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November 20, 2017

Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments: (Update to my "not" salt dough Christmas ornaments) - LOVE this dough!

In August I decided I wanted to make new 'salt dough' ornaments for Christmas this year.  I usually make some sort of ornament and it had been a few years since I made salt dough versions.  The problem is I really, really hate working with salt dough.

Ever since I was a child, every single recipe for salt dough is gritty and dries out my hands and is well, salty! Ha ha.  This time around I decided to do more of a play-doh crossed with magic modeling compound and hoped for the best.  The end result? LOVE them.  I doubt I'll ever go back to the old salt dough at this point.

My first post (Christmas ornament dough - NOT 'salt' dough) promised an update closer to the holidays when I decided how to finish them.  Well, today was the day.  I didn't know it would be; but it was.  I was sitting at my desk in the office, procrastinating doing anything and I looked up into the bookshelves and spied the padded envelope I had them stored in.

The only 'idea' I had was I had cut out the monogrammed "B" from some extra Christmas cards last year and through them into the envelop with the baked and dried ornaments in August.  With the "B" on a faux weathered wood background - that's all I had for an idea.

The other factor is that I need to use what I have in the house already; so I got up, checked the junk drawer and found some random little bottles of craft paint.  I had a bronze, white, black, silver and some beige.  I just grabbed some paintbrushes I picked up at the dollar store a couple weeks ago and just sat down and started painting stripes of paint and blending them together.

The end result is a 'weathered barn wood' look on baked dough ornaments with a bit of modge podge holding a piece of paper with the letter "B" on them (our name).

ORIGINAL POST - with 'recipe' from August, 2017

Christmas in August!?  Yes... Christmas ornaments that is!

This morning I had the urge to make Christmas ornaments.  The kind you make with a simple dough, roll and cut out and then bake dry and paint.  I have no idea where this urge came from other than it's been a pretty stressful and busy past two months and I haven't done anything 'fun' since... I don't remember when.  I have done another dough ornament post on An American Housewife, back in 2007 I think (?).  It featured some ornaments I had made 10 years earlier with the traditional salt dough for the ornaments.  I still have those ornaments and they are now 20 years old.  This particular dough today is a softer, non-grainy, pure white dough.  But both (either/or) doughs work well for ornaments.  You can find the other recipe by typing ornament in the search box to your right.

This post is going to be two parts;  the dough is one part and the finished results will be a future post (closer to Christmas).  I decided putting the dough and the decorating in one post is just too long and honestly you can use this dough for things other than Christmas Ornaments.  The first thing that comes to mind is doing little baby and toddler handprints (where you press their little hands into the dough and let it dry) as that is the very first project I ever did with the store bought Crayola Model Magic and that is what this particular dough reminds me of.

It's a cross between Crayola Model Magic and Playdough.  It's soft, pure white, not at all grainy, there is no salt in it and it doesn't dry out my hands like traditional salt dough does.  You can let the pieces air dry or you can bake them to dry faster.  You can leave them white, paint them, decorate them, hang them, make a sculptures of it, roll into balls and make beads, or string for Christmas decorations like you would popcorn; basically it's a fun dough to use, period.

I'm making two different styles Christmas Ornaments out of the dough today so I'm using two shapes.  I'll post an update to the finished products in a month or two (closer to the Christmas holiday) but today it's all about a fun dough.

Fun Dough

1/2 c corn starch (I use Argo brand)
1 c baking soda (in the yellow bag/box)
3/4 c water

Blend the cornstarch and baking soda in a pan.  Add the water and stir to mix.  Turn the heat up to medium high and continue to stir.  It will quickly go from looking like white glue to a thick gloop and then suddenly start to come together into a dough (much like cream puff dough).  Turn off the heat as soon as it comes together and push it out onto a flat surface (like a cutting board) to gently start to press it together (*it's hot) to a dough.  Cover with plastic wrap and let it set and cool a little bit.  The plastic wrap keeps the moisture in so it doesn't start to dry out.  After about 5-10 minutes when it's cooled down to work with it a little bit, start to push and pull and knead it back over itself.  When it's completely smooth and feels like a soft play dough, you can wrap it in plastic wrap and let it cool completely for little hands to play with or you can start to use it right away.

Roll it out on a cutting board, silpat, etc. and cut into the shapes you wish.  Use a straw or small round implement to make a hole if you are going to hang them later.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in a 170 degree oven approximately 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours depending on how thick and large you made your shapes.  Or you can let them set to air dry - although you will need to let them dry about 2 days and even longer if they are thick balls, sculptures or if you live where there is high humidity levels.  (My oven is a digital and the lowest setting it can go to is 170.  That is how I came up with that figure.)  Carefully turn your ornaments over (flip them) about half way through the baking time as the parchment paper under them traps moisture.  This dries both sides.  I placed mine on a wire cookie cooling rack for the last 10 minutes of baking but you don't have to do that.  I did a second batch and air dried completely on a wire cookie cooling rack.

When completely dry, paint them if you wish or glue baubles on it, glitter, etc. String a ribbon or string them to hang or finish however you wish!  If you drop it on the floor they will probably break, but just painting them, etc. is no problem as they are not fragile as long as you are not pressing hard, dropping, etc.

The cornstarch and baking soda in the pan

Adding the water and starting to stir, it resembles white glue

The heat starts to turn it to gloop

It quickly comes to a dough - place it on a heat safe surface and quickly press the hot dough to a ball shape

Cover with plastic wrap and let it cool until you can handle it

Use whatever cookie cutter shapes you wish - have a small utensil to make holes for hanging

Knead it a few times to get it smooth

Roll out as thick or thin as you wish - just like cookie dough

Cut whatever shapes you wish

Don't forget to add holes before baking if you wish to hang them later!

Ready to go into the oven

All finished baking!  Just let them cool completely and decorate as you wish


Spur of the moment decision to 'finish' these today.
Using what I had in the house already, I found some random little bottles of craft paint in the junk drawer and a pack of cheap paintbrushes I bought at the dollar store last week.

Without any plan in mind I just started painting stripes of random paint in shades of black, white, gray, silver, beige and bronze.

Had I gone to buy paint for this project I'm sure I would have chosen matte colors; as it was my silver and bronze were both metallic.  But it worked just fine.

Winging it....

Last years Christmas cards had a letter "B" on them (our last name starts with a B) and I had some extra leftover cards so before I threw them away I had snipped out the monogram and threw them into the envelope thinking 'maybe' I'd use them, maybe not.  

I did.

I just put a blob of modge podge on the ornament and squished it down a bit to attach it.


Finished with a simple piece of twine - which is the only thing I had on hand in the junk drawer, but happens to have worked out perfectly with the 'weathered wood' look of the dough ornaments.   These will look great on our rustic, natural decor themed Christmas tree this year.

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