Halloween Craft: Teasel Spiders

I don't know where my mother got this idea, but this has been a craft that my family has been making since I was in 3rd grade--at least. And I'm sure my brothers and sisters made it before me. A friend and I had to create something to sell for my school's economics fair, and my mother presented this idea to us. It was of course the coolest thing we had ever seen! Now that my son has an economics fair coming up (well, an entrepreneurial day fair) he decided he also wanted to create them to sell.

These spiders are both fun and cheap to make, and children love them because they look cool and feel prickly. (These are not for young children.)

Before we get into the directions, let's learn about the plant we'll be using! The more I've researched this plant, the more amazed I have become. Its life is such an interesting one, starting from its first few years as a rosette of leaves, to its years of seeding and flowering. Here are some of the most interesting facts about this plant:

Common Teasel
 Photos from Wikipedia

  • Teasel is an invasive plant that likes areas with a lot of sun, and often grows in open fields or on the side of the road in odd places. I honestly can't give you better hunting tips than those, but they're in almost every state in the US. Just drive down a road that has lots of grasses or brush on the sides of the road and you're likely to find it.
  • The leaves of the teasel grow in such a way that they form cups that collect rainwater.
  • According to a study posted in the National Library of Medicine, this plant species is thought to be slightly carnivorous, since their seed production received a boost during the study when dead insects were placed at the bases of these leaves.
  • Teasel cant take three years or longer to flower. Researchers have been able to predict within an 80% chance when the plant will flower by measuring how long the leaves have grown.
  • Teasel seeds provide great winter food for some birds, especially goldfinches and blackbirds, and are sometimes used in nature preserves to attract such birds.
  • The average teasel plant produces around 3,300 seeds!
  • As Wikipedia tells us, some types of teasel have been used in the past in textile production as a natural comb. (Bonus survival tip!) This is where the plant's common name of teasel comes from, referring to the action of teasing wool. 

If you or your children want to learn more, here is a great Teasel Fact Sheet from the Learning Center of the American Southwest.

Making The Spiders

Teasel seed heads (get a good variety of sizes)
Spray paint (I use black, but any color will do)
Pipe cleaners
Googly eyes of all different sizes
Glue gun with glue sticks
Fishing line (optional)

1. Gather teasel seed heads (see hunting tips above). You'll need thick gloves and heavy duty shears (or a good knife). Every part of the plant is poky, and if you grab it in the wrong way the can go through your gloves. Honestly though, gathering them is half the fun! Get a good variety of sizes. All shapes of stems and spikes are great--they make the spiders look very cool.

2. Shake out the teasel seed heads really well. You will find so many seeds! Make sure these get thrown away or scattered around the highway somewhere, unless you want teasel growing in your own yard. :) If they are green from the season or wet from the rain, let them dry out.

3. Spray paint the heads. You'll have to let them dry then flip them over and spray them again, otherwise the spray paint will just drip off of the bottoms. You might have to do this a few times, as there always seems to be a tiny strip that escapes the spray. We were using spray paint that we had lying around from other projects and ended up running out of black...so we got a little creative with the other colors we had. I've never used other colors before but they ended up looking pretty cool!

4. Cut pipe cleaners to the desired leg length and glue them on. I like to put a glob of glue on the end of the pipe cleaner then slide it deep in-between the pokey parts.

5. Glue on the googly eyes. With these, the former stem becomes the nose and the eyes go above. You can get some very interesting looking spiders if you use your imagination to decide what is what. This is my favorite part!

6. If you want to hang these from the ceiling you can wrap fishing line around their bodies.

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