Thanks for your kind thoughts, TJ. Laurie, I'm adoptable but come
with four sons, all of whom I'm constantly praised for their great
manners and one who seems to have lost his waist and thinks it's
below his tush (aargghh!); an enormous scaredy cat with LONG
fur, named Toffee (who the kids insist is "Li'l Baby"), and a very
much in use computer. Oh, and the son who has lost his waist
comes with a basketball, and the youngest has special needs too--
his skateboard and a place to use it! lol
Mari-Lou, you asked for more info on salt dough and whether I
use molds or free-form them. Thanks for your compliment on my
ideas, btw. The gift baskets are really easy. You know, it's funny.
I had thought after I sent the post yesterday that I should have
added the other gift basket that came to mind--for gardening.
Mine is a bit different than the one suggested, so I'll toss this in
and then answer about the salt dough.
For the gardening basket, I'd look into finding a nice large pot.
You might luck out and find a terra cotta one at a garage sale,
but don't overlook those shiny steel buckets and other containers
that can end up as planters with some stones in the base or even
some holes poked in the bottom. Even a planter box would do
perfectly! I think I'll talk about the planter box since I've seen
those as cheap as $3 at Family Dollar, and I know you can get
the holders for another $1-2. Buy a bag of the good soil (I get
this at the dollar store...for $1, of course), and lay that in the
box. Add a pair of gardening gloves ($3?), a trowel which you
can get at the dollar store ($1) and then decide whether you're
giving a spice or flower planter box--or both. You can usually
get 8-10 packets of seeds for $1 at the dollar store too, so if
you have a budget of $15, you'll stay under the limit even if you
find a pretty plastic or metal or china miniature watering can at
the dollar store or a garage sale. Even the Salvation Army has
these at times. I've got one, for instance, that's metal--a former
creamer, but it's ideal! The other one I have is a watering can
made from china and painted a pretty red. Are there little things
you see at the dollar store that would be ideal for such a garden?
You should have enough to get one or two still. Mint, btw, does
very well in these boxes, as do marjoram and thyme. Delicate
flowers like impatiens also will do well in these. lol I've got lots
of these ideas just welling up, I'm afraid!
Okay, the salt dough. There are various ways you can do the
recipe itself, depending on what you're going to make. The
standard one I use comes from a dear friend in Germany, and
it's been very successful for me for several years.
Blend 2 cups of flour with 1 cup of salt and 3/4 cup of water. If
you want it smoother after you make the first batch, increase the
salt to 2 cups. Mix it well. If you want it thicker, for freestanding
work, as I did for a gift one year when I gave a friend a Madonna
and child painted in gold, you'll want to have the flour measured
to at least double the salt.
Now, if you have something specific in mind that you're looking
to make, decide whether you're going to want it white or slightly
off white as I've given you above. You can add a little cornstarch
and a bit more water to make the dough whiter if you'd like, but
perhaps you'd like to make something brown, as one of my sons
did for a school project one year when he had to make a physical
map of the state? You might want to add a bit of color to part of
the batch to enhance the texturing potential. Add some coffee
in place of the water, and you'll have the brown.
Another of my sons, when we were living in Phoenix, had to make
a diorama for school. He used a shoebox for the project, and
created a desert scene with animals and trees and cactus--
totally out of the salt dough.
When you make the wall hangings or free standing creations,
use a cookie sheet and fresh foil on the bottom of the sheet,
and work right on this as your work space and the means through
which you'll bake these. You *can*, especially in the desert areas,
leave them out in the sun for natural baking, but for those in the
north and southeast, this isn't always a feasible idea. I'll put the
baking info at the end of this.
Interested in making a tree for hanging on the wall perhaps?
Section some of the dough for the leaves and add a little green
food coloring. Form the leaves individually, and use a toothpick
to press the veins ever so gently into these leaves before you
add them to the tree base, the latter of which you, of course,
used *dark* coffee in forming the trunk. You can texture the
trunk by making it a bit thicker and ridging it with the toothpick.
