The Secrets of the Pirate Party

I did have a request for a little more info about how I did some of the things I did for the Pirate Party, so I’m going to answer a few questions here. If I miss something you were curious about, please drop me a note. Fair warning: Just because these were mostly inexpensive things that I could do myself, doesn’t mean they weren’t time consuming or labor-intensive. You have to get creative when your vision is bigger than your budget!
1. The flags and such: I bought some inexpensive black fabric from Hobby Lobby, and cut it into rectangles (didn’t take the time to sew or hem or anything). I printed out a graphic of a jolly roger (skull & swords) I found on the internet. Then used an exacto-knife to cut out the white parts, forming a stencil. I then painted the flag with the stencil and white craft paint. This was all done a night or two before the party while watching “The Pirates of the Caribbean,” so I could get in the mood, and not get too annoyed at the tedious task of making my stencil. I bet some of you know an easier way.
The small flag went on the mast. Denise from Little Ant Designs, sent me instructions on how to make masts out of PVC pipe, easily. But we were short on time, so ended up using some 1×2 we had around for other projects. One was a back ground for spray painting and that is why it is black and the other isn’t, but I didn’t think it would matter if they looked too pristine, since they are on a pirate ship, after all. My husband put a couple of nails in the boards where they intersect, and then we used twine to wrap around and secure them. I attached some scrap white fabric I had on hand. The crow on the top was a dollar store purchase. I was only disappointed that the weather was bad, so I didn’t get to do more with decorating outside (hence the netting piled on the table).
2. The Port Posts: I’m not really sure what to call them, but they did lend a lot of atmosphere. I lucked out on these and did not make them. They had been made as part of a backdrop for our naval-themed girls camp, and I begged them for the party. The girl that did make them, had the large fence posts from her Grandpa’s ranch, I think. They were attached to the base and bundled with thick rope. I think the rope ends were actually screwed into the wood. I know heavy duty rope like that can be expensive, but if you have some firewood or other supplied laying around, you might be able to make a smaller version, inexpensively.

3. The Treasure Chest/Pinata: In this post you see me cutting apart a styrofoam cooler from the dollar store. It was kind of a funny shape (too tall), but it was $1, so we cut several inches off of the lower end, and then reattached the bottom with hot glue. I took that opportunity to fill it with the treasures (including Trenton’s clue to his presents) before putting the lid on and beginning to paper mache. We used brown painters paper, to paper mache with, so it would hopefully look brown like a chest. (The kids helped, as you can see here). After a couple of layers, my dear BSB thought it wouldn’t be tough enough (no one can ever accuse him of under-engineering something), so we added this black duct tape and electrical tape to make the design and reinforce it. It ended up being almost bullet proof. I think he plans it that way so he has to be the one to break the pinata, instead of the kids.
Can you guess what we used to make it look more brown and rustic? Shoe Polish! Shoe polish became my favorite friend in all of my last minute party prep. We rubbed it on the signs and maps to give them a tarnished look and we also used them on…
4. The Chests (favors for guests):
I ordered these paper mache treasure chest kits from Pretty Party Place (I think they are at Oriental Trading Co., too). They came with gold coins, beads, ribbon and jewels for decorating. I didn’t really want to take the time or have the mess of the boys painting at the party, so I tried applying shoe polish in the same direction to give the effect of wood grain. They actually looked really good, and applying the polish was quick and easy (maybe a little smelly).
5. The Swords:
The birthday boy and his dad found these cool foam swords at the dollar store. I thought they were the perfect size and style (and level of potential harm they were able to inflict), but they had brightly colored handles–some of which looked a little girly. Our quick fix was to wrap the handles in black electricians tape. It looked a little like black leather and upped the coolness factor by a bunch!
6. The Cake:
I was planning to follow these directions from Family fun, mostly. At one point, my insanity was thinking I should do a sheet cake on the bottom for the ocean, and two of the boat cakes like the ones from Family fun, so the ships could have a battle like our boys would be doing in their ships, later. When I started calculating how much cake that would be, I knew I needed to scale it back a bit. I used a cake board wrapped in blue saran wrap, and added some light blue frosting to hopefully look like the waves and foam around the ships, and give me a place to put the gummy sharks I bought. I frosted them with chocolate frosting, and used candles in rolos to be the cannons. I also had some whoppers on the cakes that were supposed to be cannonballs. I used mini Charleston Chews to make railings around the edges of the ship. The sails add the most visual impact and were simple to do. Paper with holes punched on bamboo skewers. You just have to be careful inserting them, that you don’t push the cake layers apart.
When I finished baking the cakes required for 1 ship on the Family Fun directions, cut them and put them in place. I realized my ship was going to be really fat. I wasn’t sure how stable it would be, and I didn’t have any pirate guys to stick on the ship, so I decided if I could make two ships using two cake halves each. It actually worked quite well. I liked the shape and scale it gave the boats.

