Friday, November 28, 2014

salt dough--a couple of stories, a couple of links, and a how-to

Note: I wrote this post earlier in the year, like in January. But, I've been saving it for now, because it's a little more timely at this point in the year.

The older I get, the more impressed I am with my mom. One of my aunts once said that Barbara (my mom) has always had four great loves: children, reading, music, and singing, and that her life reflected those great loves in a very positive way.  I absolutely agree.

My mom has always taken mothering (and now takes grandmothering) very seriously. Not that she was a serious, no-fun mother, but that (as I now see it), she made her mothering responsibilities a priority, and dedicated the lion's share of her time and energy towards those responsibilities.

One way that this was manifested was that every Christmas for as long as I was interested, she would let me have a little "Christmas Craft Party". What that meant was that sometime in December, I could invite two or three friends to come over to my house and do something Christmasy. We did it many times, and I remember doing salt dough ornaments, ornaments made out of alphabet blocks and pom poms (kind of like these), peanut butter bars, and homemade suckers. I also remember letting each of my friends take a candy cane off our Christmas tree to go home.

It's a fond Christmas memory for me, so last year I decided to offer Heather the opportunity to do the same. I gave her a few options for activities, and she chose the old favorite of salt dough ornaments.

Wanting things to be streamlined as much as possible, I made up a half-batch of dough before the big day, cut out some ornaments, and baked them up. My thought was that when the girls came over, we could have some dough for them to roll out, shape, and create, and then while their shapes where baking, they could have some ready-made shapes to paint and decorate.

I used a recipe that I found at, and modified to my liking:


  • 3 cups flour, plus a little for dusting rolling surface
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 TBSP cream o’ tarter
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil 
  • 2 cups boiling water
Mix dry ingredients.  Add oil to water, then add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix to incorporate.  Work the dough with your hands. 
Roll your dough out quite thin, and cut out your ornaments, being sure to make a hole in the top for ornament hanging. We used a drinking straw, cut into three or four pieces for added usability. 

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If you want to use that same drinking straw to make eyes for your snowman or whatnot, go right ahead.

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If you want to experiment with pressing random beads into your ornaments, then go ahead.  (We got the idea here.)

A word to the wise, a large number of our beads fell out once they were all baked (though none of them melted). The smallest beads (like the small green seed beads in the pictures below) fared the best. None of them ended up falling out while baking.

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Bake at 170 degrees for several hours, until they are set. I think it took us overnight.
(Technically, you can bake them faster at a higher temperature, say 200 or 250, but you run more of a risk of them bubbling or changing shapes, and we weren't in a hurry, so we took the slow-but-safer route)

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Once they're ready, go ahead and paint them. We like using acrylic paints--the colors are brighter and more permanent than the washable paints that we generally use for our craftiness.

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As it turned out, Heather was diagnosed with Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease the day before the big party, and so the "friend" Christmas Craft Party turned into a "mother-daughter" Christmas Craft Party. Not as fun, but better than nothing.  A whole lot better than nothing, actually.

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Because it was just the two of us, Heather and I had a hard time making it through the salt dough that I had made for four little girls. So we saved some and two months later, we made Valentine necklaces.

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Equally satisfying.

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