Are you interested in having berries on the tree? Again section
some of the dough for the berries, add cranberry juice, mix, and
you'll have the naturally colored berries. Grab a paperclip and
open it so it looks like an S. Press the longer part of the S into
the dough so it's completely covered, and leave the upper part
out just enough so it can be hung.
If you've ever been a child with the delights of playing in the snow,
you'll remember snow angels. These are easy! Grab the rolling
pin, roll it to about 1/4-inch thick, use a knife or a cookie cutter to
do the shaping, and press the S into the back of the angel before
you do any possible texturing on the wings. The S that's extended
will be perfect for slipping an ornament hanger on for holiday
Now, do you remember paper dolls? Here's where you can get
really creative! I've had more fun by doing these free form than
I ever would have had in doing them with pre-shapes, and what's
special is people love them more because you put your heart in
these creations. They're one of a kind. I'm going to warn you,
however, that once you make these that follow, the first one will
steal your heart, and you'll be hooked!
During WWII, there were elderly women who often roamed the
Bavarian forests of Germany. If we in the contemporary world
saw them today, we might call them bag ladies, but they weren't.
There is an Old World charm to these ladies as you're about to
discover. I don't remember now what they were called in the
stories I've heard, but these would have been like the old
grandmothers who perhaps rummaged the forests for berries
and mushrooms and the like since food was so scarce.
Form the legs, torso, arms and head, of course, with a flat back
on the cookie sheet. On the head, form a a small ball, and
press it in the center of the head where the nose will go. Next,
make two tiny balls. These will be the eyes. With your toothpick,
form the eyes, and then press these balls in for where the color
of the eyes will be. Next, form the mouth. Don't worry if the
mouth is a bit misshaped because you think you're not a good
artist. This is one of those times when you don't have to be!
If her mouth is a little open, that's fine. Let some of those
teeth show then. She's never going to win a beauty contest
in Miss Universe, but she's going to be gorgeous to you! In
fact, it's super if her mouth is open. You want her happy and
Separate the legs (and I hope you remembered to add the
feet!) and bow them a little. Even though you won't be able
to see the bowed legs much, there will be just enough showing
to let admirers realize this. Shape a little dough around her
feet, and those are her boots. Think army style for these.
At her waist, place her skirt. Make sure it's full. This skirt
should come far enough down to show what would amount
to about 3 inches of leg on us. Form a shorter skirt and add
it to the first skirt. The third layer isn't a skirt but an apron,
so of course that too will be shorter yet.
Form a boxy kind of jacket and bend her arms to the center,
where the waist is, so her hands would be together. In her
hands, you'll have formed (before you move the hands, sorry)
a large pouch like what we could call a carpet bag, which may
well be what this was.
If you have a little wire, like copper wire, form her spectacles
with this. If not, head for those paper clips, and force a paper
clip into shape in the form of spectacles. Don't forget the
sides to these.
Decide how much hair, if any, will show between her floppy
hat. I've done several different ways with this part of her
Press a paper clip in the back, so the top half of the clip is
just about level with her shoulders. She probably doesn't
have a neck. You wouldn't be able to tell if she did because
of all those clothes! lol
After you bake her, again, baking instructions will be at the
bottom of all this, you can paint her. Add just a tad of red
paint with a LOT of water added to the tip of her nose
because she enjoys her schnapps, and a little to her cheeks.
Add a little less water to the blue, but do add some. Paint
the colored portion of her eye blue, and then add a little
more water to make the eyes more natural and sparkly.
Be colorful and creative with her, but be sure to make her
boots black. The more color the better, and make it vibrant.
Don't be afraid to overcolor. She'll need it!
Experiment with other doll wall hangings--the skinny school
teacher, the old tennis player. They all start from the basic
instructions I gave you above. Let your imagination fly free
on this, and have fun with it!
