Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble – A (Belated) Halloween Potion Bottles Tutorial

Today’s post is brought to you by the following poem:

There once was a very bad blogger,
who found Halloween was upon her.
She’d promised to write
About potions of fright
But her camera said the pics were a goner!

Ok, cheesy, I know. I won’t quit my day job. In all seriousness though, I know I promised a picture-laden tutorial on the potion bottles I showed you in the Halloween reveal post (catch that here if you missed it the first go round!). Unfortunately, when I went to write the post on Halloween, I discovered that my camera malfunctioned, and I lost ALL the pictures I took of the process. At first I was going to chalk it up to bad luck, and just skip the post entirely, but my inner Jiminy Cricket kept whispering “a promise is a promise.” So, here it is – a very text-heavy tutorial on the Halloween potions. I am really truly sorry this is so frightfully (Haha. Halloween. See what I did there?) overdue and I’ll try my best to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Luckily for me, Halloween comes around every year, so maybe you can use these next year!

Now that I have my groveling out of the way, lets take a closer look at those potion bottles! You might have caught a glimpse of them here, but I wanted to go a bit more in-depth and share a quick rundown of how I made them. I have been seeing similar projects all over Pinterest lately, and I just knew I had to put my own twist on them. The idea of creating all those lovely labels just spoke to my inner graphic design nerd. What can I say – finding the perfect font, kerning the characters juuuuusssst right, and laying it all out in a pretty vector frame just sets my li’l ol’ heart a-flutter. Of course, the fact that this project gave me a perfect the opportunity to dust off my inner geek and incorporate all sorts of Harry Potter references didn’t hurt either!

Here are some glamour shots of the potion and ingredient bottles all completed to refresh your memory – keep reading for a (picture-less…boo) tutorial and a printable of all the labels I used (since I know not everyone wants to typeset them from scratch, lol).

halloween mantle spells

halloween bar potion ingredients

TUTORIAL – warning: this is long and detailed…I write tutorials the way I would want to read them and in my experience the more detail, the better! Normally, I would break this up with pictures buuuut #technicaldifficulties.

The very first thing I did was start saving bottles and jars. I did end up buying a few at the thrift store and Joann’s Fabrics (similar here), but for the most part I had the bottles laying around my house. Try and get a variety of heights and sizes – it will help make your completed vignette more balanced and interesting. Also try and save some corks if you can – if not you can buy some from the craft store, but free is always better in my book (note: I am not technically advising you to drink wine in order to complete this project, but it does seem a valid method of obtaining corks!). Make sure to thoroughly remove the labels and clean the bottles thoroughly inside and out before you begin brewing your potions.

After I had my bottles collected, I sat down at my computer to create a list of potions/ingredients I wanted to make. I drew on a variety of sources for this – Harry Potter books, movies, Shakespeare plays, fantasy novels I have read over the years, pop culture, other bloggers – this is one of the most fun parts of the process, so take your time. As you list out your items, try and think of something that you could put in the jar to represent that item and make a note of it. For example, I knew I wanted to use dried mushrooms for “Boomslang skin” so I noted that on my list. Keep in mind that these bottles are likely going to sit out at room temperature for at least this year (and possibly more, if you keep them for your decor next year), so try and put things in them that you know will be shelf-stable. We don’t want anything rotting away or getting moldy – that could be a health hazard! Also, if you have small children, try and only use ingredients that can’t harm them if they get into it – although I felt perfectly fine putting cayenne pepper in my “fire salts” mixture, I wouldn’t have done so if I had kiddos. Same goes for the mini liquor bottles I used for several potions. Safety first!

The next step is to match the bottles with the contents. Just use common sense – bulkier items like “Owlet’s wing” will need a bigger jar, while rarer potions would be kept in a smaller jar to reflect their special and limited status. Some of this boiled down to economics – for my “beetle eyes,” I knew I would be buying iridescent seed beads. There was no reason to put them in a humongous jar – that would just mean more beads for me to buy! Common sense, kids – it’s a good thing.

