Fairytale Mushrooms and Tutorial

Alice in Wonderland mushrooms
Giant Alice in Wonderland mushrooms lit up at night

 In the middle of September, it was still boiling hot here in Israel and I was hiding inside in the air conditioning, working on my website. My neighbor stopped by and told me she was planning a big, fancy 40th birthday party for herself, with an Alice in Wonderland theme, Fun! She hired me to make four GIANT  (3′, 4.5′, 6′ and 7.5′ tall) mushrooms as decorations for the party. I’d never made giant paper mâché mushrooms before, but when I had my store, we made lots of big props, so I was confident that I could do it. I went shopping at a hardware store and a fencing shop for supplies.          

Alice in Wonderland base structures
base structure of chicken wire, tape and paper mâché

 Each mushroom was made with chicken wire, masking tape, electrical tape, sewing boning, newspapers, golf umbrellas, sheer fabric, twinkle lights, paint and varnish.          

Alice in Wonderland mushroom, base
6' tall base structure

 It was important that the base of each stem was wider than top part. This stem had to be reinforced with 2 broom sticks and a big flower pot after it was finished because the weight of the cap started to make the chicken wire buckle.          

Alice in Wonderland mushroom, caps
building the mushroom caps

  The mushroom caps proved to be the most challenging part to build. Because each cap was built on an umbrella, many paper balls were needed to fill in the spaces between the umbrella wires, or each cap ended up looking exactly like an umbrella!          

Alice in Wonderland cap
The mushroom caps were built on top of umbrellas

 Many layers of paper mâché were needed for the cap to keep it’s rounded shape; the caps became very heavy in the end. The dried, paper mâché cap shapes were pulled off the umbrella before the cap was put on top of the stem.          

Alice in Wonderland, umbrella base
The paper mâchéd umbrella was too heavy for the mushroom stems

 I started working on the mushrooms early in the morning so that the first layer of paper mâché would dry and I could apply at least one more layer that day.         

Alice in Wonderland mushrooms
Building the mushrooms

 I started working on the mushrooms mid September and by the end of October, the weather each evening was very humid. I carefully carried each mushroom piece into my house so the layers of paper mâché would dry completely.         

Alice in Wonderland, stem and cap
A stem and cap in their begining stages

 Sometimes people would be walking by our garden as we were coming in our out of the gate. They would stop and stare at the mushrooms and ask why we had giant mushrooms in our garden. It was quite a site to see as each mushroom “came to life”.         

Alice in Wonderland party mushrooms
The mushrooms were all very different shapes and sizes.

 I had envisioned the mushrooms looking very geometric, but in the end they were all different sizes and shapes and not so perfect. I liked the way each mushroom was a different shape and the imperfections took on an organic/realistic feel.         

Giant mushrooms
The 7.5' mushroom as seen from my kitchen window.

 My neighbor wanted the mushrooms to be psychedelic. I used tie-dyed looking fabric for two of the smaller ones, the tallest one was red and yellow and the 6′ mushroom was painted in natural colors. At the party, the mushrooms colors couldn’t be seen because they were set up in a dark corner 🙁 but the twinkle lights that I put inside the gills were beautiful and the best part of the mushrooms.          

Party mushrooms
The two smallest mushrooms with tie-dyed fabric tops.

  The small, delicate layers under a mushroom are called gills. I made gills for each mushroom from sheer, gathered fabric. I gathered about 5 to 6 meters of fabric for each section of the gills. The gills for the biggest mushroom took about 20 meters of fabric!         

gills of a mushroom
It took 20 meters of fabric to complete the gills of this mushroom!

 I thought the mushroom gills were beautiful; it took a long time to gather and sew the gills. I made the gills from sheer fabric so the twinkle lights could easily be seen through it.          

white mushroom gills
White mushroom gills

 It was getting very near party time, December 18th. By this time, I’d been working on the mushrooms for 3 months. Every morning I would carry them outside and every evening, I’d carry them inside so the dew wouldn’t make them soggy.         

Mushroom gills
A close up of the white mushroom gills

 By the first week of December, the mushrooms were almost finished and I had pneumonia. I did a little more work putting the twinkle lights inside the gills and putting wool around the bottoms of the stems. The girls posed with the mushroom so you can see their scale.    

Giant mushrooms, party
Elli is standing under the tallest mushroom, 7.5' tall
giant mushroom
The girls are showing you the scale of the biggest (not tallest) mushroom.

 I wasn’t able to attend the Alice in Wonderland themed birthday party to see my mushrooms twinkling in the background, but I know they were wonderful!        

Alice in Wonderland mushrooms at night
Mushrooms at night

 I’ve been asked how to make the giant mushrooms, so I’ve included a tutorial at the end of this post. Continue reading “Fairytale Mushrooms and Tutorial”