Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Halloween Party: Luminous Wands

8 more days to Halloween and I'm halfway through the costumes! The plan is to finish the dresses this week and work on footwear all next week, plus the perishable stuff for Jenna's party, like the cookies and other treats. 

Today we'll be making one of the unperishable elements of her Halloween party: luminous wands! 

There are many directions a person can take with a Halloween theme. Jenna wanted nothing to do with ghouls and dead people. She wanted dress-up and candy and treats and pumpkins instead. And "darkness but glowing" (i.e. not scary). So I thought we'd do do wands for the party craft. Not delicate fairy wands with streaming ribbons and flower toppers but regal scepter-like things you can really cast good spells with, and dispel foul shadows with, and that you could even engage in noisy swordfighting with. Like lightsabers with their safety catch on.

All you need is dowels,

plastic Christmas ornaments

and glow-bracelet light sticks.

So here's the how-to.

First, you buy dowels. Ours were 3/4" dowels, which we bought at Michaels (Joann has them too, as will most hardware stores) in one-yard sticks. We sawed ours in thirds so each wand-stem is a foot long. We chose 3/4" ones because they wedged exactly into the openings of the ornaments.

Then you paint them. Or you let the birthday girl paint them. Whichever involves less crying. We Jenna used acrylic paint.

When the paint is dry, we wrapped painter's tape around the dowels in a spiral. I split the tape in half with my craft knife to get it this narrow.

I thought they actually looked quite pretty already with the painter's tape on

until we actually finished painting on the stripes and Mod Podging them. Whoo, those are sparkly! 
You don't need to use Mod Podge, incidentally - and I'm saying this especially for our non-USA-dwelling friends who may not have access to Mod Podge. The only reason I used Mod Podge at all in this project is because I had a bottle of Sparkle Mod Podge, which makes things turn out looking like they'd been coated in fairy dust. I'd just as soon use regular polyurethane varnish (buy it in the same section as the acrylic paint), too.

So those wand-stems are done. Set them aside. Now let's make the wand toppers.

Go buy some blank Christmas ornaments. Michaels has them for about $1.50 each. Look for the plastic ones. They're the ones that are sold singly. Do not be tempted to buy the value multipack - they look the same, but they're actually glass. I got fooled, and had to return mine. Can't have glass and small children at the same craft table - that's just idiotic. The ones we got were the flattened-circle ones, not the spherical ones. They accommodate the glow sticks more easily than the round ones. These had 3/4" openings. We stuffed a dowel in to test for fit before loading our cart up. You probably should, too.

Pull the top off and discard.

We chose to paint our ornaments to render them translucent, but you can leave them plain (and -if you have leftover Sparkle Mod Podge) sparkly. We wanted the glow sticks inside to look a bit more diffuse.

So first coat: Sparkle Mod Podge Sparkle (again, because we had it on hand). 

This is a sample of some of my acrylic paint. The one in the middle has "transparent" on the label and the one on the right is "semi-opaque". This is just to show you that acrylic paint comes in different opacities, so pick the one you like most. 

This is a pretty opaque second coat of white over the Mod Podge. It is sort of grainy (because of the glitter in the Mod Podge coat) and nicely diffused. Jenna, however, didn't like how it looked when it wasn't glowing.

She wanted silver instead. A bit more transparent, and more streaky than grainy, but prettier. Paint as many coats as you think you need to get the lighting effect you like.

When the paint is dry, stick the toppers on the tops of the dowels and your wands are complete! Because the dowels varied slightly in diameter, we had to sand/file a few down a teeny bit to ram into the ornaments. Takes a few seconds. Best to do it before painting, though! 

To make them glow, activate a light stick, curve it into a circle (but don't secure the ends) and slide it into the ornament before installing it onto the wand stem. We designed our wands this way so the glow sticks were removable - they could be replaced when they faded and the kids could change the color whenever they wanted to. To remove the glow stick, especially if the end has slipped well into the ornament, just use pliers to grab and yank it out. 

