DIY Polymer Clay Plant Stakes

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been seeing all sorts of new shops popping up on Etsy and Instagram promoting cheap and cheerful jewelry made from polymer clay and I am here for it.

Polymer clay is super easy to work with, lightweight (which is why it is PERFECT for earrings), relatively inexpensive, and doesn’t require a ton of specialized tools or equipment. Most people have heard of it—Fimo, Sculpey, etc.—but I don’t know too many people in my circle who have actually worked with it. It could just be the best kept secret in crafting… until now.

I have used polymer clay for a Canola Eat Well Camp craft before, so when they came to me looking for an easy DIY to include in a virtual workshop kit, I knew a clay project would be a good fit for their brand and easy for participants to execute on their own.

Because the theme of the Eat Well kit was “planting,” and would include a seed planting activity, I decided to do a clay plant stake project. It ticked all the boxes: easy, fun, excellent chance of success, on budget, and mailable. As well, the nature of the material makes the project open to creative interpretation, which is always a plus for the Eat Well gang.

The Kits

Because the kits were being mailed out as part of a larger package, I tried to keep them as compact as possible, including only the things that participants might not have at home: polymer clay, a small pot of acrylic glaze, a foam paintbrush, a craft stick, and a small handful of dried grasses (for an authentic prairie touch). To keep things simple for the crafters, all that is needed to complete the project is a work surface, a rolling pin or bottle, a cutting tool, and an oven.

Remember that point about creative interpretation? Participants are encouraged to supplement the dried grasses with stamps or small objects that could be pressed into the rolled-out clay to truly make this DIY their own. I also made a point to not include a template—once the clay is rolled out it can be cut into any shape the crafter desires.

The Video

To get their participants off to a great start with their kits, the Canola crew put together an amazing how-to video. You can watch it here!

The How To

You’ll need:
white or natural oven-dry polymer clay (Fimo, Sculpey, etc.)
acrylic paint or glaze (see note below)
wooden stick (to stir paint)
impression items (grasses, leaves, stamps, buttons, etc.)
foam brush or paintbrush
cookie sheet and parchment paper
rolling pin
knife
paper towel

  1. Warm up your clay by rolling it back and forth in your hands. Next, roll it into a ball, then into a snake. Repeat a couple times, until your snake can easily and fully bend in the middle without cracking.
  2. Place your clay onto a piece of parchment on your work surface. Using a rolling pin, gently roll your clay out to slightly thicker than 1/4,” flipping at least once to prevent sticking.
  3. Lay your impression items on the surface of the clay. Gently and evenly roll over the surface one more time, pressing them into the soft clay. TIP: To ensure a sturdy stake, do not let your clay get any thinner than 1/4” thick.
  4. Carefully lift item(s) off the surface. If anything sticks into the clay (small seeds, etc.), wait until after the clay has been baked to remove.
  5. Using a knife, cut your clay into whatever shapes you desire. Cut the bottom of each shape into a point or triangle to make it easier to insert into the soil.
  6. Carefully transfer your shapes to a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake at 275°F for about 15 minutes. (Less if your clay is thinner.) Clay will be slightly soft when removed from the oven but will firm up as it cools.
  7. Once your plant stakes are cool, apply glaze to highlight the pattern. Use foam brush to apply to the entire surface, pressing into the impressions, then gently wipe away the excess with a paper towel. Repeat, if necessary, until you get the desired effect.

Note: You can use any acrylic craft paint for this project. To get the weathered, transparent look, mix one part acrylic paint and one part acrylic medium or clear glazing/antiquing liquid, OR thin your paint with plain water until it is more of a wash. To test your glaze/wash, brush a small amount over a piece of newspaper or junk mail. You should be able read the type.

Yarn-bombing – Silent Wind Chimes

So, you’ve yarn-bombed some sticks… now what? Make a silent wind chime! They’re super-cute, easy to put together and they don’t make a racket like those pesky metal chimes.

Here’s what you need:

3-5 Yarn-bombed Sticks
Metal Canning Jar Ring (or jar lid)
Yarn for hanging
Beads (optional)
Metal Punch (or hammer and a large nail) (optional)
Drill with small bit (optional)


You might want to add a bead (or three!) at this point.

Step one: Get your yarn-bombed sticks ready for hanging! You can drill a hole in the top of each stick, or just tie your hanging yarn to the top. Use a slightly longer piece of yarn than you think you need. It’s always easier to trim than to add or start over!

** See below for an easy way to thread the yarn through small holes.

While you’re getting things ready, you might want to punch holes in your jar ring, but that’s totally optional. If you do, you’ll need three or four holes in the top rim of the ring, and one hole for each stick around the sides. I used a small metal punch, but you can use a hammer and nail – or not!

Once you have added hanging yarn to all of your sticks, you can move on to the next step…

Look! I added another bead!

Step two: Add three or four hanging strings to your jar lid! Take the time to space them evenly to ensure your chimes hang nice and straight.

