from Pipe Cleaners and Pom Poms to Noodles and (Soy) Balls

December 14th, 2008 11:59 pm by Kelly Garbato

My favorite FSMas decoration by far is the festive Flying Spaghetti Monsters I created last year. They’re really easy to make, too; in fact, once you’ve got the process down, you’ll be birthing these babies like guppies. Recruit a friend or two, and y’all can get an assembly line going: a few Pastafarians to weave the noodles together, and another heathen to glue on the pom poms and googly eyes.

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Surely I jest, right?: If they’re soooo easy to make, you ask, why did I wait until today to blog the instructions? Well, because it’s a huge pain in the ass to take pictures for illustrative purposes while your living room floor is covered with pipe cleaners and pom poms, and there’s a glue gun smoking in the background, and your nosy doggehs are running off with half-finished monsters stuffed in their maws. In other words, please excuse the sub-par photo quality. The pictures I took on Friday didn’t come out quite as nicely as I’d hoped, but there’s no way I’m doing a reshoot. I have monsters to make, peoples!

For this project, you’ll need:

* “Chenille” pipe cleaners, preferably in sparkly shades of red, green, gold and silver (for the noodley appendages)
* Pom poms (round, cushy balls), also with a metallic sparkle, preferably in matching colors (for the soya balls)
* Googly eyes (um, for the eyes)
* Either a hot glue gun or a very strong glue (to keep it all together)

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Of course, you can use any color combination of pipe cleaners or pom poms. Sparkly ones work best for the holidays, but if you want to make a few everyday monsters, more muted colors (plain red, black, beige, orange, etc.) may be called for. Choose your colors for the occasion.

As the Mr. and I discovered while prowling Kansas City for craft supplies, pipe cleaners and pom poms come in a wide variety of shades and sizes, and are available in a number of stores:

* The pipe cleaners and pom poms I used to make my “original” festive FSMs last year, I purchased in The Dollar Tree in November ’07. (These are the sparkly metallic red, green, gold and silver pipe cleaners with the sparkly metallic pom poms in pink, blue, gold, green, etc., as shown in the above photo.) However, this season The Dollar Tree only had plush, plain-colored cotton pom poms and muted chenille pipe cleaners in stock, with a few wayward bags of gold pipe cleaners that I quickly scooped up.

* Since we struck out at The Dollar Tree this year, we hit up the craft chain Michael’s for additional materials. There, we struck the motherload: pipe cleaners and pom poms of most every size and shade! And in bulk counts, to boot! Here, I picked up large bags of red and black pipe cleaners and pom poms, along with a few bags of mixed pasta-type shades (beige, orange/tomato, green/spinach).

* The only item not in stock at Michael’s which we desperately needed was sparkly pom poms, to match our sparkly pipe cleaners. Despair not! – Wal-Mart had those in stock.

Of course, if you’re not in any kind of a hurry, you can probably find even better deals online.

Also, in lieu of pom poms, you can substitute in any appropriately sized round object. During our initial scare at The Dollar Tree, I picked up some weird garland type thingies, which are decorated with green and gold sparkly plastic balls. I figured that, in a pinch, I could pry off the balls and use those instead of the poms. I also picked up a small box of faux plastic cranberries at Michael’s, for a little variety.

A word of caution, though: hard balls (tee hee, I said “hard balls”) are a little more difficult to secure to the center of your noodle mass, since they’re not very pliable. Poms are easier to work with, since they’re squishy – but either will work. And, if you simply cannot find pom poms, you can even roll one or two or three of your pipe cleaners into balls and use those instead.

So. Once you’re got all your materials together, it’s easy rolling.

Start by taking two pipe cleaners; place on on top of the other so that they intersect at a 90 degree angle, and wrap one around the other, twisting the pipe cleaner at the base so that it’s secure. Repeat, wrapping the other pipe cleaner around its mate in a similar fashion, like so:

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Keep repeating this step with additional pipe cleaners, varying colors and lengths (or not), so that the noodley appendages have some variety. By “length,” I mean the point at which you bend the pipe cleaner – I bend most of my “noodles” in the middle, but mix it up a little so that not all of your monster’s appendages are the same length:

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As you weave and wrap the pipe cleaners around one another, you’ll notice that the mass in the middle of the noodles is getting bigger and bigger. This is good; this is eventually where the balls with go! Try to wrap the pipe cleaners in such a way that this mass is rectangular in shape, since a this provides the best “seat” on which to secure the poms. Also, flatten the mass by pressing down on it with your thumb, so that it’s fairly even and smooth:

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This is doubly important if your balls are rigid and inflexible.

