Thursday, 13 October 2016

Halloween workshop - a step by step guide to making and decorating a witch's hat

A witches hat made out of two sheets of A3 black card and decorated with crepe paper, scrap fabric, stickers and white pencil.
My daughter's hairstyling doll wearing a finished witch's hat. The doll's head is probably similar in size to that of an 8-9 year old child but, because it ties on, the hat can be worn by all ages including adults though do check the measurements at the end of the post if you are thinking of making it for a very young child.
A few days before Halloween I will be leading a workshop for a group of children and teenagers and have made witches hats for them to decorate. I'm writing this blog post because, though I found a lot of information about making a witch's hat online, I couldn't find a quick and cheap way of producing them - important when you need to make twelve and are on a budget. Also, because I made the hats in advance I needed a design that would fit everyone up to and including those with adult sized heads. So I came up with my own version of a witch's hat based on what I saw in various blogs.

Read on to find out how I did it and if you make a witch's hat yourself remember that they don't have to be perfect, witches aren't known for their neatness (at least that's what I told myself!).

Note: I'm based in London UK, used metric measurements and one of our standard paper sizes. A3, according to Google, is 11.69 x 16.53 inches. If you look at how to make the templates for the cone and the brim you may be able to work out how to adjust the measurements for other paper sizes. You can convert my measurements to inches online. Let me know if you find any mistakes in my instructions below and do get in touch or leave a comment if you have any questions.

Making a witch's hat 

Materials used to make each witch's hat:
2 sheets of A3 (297mm x 420mm) 220gsm (reasonably sturdy) matte black card
Double sided tape
PVA glue
Two lengths of 500mm ribbon (for ties)
Plus an HB pencil, a craft knife, a stapler, scissors, a compass and a ruler

Large sheets of black card are expensive but I was able to find packs of A3 (420mm x 297mm) card online and in shops that were affordable. I designed my hat so that the two components (the cone and the brim) would each fit on an A3 sheet. Try to get matte card if you can because it is easier to draw on and decorate.

Witches hats made out of scrap paper.
Witch's hat cone prototypes made out of sheets of scrap A4 paper taped together to make A3 sheets. The one I chose to use was a trade-off between height and head-room.
I undid my medium height, medium head-room cone prototype to use as a template. If you are making more than one witch's hat you could use the first cone you cut out to trace around to produce the others.

A template for a witches hat placed on A3 black card.
The template for the cone of the witch's hat sitting on a sheet of A3 card waiting to be traced. It would be possible to make a taller hat but bear in mind this would have an impact on the circumference of the base if you are trying to fit within an A3 sheet.

The radius of my cone template is 215mm. To create a similar cone place the point of your compass on the bottom edge of the sheet 215mm in from the left edge, start your line on the lower left corner and keep going until you hit the right side of the sheet, then draw a straight line between that point and where the compass point had been.

Cut out your cone using a craft knife or scissors.

Then start making your brim.

Cutting a brim for a witches hat out of A3 black card
Making a brim for a witch's hat.
To make a brim for the hat use a radius of 88mm for the inner circle, the radius of the outer circle is around 148mm to fit within the width of an A3 sheet (297mm). Again, if you are making more than one use your first as a template. To find the centre of your sheet of card draw diagonals from the corners that cross in the middle.

Once you've cut out your brim(s) bend your cone(s) into shape.

Witches hat cones made out of a sheet of A3 card
Some of the witch's hat cones I made.
Overlap the two straight edges of your cone by about 10mm at the base (because of the shape it won't overlap at the point but the overlap will gradually widen to the base). Secure the cones with double sided tape and a line of tape on the inside. If you are using thick card I recommend bending it into a tight cone a few times before taping it together so that it holds the shape well.

Next add ribbons ties to secure the hat to the wearers head.

For some reason stapling the ribbons to the witches hats was the hardest part of the process for me, very fiddly!
I used pink ribbon for the Halloween workshop hats because I happened to have a roll of it but you can use any colour you like. Attach a 500mm length on either side of the inside of each hat, with the smooth side of the staples facing inwards (to avoid catching on the wearer's hair) and at least 15mm up from the bottom edge.

Make scissor cuts all the way round the bottom edge of the cone roughly 15mm deep and 15mm apart.

The cutting measurements are for guidance, it's fine if the tabs are uneven - they will be hidden by the brim.
After cutting the tabs on the bottom edge of the brim fold them outwards. Test that the brim fits the cone. Some of my hats were a tight fit but once the edge of the brim was softened with glue I was able to squidge them together. However you can enlarge the inner circle if necessary. Don't worry if there is a gap because the inner circle of the brim is a bit too big, it will be covered by a hat band later. The most important thing is that there is enough of an overlap between the tabs and the brim to be able to glue them together.

