Better Salt-Dough Decorations : W.I.P. Wednesday

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!

Sewing Basic Holiday Ornaments Step By Step : W.I.P. Wednesday

Last week I blogged about the famous “Cookie Cutter” ornaments I make every holiday season, and about how quick and easy they are to make.  Then, after an email and a few comments it dawned on me that easy is a rather subjective word.  For someone who has never tried to thread a needle or tried to sew (gasp!) for fun, well, not so much.

If you’ve got sewing experience then this post will probably bore you, but if you’ve got pointers or URLs with other more basic holiday projects to share in the comments section, please do.

So let’s sew up an ornament together!  It’ll be fun, promise.  You’ll need a few basic things to get started, things you may already have around the house!

What you’ll need :

  • Cookie cutters or other shapes you can trace as patterns, unless you’re going to free-hand your drawing, which is also fun, especially if working with little kids who love seeing their drawings “come to life”.
  • Sharp scissors
  • Thread – So many choices!  Cotton thread, or thicker, more durable craft thread, embroidery thread (you’ll want to use about 2 or 3 strands) or even some thin cotton yarn.  I have also used very thin satin ribbon which is pretty, too.
  • Fabric – Before you run out to buy some, or think you can’t give the project a go because you haven’t any, just stop.  You can use nearly anything!  A re-purposed dish towel, the sleeve of a torn cotton shirt, bits from a stained table cloth, etc.  You can also use heavier craft paper – it looks lovely sewn.
  • A needle for sewing and some pins to hold your fabric together.  In a pinch you can use tape to keep the pieces together, and even paper clips.

Get your fabric and fold it in half, with the right sides together.  This just means that the side of the fabric you’d like to see once your decoration is done faces the inside for now.

See what I mean?  The red-checks are facing in and the boring backing is facing out.  Perfect for drawing or tracing on.  Because we make a few new decorations every year, they are like little snap-shots of the past.  We love dinos, so we make a few each year.  If your child (or husband) likes super heroes, try a cape with an S on it, or maybe an outline of a car.  Don’t worry about it not being traditional!  I still need to make a zombie for Monsieur Fish, because that’s what he loves, but haven’t got it worked out yet.

Once you’ve traced, pin the fabric together and cut it out, going through both layers of cloth.

Now put the wrong sides together, right sides facing out, and pin to secure.  Ready to sew?  First, let’s look at your needles…

Notice how the top needle has a rather large eye and a blunt end?  That’s an embroidery needle, so it can handle thicker threads, embroidery thread, yarn and ribbon.  The tinner, sharper needle will work with cotton or nylon thread. Let’s thread your needle!

You want to have a workable length of thread, not too long or it’ll get tangled up, too short, and you’ll be re-threading often.  About from your hand to your elbow is a good size I think.  If you’re using regular cotton thread, just feed one end through the eye of the needle, then bring it to meet the other end so you’ve got a double-layer of thread (more sturdy).  If using embroidery thread, take two or three strands, feed one end through the needle and pull to about half-way the total length, then knot the long end.  It’s already sturdy enough so you don’t need to double up.

For your first stitch, you’ll begin going from the inside of your “sandwich” of fabric from the wrong side of one piece to its right side (meaning outside the dino here).  Gently pull until the knot is against the fabric, and tuck in or carefully trim any little tails that are left.  We’re going to do a straight stitch here, but to make things even easier, think of it as an in and out stitch. You just bring the needle through from one side to the other, all the way around your shape.  Stop a bit before getting all the way around to stuff it if you’d like.  You can use scrap yarn and thread, or cotton or nylon batting. Then sew up the hole and tie a knot to secure.

I hope this is helpful, and inspires you to make a few ornaments for your tree or window or potted plant or whatever.  The tutorial for the Felt Doughnuts may also be helpful for you, too.  They also make cute decorations for you tree, Jeni Treehugger says so herself!

Here are a few flashed-out examples of other shapes to try…


W.I.P. Wednesday on Thursday & We have our winners!

The lack of light has been reeking havoc on my photos, and I know many of you can relate.  I had a great post prepared for making holiday ornaments and decorations, but didn’t get to shoot it properly, so that’ll be for next week, and hopefully on Wednesday.  Whatevers.

I’ve blogged about these ridiculously easy felt ornaments before.  You just use your favourite cookie cutter (or anything) and use it to trace your desired shape onto your chosen fabric and sew it up.  Tah-da!

But you don’t so much care about that – you want the winners!  I’m not offended and totally understand.

The winner for the chocolate bar post was number 5, and for the tea it was 20.  You’ll just have to believe me folks, I still don’t know how to take a still of the random number thingy.

Jojo of Vegan In Brighton will be sent some a dark chocolate with quinoa (so good!) and Fanny from Vegan Up North is getting some tea.  Which kind? I’ll decide!  Ladies, would you be so kind as to email me at fishbowlmusings (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll get your goodies off to you soon.