- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 25, 2005

On homes, in yards and on costumed trick-or-treaters, Halloween decorations are everywhere this time of year, says Nancy Schuhmann, owner of Mrs. McGregor’s Garden Shop.

In the 20 years Ms. Schuhmann has owned the Arlington store, she has seen interest in the holiday increase. Customers are asking for Halloween items beginning in July; more customers are purchasing the items; and more products are available from her distributors, she says.

“Now, Halloween is a very big theme,” Ms. Schuhmann says.

In fact, Halloween is second only to Christmas in sales of holiday-themed items, craft and fabric retailers say.

“It’s a festive time of the year,” says Chris Maffia, store manager of the Baileys Crossroads A.C. Moore store. “The upcoming holidays are the most important holidays for people. It’s the beginning of the Christmas season.”

Halloween, the eve of All Saints’ Day, is an extension of the dress-up games children like to play, says Jo Paoletti, associate professor of American studies at the University of Maryland in College Park. She holds a doctorate in textiles.

“There’s a certain naughtiness to it, dressing up as something you’re not and playing little tricks,” she says.

The idea behind Halloween is to be creative, says Lyla McDonald, director of human resources and pattern buyer for G Street Fabrics, which has three stores in Northern Virginia and one in Maryland.

“When you make it yourself, you will have an individual look,” Ms. McDonald says. “You don’t have to compromise with what’s out there.”

Making a Halloween costume and decorating in a Halloween or fall theme can be relatively simple, according to metro-area craft and sewing enthusiasts.

Fabric glue and adhesive products are available in craft and fabric stores, allowing the non-sewer to use a pattern to assemble a costume from different materials and embellishments. The products temporarily hold the seams and pieces together, and some are able to last through a few washings.

“Almost all Halloween patterns aren’t going to be too hard. They’re geared to the infrequent sewer,” Ms. McDonald says.

Each year, pattern companies bring out new patterns, keeping the existing ones on the market, including costumes for television, movie, storybook, cartoon and fairy-tale characters; animal designs; uniforms; and historical and period garments.

Ms. McDonald recommends that the beginning sewer choose simple patterns that have few pieces and are for loose-fitting garments, especially if glue is used. The patterns are labeled according to level of difficulty and include pictures and step-by-step directions, she says.

“You don’t have to spend a lot of time and detail on it because you’re not going to wear it more than once or twice,” says Marla Stefanelli, editor of Sew News magazine, a Primedia publication in Golden, Colo. “You don’t have to spend time hemming.”

The beginner sewer is better off starting with simple items such as making a cape, which has two seams, or a toga, says Karen Koza, spokeswoman for the Home Sewing Association, a nonprofit organization in Monroeville, Pa., that supports and pro-motes the home-sewing industry.

“Start small, but start with something you could use over and over again,” Ms. Koza says.

Costumes and makeup can be made and assembled to give an impression or suggestion of something else, says Sarah Veblen, founding member of the Baltimore Chapter of the Professional Association of Custom Clothiers, which is based in Ellicott City, Md.

“You don’t necessarily have to have a complete set of clothing to suggest the character, the animal or the person you’re trying to be,” Ms. Veblen says. “It doesn’t have to be down-to-the-detail accurate. It’s enough to give the idea.”

Ms. Veblen recommends picking out the fabric for the main pieces of clothing in a costume before choosing embellishments, which also can be handmade.

“Once you have the base colors and fabrics picked out, then it gets easy to pick out the rest,” she says.

Wings can be made from a coat hanger, pantyhose and glitter, and embellishments with a ghoulish look can be fashioned with cheesecloth, says Cable Hardin, instructor of media arts and animation for the Art Institute of Washington in Arlington.

As for makeup, a gaunt look can be achieved by using deep purple and red eye shadow in the shallow parts of the face, and bruises can be made with different colors of eye shadow, he says. Dozens of makeup recipes can be found on the Web by typing “Halloween makeup recipes” into any search engine.

“You want to remember to set makeup with a powder before you apply more makeup,” Mr. Hardin says. “Remember what you’re going to do with the costume. Is it functional, or is it display? You can get away with more if you’re entering a costume contest.”

Decorating the front porch and yard is another way to be creative during the Halloween season, according to metro-area craft and sewing enthusiasts.

“You need to pick the look you’re looking for. Are you looking for something that will transition over, or do you want something that is the Halloween scary look?” says Joann Pearson, manager of the creative departmeant at Michaels Stores Inc. in Irving, Texas.

Pumpkins and scarecrows are transitional items that can be used for fall and Halloween and dressed up with something like a witch’s hat, Ms. Pearson says. Other transitional items include straw bales and pumpkins, which can be real or made out of styrene, styrofoam injected into a mold that can be carved, though only battery-operated lights should be used for safety reasons, she says.

Decorating items specific for Halloween include lighted holiday decor, strings of colored lights; fiberglass urns; motion-detector bats and spiders; stretchable spider webs; and homemade stuffed pumpkins, cats and bats.

“Most of the things we have are fun, not anything that would terrify anybody. These are spooky, but fun spooky,” Ms. Schuhmann says.

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