Next tuck the ribbon ties inside the hat and secure them out of the way with tape so they don't get covered in glue.

Run a line of glue along the top side of the tabs at the base of the cone.

Slide the brim over the cone on to the line of glue and leave to dry.

Witches hat supported as it dries upside down
A witch's hat on a drying rack made out of a storage box and two rulers. I found that I needed to keep pressing the tabs down as the hat dried, you can see here that they had a tendency to pop up.
When the hat is dry unstick the ribbons so they hang down and you are ready to decorate.

A witches hat made out of 2 sheets of A3 card
The staples and any rough edges on the join between the cone and the brim will be covered later by decoration.

Halloween workshop - decorating a witch's hat

Materials used:
White pencil or crayon
Black card left over from the construction of the witch's hat
Crepe paper
Scrap fabric
Halloween stickers
Also scissors or a craft knife, a hole punch, glue and double sided tape

I used an ordinary white pencil to draw on the brim of the hat, I chose to doodle little Halloween themed drawings such as spider webs and skulls but creating textures or writing would also look good. It is possible to draw on the cone as long as you support it from the inside with your hand as you draw - you'll notice on the finished hat that I drew some scales on the tip of the cone. You could use scrap card left over from construction to try out ideas.

A witches hat brim decorated with halloween doodles.
The card I used for the witches hats had a matte surface that took white pencil very well.
Using scrap left over from the construction of the hat I cut out a little bat to dangle from the brim.

A bat cut out hanging from the brim by wool.
Here is a bat but spiders and skulls would also look good.
I made a hole in the brim and the bat using a hole punch and hung the the bat from the hat on a length of wool.

Then I made some hair.

Crepe paper hair to be attached to a witches hat.
I bought a packet of crepe paper that had nine different colours.
The easiest way I found to make the crepe paper hair was to use fairly small segments (120mm - 150mm wide) and to build up the hair bit by bit starting from one of the ribbon ties and ending at the other. Each crepe paper segment was cut into strips that ended around 30mm from the top edge and a strip of double sided tape was put into the gap.

Crepe paper hair in a variety of colours.
I took the backing off the double sided tape and applied the crepe paper hair segments to the inside of the cone at the lower edge. I then plaited some segments together and tied them with lengths of wool.

Then I created a hat band out of scrap material (crepe paper could be used instead) and stuck it to the hat with a couple of pieces of double sided tape.

A final touch was a Halloween spider sticker.

A witches hat made out of two sheets of A3 card and decorated with crepe paper, white pencil, sticker and fabric scraps by Amanda Lillywhite
This is the sample witch's hat that I will take to the Halloween workshop.
The hat is approximately 195mm in height and the diameter at the bottom of the cone / inner edge of the brim (where the head goes) is approximately 175mm. The diameter of the outer edge of the brim is around 297mm.

If anyone decides to make a hat please upload a photo into a comment!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Illustrated poster / cartoon abstract for a PhD thesis about stakeholder influence

A cartoon abstract by Amanda Lillywhite for a PhD thesis by Mark Panton - How do stakeholders influence stadium-led regeneration
For a summary of Mark Panton's research go to
Mark Panton asked me to create a cartoon abstract for his PhD thesis "How do stakeholders influence stadium-led regeneration?" for use online and as printed hand-outs. Comics and cartoons are increasingly being used in academia to support and/or impart information. In this case the cartoon is a small taste of the research, a lead in to the thesis.

The cartoon format allowed me to pack in a lot of information via the conversations between the characters. Using two different colour ways was a means of giving a flavour of the differences between the case studies relating to football stadiums in East Manchester (Manchester City Football Club) and Tottenham (Tottenham Hotspur Football Club) that Mark used in his research.

For a summary of the research go to the Birkbeck College, University of London, Sports Business Centre website Mark can be found on Twitter at @MarkLPanton.

Friday, 23 September 2016

One Hundred Thousand Jumpers - illustrations for a story about adoption

Front cover for One Hundred Thousand Jumpers by Rachel Braverman
It was a great pleasure to work on illustrations for Rachel Braverman's story about an adopted girl struggling to fit into her new family. The title comes from the theme of the book: Becca's adoptive mum is a keen knitter. The front cover is above and the first of the five black and white illustrations that appear on the story pages is below.
Becca is feeling unsettled in her new home and can't sleep.
The book is not yet in print, I'll update this post when it is. If you'd like further information about it you could contact me via this blog.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Comic making workshops for teenagers and adults at Barking Learning Centre, London

A poster about reading and the process of making of comics to promote workshops in Barking learning centre.
My poster for the workshops - feel free to print it off or share it.
From October 22 to November 26, on Saturdays from 11.30am to 1pm, I'll be leading a series of six workshops for teenagers and adults on the process of making comics.

