October 29, 2013

Make Fake Vines and Stems

Wanting some more vines for another pumpkin patch
(this time between two metal black cats at the front porch)
but NOT wanting to make another foray into the woods
for more vines, I tried to make fake vines and stems. 

This project would be good also for folks who don't 
have access to areas to collect vines or don't want to 
have encounters with large spiders and their webs or
get multiple chigger bites (like I did getting vines for

Finding real pumpkin stems to replace lost or crummy
stems on faux pumpkins has not been easy for me.
Stem replacements made from old vines or sticks are
OK but not that real-looking.

A couple of years ago I made starfish shapes out of 
canned insulation foam and decided to see if the foam
would be able to make vines and stems too.

For the experiment, I got two different kinds of foam from
Walmart.  They were about $3.50 each.

Here is about the amount of vines/stems you can 
expect from one can...

...and two cans:

Here is the texture difference between the two 
cans if you were wondering or have a preference.

Keep in mind that the canned insulation foam expands
a lot after it is sprayed out.  

It will stick to anything that it touches when it first comes 
 out.  Follow all the safety directions on the can. Keep any
 children or animals away from the foam until it is dry. 

 I have used waxed paper for spraying the foam out in the
 past since it is clear and it WILL be stuck to the back of
 your foam shapes but I was feeling cheap this day and just
used newspaper since I was going to be painting the foam. 

Be prepared to spray the whole can once you start.
It hardens in the application spout/tube quickly so 
you really can't stop and start or save it for later use.

All of the crazy items on the newspaper are to hold it
down since a gust of wind blew up the paper right 
after I sprayed out the foam...almost a disaster. 
Those shapes in the bottom left of the above photo are SUPPOSED to be pumpkins stems
 but they look  like they belong to Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater.

The foam just kind of does what it wants to so 
don't expect too much control over the results.

Here is some foam vines that were left overnight on
the newspaper...trying to curl up.

This is tricky (and I'm SURE not recommended so don't
attempt if you have concerns) but when the top of the
foam is feeling firm (about 30 minutes after getting out
of the can) if you pull the shape off of the paper, it
will have a slightly more rounded shape on the back
when it dries completely. 

The foam shapes can be cut with a serrated knife.
The cut surfaces will be rough and bubbly-looking
and are harder to paint so try to cut as little as possible.

Here is an attempt at a spraying out a pumpkin stem
 and vine together...

What looks like a claw was supposed to be those
pointed areas where the stem and pumpkin
attach but that was a "fail".

To be able to attach the above foam stem/vine to a 
faux pumpkin, it would need to be flatter so the
claw part was just cut off after the foam had dried.

Use an old knife that you will throw away or only use
for crafts after cutting the foam with it. 

The foam can be painted with acrylic paints.  It takes
a little longer to dry on the foam (maybe due to the 
slick surface?)
To get the paint to stick to any cut surfaces, it is better
to add some plaster of paris (from the craft stores) to the
paint with enough water to make it brushable. 

You can get pretty good coverage with one coat of
acrylic paint.  For a little more realism, I used about
three different greens/browns coats watered down...
you don't have to do that for still a good look.

I should mention that this project took more time 
than I had anticipated but it was enjoyable seeing
the results. Tom Kat would beg to differ that it 
was worth the time spent. 

Some of the vines were so long that I just painted 
them in the grass in the backyard so I didn't have
to "carpet" the house with newspaper to catch drips.

Some of you may only want pumpkin stems for your
faux pumpkins and not the vines. Here is how the foam ones

They kind of look like pickles.  

The acrylic paint only looked too flat so I tried different
finishes to add a little sheen.  It is hard to see in the photo
but the Krylon satin clear spray turned out the shiniest.
I kind of liked the others better.
To add some sheen to the vines, the sprays were much 
easier and faster...either matte or satin looked fine on them.

To attach the painted vines/stems to the faux pumpkins
I used Gorilla glue because it does not "melt" foam. 
There are probably other glues that would work also.

This picture shows a fake pumpkin stem I made a couple
 of years ago from polymer clay...it was time-consuming too.

An important thing to know about Gorilla glue is that it
(like the canned insulation foam) expands as it dries.

This had an unexpected benefit in that if enough Gorilla
glue was used in attaching the stems, it made a more
realistic connection between the flat bottom of
 the foam stem and the faux pumpkin.

The blue painter's tape is to hold the stem in place
as the glue dries.  

The Gorilla glue can be as dangerous as the canned
foam if you get it on you before it is dry.  I used a 
wooden skewer to pull some of the glue up on the 
stems as it expanded as it dried.  

Some of the glue was also added to the upper stem as an
enhancement to try to mimick a real pumpkin stem. 