Next up – print the labels, cut them out, and make them look old. Click the link at the bottom of the post to download the labels I used, or feel free to create your own. There are also several other bloggers who have done labels and offered them as printables if neither of those options appeals to you. I printed mine on parchment to give them a head start on looking old – this is similar to the one I used, but any ivory paper will work just fine.

To cut mine out, I used the print and cut feature on my Silhouette Cameo, but it could easily be done with regular old scissors – it would just take more time and patience than I typically have, lol. As for aging the labels, I used Distress Ink in two colors – “tea stained” and “old paper.” You can find it at most craft stores – I got mine at Joann’s and used a sponge dabber (the kind you use for stencils) to buff it randomly into the paper. After all the labels were inked, I crumpled them up and smoothed them back out again to make them look even more decrepit.

With my list and labels made and my bottles obtained it was time to begin the process of modifying my bottles, adhering my labels, and filling my containers. I didn’t paint any of my bottles, but if you want to now is the time. Same goes for etching them to make them opaque or sanding them to distress them. For the most part I left my containers clear – a few of them I did fill with smoke to make them darker and more creepy looking. Check out this tutorial for how I did that.

If you choose to add smoke to the bottles, a few tips/words of caution. The rim of the bottle will get really really hot. Also, only do this with glass bottles. I am sure none of you would be silly enough to try with plastic, but it should be said nonetheless :). Finally, make sure you are using the right kind of candle – soy candles burn too clean and don’t give off enough smoke. What you want is a regular old cheap candle, or – even better – one with a real wooden wick. The smokier and sootier the candle burns, the faster the glass will darken and the better it will look.

Adhering the labels was a cinch. To make things easy, I used my Xyron sticker gizmo for the smaller labels and double sided tape for the bigger ones – no waiting for glue to dry! A few of the tags I wanted to tie onto the bottle, so I just left those aside for the moment and tied them on once the bottles were filled.

Still with me? On to the actual filling! You’ve done your research, you have your list, your bottles are labeled and ready, and now all you have to do is fill the containers.Be creative and use what you have. Colored water makes a great potion, as does colored corn syrup with glitter added in. Look around your yard too – wind-dried weeds can easily become “mandrake root” or “knotgrass.” Pea gravel can double as “bezoar.” Don’t forget your pantry!! I used oil-packed sun dried tomatoes as “toad spleen,” and creamed honey could easily be mistaken for “bubotuber pus.” For “owlet’s wing” I used feathers, and for (albino) “wool of bat” I used fake spider webbing from the dollar store. The sky is the limit – just use your imagination! If you really can’t think of something to put in the bottle, then leave it empty – just spray paint the bottle or sand it so it’s opaque and no-one will be the wiser. If the idea of someone picking it up and realizing it is too light/empty bothers you (or maybe I’m the only one neurotic enough for that to bother), put some plain water or some rice in it to give it some weight.

You’re almost done! All you have to do now is seal the containers. For the bottles, I mostly just put a cork in it and tied the neck with some twine or ribbon to give it a little something extra. The jars were a little more challenging, since they were printed and colorful with their original advertising on them. At first, I was going to mod-podge them with brown paper and distress it to look like parchment. After doing that on one though, I decided that method took too long – I am not a patient woman, and waiting for glue to dry was not something I wanted to do. Rummaging around in my craft studio yielded the perfect solution though. First I covered the lid with small torn up pieces of regular beige masking tape to mimic the look of old paper and cover up the advertising. Then, I distressed them with the same ink I used on the labels to make them look dusty and old. Finally, I layered some fabric netting I got on clearance last year after Halloween over the tops and tied the whole thing up with leather cord and ribbon. This is similar to the fabric I used. The final step was creating the look of wax dripping down the bottles. A little strategically placed hot glue proved the perfect solution. After it dried completely, I took acrylic paint and painted over it to color it red, black, or gold. For the gold I actually used the same sharpie markers I drew on my walls with here.

You’re done! Stand back and admire your work, ladies and gents. If you want to me juuuust like me, you can squeal a little and hop around the room clapping with childish delight, but this is completely optional. I chose to split the bottles up into two groupings – one for the mantle and one on a thrifted silver tray in the dining room. Of course, you don’t have to make nearly as many as I did – I got a bit carried away. Three or four would be perfectly sufficient, and would take much less time to do with the same exact effect. Make sure to comment if you have any questions, and let me know if you try it out – I’d love to see your handiwork! Also, come back tomorrow for another (3 days in a row! woo!) tutorial on the fall mantle hurricanes.

