Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Shrinky Dinky Done! And some Do's and Don'ts

Reliving childhood achieved! I was afraid making shrinky dinks as an adult would be one of those experiences that you remember from childhood as totally awesome, but when you try to recreate it as an adult it's woefully disappointing. Well, fear not, it was just as fun as I remembered.  It was especially fun since I have a toaster oven and could watch the entire shrinking process from start to finish. As soon as my pieces started to shrivel up I almost squealed with delight. I probably would have had my parents not been in the other room. I didn't really have a specific project in mind since I wasn't sure how the finished product would turn out so I just did a practice run and made a little drawing of a peony (one of my favorite flowers) and followed some pointers I found online beforehand.

Here are some tips I would like to pass along, as well as one thing that didn't work out so well. As I've only made a couple attempts with this oh so wonderful childhood invention, this isn't a complete list, but at least a couple to start out with:

Little baby ruler!
  1. Make a full size ruler and shrink it as a gauge. Genius, absolutely genius! This is one of the best suggestions I found so that you know exactly how much the plastic will shrink in my particular source of heat and I can tell how much my future pieces will shrink. This is great in case I make buttons for a piece of clothing I might make or "retrofitting" beads for a piece of jewelry I've already made, especially if I'm trying to sell it and want it to look as perfect as possible. I even marked flu-size measurements after I shrunk the ruler so I can flip it over and use it to measure going both ways (it also turned out looking like  an adorable little baby ruler afterwards).
  2. Key your eye on your pieces as they shrink. I'm fortunate enough to have toaster oven, which is the perfect heat source for dinks (as if I didn't already have enough reasons to love my toaster oven). I only made little pieces to start out with, but the larger ones tend to twist or curl onto themselves as they shrink so if you can watch them carefully you're able to use a chopstick (or whatever pointy long thing that isn't your own finger) to help flatten them out. But if you're patient they tend to flatten themselves out pretty well in my experience with my shrinking ruler. Here are some action shots if you're curious (and because it's fun to watch).
  3. Most of the other suggestions are found on the packaging. Bake the dinks on a piece of cardboard. I followed this step, mostly because I was afraid that if I baked them on a metal cookies sheet they wouldn't shrink, but instead grow and I'd have a giant ruler and HUGE MONSTROUS peony on my hands and they'd grow and grow and grow and take over my kitchen and smoosh me to death and my epitaph would be: "Death by Shrinky Dinks. Here lies Katy Manion, she truly loved her crafts. She lived as she died." Anyway I used cardboard and it worked out perfectly. 
  4. The ruler shrivels up like bacon!
  5. The other step to surely follow it to sand the plastic before you color it. The Shrinky Dink brand-name plastic has a pre-sanded frosty version that doesn't require this step, but I happens to have the Grafix brand that still needed a quick sanding so that the color could really sink in. Also along the lines of color, make sure you're light handed when it comes to coloring the plastic. I've read this suggestion before, but still felt compelled to really push when using my colored pencils, which turned out fine with the peony since I was going for a real color saturation with that and it was also a little bigger, but when I attempted smaller pieces with more black outlines it didn't turn out quite like I wanted. I made little leaf beads with black outline and veins. That combined with a much smaller size and the greens concentrating after the backing resulted in a slightly muddy look from further away and it was also harder to make out the shading of the greens I was hoping would be more noticeable. Depending on the effect you're going for, however, affects what approach to take. Just experiment like I did; this plastic is so wonderfully versatile you're bound to be able to find success.
There are endless possibilities for this re-discovered medium so if you're looking for a fun new project, go out and get some shrink plastic, on the double! Speaking of double, I here tell on the interwebs that you can double-bake or "fuse" shrink plastic. Apparently you bake it once, then bake again (surprise surprise!), but according to some tutorials I've read on the subject, it's a tad more complicated than that and require much practice and patience. After the first bake, you crank up the heat from 350 degrees to 450 and layer the two pieces in a pyrex dish (you leave one piece blank and put that one on top) and bake until the two melt to a glassy finish (about 8 minutes?). I have yet to try this and obviously this is an incomplete set of directions, but if I'm feeling adventurous in the near future I will attempt this one myself. Honestly though, I'm not done experimenting with the conventional use quite yet so it may be a while until this method gets its own blog entry, but I can guarantee it will happen.

If you're ever mid-project of any sort and think, "if only I had the right size and shape bead for this," or "I wish I had a bead with holes in the the right size and place for my wire," or you need just the right color, consider shrink plastic. It makes almost custom beads and you don't have to worry about breaking them like you might if you use polymer clay, which can crumble or shatter if it's too thin or you work it too much with wires or other materials. Once baked, the plastic is a good 1.5 millimeters thick and can take a fair amount of abuse. I needed a tiny spider for a certain piece and couldn't get the right look using conventional beads and it was next to impossible to get the wire legs to look right on top of that so I went back to the drawing board and then back to the shrink plastic. I was able to make the perfect little dink spider that held the legs perfectly in place as well as the other wires exactly where I needed them for the exact look I was hoping to achieve with minimal swearing as a result. I even screwed up several times with wire wrapping and no matter how many times I reworked it, the plastic stood up to the abuse and showed no signs of cracking or breaking.

Moral of the story: shrink plastic does not disappoint and it even better than I remember from my childhood (and yes, I am old enough to reminisce about my childhood!). Give it a try, it's cheap, fun, and versatile, what more could you ask for (other than a bottomless pint of Ben and Jerry's... I may have an ice-cream addiction...)?

