Making salt-dough decorations is a fun and inexpensive way to get festive with family or friends. It’s become a bit of a tradition, and every year we look forward to it.
You might be wondering how we could be making these decorations for a third year in a row, but keep in mind : primo – We had almost no decorations when we first started; secondo – They don’t only hang on the tree! We’ve got decorations hanging around the windows, picture frames, even random nails that were left in the walls by our home’s former occupant.
We don’t make a huge amount each time, and there is always some “spoilage”, ornaments that break from years past.
All this blathering on, but not telling you why I’m blogging about them, again. Simply put, I’ve come up with a better formula that I find makes for more sturdy, beautiful ornaments. Additionally, I’ve got an improved drying technique that I think has allowed for thicker decorations, allowing for more fragile design reinforcement.
Just like last week’s ornaments, for these you’ll need minimal supplies :
- Cookie cutters! If you’re thinking “I don’t have any cookie cutters, Shellyfish!”, just hold your horses. Bowls, juice glasses, etc. make wonderful circles, and I’ll bet your kids or nephews or sibs have some fun shape-making gear they use with their Play-Doesque toys. Look around, you’d be surprised what you’ll find with an open imagination. Libby, dinosaurs are wonderful here, too, obviously!
- Flour! This is not the time for your organic, whole wheat variety. Save that for your cookies. Use the cheap-o white bleached stuff, or get creative with buckwheat (pretty colour) or corneal (fun texture) and regualr flour combos.
- Salt! This year I got crazy and used large sea salt, mostly because I wanted to change-up the texture. I liked the results, but regular fine salt will give you a more classic, less rustic, look.
- Glycerine or heavy, neutral oil. If you have some glycerine, often used in home cosmetics, it’s the best choice, however, don’t get frowny-faced if you don’t. Heavy oils like apricot would work well, but regular vegetable will work in a pinch.
See the lovely salt? You could add food coloring to the dough, and it would look lovely with the large bits of sea salt mixed in, I think.
This project is best spread out over several days. Your first day is making the dough and cutting out your shapes, the next few days will be for drying out the ornaments (depending on which technique you use, more on this below), then painting and drying, and finally an optional painting session for adding detail or a second coat of paint. This is important to keep in mind if you’ll be working with children. Depending on their ages (or temperaments) you could do the cutting and drying first, then allow them to paint, or break the project up into multiple days, which is what I did with Guppy.
Better Salt-Dough Decorations
1 part salt (I used a glass to measure)
1 part flour
3/4 parts warm water
2 to 4 tablespoons glycerine or vegetable oil
Food colouring (optional)
Mix the salt and flour in a bowl, then add the water, a little at a time until you get a smooth dough, not too sticky (add more flour if need be) and not too stiff (add more water). Add the glycerine and optional food colouring, and knead until it’s well blended and sleek and pretty. Now set aside, loosely covered, for about an hour.
Now roll out your dough as if it were cookie dough (but don’t eat it, blek!) on a piece of parchment paper, or just form into objects if you’d like. Once you’ve rolled out your dough and cut out your shapes you’ll need to let them dry. It’s important to let them dry out really well before painting, because if they continue to dry once you’ve applied paint it could crack and not look as you’d hoped. Just keep in mind that the thicker your dough, the longer it will need to dry.
Please, before you begin drying your ornaments, be sure to remember to poke a small hole using a toothpick or knitting needle or whatever so that you can hang them up. Once they’re dry, it’s too late.
Drying Method 1) Place your decorations on a radiator or furnace register and leave them there for a day or two (or in my case, leave them for about 4 days). I cut out the shapes while Guppy was sleeping and when she woke the next morning she declared “Mumma, you’ve decorated the radiators!”. See, you’re already decorating and they’ve not been painted yet!
Drying Method 2) Bake your decorations on parchment paper-lined baking sheets at about 80°c/175°f for a few hours. You don’t want your oven hot, because it will cause the decorations to crack or bubble up – not good, unless that’s what you’re going for.
Drying Method 3) This is the method I would recommend as it seems to work the best for us. Simply combine methods 1 and 2! I suggest starting by drying the decorations on the radiator or similar surface for at least 24 hours, then baking them.
Decorating is fun and also can be as sophisticated or basic as you choose. We start with some paint – you can use anything, really, markers work well, too. Once the first coat of paint has dried you can add details, or go the way of the glitter. Painting on glitter is easy : My method is using common white household glue and mixing it with glitter and applying it with a paintbrush. When the glue dries it leaves behind a lovely shine and glitzy glitter. Gold or sliver spray paint would also be fun. I have some and hope to play with it a little if I have time…
Just remember to have fun, no matter which technique you use!
* A special danke to Mihl & P for sending us some really special cookie cutters. They made this year’s decoration creation session extra special!