Participants will be creating characters, storylines, worlds and scripts then they will make their own story in comic form. Beginners are welcome and you don't need to be good at drawing, I'll give you some tips to make the most of your skills. You might decide to make a comic strip, a zine or to start a graphic novel - the skills we'll be exploring apply to all formats of telling stories. If you need it you can have help coming up with a story idea. If you have created a comic before please feel free to bring it along.

We'll also be looking at the wide range of comics, zines and graphic novels already published. I'll bring along some from my own collection and will show the group books from the library.

The workshops are suitable for people who've never attempted to make a comic and/or with little experience of reading them. They are also suitable for those who've tried to make a comic and would like to develop their skills. This will also be an opportunity to meet people that share an interest in comics.

I'm an enthusiastic reader of comics, zines and graphic novels and occasionally write about some of my favourites on my Sequential Art blog. I started my creative career as a graphic designer then became a freelance illustrator and writer. I make comics such as Duck and Bear (a story about an illustrator and a writer). I am currently working on a graphic novel for adults based around the murder of my great grandmother and a commission for three illustrated stories which will be published in a book for children.

The workshops are free and materials will be supplied, if you'd like to come along please make sure to register at Eventbrite. The workshops are part of the LBBD Pen to Print festival. As mentioned before there are six workshops but you don't have to come to all of them or could try one and see how it goes.

If you have any questions you can contact the library by email or phone 020 8724 8722. You could also send a message to me via this blog or Twitter or Facebook (though do friend me first to make sure I receive it).

We had a good group in the first week but a couple of people couldn't make it so are starting at the next session. If you'd like to come along as well please use the above links to contact me and I'll let you know what we've done so far.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

CWISL ShoutWest! storymaking festival for school children 2015

Margaret Bateson-Hill's compilation of photos from the ShoutWest! Festival 2015.

ShoutWest! was my second storymaking festival since joining CWISL earlier this year (the first was ShoutSouth!) held at Brunel University in West London with local schools taking part.

The children, illustrators and writers were divided up into three groups: Leopard, Tiger and Panther. I was with the Leopards along with writers Sara Grant, Cate Sampson and Jamie Buxton plus around 30 school children and their teachers.

For Margaret Bateson-Hill's storytelling, Mo O'Hara's drama and Bridget Marzo's illustration workshops the Panthers, Tigers and Leopards all got together.

Other workshops were done within individual groups: The Spark (getting story ideas), Character Passport, Spot the Plot and Mad, Murky & Moody.

The Character Passport session was my first chance to lead a CWISL workshop. I love talking about creating and developing characters so this was ideal for me. I spoke about the importance of characters, how the look of a character can tell us a lot about them including their backstory, how the choice of character can affect the story and drive it along. Then we worked on a character profile as a group and after that the children worked on profiles for characters in their stories. Some wonderful, and highly imaginative, work was done by the children - some of it will be available to view on CWISL's website for under 16s

CWISL are already talking about the next ShoutWest! Festival to be held again at Brunel University in November 2016. I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Illustration talk/workshop for Level 2 students at Lesoco College

Students working on their responses to the creative brief I gave them.
Earlier this week I went to Lewisham and Southwark College (Lesoco) in south London to talk to Level 2 students about my experiences as an illustrator and I also set them a creative brief task to create a character.

As arranged with their lecturer, Mary Campbell, I had two hours to talk. I decided to give an overview of:

  • My education.
  • My background in graphic design and animation.
  • The many and varied clients and projects I have been involved with. (I had quite a large portfolio with me!)
  • How I work with clients.
  • Sources of illustration work.
  • How to look for work.
  • Publicizing your work.
  • Useful education and training for self employed illustrators.
  • Support groups and networks for illustrators.

That was a lot of talking and unfortunately I didn't realise I was starting to run over time until shortly before I had to finish. The students only had 20 minuttes or so to draw their responses to the character based creative brief I had given them. They were amazing, they all produced something and many of them managed to create interesting characters that would be viable.

The students are looking for work experience placements in illustration, design or related businesses, studios or agencies in London. If you can help please contact art and design lecturer Mary Campbell at the college or send a message to me and I'll pass it on.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Character sketches for a story by Rachel Braverman - 100,000 Jumpers

Becca and Oscar rough character sketch by Amanda Lillywhite
Rachel has asked me to create chapter header illustrations for her story for 8-11 year olds. It's about a 10 year old girl called Becca who has just been placed for adoption and is finding it difficult to settle in and trust her new family. Mummy Mo is Becca's adoptive mother, Fallon is her new big sister and Oscar the cat is her new best friend.

At the moment I'm just getting to know the characters by sketching them, my next step will be to start working on ideas for the book illustrations.
Fallon and Mummy Mo character sketches by Amanda Lillywhite