Signing Off for now. Yours truly,

Now that I think about it, it may be a while before I experiment with fusing shrink plastic since my soldering torch (yes, a soldering torch!) has just been shipped to me and I will surely be diving right into that the minute my dog, Sadie, barks her head off at the UPS guy when he brings it to my front door, but it will surely make for an entertaining post since I will undoubtedly be cycling between absolute joy at being able to solder for the first time since my first metals class and sobbing in desperation because something didn't work out right and swearing like a sailor, throwing a failed project across the room. If my parents know what's good for them they'll have both the fire department and my therapist on call... can't wait!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Shrinky Dinky do!

As my first post, I planned on introducing myself, the kinds of crafts I do, why I started this blog, all about me, blah blah blah… but then I got too excited about a possible project so I'm going to tell you all about why this craft idea has me awake at 10:00 am without sleeping since the night before and starting a blog for the first time so I can talk about. I can bore you with all that in another post when I can't sleep again and find myself watching infomercials whilst eating entire pints of Ben and Jerry's chocolate fudge brownie… not that I ever do that…

I don't remember these Dinks at my daycare…
Shrinky Dinks. I think, or hope, we all remember them from our distant childhoods (yes, as 25 my childhood is still pretty distant!). We colored them in with crayons and colored pencils, stuck them in the oven, or in my case, the toaster oven at daycare, and delighted as they curled and shriveled and finally settled down and lot and behold! Tiny little versions of what we colored in! If you were anything like me, the "dinks" were not too spectacular. Just some pre-stamped outline or cartoon that you hastily colored in, probably not even in the lines, sloppily cut out, but it was more the fun of watching the thing shrink up like a plastic Benjamin Button that drew us to choose Shrinky Dinks during crafts time. And of course, being kids, we threw them away or stuffed them into our cubbies along with the rest of the projects we didn't care about. If it was lucky, the dink joined our keychains (if you were into that kind of thing), but in the end, nothing really came of these afternoon-at-daycare creations. And that's all that Shrinky Dinks can ever expect to be, right?


I never gave a thought to this activity that I was once enthusiastic about until I stumbled upon a package of shrink plastic at one of the many craft stores I frequent and thought, "oh yeah, I remember those, haha, what would anyone do with shrink paper as an adult?" and went along my way. But as I browsed the aisles I got thinking. And then when I got home and continued my current project at the time (custom Christmas cards, but that's another post) I really got thinking. What could I do with shrink plastic? I wondered what anyone els did what the stuff, too, so I got to googling. Oh dear, shouldn't have done that. The possibilities are surprisingly endless. Some people make adorable custom buttons. Many make fun beads. The great thing about the stuff is that you can make anything that you use made of plastic totally custom. You can make the perfect buttons to match that blouse you're sewing. Beading a necklace and want a pendant with just the right colors and size?  Want to make a little sticker charm for your scrapbook, but don't want to pay $5 for those expensive, albeit adorable, stickers they sell at the scrapbooking places? Well, Shrinky Dink that shiz up!

When I first discovered Shrinky Dinks had not indeed gone out of existence, I was on a time crunch to get my cards to friends and family before Christmas and thus far to busy to bother myself with another project. Apparently when I got the great idea to make  handmade cards I forgot they need to get to loved ones before the 25th and I have yet to hone my teleportation skills and still relied on the good people of the United States post office to deliver said cards. Anyway, the dinks were put on the back burner for a while. In fact, after I finished the cards, crafting in general was kind of disregarded. You see, I had not crafted in months, years, in fact for a myriad of reasons and had only made the cards out of shear boredom and a chance encounter with a bucket of Christmas-themed foam stickers at Target and it kind of snowballed into a rather time consuming project. And since I had not crafted in so long, once that task was completed I put my supplies away once again and returned to boredom. But the craft bug bit me and I started getting antsy… and inspired. I saw the TOMS flag that came with my new shoes and saw it was just itching to be made into a wallet. And then my poor laptop has gone months without a safe mode of travel and was begging for a sleeve to be made for it. Sigh. I guess I'll have to whip out the ol' '76 Singer sewing machine and get started (again, a topic for its own post).

This all brings me to Shrinky Dinks. After months of spiritual awakening and finally quenching my soul's yearning for arts and crafts, I finally find myself back to the topic of shrink paper. I bought some on one of my bi-weekly pilgrimages at Joann Fabrics in a haul of beads, fabric, wire, cork, paint, you name it, so it didn't get the attention it deserved at the time and ended up, once again, in my "to craft" pile. My original intention for the plastic was scrapped, but now, I finally find myself in the position to use it to its full potential now that I'm back in the land of jewelry making.'

But what to do with it? I could make a pendant, but on its own it's nothing all that special; it'll look like I bought a colorful bead at the store. How to make it shine? I've decided on some mixed media sort of application. Since all my metals are currently taking over my craft space it seems the perfect opportunity to explore what I can do with metal sheets, wire, beads, and the star of the show (finally!) drum roll please Shrinky Dinks! I've been having fun with rivets and eyelets, as well as hammering low gauge wire and using it as a frame so I think I'll try to combine those elements with sheet metal into a pendant or maybe even a funky cuff. Best thing about the endless possibilities of shrink plastic is that it gives me an excuse to return to the craft store yet again to get even more supplies. I'm hoping to find a nice sampler of acrylic paints so I don't have to rely on boring old colored pencils to decorate the plastic.

I'll keep you posted on the what becomes the official Shrinky Dink project and how it turns out! Thanks for reading!

Diabeatles Out