Learn how to make dough ornaments for the Christmas tree.
PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
Learn how to make dough ornaments to sell or to decorate your Christmas tree.
How to Make Dough Ornaments
For the last couple of years, we've been making extra
seasonal cash with what we think is an interesting and a
fun craft making project . . . the fabrication of Christmas
ornaments from flour, salt, and water.
Now some of you may object to "cashing in" on the glittery
materialism of Christmas. But we feel that anything which is a step
away from the plastic minds of the big corporations is a
step in the right direction. And we also like the idea that
our small enterprise is one that the whole family — right down to the youngest member — can share.
Our raw materials are inexpensive and easy to obtain:
flour, salt, water, fine copper wire, toothpicks, tempera
paints, several small brushes, and varnish. Any kind of
flour (except self-rising) will work, but if you plan to
really go into this craft, buy cheap refined white flour
(in our opinion, this is one of the best uses for the
stuff). And the tempera paints are optional, since the
natural, warm, golden brown color of the finished dough
babies is beautiful enough all by itself. We make both
kinds: painted and unpainted.
To construct approximately 25 ornaments, each two to three
inches high and about 1/4 inch thick, mix three cups of flour
with one cup of salt and slowly add water until you have a good consistency to work with. Too much water will make
the dough sticky, but that's easy to fix: just leave the
sponge exposed to the air about five minutes or until it
dries out enough to be kneaded. Then wrap the worked dough
in plastic to keep it moist while you pinch off pieces of
the mixture and shape them into ornaments (it's best,
obviously, to use a whole batch of the dough at one
If you'll form your creations on a square of plastic,
you'll find it easy to transfer each finished baby to a
cookie sheet or square of aluminum foil for baking.
Whenever possible, make rounded basic shapes with your
palms and then flatten them to the desired 1/4 inch thickness.
This — and using a toothpick to create any lines or
"cuts" that are wanted — eliminates all sharp edges on the
final baked pieces.
And don't forget, before you pop a of your babies into the
oven, to make a loop of fine copper wire (see drawing in the image gallery) and
insert it into the top of each ornament as a hanger. You
can buy a small spool of this wire for at most craft or
department stores . . . or you can unwind an old electric
motor. To keep the loops from pulling out, leave their ends
spread, press them into the back of the tops of each baby,
and then use a toothpick to apply a small dab of dough over
the hole you've just made.
One final precaution: To ensure even baking and to prevent
your decorations from swelling as they bake, punch holes or
make deep cuts (note the deep smile and marks struck into
the beard of the "face" baby shown in the photo in the image gallery) in all the
thick portions of each ornament. Try to make such holes and
cuts part of the decoration's design.
Bake your dough of dough full sheet at a time — at just
until they're golden brown. The time will vary, depending
on the thickness of the ornaments . . . so closely, they out
when they're done, and cool.
You're now ready to paint any of the decorations that
you've decided to finish off in that manner. We generally
use three or colors on each of the babies we paint. Have
fun! Use your imagination!
These little ornaments will last for years (even in humid
climates) if they're finished off with a protective coating
of varnish one sheet at a time. Make several short hooks from clothes
hanger wire, suspend a baby on each one, dip the
decorations in the varnish and then hang them up on a
dowel or artist's paintbrush handle or some other thin
stick over a drip trough of aluminum foil that drains back
into the can of varnish. This is a quick, easy, neat method
of finishing off the babies while wasting an absolute
minimum of the protective coating.
The first year we tried to sell these homemade Christmas
ornaments, we took some to a local (southeastern Kansas)
fall festival . . . and went home with a little more than
$100. With that encouragement under our belt, we made more
of the babies, sold them at other fairs, and consigned or
wholesaled them to a few college book stores, craft shops,
flower shops, and other outlets.
The extra consignment and wholesale business is welcomed,
of course, but we still have the most fun retailing our
decorations direct to the final customer outdoors in the
crisp autumn air at fairs and festivals. (Sometimes, when
we pretend we aren't watching, we even see some sly person trying
to nibble a bite off one of these delicious looking
"cookies" which isn't really possible, since the ornaments
are as hard as a young bride's first batch of biscuits
baked in a wood stove.)
We price our babies at between fairs and $1.50 each (note
the sticker on the back of the ornament held by hand in the
accompanying photo), depending on how elaborate each one
is. Most fall into the $1.00 to $1.25 range. It's always
good to have at least two different prices . . . but don't
get carried away with pricing your decorations too
You could probably make this seasonal business about as big
as you want it to be . . . but we prefer to keep ours a small
"family having fun around the kitchen stove" sort of thing.
Our first season out we cleared $300 . . . and the next
year — by starting a little earlier and being somewhat more
organized — we netted $500. We figure that ain't bad,
considering the good times our dough babies have given us.
So — whether for fun or profit or both — get the
family together, invite your friends over, break out the
apple cider . . . and try your hand at crafting a few bread
dough babies. We think you're gonna like it!