Before I elaborate on how the Wand Decorating Craft will proceed on the day itself, here's a little explanation on how we do mess control when crafting at parties. While I am very tolerant of messes when making things (my sewing room is Exhibit A), my kids are trained to manage their mess so they don't actually damage furniture or walls. For instance, they instinctively grab newspapers and cardboard sheets to line tables and the floor when they're working with anything wet and permanent (like Sharpies). And all glitter work gets done on the driveway or in the garage, even in the dead of winter. I drill these rules into them hard and they know that in return, they get to work with "Mum's good stuff (like my good oil pastels and art markers and fancy pens)".  And occasionally, when they forget, they are absolutely horrified when they realize they've gotten Sharpie ink on the kitchen table. When that happens, we get out the solvents and give them an impromptu chemistry lesson. I am pleased to say that this very rarely happens nowadays, even with little Kate. And I am comfortable letting them have access to paint, glue, glitter, glitter glue, colored sand and permanent markers -they have earned the right to them.

But back to our parties. Since I can't expect other kids to be similarly crazy-trained in The Art of Managing Mess, we play it safe and avoid anything wet. So absolutely no white glue, hot glue, glitter glue or anything of the sort. And glue sticks are useless for anything 3D, so we use glue dots and stickers. If you've been following our parties, you might have noticed this trend: all our crafts involve only decorating, not actual constructing. And all sticking is dry: adhesive sheets, duct tape, glue dots, stickers, labels. The one time we were foolish enough to try white glue, the adults had to help and it was so ridiculously messy and ineffective and frantic that I swore never to do it again. At Jenna's party, the craft table will be laid out with these - glue dots, beads (the transparent ones work best for this project), glow sticks, permanent markers and tinsel. The kids get to dry-decorate their ornament toppers, pop in a glow stick and take home their wand. 

Here's a sample (this is a spare spherical ornament I had lying around) of what it might look like when it's all dolled up.

And we'll send a tube of glow sticks home with each kid so they can swop colors 

and keep casting happy spells all the way into Christmas. 


  1. Super fantastic! Is the party party going to be in the evening so they can glow in the dark?

    1. No - although that was Jenna's original hope, along with decking our house up to look haunted (but not very scary). We vetoed everything, in the name of practicality. These are 5-year-olds afterall!

  2. Another lovely party craft idea. I wish we had awesome craft shops in London. It seems like noone crafts or sews here, and it's almost impossible to find anything.

    1. That's a shame! You have fabulous fashion there, though, and Marks and Sparks. And Orla Kiely. Sigh.

  3. This is a fabulous idea! Someday I will make one of these...

  4. Wow I wonder if I can locate those ornaments in Australia. For this and Christmas ideas

    1. Plumpeachy: try Spotlight? Or Ben Franklin's?

  5. You are a flipping genius! My daughter and I went to Michaels yesterday and bought the supplies to make a wand or two. She will be a princess for Halloween so this wand is perfect!!! Thank you very much for dreaming this up!!!!!!

  6. This is so cool! I want to make these with my nieces!

  7. You are a genius! We went to Michaels yesterday and picked up the supplies to make one for my daughter to carry Halloweeen night. Thanks for this cool idea!

  8. this is terrific! and thanks for the ideas for decorating at a party as that's exactly what I was wanting to do! Except I was considering letting them paint--but aha! no more thanks to you :)

  9. OH MY GOSH! These are awesome! I love your creativity. I wish I could whip up a halloween costume like you did for your kids. But alas, quilting and applique are as far as I plan to go with sewing. I so need to make these!

  10. This is so cute! I will make these with my girl scouts one day :)

  11. Well I said I needed to make these. And I did! Thank you AGAIN for a wonderful idea. This time I made your wands into Bat signals.

    I totally love the idea of the spiral tape. I think it makes the wands look so fancy. And it was so easy!

    I gave you credit and a link back from my blog. Here's my version.



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