History of Scarecrows
The use of scarecrows goes back farther than when Dorothy visited the land of Oz. In fact, the first recorded version of a scarecrow goes back to the Egyptians, thousands of years ago.
Early scarecrows didn't look anything like what we see today. For example, in 2500 BC, the Greeks carved scarecrows to look like Priapus (the son of the god Dionysus and the goddess Aphrodite) and accessorized them with a bat to scare birds and ensure a good harvest. The Japanese dressed their scarecrows in coats and hats and accessorized them with bows and arrows to make them look menacing. German scarecrows were fashioned to look like witches. Interestingly, it is believed that the symbolism of the scarecrow’s outstretched arms (like that of Christ hanging on the cross) signified a warning—death those to might trespass on the property.
Scarecrows weren't the only thing to guard fields during harvest time. Did you know that men actually often guarded fields against all sorts of pests? Historical records show that the Pilgrims would stand guard on crops at night, and that the Creek Indians would commonly move their huts to the middle of fields to keep their crops safe.
Today’s modern farmers rely on pesticides and technology more than simple scarecrows to keep their crops pest-free. Regardless, the scarecrow is still a symbol of harvest time, and it holds a whimsical place in autumn decorating.
No matter what your purpose is for installing a scarecrow, you can choose to make it funny or scary, dress it in old clothes, or even show off your team spirit with coordinating colors. Whether you choose to display a scarecrow to keep unwanted pests from your garden, wish to have a chemical-free deterrent, or just want to celebrate the season, making your own scarecrow is a fairly simple task.
Materials: What You'll Need
- Burlap sack or pillowcase
- Paint or permanent markers
- Old clothing (such as overalls, plaid shirt, gloves, shoes, socks, bandana, hat)
- 2 wooden supports (such as a broom or rake handle)
- Nails/hammer or screws/screwdriver
- Rubber mallet
- Safety pins
- Stuffing material (such as straw, leaves, rags, plastic bags, or old nylons)
- Slip one of the wooden supports through the arm holes of the shirt.
- Create the shape of a cross with two wooden supports and secure the two pieces together with either nails and a hammer, or screws and a screwdriver (your choice). Make sure to keep the support pieces at a 90-degree angle.
- Determine which direction you want the scarecrow to face and drive the stake into the ground with the opening of the shirt pointed in the proper direction.
- Tie off the waistline of the shirt with twine.
- Button up all but the top three or four buttons of the shirt.
- Tie off the arm sleeves with twine. Add gloves and attach with twine if desired.
- Insert your desired stuffing into the chest cavity of the shirt. Add enough stuffing so that the shirt starts to take on a solid shape.
- Tie off the bottom of both legs of the overalls and insert stuffing until the legs and torso are sufficiently full.
- Loop the overalls into the “shoulders” of the scarecrow’s shirt and attach the buckles. Add more stuffing to the inside of the overalls if necessary.
- Insert overall legs into a pair of boots if desired.
- Form the head of the scarecrow by inserting stuffing into a burlap sack or pillowcase.
- Gather the sack together and insert it over the top portion of the body support. Tie the neck portion closed and adjust stuffing to resemble the shape of a head.
- Paint (or draw) face shapes onto the scarecrow’s head. Go with the classic “Raggedy Ann” triangle shapes, or with the traditional round eyes and stitched-mouth look.
- Set a hat on the scarecrow’s head. Attach it to the sack with safety pins.
- Stuff your scarecrow with quality materials such as straw, leaves, rags, plastic bags, or old nylons.
- Avoid stuffing the scarecrow with paper products, such as newspaper, because it will become misshapen and soft.
- DIY Network: Making a Scarecrow
- Modern Farmer: Hay, Man- The Curious Life & Times of Scarecrows
- History? Because It’s Here: Scarecrows Historically Speaking