Friday, November 29, 2013

DIY Giant Gingerbread Skaters for Christmas!

Yes, yes...I know I've been slacking on the posts.  I'm working on it, I swear.  But I just COULDN'T let the holiday season slip by with out sharing these giant DIY gingerbread skaters with you!

The kiddo participates in her rink's holiday benefit show every year to raise money for our local charity, 6Stones.  The show is free and the entire community is invited to skate for free with Santa, Frosty, and the cast of the show.  It's a full day of fun for which the skaters prepare weeks in advance.

I like to volunteer to make props.  There's lots of excitement for me at the beginning and at the end, with lots of fussin'-and-cussin' in the middle.  I work late nights and long hours for weeks on props that will only be on the ice for less than two minutes.  My husband likes to stroll by and call out the length of the program just to hassle me.  "Minute, 17...", he'll say, meaning it will only be on the ice for one minute, seventeen seconds.  Truly, you'd think he'd know it's not a good idea to taunt a tired skate mama while she has power tools in her hand!

Anyway, back to the gingerbread.

Get Some Foam
I started with Owens Corning Foamular 150, 1" x 4' x 8' sheets of rigid insulation foam.  I found mine at The Home Depot with the rest of the home insulation products.  This is thicker than the kind I normally get, which is good for the durability of the props, but proved tricky to cut.  Beware:  The pink foam has fiberglass in it, so you'll want to suit up with the appropriate safety gear when cutting and sanding.

Create a Stencil
I free-handed a gingerbread man stencil and cut it from poster board.  If free-handing is not your thing, you could find a gingerbread coloring sheet and have it blown up at your local copy shop.  Mine are roughly 22" wide x 28" tall (without the skates) and I was able to get four cut out from one sheet with plenty of foam left over for another project.  Tape your stencil onto the foam with loops of painters tape and outline with a Sharpie marker.

Cut Out & Sand
I drilled holes in all the curved areas of the design since saw blades don't turn easily.  Practice on a scrap first to get a feel for it since the bit will walk when drilling foam.  I then used a drywall saw to do a rough cut about 1/2" outside my lines. (It's worth the extra work to do a rough cut, trust me.) Once you have all your rough cuts done, come back through with an electric turkey knife and cut them down to the line.

Your edges will be a bit rough, but no worries, they sand down beautifully with some fine grit sandpaper.  To get into the small curved spots at the base of the neck, I wrapped the tube from a pants hanger with sandpaper to create my own sanding tool.

Paint & Decorate 
I ALWAYS use Behr paints for everything.  They're the best in my opinion.  For these, I chose Rio Rust S190-6 in an indoor/outdoor semi-gloss latex and sprinkled gold glitter on the wet paint. The little cheek blush circles were made with some acrylic paint I had on hand.  The "icing" is just simply shiny, white tile caulk sprinkled with crystal glitter while still wet.

The buttons are Christmas ornaments I found at Hobby Lobby.  They came six to a package and happened to be the perfect size!  I just cut off the hanging loop and used a LOW-TEMP hot glue gun to attach them.  High-temp glue guns will melt the foam. (Ask me how I know.)   
Add a Tutu
My darling daughter made ALL SEVEN tutus (she's a good kid) using a technique like shown here:

You can stop there.  OR you can add some fun skate blades!  They're a bit tricky, and every blade has to be custom cut and fitted to each foot, so only do this step if you're a glutton for punishment like me.

Skate Blades
I used standard foam core board - like the kind used for school projects and often found with the poster board.

Again, I created a stencil with poster board allowing a long stretch at the top of the blade to make it easier to fit around the curved foot of the gingerbread.  I used a simple Xacto knife to cut them out.  You'll be tempted to go ahead and glitter them now.  Don't.  They'll be a pain to glitter once they're attached, but you'll be much more likely to get them attached properly if you heed my advice.

Line the blade up, draw some guidelines and cut off the excess.  Insert sewing pins into each of the stems, keeping them parallel to each other.  Cut off the heads of the pins with wire dikes. Insert pins into the foot, leaving a gap.  Apply hot glue (low temp, remember?), hold in place until adhered well.

To glitter blades, I coated with Polycrylic clear gloss, sprinkled liberally with glitter and let dry.  After they were dry, I put another coat of clear gloss to give it a little more durability.

I'm also creating a gingerbread house for these seven gingerbread skaters to hang out in until it's their time to skate with the girls.  Hopefully, I'll get the tutorial for that one up in time for your holiday decorating! (*fingers crossed*)

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