Bake your creations in a 250? F/121? C oven and expect it
to take at least 2 hours, but it could be as long as 6,
depending on the thickness of your creations. Just keep
an eye on the baking process so they don't brown till you
want them to brown with natural colors or with the paints.
After these are cooled and painted, if you go that route,
use lacquer and seal *everything* on these, not just the
front, but the back too. Be liberal with this because it
will preserve your creations. After the lacquer is dry,
finish it off with acrylic spray, and you're ready to give
it away--or selfishly hang on your own wall! lol
Btw, when my oldest turned 11, because John McEnroe
was coming to town for an exhibition match which was
on his birthday (my son and McEnroe share the day),
my son, who was a bit of a tennis star at that age, got a
gift from McEnroe--courtside seats at the match. Shawn
and I decided we'd make something special for Mac, so
we created a salt dough hanging for him--and it looked
like him. It was great fun, as you'll discover!
Hope you'll enjoy doing these as much as we have.
Hi.Michele.Have been reading the posts for a few days and find them most
interesting. I always worry about Christmas gifts but am not very
creative. However, the salt dough dolls sound so cute (I love dolls) I
might just try it. My question is this - about how big (tall) do you
make these dolls? Also the wall trees? I think I'd like to try the dolls
and trees for myself (not for gifts, my family would think I've gone
nuts . But maybe gift baskets for them).TIA, Pam
Good night for now. Looking forward to more interesting ideas tomorrow.
<<Hi.Michele.Have been reading the posts for a few days and find
them most interesting. I always worry about Christmas gifts but am
not very creative. However, the salt dough dolls sound so cute (I
love dolls) I might just try it. My question is this - about how big (tall)
do you make these dolls? Also the wall trees? I think I'd like to try
the dolls and trees for myself (not for gifts, my family would think I've
gone nuts . But maybe gift baskets for them).TIA, Pam
Good night for now. Looking forward to more interesting ideas
I think when you see how easy these salt dough creations are,
you just might change your mind about trying them as gifts as
well. One of the first experiments we did was in making an
adorable rusty brown rabbit we ended up calling Harvey. He
wasn't very big--perhaps 3 inches long and 1.5 to 2 inches
high, a freestanding creation--but he held a place of honor in
our hearts and on a shelf for several years before he finally
vanished either from moves or some other mishap. One day,
he simply was no longer there.
On the other hand, I'm not going to dissuade you from doing
gift baskets if that piques your fancy! lol
The salt dough holds up well for the most part in whatever
size you choose, although I'd urge that the larger you make
these, the thicker you might want to make them, just for
general principles of giving them more strength.
Mathilda, the charming Bavarian lady with three skirts, usually
comes out between 7 and 9 inches tall and about 4 inches
wide at her widest spot. The schoolmarm usually ends up
around 10 to 12 inches and perhaps 3 inches across, and the
old tennis player stands about as tall as Mathilda and about as
skinny as the schoolmarm. But don't let what my hands create
guide yours necessarily. Play with it. You'll know when the
size is right for your imagination.
The trees, btw, are usually about 8 inches tall and probably
as wide when finished. You just keep adding the leaves to
the upper branches, overlapping many to give a wonderful
amount of depth.
We've done ornaments beyond the snow angels as well, btw.
Oh, and the snow angels are generally about 8 inches by 3
inches. Someone with more artistic ability might be able to
do far more with these salt dough creations than I, but there's
much charm in the primitive and singular look of these that
come from one's own hand and the missing ingredient we
add to the mix--one that no other can do when we have just
purchased it rather than having made it as a gift--has *got*
to be the love we've added.
For what it's worth, Pam, when I first started making these,
I too didn't think they'd be as lovely as my friend Heidi in
Germany had shown hers to be. But while I couldn't make
the same things she was able to make, mine took on
personalities of their own that no one else could have had
in theirs. Like I said, that's the charm.
Michelle (Y. in upstate New York)
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