Beautiful Fall Decor on a Shoestring

by Kim Tilley


Ah, the glorious colors of Fall! Who doesn't love this season, with the beautiful leaves, colorful pumpkins and funny scarecrows. Fall has got to be my favorite season! I love to decorate for fall: it's cheap and easy with so many glorious, natural colors around you!

Here are some simple and frugal ideas to get into the swing of the season. I tend to enjoy craft and gardening projects that decorate my home, so many of these suggestions are a bit "crafty". Send me your favorites, I will be happy to post them!

Salt Dough

Whip up a batch of salt dough (1 cup flour, 1 cup salt, 1/2 cup wateror enough to make a nonsticky dough) and cut into fall shapes or use a fall cookie cutter (leaves, pumpkins, etc).Bake at 200 degrees,30 minutes per side, more if item is thick or large. Paint and hang in windows, on a stick "tree"anchored in more salt dough, the sky is the limit! Shape into fall figurines for knick knacks.

Paper Mache'

Combine equal portions of flour and water, soak news paper strips in them. Drape over a form- a balloon, a bottle. dry and add more layers, using a paste of flour and water as "glue" if necessary. You can make pumpkins, Halloween masks, you name it!

Tin Can Luminarias

Use large, clean cans, such as coffee cans. Put water in them and freeze. Tape a "pattern" of the hole you want to punch into the can, then punch holes with a nail and hammer. Be careful! Dump out ice, dry out and paint can, if desired. Put sand on bottom of can, put in candle and light. Arrange several on the ground, liining your walkway.

Paper Bag Pumpkins

Have your kids color some lunch sized paper bags orange. They can color a face or cut holes for face. I wouldn't put candle in these. If you want to have light coming out of them, use white Christmas lights inserted into a hole in the bottom.

Soda Can Ghosts

Recyle and decorate! Step on a soda can (or use a smooshed one), spray paint it white, and add facial features. Hang with string. I saw this done in Crafting Traditions and it was cute, not hokey. The secret was to use the top of the can as the "face" with the drinking hole as the mouth of the ghost. Keep the face simple and sweet. You can add paper arms or draw arms/hands on can.

Scrap Fabric Ghosts

Cut a sheet into squares. Put some polyfil stuffing, balled up quilt batting, or fabric scraps, in the center. Bring edges together, Tie up stuffed part of fabric as "head" of ghosts. Use a marker to add eyes and mouth. Hang from a tree outside or your house or make a "twig tree" to decorate the inside of your house.

Twig Tree

Take a branch with lots of smaller branches on it, anchor in a flower pot or coffee can with plaster of paris, salt dough or cement. Gather acorns, tree "helicopter" seed pods, and other interesting nuts and seeds. Hot glue onto a styrofoam or straw wreath. Accent with a fabric bow of fall colors (or one or those fall-leaf print fabrics). Tear the fabric for the bow for a "primitive" country look.

Press fall leaves under heavy books or in a flower press. Try to get lots of different colors and shapes. Hot glue to a styrofaom wreath. (I saw this one in Martha Stewart's Great American Wreaths book. Lots of great ideas in there!) Pressed leaves can also be framed, used to decorate a homemade card, or to decorate a table.

Why not make acorn napkin rings (hot glue the acorns to tied fabric strips) and stick in a few leaves with the napkin? Or why not put a beautiful centerpiece on a bed on freshly fallen leaves?

Grow yourself some gourds! Or buy some! They are so much fun to paint, and come in so many sizes. One year I mistakenly planted gourds near our house instead of pumpkins. We had over 40! The vine was gorgeous during the summer, it climbed up our deck. When it came time to cut off the small gourds, we found that we had tall and short ones, smooth and bumpy. We painted the bumpy ones as witches and Frankensteins, and painted the smooth ones as mini pumpkins and ghosts. I kept the faces very simple and sweet. The kids loved getting in on the act!

The almighty pumpkin - Ok, fall isn't fall without pumpkins, so I TRY to grow some every year and I usually wind up with two or three. We put our uncut pumpkins on the porch as decoration for as long as possible, then cut them for jackolanterns a day or two before Halloween. If you have a steady hand, pumpkin painting can be fun too and you can still cook the pumpkin (make sure you wash off the paint though!)

Mums are so easy to grow. Buy some this year and enjoy them for years to come, both in the garden and in your house. I find them to be pretty long lived as a cut flower. Fresh flowers are the ultimate decoration! They are easy to propagate too- just split them into small plants, each with a little bit of root on them. Plant them and keep damp for a week or two. Next year, you will have more mums than you bargained for!

Dried cornstalks make neat door decorations outside, along with a homemade scarecrow or a pumpkin. Tie them together at the top and fan out teepee style in the front yard.

One of the cutest door decorations I ever saw was a Halloween "trick or treater". Someone draped fabric soaked in liquid starch over some balloons shaped to look like the head and shoulders of the trick or treater. Then they stuffed a pair of childrens' jeans and shoes and attached them together. The top and bottom was all attached so it looked like a small child under a sheet was standing at the door with a trick or treat bag in hand. Sounds weird but it was so cute!

Indian corn - Hang it this year, then save the corn kernels and plant them next year for free decorations! You may also be able to pop the kernels, I don't know if there is any difference between "Indian" corn and "pop" corn, but check before you eat!

Vines - Honeysuckle and grape vines have to be pruned to keep the plants going. Don't throw the prunings away! Use them! You can make all the cool stuff you see in the stores! Just imitate the grapevine decorations you see at craft fairs and stores. Don't have any grapevines to clip? Ask your neighbors, trashpick them, most people will not mind giving them to you as long as you ask! If they are dried out when you get them, soak in some water before bending into shapes Wheat weaving- this is a really old craft. Check out projects in nature craft books from the library.

Corn husks - If you grow or buy corn, save the husks to make corn husk dolls and flowers. There are some really beautiful things you can do with cornhusks. Again, check out nature craft and old-fashioned craft books at the library. If all else fails, make enchiladas!

Free houseplants for fall and winter - Bring in some of your veggie garden plants to make edible decorations! After you harvest your cabbage, pot up the root, leaving the top visible and bring it inside. In a few weeks, it will grow new leaves which you can eat! You can do this with many garden plants. I got this idea from "Gardening Naturally", a garden show on TLC. Here are some other suggested plants from the show: root vegetables such as celeriac, rutabaga, beets, endive.

Herbs make beautiful houseplants too. Basil is especially pretty and can be rooted in water! I found this out when I started bringing it in for sauce and placed it in a vase like a cut flower! Just clip a few tender sprigs, and put in water. After about 5 days, roots will start to form. Keep the sprigs watered, changing water if it gets murky. Plant sprigs and enjoy an edible center piece of basil in the fall and winter or anytime!

Dried Apples - These make a wonderful, homey touch. Dip them in lemon juice to reduce browning. You can dry them in rings, stringing them up to dry, or as slices. Use them to create wreaths, garlands, and as finishing touches for a country bow. Add cinnamon sticks for a nice touch.


Kim Tilley is the mother of three boys, ages 9,6 and 2. She is the online editor for a local tv station and the editor of Frugal Moms. She is also a tightwad at heart. Her interests include cooking, crafts, gardening, computers, and saving money! When not typing away at the computer, she entertains herself by chasing kids and finding ways to create something out of nothing!

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