Every year (since 2001), I’ve made these beautiful dough ornaments for our Christmas tree. This year I want to share with you my whole process, in case you’d like a crafty project or gift idea. It really is an any occasion craft, you can use different shapes, cutouts, themes and decorations to make it suit whatever you have going on. It’s a wonderful and sweet handmade gift!
The first part of the project (which I failed to take photos of) involves the dough ornament itself. First, you’ll need to pick out your shape. I have nested heart cookie cutters, so I chose the biggest one, and the second to smallest so that I have enough room for the girls photo. (I take the girls Christmas photos myself in my studio the day before.) Here’s my ornament shape:
The next task is making the dough – which is super easy. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, 1 cup salt – and then add in 1 cup of water as you’re kneading the dough. This will make enough dough for about 10 of my ornaments, but I double the batch so the girls can make their own ornaments each year, too. Knead the dough really well, so it’s pliable and easy to manage.
Whatever surface you’re working on, you want to be able to get your dough up easily. Use a flexible cutting board, or wax paper to lift it off the table and peel back away from the back of the ornament. Put a little flour out on the surface and roll your dough to about 1/4″ thickness. If it’s cracking, you can dust some flour on it and then spray with a mist of water from a spray bottle, smoothing over with your hand.
Create your shapes using your cutter, and transfer them to an ungreased cookie sheet. To make holes for ribbons or hanging wire, just pop a hole into the shape using a straw, not too close to the edge so the dough doesn’t crack or break over time.
Before you bake them, use a toothpick to go around the edges and clean off any jagged dough edges. Once these dry, they take a bit of work to file off – so do as much beforehand as you can.
Bake your ornaments at 200 degrees for 2 hours. When they’re done, let them cool to the touch. Then, if you need to, use a nail file/buffer to clean off any jagged pieces from around the edges.
Now, you can prep your creative surface for painting! I use aluminum foil or wax paper to make it easy to move them around as they’re drying.
I’ve got my base color, dark blue, on a few of my ornaments already. The design is different each year, and usually I know how I’m going to paint them and have all of my materials/paints/backing/wire purchased before I start my project. Since my photo backdrop is a mottled blue, I decided to follow it through to the ornament. It’s also flecked with red, so I chose a red self-adhesive felt backing paper and red decorative wire.
Here’s my palette. I’ve got the dark blue drying, and I’m going to “sponge” on a light blue, white and pearly glaze. These are all acrylic paints you can pick up at Hobby Lobby for a couple of bucks. You really don’t need much, the small bottles are perfect. I put the paint on top of the other in a crazy pattern so it transfers to the ornament randomly. I paint through the holes and around to the back a little bit, just in case any edging shows through.
Prepare to get messy! I just wadded up a paper towel for this part, just dab it onto the plate and then onto the ornaments.
Here’s how they look after the first coat. It’s a bit too light, so I let it dry (acrylic takes a minute or two to dry) and add another coat of the dark blue over the top.
Once I finished blotting them and allowed the paint to dry, I went over the ornaments with a coat of Mod Podge
to give it a really glossy lustre. This seals the dough and helps it last longer, too!
Next, I get the self-adhesive felt
out. (I found mine at Hobby Lobby in the crafting area with all the felting tools.) I wish I had found this stuff years ago!! It made the whole process wonderful and opens up a variety of ways that these ornaments can be made and used.
Flip the felt over, and trace the outside of your ornament and mark the holes. Just do one at a time, because they do tend to all come out different based on how they cook, if they’re slightly misshapen in the transfer to the cookie sheet, etc.
I’ve printed the girls photos and sized them so that they’ll fit perfectly inside my little “window”. I set the photo under the opening and trace the opening onto the photo, then cut around it giving about 1/4″ overlap.
I cut out the felt, used a hole-puncher for the holes, and have everything ready to assemble the ornament.
Flip the ornament over, and align the photo to the backside, lifting to make sure it’s in position. Then just peel and stick your felt to the back, carefully lining it up to get it into position before pressing it down firmly onto the ornament.
Here’s the front side of the ornament.
Here’s the backside, felted.
Now I just take my wire (or ribbon, or hook, whatever you’re going to use) and wind it through the holes and around itself. I like to date my ornaments, this year I dated the back for everyone else and designed the front date of ours using a silver metallic sharpie, outlining in a black sharpie. Colored sharpies work GREAT for designing and decorating the fronts of these dough ornaments!
Here are a few of them all assembled, aren’t they sweet? Once they’re all done, I slip mine into a sandwich baggie do they don’t get scratched or damaged. I store years worth of these in a heart shaped container, each individually wrapped, and they all still look wonderful!
Merry Christmas, everyone!!
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