Projects: Giant Spider Web & Spider Lair

For years I've struggled with setting up my spider web. It's one of those store-bought 12' spider webs made out of twine and every year I would spend at least an hour or more trying to get it untangled from storage. It seemed that no matter how carefully I folded it up and put it away come next year it would always be a big mass of tangles. Not fun! On top of that the connection points were just hot glued together, not knotted and were always coming apart which would destroy the shape of the web. Finally I could take it no longer - there HAD to be a better way!

I did a search online and came across a great tutorial video - How to Tie a Rope Spider Web - that showed how to make a frame and essentially crochet a large permanent spider web out of clothes line. This would be perfect! Here's the video...

I planned on making the frame to fit one entire opening of our garage doors which worked out to about 7' x 8'. I made the frame out of 1" x 2" pine rather than the PVC pipe in the tutorial. Also, since my frame was bigger I added two upright braces to the back of the frame to help keep it from flexing - especially during movement. To make it easier to move I attached 2 gate handles to the back. The completed frame, while large and cumbersome, is light and can easily be lifted by one person.

I then added about 20 metal eye hooks around the perimeter of the inner frame. I didn't measure the placement at all - just what seemed right. Some are closer, some wider. Using strong white clothesline rope (about 200') I followed the instructions on the video and started stringing the web. It went pretty quickly and in a few evenings had it done. I purposely made it a bit haphazard and not perfect to add to the look. One thing I did that I thought important was to cut the ends of the rope where it was knotted quite close to the knot but then soak the knot with super glue so it wouldn't come undone.

To finish it off I painted the entire frame, eye hooks and the part of the web where the line ran along the frame to meet up with the next eye hook. The, using a staple gun I attached heavy-duty black landscaping fabric to the back of the frame to form a scrim to block the view of the inside of the garage. If you were planning on doing a spider scene inside your space you could leave the web open but then you would also want to eliminate the vertical frame braces.

To instal the web I simply raise the garage door - make sure to unplug the garage door opener if you have one so there are no chance of accidentally trying to close the door and crushing the web - and manoeuvre the frame into position. I found that it just need a couple of scrap pieces of wood to brace the frame in place or you could use screws.

When Halloween was over it was very easy to remove the frame and store it from brackets on the ceiling up above the garage doors out of the way until next year. I even left the spiders in place.

I didn't take a lot of photos during the build but below you'll see some in-progress shots along with photos of the finished web. As you can see from the final photos the frame and scrim totally disappear at night under haunt lighting giving the impression of the web being in front of a dark cave or lair. Next year I'll see about completing the scene with some fake stalactites and stalagmites so it looks even more like a cave.



UPDATE! Spider Lair - Cave Formations

As happy as I was with the new permanent crochet-style spiderweb I still wanted to try and make the garage door opening more naturalistic and cave-like. To accomplish this I thought to create a number of cave formations - stalactites and stalagmites. They would need to be durable to stand up to accidental bumps and/or kicks. Following the advice and example of a fellow haunter, Bruce Trotz of Calgary, I ended up going with a combination of wood and foam construction with a hard coat.

I first sketched out the general shape of the formations and then cut them out of 1/2" or thicker (whatever I had on hand) plywood with a jig saw. These became the profile boards. I glued and screwed them together along with a irregularly cut base. Next I enlisted the help of my daughter and we wadded up newspaper into balls to fill out the shape using lots of tape to create a web to hold everything in place.

To cover over the newspaper and create a more organic contours I switched to spray foam insulation. I found a starter set of the professional grade foam and applicator gun. I was hoping it would come out in a fine spray but it was more like typical Great Stuff out of a can but with the advantage you could start and stop without wasting a whole can.

The foam gave a great lumpy texture but very, very orange!! Rather than just a coat of regular paint it was recommended to use a type of construction grade stucco as a hard coat. The product is called "Senergy". Look for it at your local building supply company. It comes in a variety of textures from fine to quite coarse. I opted for a Sandstone. The product can be tinted any colour you desire however it is sometimes possible to ask for any "off-tint" batches - basically the same as "oops-paint" at the paint store - and get it at a considerable discount. You can apply the stucco in a number of ways - I went with a cheap disposable brush and would scoop it up and then slop it on thickly, dabbing with the brush to get it into all the cracks and crevasses. Once it drys (which can take quite a while) you can then paint it. I had run out of time and just left it in the plain tinted colour. I might get around to finish painting it in the future but in the meantime it looks just fine under haunt lighting. One thing to note is that between the plywood frame and Senergy the finished prop is very heavy so keep that in mind and not make the pieces too big.

Here are some construction shots as well as the finished spider scene on Halloween night...