You can either use those holes you punched in your ring, or tie the strings on if you didn’t punch. (If you tie-on, we’ll add a length of yarn around the ring later to keep your “chimes” in place.)

If you’ve punched holes, thread your yarn through (using that handy tip below) from the top, then tie a small knot on the inside and trim excess.

Tie a knot in the strings, a few inches from the top, to create your hanging loop. Hold it up and make sure it’s hanging evenly before moving on to step four.

Step three: Add your yarn-bombed sticks! Tie the yarn to the ring, or thread it through the holes you punched in step one and tie a knot. Make sure to place heavier sticks opposite each other to keep your wind chime hanging evenly.

TIP: Before you trim your excess yarn, check the length of your chimes.

To keep your chimes from sliding around (and to pretty it up), wrap a long piece of yarn around the outside of the ring and tie-off. (See pic of finished project at the top of this post!)

All that’s left is to hang up your wind chimes and enjoy the sweet sound of silence!


A quick trick to thread yarn through smallish holes:

Use a fine-gauge crafting wire to thread yearn through holes. Works great for beads, too!

T.P. Pumpkins

This may be the easiest craft you ever make. Here’s what you need…

For each pumpkin: one roll of toilet paper, one 17×17″ square of fabric, one 4″ stick, fabric or real leaves, wire or twine.

1. Unroll about 5′ of the toilet paper, then wrap it messily around the roll. (You want to create a round, squishy middle for your pumpkin.)

2. Place the toilet paper roll in the center of the fabric. Fabric should be right (good) side out.

3. Starting with the sides, pull the fabric up around the sides of the t.p. and tuck into the roll. Once all four sides are tucked in, tuck in the four corners, adjusting the fabric and creating pleats as you go. Be sure that you’re not pulling the fabric too tight – maintain a nice, plump pumpkin shape. If fabric is difficult to tuck in, use chopsticks or the handle of a spoon to poke it into the roll.

4. Cut stick to size. Attach leaves 1″ from the top with wire or jute twine. Insert other end of stick into the center of the roll.

5. Display your pumpkins anywhere you want a little fun fall decor. Group together on a sideboard or mantle, or as a table centerpiece, along with pinecones, acorns or real mini pumpkins and gourds.

Choosing Fabric

Pick a medium weight, fabric with a soft hand – flannel, soft chambray, washed quilting cottons, fabric napkins, etc. Avoid heavy denims, corduroys and upholstery fabrics.

Craft-weight burlap is a great choice, but you’ll have to line it with a piece of coloured (not white) tissue paper first.

Where to find me:

Thank you to everyone who came out to the Etsy Made in Canada Evening Market this weekend. If you are looking for my prints, you can find them in my Square Shop or Etsy store… or just email me. I got you.

My Square Store Visit: https://squareup.com/store/smallcraftwarning

  • Vintage Dames (matted prints or matted and framed prints)
  • Ladies of the 80s (framed prints)
  • Greeting Cards

In Winnipeg Contact: zenbecca@gmail.com

  • Vintage Dames (matted prints or matted and framed prints)
  • Ladies of the 80s (framed prints)
  • Greeting Cards
  • Domino Pins
  • Corporate or Special Event Crafts

Bottlecap Magnets

I should start by saying that I am NOT a hoarder. The difference, of course, being shelving. If I were a hoarder – which I am not – my giant tub of used bottlecaps would be on the floor under a pile of old magazines, not organized on a shelf beside a pile of old magazines. Excuse me – vintage magazines.

How I came to have three million bottlecaps is another story for another day. Today, I wanna talk magnets.

I have been waiting to do a magnet project for aaaages, but the opportunity hadn’t presented itself until recently when the lovely Ellen approached me about putting together a craft for an event. This was it – a chance to make a dent in my bottlecap collection by making upcycled bottlecap magnets. It was also an opportunity to do some digital creating, which I’m always hesitant to do because paper and glue is my thing. Could I get the same satisfaction from virtual paper? Turns out I could!

The event that these are for celebrates the new Canada Food Guide, so I wanted to include some of the messaging from the Food Guide (eat with others, eat mindfully), along with some rah-rah-agriculture messaging (and a few puns thrown in for good measure.) Armed with a mouse and some free image downloads, I came up with a series of graphics to go in the bottlecaps.

It was a bit of trail and error to get the template made, but once it was good to go, I came up with 9 different designs to fit my theme and sent them off to the printer. I am absolutely thrilled with how they came out and, to be completely honest, I didn’t really miss the cutting/stamping/gluing part of the process.

After that, it was just a matter of gluing magnets to bottlecaps, punching out the graphics, and assembling the little kits… and making the FIMO canola flowers. (I couldn’t resist getting my hands dirty for at least part of the project.) By the time you read this, 33 dietitians will have the cutest little custom magnet sets on their fridges.

Canola Bookmarks

I’m always so excited when the Canola gang asks me to come up with a fun little project. The wheels in my head start turning and before long, I have a plan.

