Salt Dough Ornaments

How to make salt dough and use it to create Christmas ornaments, small presents, table decorations, jewelery, and much more.

Salt dough, just like its name suggests, is a dough made with salt, water and flour. Usually people use 4 C flour, 1 C salt and 1 C hot tap water. First stir together the hot water and the salt so some of the salt will melt for about one minute. Then add in the flour and knead it together for 10 minutes. Let the dough rest for at least half a day to help the salt to dissolve and the dough to become smooth and more manageable. The dough should ideally be used up within 24 hours for the best results. When you let the dough rest, make sure you cover it completely with a plastic bag, or put it into a zip lock freezer bag. It should rest at room temperature.

Now that the dough is rested, you are ready to start forming the dough into the shapes you like. For the beginning it is easier to use cookie cutters to cut out the shapes you want. After you have some experience you can make beautiful dolls, pressing some dough through a garlic press to make hair, and pressing bits of fabric against the dough for the pattern of the clothes. You can also put cloves into the dough to make fragrant eyes. If you make hang-able things, you can use paperclips bent into a square shape, which can be implemented into the dough. For smaller pieces you could just make a hole into the top of the object with knitting needles or another similar object. Some other craft ideas are wedding gifts for the guest, where you could cut out a heart with the cookie cutter and engrave the groom and bride's names. Or you could make small plates and a whole tiny dining set to put on display. Children would probably love to make jewelry, since it is easy to form beads and poke a hole into them. You could also make little tablets on which you could make a painting, or just a picture frame.

After you are done forming your dough, you can either dry it in the oven or just at room temperature. The method chosen more often is to dry it in the oven since it is much quicker. In the oven, the temperature has to be 100"┼żaC and the dough has to dry for at least 2-3 hours. Keep checking on the dough to make sure it isn't over-baked. The reason for some people to let the dough air dry, is because then it keeps its beautiful white color. But this process takes at least a week, and if the air is humid, the dough never gets hard enough. So you should probably bake the dough.

After the dough is baked, it can be painted. Any kind of paint can be used, but it looks nice if you use a thick kind of paint as opposed to watercolor to thoroughly cover the dough. Sometimes people leave the dough unpainted which also looks nice since you can see little salt crystals glittering. This look is very appealing for wedding gifts or Christmas ornaments.

The most important step of the process is to varnish the piece. If you want to archive an antique look, mix a little bit of brown oil based paint into the varnish. Then you can paint over the object. You can choose between high - gloss, semi - gloss and no gloss varnish. All of them look nice on the dough. Make sure you cover every part of the dough even the holes you made for hanging the pieces. This is important because if you miss a spot, the moisture of humid air could get into those spots of the dough, which could in the best case discolor your object, and in the worst case soften the whole piece until it collapses. Just to make sure you cover all areas, give the objects at least 2 to 3 coats of the varnish, letting the previous coat dry completely before applying another one.

If you want to make your salt dough piece last many generations, you should examine it every 3 years to make sure there are no places where the moisture can get in. If you find small cracks or bulges you can first gently wipe the piece with a moist cloth. After letting it dry completely, give your object a coat of varnish. This will totally revitalize your object and give it a new shine, and will also bring out the colors once again. If you give your salt object to someone, make sure you tell them how to care for it, and it will last them a lifetime, a beautiful reminder of you and the occasion when you gave it to them. By the way, don't eat the treats!

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