The dried glue seemed to take acrylic paint just fine. 

The stem-only pumpkins are part of a vintage Halloween
vignette on the kitchen table.
If you would like to see more of the vintage Halloween
items in the kitchen (and how to make your own) click on
"Vintage Inspired Halloween Folk Art".

Adding the expanding glue to the stems may be going into  
 "Crazy Lady" territory. The stems also also looked just fine
 with just enough glue to hold them to the faux pumpkins.

Attaching the stem/vine combo to the pumpkin is a
little trickier since the weight of the stem needs to
be supported as the glue dries. 

Here is the above pictured pumpkin "in action" as
it tries to hide the pot of plants masquerading as
pumpkin leaves.

The garden center ran out of sweet potato vines so
bean plants were put in orange painted pots that were placed
near pumpkin stem/vine junctions.

I was hoping that the pots being painted orange would make
them look more like pumpkins but it didn't help much. 

Only trick or treaters coming to the door will see 
the pots very well.  Should I move the vines for Halloween
night or just hope the kids can step over them? 

You don't have to use real plants for your patch.
The large orange pumpkin and the multi-color one in
the photo below rely mainly on artificial leaves
to cover the vine/stem connection.

The thicker the vine, the less likely it is that it will break
but it is also less bend-y.  Plan on the larger vines running
on top of or beside the pumpkins and mimick a connection.

At first I tried connecting the vines and pumpkin stems
with fishing line because it is practically invisible.

On one connection point the fishing line failed and the
vine also broke.  Both problems were fixed with floral wire.

At each connection point, the pumpkin stems were painted
to match the vines.

Here is a small patch that utilizes a thin and thick vine:

It is probably the most visible "patch" as folks turn down
our street and see our house. 

The vines were painted a bright green to match the color of
the sweet potato vines scattered around the yard and
 in the urns.  The orange and green colors really "pop". 

The vines at the porch are not very realistic up close
but they are almost whimsical and are easy to see 
from the street (where most folks will see them from).

If you would like to see how to make the Halloween
spider web wreath on the front door, see
 " How to Make a Ruffle Wreath".

The back porch also has a couple of foam vines/stems.
This large white faux pumpkin had lost its stem.

It got a new foam stem/vine combo replacement.

It was attached with Gorilla glue initially and then as
the first layer of glue dried, more glue was added
to build up the look of the connection.

After the expanded glue dried, it was painted.

The long stem arches back into the planter to
give the look that the pumpkin is growing 
out of the planter.

Twelve years ago before large white faux pumpkins
were available in stores, I attempted to make one out of 
the canned insulation foam. For a base for the foam,
I taped together two large purple plastic bowls.

The foam had to be applied in sections at a time to allow
for one side of the foam to expand and dry before proceeding.

It has not been out of the attic for at least nine years.
The paint is almost completely gone.  Since this is my year 
to repaint/rehab old faux pumpkins, I brought it down.

"Goose Bump" pumpkins are popular now so I tried 
to make the gnarly pumpkin resemble one of those.

The insulation foam pumpkin got a new foam stem too.

It is happy to be out of the attic and on the back porch.

As usual, I only have my decorations out in the nick-of-time.
I don't like being a last-minute person but I am. 
If you like the foam vine/stem idea, you can "pin it" for 
next Halloween or use the concept during the year if you
need props for other holidays, school/church plays, or
bachelorette parties. 


  1. Wow-That was a lot of work and that is a great idea. What a fun project and I love how it pops from the street. I didn't realize that Gorilla glue expanded like that. OMG- I always thought I was putting too much on and it seeped out. LOL- Blond- yep- blond! xo Diana

  2. Whew! I love how you get so creative with your projects! This is absolutely wonderful! I used foam insulation in urns to hold xmas topiaries in place and had the biggest mess. And I was just spraying the stuff in it. After the season was over I had another mess trying to remove it from the urns. I swore I would never use the stuff again but your idea of making stems and vine is worth another try. Although I need to be in the right frame of mind and patience to tackle something like this. But I just love your creativity and really look forward to what you come up with next!

  3. Oh my goodness, this is totally genius. I love this idea and it looks so beautiful. Thanks tons for linking to Inspire Me. Hugs, Marty

  4. THAT is definitely better then dealing with chiggers & spiders! good job!!!!

  5. How strong are the vines? Can they support their own weight when hung?

    1. I'm pretty sure that the thicker vines could support their own weight when hung. They might not survive a long horizontal span but if they were supported every six feet or so (maybe with fishing line for invisibility?), I think they would work. The thicker ones would be fine hanging vertically. The thinnner vines were pretty fragile and broke easier than the
      thick ones so I'm not sure they would support their own weight.


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