How to make a cactus hat: Tutorial

Posts ONE TWO THREE!
So you think you can make a cactus?  I spent the last week making a cactus hat for someone who wanted to pay me for it ! This gives me endless joy.  I am very proud of myself for completing it so quickly, and now I can start on a new project that is more time-sensitive.  This is for Halloween, but I think it’s fashionable any time of the year.  Step-by-step pictures after the jump:

Find a balloon and a newspaper. Blow up the balloon, cut the paper into strips, and layer it on with a mixture of  flour,  hot water and some salt (to keep the mold/bugs away).  Do a layer or two, let it dry completely, put another layer on.  I did a  third so it’d be nice and hard.

This would definitely look better the other way. Tilt your head.  To make paper mache (wheat paste): heat some water on the  stove and add some salt.  Slowly add flour until it maintains a goopy consistency.  Try to mash out any lumps.  I used mine three days, and just added a little hot water from the kettle to make it workable again.

My first go at a cactus blossom.  It did not pass J’s muster.  The needle-felting techniques from First Stitch helped me so much on this.  I think felting flowers together gives you much more control on the structure.

Here is the second version, pre-modge podge.  See how more realistic this one looks?

After all the layers dried,  I found a bell jar that fit my head and used its base to cut the headband hole (I don’t know what you should do if you don’t happen to have bell jars of differing sizes laying around).  Once I was sure it would fit a head alright, I reinforced the opening with another layer of paper mache.  It doesn’t hurt to try your creation on a model to get a feel for how it wears.  This model’s skull was much too big, owing to the great amounts of interview prep he was stuffing himself with all week.

I used Fast Mache (paper pulp) to make little globs, and stuck in toothpicks cut in two.  For the top of the cactus, I made the spines a little smaller.  

Before the Fast Mache hardens, stick your globs to the form and press them down around the edges.

I drew lines to make sure things were symmetrical, but things did get a little off. 

That flower you saw earlier? I painted on three coats of modge podge so it would look waxy.  Verdict: looks fucking fantastic.  The felt just drinks up the modge podge so it ends up very solid.

I started to paint the green directly on the newspaper, but that was silly.  I started with a coat of white to cover up with newspaper.

After the white dried, I started the painting with eggshall  and  leaf green Cerama-coat acrylic.    I painted the spines first so I could be messy, then did the green.   Truth be told, if I ever have to make a cactus again, I’ll do things differently.  This took the longest of any of the steps, because I attached all the spikes before the whole thing was painted.  Time-consuming to say the least, but it was so beautiful on Saturday I didn’t mind sitting on the back porch and listening to the radio while doing it.  

So how does this stay on a person’s head?  I made a little cap out of felt.  It’s a bit hideous, but if it’s doing its job, you can’t really see it.  This also prevents the cactus from irritating your forehead.

So proud of this damn beanie.

I attached the two cactus blossoms with some fishing line attached to a button on the inside.  They can easily be taken off and made into something else if the owner wants to.    I added two little ribbons on each side to attach through holes in the bottom of the cactus (made with a hole punch).  You just knot them and voila!  I also add a chin strap, though the cap keeps in on your head nicely.

I had to add a totally silly Myspace profile shot.  As you can see, the base of the cactus sits on the puffy brim of the beanie.  I wouldn’t head-bang in this, but dancing is just fine.