on top. I referenced the book’s illustrations to mimic the color scheme, but didn’t worry too much about being exact. And I used plain old Elmer’s to glue felt eyes onto the hats. Everything held up pretty well.

We had a good time trick or treating in our little village, and the girls were happy. They cruised around in their wagon and practiced their manners at each doorstep. Our town events committee organized snacks and games in the Community Center, and a “trunk or treat” on the town beach since there aren’t many houses in the village. The library had crafts and the fire department gave out treat bags. We ducked out before the costume contest, and went home to sort our loot before falling into bed. As we were snuggling, Swee began a litany of what she wants to be next year, and the year after that, and the year after that…

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