As the name suggests, scarecrows are traditionally used to keep crows and other birds away from vegetable crops. Apart from being a familiar sight in vegetable gardens and allotments, scarecrows are an increasingly familiar sight in villages and towns as scarecrow competitions become ever more popular. Their efficiency as bird scarers depends on the design and the materials used: birds are more likely to be deterred by anything shiny, moving, or making a noise, rather than a static figure. Whatever the purpose of your scarecrow, making one is a fun and creative project for all ages as well as a great way to recycle old clothes and oddments into something decorative and useful.

How to make a scarecrow

Alternative scarecrows made using terracotta pots
Alternative scarecrows made using terracotta pots

Before you start, see what you have in the way of materials and plan your scarecrow design accordingly. Rummage through old clothes, ask friends and family, or try charity shops. Do consider the environment and take care not to use anything that might have an adverse impact, like plastic bags that would soon degrade, blow about and create litter, or anything potentially dangerous like glass or mirrors. Then gather everything together, along with any tools and fixings, and you’re ready to start making your scarecrow.

  1. Make the frame that will be the base for the ‘body’. You’ll need two sturdy pieces of wood for this, such as old broom handles, either nail or tie them together to form a cross. Do this so the lower part of the upright is longest, as part of this will be in the ground
  2. Make the head. An old hessian or cotton shopping bag is good for this, or a hessian sack. Stuff it with loose material such as straw, dried leaves, or old clothes cut into pieces. Don’t use paper which would soon become sodden with rain. Tie or sew up the bag almost completely, leaving enough of a gap to slide it onto the frame later
  3. Create the scarecrow’s features – the eyes, nose, and mouth – by either embroidering on using thick thread or sewing on buttons of varying sizes
  4. Use a pair of old trousers to make the lower half of the body. Secure these onto the horizontal part of the frame using two lengths of stout string as braces, tied to the belt loops of the trousers. Knot the ankles, or tie them up, and then stuff with more loose material
  5. Make the top half of the body by putting the jacket on the frame. Knot or tie up the ends of the sleeves, then stuff with more filling material
  6. Put the head on. A hat makes a great finishing touch, as does ‘hair’ made out of wool or garden raffia
  7. Your scarecrow is ready to stand in its place. Make a deep, narrow hole using a post hole borer or an iron bar, if you have one, rather than just trying to push the base of the frame into the ground which rarely gives enough support)
  8. Add some bird-scaring finishing touches. Things that shine or make a noise are ideal, such as strings of bottle tops, CDs, or aluminium drinks cans