I especially adore handmade ornaments. When I put my trees (yes, I admit... trees) up, each ornament has a special memory attached to it, they carry their own stories. I have one I made when my Big One was little of a little boy in his favorite blue jammies carrying a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle... and a Santa that he made when he was just a little guy. My Little One's first pair of baby shoes hang on the tree... along with an adorable bunny she made when she was just five. My Bonus One made birds for me last year that sit on a wreath hanging on my mantle... they will nestle in the tree when I put it up this year. There are ornaments my Grandmother gave me, those that friends have given me, and even a few "store bought" ones that have special meaning to me.
And you all know how I enjoy sharing with you... so let's start the sharing, shall we? This weekend I spent some time playing in salt dough. Salt dough is a great medium to make ornaments from, it's easy to work with, very inexpensive to make, and, if the ornaments are sealed well and carefully packed, they last forever... that little boy in his blue jammies is made from salt dough, and it's just about 25 years old now (can you believe that son???)
I'm not going to give you a specific recipe for the dough, mostly because I don't use a recipe, I just sort of "eye" it, as my grandmother used to say. It's pretty much one part of salt to two parts of all purpose flour, and enough water to make a stiff dough. If you want a more specific one, you can find them all over the internet.
A couple of things about salt dough... it's not smooth. That's one of the reasons I like it, the salt in it adds a great texture. You can color it by adding paste food coloring, or you can paint it after you bake it. You can even let it air dry, although, I wouldn't recommend it for long term preservation. The down side of it is that you get very dry hands when you work with it. That salt does dry your skin out. REALLY dries your skin out. When you finish playing in it you really must moisturize, but don't use any on your skin while you are forming the dough, oil will cause paint not to stick to it later. And, while you can blend it all together just using your hands, I really recommend a stand mixer, using the dough hook, just like you were making bread... just makes it so darned much easier.
Now... for the first few ornaments I made I used the dough after it had been well kneaded, then allowed to rest on the counter for about an hour. Not sure why but that seems to make it more pliable. I plan on making ornaments for most of the girls who deal with my father in the facility he's in, so I need an option that will be simple, yet turn out really cute, so I decided to try stamping. I have a bunch of rubber stamps, and found an adorable one at Michaels of a cute little reindeer at 40% off no less.
Roll it out between two sheets of waxed paper to a thickness of about a quarter of an inch. at this point, you can choose to cut out the shapes you want to stamp, or you can stamp all over the dough, then cut out the shapes. You would probably get less warping of the shape if you do the latter... of course, you know I did the former.
Is this reindeer not just the cutest thing? Seriously, look at those antlers. It's produced by Hero Arts. I'd love to have their "Winter Moon" and "Winter Trees" and an absolutely adorable fox too. Alas... sadly, none of the stores here carry them... heavy sigh. Anyway, just like using a cookie cutter, I dipped him into the flour. Problem with that is that the flour caked very well into the crevices so I used a soft paint brush some of it out. Then, just like stamping on paper, I stamped it on the salt dough. Once I had him stamped, I wanted to use some tiny alphabet stamps I have to add "joy" and "Noel" to the ornaments.
I do like how they are turning out. And, luckily, I even remembered to put a hole in the top so that when I finish with them I can run a ribbon through when I am ready to hang them on the tree.
When I get a batch of them cut and stamped I will bake them. I try to actually get an entire baking pan of them ready before I tuck them into the oven, but sometimes... like today... I just don't have enough time (or desire) to get that many put together. In that instance, I do not let them dry in the air, I cover them with a plastic wrap, generally using something on the edges of the baking sheet that will keep the wrap lifted ever so slightly above the ornament. The unused portion can be refrigerated, just bring it back to room temp to work with it.
More to share in the next post!