Nine times out of ten, however, the “plan” involves a technique I have never tried or a product that I’m not sure exists. (Evidently, my brain doesn’t care about these minor details.) Last time, it was yellow beads; this time, canola flowers. I mean, how hard could it be to find clay, wood, metal, fabric, or plastic canola flowers…? Turns out, all I had to do was order a four-petal flower fondant cutter set and make my own out of canola-yellow polymer clay. As one does.

This particular project was for a recent #canolaconnect event, celebrating the launch of Claire Tansey’s brilliant book Uncomplicated. Everyone in attendance got to take home a copy of the book and a handmade bookmark!

On a scale of one to oh-god-why, I would put this project somewhere in the beginner crafter range. Working with polymer clay is not unlike working with cookie dough – you cut it, shape it and bake it – and the rest of the project is just stringing beads tying knots. (Pro tip: ream your beads first!)

For the canola event, I provided the bookmarks as kits and everyone got to assemble their own. It was lots of fun and, as always, so awesome to see people crafting their little hearts out – especially the craft-adverse.

All in all, I’m super excited by the way these turned out. The four-string design means you can mark up to four recipes in your cookbook – great for when you are trying to plan a multi-course meal or a week’s worth of dinners.

And, honestly, they are heckin’ cute. I love the little pop of colour the canola flower gives to my cookbook shelf! I’m almost tempted to make bookmarks for ALL of my cookbooks…

Craft Tools That Will Change Your Life: The Bead Reamer

Welcome to our first installment of “Craft Tools That Will Change Your Life.” Will there be a second installment? I can’t promise anything.

This stabby little marvel is called a bead reamer and, despite its giggle-inducing name, is one of the handiest pieces of equipment that you can add to your crafting arsenal. EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT A BEADER.

Wait. What? It’s ok. I’ll get to that.

The sad fact of crafting is that into every crafter’s life, a few bad beads will fall. Sometimes it’s more than a few beads. Sometimes it’s the whole @*&$-ing package.

You know what I mean – the cheap wooden beads with too-small or weirdly shaped or non-existent holes. Try as you might, you just can’t. get. the. string. through.

So, after a bit of a struggle and some colourful language, the offending bead goes into the reject cup or, worse, gets tossed behind the couch or into a nearby houseplant. What’s a girl to do?

Say hello to the bead reamer (giggle), your affordable answer to wonky bead holes!

Just look at the difference it made in these (cheap) wooden beads! On the left are the beads straight out of the package; the same beads, freshly-reamed, are on the right.

Want beads like the ones on the right? It couldn’t be simpler.

  1. Stick the pointy end into the hole of the janky bead.
  2. Twist, gently working the bead up the shank (giggle), if necessary.
  3. Repeat on the other side of the hole.
  4. Enjoy your perfectly usable bead.

20190116_110358.jpgSee all those teeny scratches in the metal? They’re just abrasive enough to file rough edges, get rid of bead boogers and open the bead hole, without causing any damage.

Starting a project with wonky beads? Take a few minutes to mindlessly ream all your beads (sorry, not sorry) and your crafting will go a LOT faster, I promise.

I picked my bead reamer up at Michael’s for under $10. ($9.99 less 40% – remember to use those coupons, kids!) So far, it has saved me at least 10 times that in rejected/discarded beads and general frustration.

Also important to note: In my experience, this particular reamer works only on wood and clay beads; but, to be honest, I’ve only had trouble with those two materials. If you have metal or glass beads with too-small holes, buy finer string or wire.

I kid! There actually are reamers made for glass and gemstone beads. They’re a bit fancier, with much thinner shanks and (I kid you not) a diamond-dust coating that has to be used wet. I am nowhere near that hardcore.

Other uses for the bead reamer? I’m glad you asked.

It’s a sharp, pointy stick, so there’s that. You can use it for poking holes in things, obviously, but it’s also super-handy for positioning little bits of stuff, placing stickers and, of course, self-defense. I’ll update this list as I remember more…

Ready, Set, Boo!

Halloween is just around the corner and I have three new projects to help you get ready for spookin’ season. Each one is super-easy and super-affordable, thanks to some homemade craft products and dollar store supplies.

Click the links below for full instructions and remember to tag #smallcraftwarning in your crafty posts on social media!

Project: Halloween Votive Holders
Even the littlest ones can help with these easy, colourful votive holders, made with homemade Podge (recipe included.) Light ’em up with flameless tealight candles for a safe and happy halloween!

Project: Spooky Ghosts
Don’t worry – these are friendly ghosts! And, thanks to a little homemade fabric stiffener (recipe included), they don’t come with a scary price tag.

Project: Scary Soap
Make this and quietly leave it beside the sink…

 

As Seen on TV – Upcycled Jewelry Display

A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to talk about upcycling on CTV Morning Live. I took a few projects with me, but this one has received the most attention. Made from a kitchen drawer and a handful of salvaged hardware, it’s an awesome project, perfect for beginners or anyone with a desire to turn trash into treasure!

Click here to learn how to make it: Upcycled Jewelry Display