Till next time,

Sarah

Download your free Halloween printable here!

labels

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Halloween Potion Labels by Circa1932 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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Something Wicked This Way Comes…Halloween Mega-post, Circa1932-style

NOTE: I was originally going to break Halloween into several posts, but I got behind on my picture editing (oops!).  Considering Halloween is, well, tomorrow, I almost decided to forgo doing any Halloween posts, since odds are y’all have already finished your decorating.  However, I decided “better late than never” – after all, Halloween will be back next year!  So instead of a bunch of smaller posts – here is one big fat Halloween mega-post for your enjoyment.  It’s pretty long – you have been warned.  As always, feel free to comment and ask questions, and Happy Halloween!

I don’t know what it’s like where y’all live, but in my neck of the woods there’s a crispness is in the air and the leaves are changing.  Fall is HERE and I couldn’t be happier to see it arrive. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I am a cold-weather girl.  Fall is my favorite season, followed closely by winter.  Sweaters and boots, comfort foods like soup and chili, pumpkin-spice everything – I tell you, it’s enough to make a girl grin from ear to ear.

Well, this girl is grinning extra wide because the changing of the seasons also means bringing out new decor, and with Halloween being tomorrow (crazy, right?), the front door wreath, mantle, and dining room have undergone a spooky transformation.  As always, I was working my hardest to stick to a teeny tiny budget.  Luckily, both my creativity and Pin-spiration are free. So sit back, grab a cup of cider, and take a tour through Halloween decor, circa1932-style.

All told, I spent under fifty dollars on everything.  I have limited funds to decorate for holidays, and Christmas always gets the lion’s share since it’s my favorite, haha.  As far as theme/vibe, I’m not really into blood and guts when it comes to Halloween decor, so you won’t find a lot of that here.  Also missing are blatant references to demons, ghouls, and such – I try to keep things family-friendly in case friends with kiddos drop by.

Instead, I prefer to go with what I call “gothic chic” (with an admittedly healthy dose of Harry Potter).  This has a few advantages.  Mainly, I can find decor elements that work and yet still fall outside the traditional realm of Halloween decorations.  Because of this, I can not only use things I already own, but I can also feel confident knowing that many of the items I do buy can be reused at other times of the year.    I know that some people have inexhaustible storage space where they can keep shelves and shelves of things for one particular holiday or event (I’m lookin’ at you Mom!), but in my case storage is limited, and an item that multi-tasks is always welcome.

For the most part, I limited my color scheme to black and white with some metallic accents.  There’s the occasional pop of red or purple in there for a little fun, but it’s few and far between.  I’ve had it up for a few weeks now, and I have to say I couldn’t be happier – even the Doctor (who fails to share my zest for seasonal decorations despite my best efforts to convince him otherwise) made a point to tell me that he liked what I had done.  Win-win!

Ready?  Here we go!

As for the front porch, I kept this pretty minimal this year – a few pumpkins on the steps and this wreath to greet you when you come in.

halloween front door wreath

To create the wreath, I just wrapped a grapevine wreath form with black feather boas I got at the Dollar Tree.  I tucked the ends into the grapevine to secure them, so there’s not even any hot glue to mess with for this step.  I wired on a black crow, also from Dollar Tree, and plopped a miniature witch hat I got at Joann Fabrics on her head to add some flair.  A confession: to get the hat to stay, I pinned it in place with applique pins.  I just stuck it through the hat and into the crow’s styrofoam head – poor birdie!  Finally, I finished it off with black glitter ribbon and some fake flowers hot glued into place (from – you guessed it – Dollar Tree).  All in all, it cost me less than ten bucks for the supplies, and took about ten minutes to make.  If I were going to do it again, I’d probably spray the flowers black, but I’m pretty happy with it despite the purple.