Keep adding pipe cleaners until your monster has enough noodley appendages with which to properly smite the unbelievers. Use good judgment; there’s nothing sadder in this world than an impotent Flying Spaghetti Monster:

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Now it’s time to add the eye stalks! Think about how you want to position your monster’s eyes: Do you want them to stick straight up? Bend and weave like an appendage? Flip down and over the balls?

Most likely you’ll only need half a pipe cleaner for the eye stalks. Here, I used a full-length pipe cleaner, which I later bent down and over the balls.

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Take your pipe cleaner and thread it through your noodle mass in order to secure it. When placing the eye stalks, take a good, hungry look at your monster: which end is up? The eyes, of course, will stick up on the top of the monster. With this in mind, thread the eye stalk pipe clean through the top of the noodle mass and pull it through half way. Once through, bend the cleaner at a 45 degree angle so the stalks stick up.

When you’re happy with the eye stalk position (and there’s nothing wrong with experimenting a little, despite what the nuns told you in sixth grade), it time to affix the balls!

Select your poms (or other ball-like material) and place them on that noodley mass in the center of your monster; figure out the exact position in which you think they should go. Next, affix them to your monster, either by dabbing a bit of glue on one ball, then the next (one at a time, natch), and pressing them down onto the mass until the glue is somewhat dry (for hot glue, this is about fifteen seconds.) Alternately, you can dab the glue right onto the monster and then press the balls down, either one at a time or in unison.

If you’re working with faux cranberries or similarly hard balls, glue the balls together first. Truuuust me, they take to the monster much easier as a pair than singularly.

I photographed my first FSM project using the cranberries, before I tried gluing the balls together and then onto the monster. As you can see, it didn’t turn out so hot; the balls are kind of off-center:

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For an anal OCD type like me, that’s a major annoyance. Anyway.

So now you’re ready for the my favorite step: those supercute googly eyes. So googly and so cute!

Flip your monster over. One eye at a time, dab a bit of glue on the back of the eye, and then press it, backside up, onto the pipe cleaner eye stalk. You’ll be coming at the pipe cleaner from underneath, so you can see what you’re doing. Make sure the cleaner lands square in the glue smear. Holding the eye in one hand, gently press the eye stalk into the glue (from further down on the stalk, obviously). Hold until dry (again, about 15 seconds). Repeat with the other eye.

If you plan on flipping the eyes down and over the front of the monster, this step should be done with the monster positioned right-side up, like so:

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Here you can see that the left eye is already on and bent down and over the monster, while the right eye is a work in progress.

Now for your final step, the one which makes your monster into a NOODLEY monster. One at a time, and with an infinite amount of patience, bend and twist each noodle so that it’s, um, noodley.

Again, try a variety of techniques so that each noodle looks a little different. Bend them forward or back, twist them counterclockwise or not, and pull them so that the monster seems afloat in and surrounded by noodles.

I prefer the twisting technique myself, so that the noodles look all succulent and stuff:

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Once all the noodle are wavy (and the eyes, repositioned as desired), you’re done!:

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You can put these little buggers anywhere: use them to decorate your tree, hang them from light cords or fixtures (just not, you know, the hot parts), set them on shelves, let them crawl out of the top of your stockings, slap a magnet on the back of one or two and let them float on the fridge, heck, stash a few in tupperware and put it in the fridge to punk your housemates. These festive little monsters are happy most anywhere.

Also, it’s really easy to make little hooks with which to hang them: just cut another pipe cleaner in half, thread it through the monster’s noodle mass rear end, and tie the cleaner into a hoop. Or attach another pipe cleaner or two to an existing noodley appendage (by twisting the ends together), and use this extra-long limb for dangling the monster from the ceiling or a curtain rod. The appendages are easily adjustable, so you can set your monster(s) anywhere.

Here are a few of my guys and gals,

Secured to a cabinet handle:

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Sitting on a festively decorated basket:

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Floating in the front window, atop the pirate display:

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I even have a little baby monster, perpetually admiring a photo of her ancestor as depicted by Mr. Munch:

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Oh, they’re so cute when they’re young! (And made out of half-pipe cleaners.)

So there you have it: from Pipe Cleaners and Pom Poms to Noodles and (Soy) Balls, in a gagillion steps or less. It’s way easier than I make it out to be, I swear on Her Pasghetti.

Questions? Suggestions? Leave ’em if you got ’em.

Happy birthing!

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