For much of this year, I have been tying bits of jute onto a large net. Why would I be doing that? Well, I became part of the Krampus LA Troupe, and when I was looking for costume ideas, I found a photo of some mysterious straw men with antennae running through the snow, and all was lost. I had to be a Schabmänn. Schabfrau, I guess. A sweeper of the path for St. Nicholas.
They normally travel in groups, but I didn’t think there was much hope in roping anyone else into this madness, so I proceeded on my own. First step, a ghillie suit kit, because finished ghillie suits are expensive, and I was going to have to make some alterations.
Oh dear. According to the directions, this was only going to take eight hours to complete. If you had tiny, nimble fingers that tied knots for a living, perhaps this would take eight hours.
Undaunted, I started on the foundation. I wanted a big haystack look, so I bought a hoop skirt, made some armholes, and sewed on a layer of burlap.
Then to the head: a bicycle helmet, PVC pipe, part of a bamboo shade, some rope, more burlap, and long sticks. According to one website, the sticks were supposed to be about 4 meters (13 feet long), but this was going to cause some mobility issues, so I went a little shorter.
Note traditional Krampus Crocs.
Halfway done with the ghillie suit, I thought of a faster way I could have done this. Too late now.
By October, I was almost done.
I needed to finish the sleeves, fix that bare patch at the bottom, and tack everything to the foundation. But I was getting close.
By November, I was done with the suit. Eight hours. Right. Onward.
Time was running out, but by last week I had made a little whip and some hay-covered gloves, and I was officially ready for the Krampus Ball. Maybe not ready to join the others at Bad Mitterndorf, but perfectly respectable for Los Angeles.
Schabmänner do not traditionally menace young children (that is the job of Krampus), but that little girl was drinking beer.
If you’re in the Los Angeles area and want to see this and other costumes in person, there are a few more events you can attend – please check out the Krampus Los Angeles site for further information. In the meantime, if you come across a random haystack in the city, please don’t step on it. It might be me.
Various photos above by Jason Hadley, Xian Pitt, Elizabeth Rowin, Jon Alloway, Phil Glau and Krampus Live From Austria Facebook group