Once you get inside the house (welcome!), the first thing you see is my entry.  I kept this very cheap minimal as well.  I swapped out my owl vase for a mercury glass skull I got at Big Lots for eight bucks.  I also swapped the silver bowl that is usually on the buffet to hold our keys and phones for a white ceramic pumpkin.  It’s supposed to be a cookie jar I think, and I got it at Target for $7.99.  I love how neutral it is, and after Halloween is over I can use it in my fall decor.  I have plans for that ‘lil bugger, but you’ll have to wait and come back to see what they are!

halloween entry overview

halloween entry pumpkin

halloween entry skull

Moving into the dining room, the focus is all on the table.  See?

halloween tablescape overview

 

Here’s a closer look:

halloween tablescape mid

halloween tablescape skull

Hello there pretty bird!

Hello there pretty bird!

halloween tablescape back

The side facing the wall – even the napkins are getting into the Halloween spirit!

Here’s the skinny on the tablescape. I started with a white twin bedsheet (I think it was $5.00 at Walmart?) as the base.  Over that, I added a lacy black tablecloth that I got at a thrift store for around $6.00.  If you are looking for something similar, I saw some in Big Lots this year – they even came with an orange tablecloth as well (bonus!).

The central tree/branches came from Walmart. I got them many moons ago as part of an art project I did when I was in college (on second thought, better make that many MANY moons ago).  Originally they were all white, but I sprayed some of them black with spray paint to add some contrast.  Most of the year, they reside on my mantle in a vase, but for Halloween they made the perfect framework to perch some more dollar tree crows on (they are just wired on – no glue).

To get the branches to stay in place, I filled a smaller vase with uncooked rice (small pebbles, kitty litter, or beans would work too), and shoved carefully buried the branches in the rice until I was happy with the placement.  The rice weighs the “tree” down, and gives the branches stability.  Then I just put the smaller vase in my larger hurricane vase and filled in-between them with faux spider webbing to hide the interior vase and the rice.  Tip: the more you stretch the webbing out, the more realistic it looks.

To finish it off, I added some gold mercury glass candle holders that I got at Target and Homegoods earlier this year, as well as a mixture of clear candlesticks and metal candlesticks from the thrift store.  A black glass pumpkin from Homegoods’ after Halloween markdowns last year and a chalkboard skull from Joann Fabrics ($5.00!) round out the centerpiece.

Since the only items I bought were the skull, the napkins, the crows, the spider webbing, and the tablecloth, I spent a grand total of $20 bucks for the tablescape.  Pretty snazzy, huh?

We’re almost done – all that’s left is the bar, and the mantle in the living room.

For the bar, I knew I wanted to make a spellbook and potion ingredients as a nod to one of my favorite series – Harry Potter.  Here’s what I came up with:

halloween bar overview

halloween bar spellbook

halloween bar potion ingredients

The spellbook is just an old book from the thrift store that I glued some new pages into.  I created them on my computer, printed them out, and then aged them with tea and distress ink.  To up the spook factor even more, I added a skeletal magnifying glass that I got at Homegoods several years ago.  I saw them there this year as well, so you should still be able to find them.  They come in the gold I bought as well as an aged silver color I believe.  The potion bottles were another DIY – I cobbled together a bunch of ideas I saw on Pinterest to create them.  I think I went a bit overboard with this particular project, but it was so much fun coming up with the labels and ingredients, I couldn’t stop myself!

Last but not least is the mantle in the living room.  Here’s an overview shot (please ignore the unfinished built-ins):

halloween mantle overview

And a few close-ups for your viewing pleasure:

halloween mantle spells

halloween mantle crystal balls

As you can see, I added a crepe paper wreath over the mirror.  Go here to learn how to make your own.  I also hung up a Halloween banner I found at the Dollar Tree, and popped a spooky printable from A Night Owl into the frame where our wedding photo usually sits.  Finally, I added some more potion bottles and some creepy “crystal balls” (inspired by the fabulous Flamingo Toes) atop thrifted candlesticks.

So there you have it – the our little cottage all decked out for All Hallow’s Eve.  Make sure to come back tomorrow for the potion bottle tutorial, and feel free to ask questions or leave comments – it makes my day to hear from y’all!

Till next time,

Sarah