Unfulfilled Visions:
  1. Every party I through has a few details that I really wanted to do, but ran out of time or resources to make happen. This was no exception. You already know that we had rain all morning. This prevented me from decorating much outside. I intended to have our big cardboard boats out at the beginning of the party and had thought to wrap them with paper or spray paint them to look more authentic. The boys still had a great time launching canons (black water balloons) at each other, even though their boats were brown cardboard, with duct tape holding them together.
  2. The idea that I still think is really cool, but might not have worked any way with the rain, was to paint the lawn. They do it at sports events, all the time. I just couldn’t figure out what paint to use and how to get it inexpensively. I thought it would be cool to paint the whole yard blue, or even to get some kind of spray version, and paint blue waves among the green grass. Even through the treasure hunt, the grass was supposed to represent the ocean. If anyone ever does this, you have to send me a report and some pictures!
  3. We also very nearly had the boys make their own little wooden sailboats. We then would have had a contest to sail them, across a wading pool. Since we didn’t have a wading pool, or much time in the party schedule, and the boys would already be taking home lots of booty, we scrapped that plan. But it wouldn’t be hard to cut blocks out of a 2×4, drill a hole for the mast, and make paper sails.
Anything I missed? Best wishes with all of your party planning adventures!
(Visited 171 times, 1 visits today)


  1. elfqueenof5 says

    I am having a Halloween themed birthday party for my daughter this Sat. She is turning 13. I would like to make the backyard look like a graveyard. I am liking your idea of painting the lawn. I was thinking of adding gravemarkers. I only have a couple of headstones and this would really help the effect. Also, maybe some glow in the dark footsteps?!
    Thanks! I will let you know.

  2. The DeMarcus Family says

    oh! You only used half the cake! Great idea. So it was very stable that way?? I had bought a bog loaf pan and was planning on carving it to look like a ship, but it the round cake is just as stable I will do that. The reviews just scared me a bit! Thanks for the details, you are an awesome mom!!

  3. Heather - - says

    My favorite thing is that you made a pinata out of a cooler… great idea!! And I love those dollar store crows… I have been eyeing them at the store, but I thought I didn't need them. Until now!! Arrrgh!

  4. You always have the CUTEST parties! I want to be your friend in real life so that you can throw me a party!! ;D

  5. Wait! We live in the SAME STATE! Why are we not friends in real life?

  6. Lydia Story says

    That is just incredible! What a fun fun party that your kids will remember forever!! I can hardly wait until my little guy is old enough to enjoy pirates!!

  7. Doing a Pirate Party this weekend for brothers I love the 2 cakes that way each boy can have his own cake, born day after each other, bad planning I know.

    I love the ideas of painting the lawn I found this: He uses food dye, if I can convince hubby that we should totally do this I’ll let you know how it works

    • Ooo! Keep me posted, Lisa! I’m so glad you found the perfect solution to the cake issue for the two brothers! I’d love to see all the pics when you are done with this party!

Speak Your Mind