On the second day of crafting, My project was to be:
Santa ornaments for the Christmas tree.
When I was little, maybe 9 or 10, my mom, sister, and I made a big batch of salt dough Christmas ornaments that my parents have used to decorate their house with for *cough, cough* years. My mom recently told me that the ornaments were no longer intact, having suffered from the effects of moisture and time. But, trust me when I say I was surprised they held up so long.
This year, I wanted to make an ornament from my toddler's hand print, and salt dough seemed like the perfect medium. Salt dough is easy to make from common kitchen ingredients and the possibilities are endless! I made hand print Santa's (directions to follow), but you could just as easily make hand print reindeer (the fingers as antlers) or a family of finger snowmen, or you can use cookie cutters or a knife to create your own idea.
To make Santa Hand Print Ornaments, you will need:
Parchment paper or cookie rack
Plastic straw or metal ornament hook
Paint & Paintbrush
Black permanent marker
Ribbon, string, or other material for hanging
To make the salt dough:
1/2 cup salt*
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup water
Mix ingredients in a bowl and knead until smooth. You can play around with the consistency by adding water a bit at a time. It's easier to work with if it's on the drier side.
* I used Kosher salt because it was in my cabinet, but table salt without iodine should work fine. If you have some of that fancy Himalayan pink salt or Hawaiian volcanic salt, I don't recommend using it for the dough because -> EXPENSIVE!
To prepare the ornaments:
I made my ornaments by pressing the dough onto a cookie sheet until it was smooth and at a reasonable thickness (~1/4"), cut them out, and baked them directly on the non-stick cookie sheet. They stuck! I DON'T RECOMMEND THIS! The next time I make salt dough, I will do it following:
Option 1: Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Press dough onto parchment paper until smooth and desired thickness. Press hand on dough until you have a nice hand prints. If you mess up, just smooth the dough and try again. Use a knife to cut around the hand prints to make individual ornaments and remove excess dough. Or, if you are making cookie-cutter or free-hand ornaments, go to town. Take a plastic straw and cut a hole in the top of the ornament or press a metal ornament hook into to dough for hanging. Smooth the edges as best as possible.
Option 2: Place a cookie rack on a cookie sheet. Prepare ornaments on a working surface, as described in Option 1, and transfer to cookie rack.
To bake the ornaments, you'll want to leave them in an oven set at 200 F for about 3 hours. Low and slow is the way to go so the ornaments don't crack. I ended up having to flip mine and bake a bit more to get the bottoms finished, but if you use a cookie rack, that shouldn't be a problem. The biggest thing to keep in mind (hindsight =20/20) is not to have your ornaments stick to the cookie sheet. They are rock solid after baking and chiseling them from a cookie sheet is no fun.
After the ornaments were dry, I used a piece of sandpaper to round and smooth the edges to give them more of a finished look. Then, I started painting. I used two coats of white acrylic paint, but this is where your imagination and creativity can really go to town.
When the base coat was dry, I added the Santa hat (the tip of the thumb is the puff ball at the end of the hat) and general facial features. If you're making a Santa, the fingers make up the beard and his face is in the center of the palm.When the paint was dry, I used a black permanent marker to add detail to Santa, and write my son's name and the date on the back. You can always use paint, but I'm not that great with a detail brush and I wanted clean lines. You can then add a sealer or top coat, if you like. Then, I used gold cord to make a loop to hang the ornament with, and voila! Santa Hand Print Ornaments.
To keep the ornaments for a nice long while, I'm going to store them in plastic baggies with desiccant packs (like the little white ones that come in shoe boxes) to help keep the moisture out. But as long as they're in a sealed container and stored in a dry place, they should be fine for many years to come.
If you have any ideas on how to improve on this craft project or would like to share pictures of your Santa Hand Print Ornaments, please leave a comment!