For all their sparkle and lavish decoration shop bought Christmas decorations lack something special. They lack that special touch that makes them unique and individual. If you have children then making homemade decorations can be a wonderful experience for them, giving them an opportunity to be creative, and adding their own special touch to the tree.
As each year passes those old home made decorations become traditions in themselves, a reminder of the happy times spent with the children in years gone by. There are many ways in which you can make Christmas decorations for the tree, but one of my favourites is to use salt dough. If you have never come across it before, or only vaguely remember the concept from your early school days, salt dough is a tough modelling dough which can be cooked to become a rock hard decoration which can be painted and decorated, and which will last for many years.
It's really easy to make, and the opportunity to create your own designs is endless. In today's blog post I'm going to give you my own preferred way of making reliable salt dough which is easy to knead and to model with, is extra strong, and perfect for making Christmas decorations out of. Over the next week I will be providing you with a variety of ways in which you can then decorate your salt dough decorations, including painting, embellishing, glittering and using mirrors and gems for long lasting designs. The recipe uses three basic ingredients, plus two optional extras. You will need: • 2 cups of plain white flour
• 1 cup of table salt • 1 cup of water In fact if you have several children (or one highly creative child!) you can easily double or triple these amounts. The actual quantity isn't important, it's the proportions, and so feel free to vary these quantities proportionally. The two optional extras I recommend using are: • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice The vegetable oil helps to make the dough easier to knead and to model with, and the lemon juice makes the finished model much stronger. To make the salt dough simple add the flour and salt into a bowl and then add a little of the water, mixing it in before adding a little more until all of the water has been added. Transfer the dough ball to a work surface and knead the dough for around ten minutes before leaving it to settle for twenty minutes. You'll then need to roll the dough out flat, to around a thickness of between 0.5cm and 1cm. Then using cookie cutters, or even scissors if you like, cut out your dough model. Feel free to add textures.
You can use a cocktail stick to create a stipple pattern, and even etch lines in the dough. Don't forget to create a hole for the string or ribbon to pass through if you intend to hang the decoration up! Cover a baking tray with greaseproof paper, then place your decoration on the tray and pop in the oven for around 4 hours at 200F (Gas Mark ¼). Although it's possible to air dry the salt dough, this is likely to take around 2 days. Children's attention spans and interest doesn't usually last this long, and although even four hours is pushing it, it's certainly a good deal better, and lets them get on with the next part of actually painting or decorating their finished creations the same day, or the next morning. Once the four hour cooking time is up, DO NOT remove the tray from the oven.
Simply switch the oven off and open the door a couple of inches. By allowing the salt dough to cool more slowly than whipping them straight out of the oven there's much less chance of cracking, and the resulting decorations will be much stronger. Once cooled the decorations will be ready to paint. Over the next few days I'll post a few recommended ways of doing this, and other decoration tips. I hope to upload a few photographs of my own creations too. If you have any tips of your own, or any questions or suggestions do please send them to me using the comment box below.