Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Starfish Suncatchers

In the last post, we explored a few ideas for some seaside-themed activities with a promise at the end of some suncatchers for our sun chasers. So here we go today with our suncatchers made with that great 1970's classic craft- Shrinky Dinks. I remember Shrinky Dinks as being weird and not so great. Ours were the pre-stamped kits and while the did shrink, they warped and curled and never came out as we had hoped. I'm not sure if the product has changed or if the crafter is a bit more skilled but I've been having tremendous fun with Shrinky Dinks the past couple of years.

I started thinking up this craft after seeing this post on BuzzFeed of the most beautiful starfish in the world. Seriously, who knew?

Image via BuzzFeed

Turns out, when you start to look, there is a huge variety of starfish out there.

 1. Red scaly sea star (Nepanthia sp.), 2. Young knobbly sea star (Protoreaster nodosus), 3. Knobbly sea star (Protoreaster nodosus), 4. Australia, Sydney: The blue star, 5. The Sea Star, 6. star fish, 7. Star Fish, 8. Rottnest Island, 9. Sea Star

So I started thinking, "Let's invent our own starfish!" But I didn't want drawings of starfish that would end up at the bottom of a drawer so we'll make suncatchers to have out on display. When the sun comes through the shrinky-plastic, these suncatchers are so pretty. Unfortunately I was not able to capture how nice they are in real life so you'll have to trust me on this one.

For this project, you will need:

Shrinky Dink plastic sheets
Pencils and fine point sharpies
Colored pencils
Dental floss
Mini suction cups
Key chain ring- small

You will also need- scissors, pencil sharpeners, regular hole punch, oven/heat source, white or parchment paper, heavy book, cookie sheet.

Notes on materials and supplies-

Shrinky Dinks come in all kinds of flavors. If you go to The Magical Land of Shrinky Dinks and look down the sidebar on the left, you will see all kinds of accessories, books, and other opportunities to spend your money Clicking on the top link- Shrinky Dinks Shrinkable Plastic- will take you to what I consider the best page on their website. Here you will find several kinds of Shrinky Dinks plastic from clear to colored to inkjet printable. All blank canvases just waiting for our ideas.

For this project you will need the Frosted Rough N' Ready. Now be careful because there are a couple of packaging versions so make sure you get Frosted Rough N' Ready. These cost about $5.50 for a package of ten which means each sheet is 50 cents. I got mine at Michael's but only because we don't have a Hobby Lobby, about which I am very distraught. My Wal-Mart does not have them but you can check yours. You will use one sheet per sun catcher.

Colored Pencils- The instructions encourage the use of artists colored pencils but I've used El Cheap-o No-Name Brand and they work just as well.

Dental floss- I got mine for 88 cents at Wal-Mart, an even better price than $1 at the Dollar Tree. We're all Activity Directors here, we know how to stretch our budget. Get the unwaxed if you can as it knots better but either will work. Mint flavor just makes it nice when you're stringing the beads and you suck on the end to get a nice point.

Beads- again, if you want to spend money on the glass ones that's your choice but for this project I used the cheapie plastic ones. You can get a variety of shapes and colors for not too much and there's a kazillion in as package for other projects in the future (that's an allusion to future Christmas projects).

Sharpies- Black or colored, either one, but fine point is important.

You may want to start out the group by sharing photos of different kinds of starfish and maybe a little discussion about what they eat, etc.

OK- let's get to work. Use as much of the Shrinky Dink sheet as you can. Minimize wasteful cutting since the scraps can be saved for future projects- yes the little scraps can be used.

This is the layout that I worked out for this project to use as much of the sheet as possible to get the largest pieces. If you are going to straight out "Invent Your Own" without prompts or other suggestions with a higher functioning groups of residents this is the template you want to use. Click here to download the blank template.

 I have made a few other templates that you may use with this project.

                                  1           2              3            4

Click on the numbered link below each template image in the mosaic above to access the template. When you arrive at the link destination, you may or may not see a preview image of the template- the publisher is apparently having issues with images. Go ahead and clink on "Download this file"- you can save it or open it to view. If you are unable to access the templates, please please please send me an email and I'll send the file to you directly.

Some boring legal mumbo-jumbo about Creativity Greenhouse downloads. All materials offered as downloads are copyrighted and all rights are reserved. You may download and save any files to your work computer only. You may reproduce, crop, enlarge, fold, spindle, and mutilate however you need for use in your facility only. I would appreciate if you would let me know how you change any files as this may help with development of future files. Please do not share, re-publish, sell or use my files for anything other than use in your facility with your residents. You may use files if, for example, you are creating items or events such as a fundraiser for your facility only, but not for personal gain, meaning please don't sell items made from my templates or original projects for personal profit. If you would like to use files or original projects for church fundraisers, etc, please ask me first. You may use files to make a project that you are going to keep for yourself or give as a one time gift. You may use my original photos from this post in a blog of your own but please let me know if you do and limit to one or two photos only and always give me credit with a proper link back to the post. I am happy to see anyone exploring their creativity and thrilled if my files can contribute. I would love to see what you create but please don't steal my original work for your personal benefit. Putting these posts together and developing downloads takes lots of time. Thanks so much.

OK- let's get back to the fun stuff.

Select your template. You will notice that there is a larger rectangle around the other boxes on the template. This is the 8 x 10 size of the Shrinky Dink sheets, printed as a guide if you need to re-size after you download. You shouldn't have to but I like to think of all the things that can go wrong, worry about them a bit, then then try to make them do-able.

The directions in the package of sheets are pretty clear so I'll just give you an overview of those with some helping hints and then I'll tell you how I would recommend. I only discovered my preferred method after most of the photos were done so it will be kind of an addendum.

Place a sheet of the shrink plastic on top of the template, rough side up.

Trace around the images in the template with a pencil. Residents can leave out any elements that they do no want to include or you could even white out over elements that you want to omit. Encourage your residents not to worry about getting off the lines because once they lift the sheet off of the template no one will be any the wiser.

It may be helpful to tape the sheet and template to the work surface to keep things from sliding around. I use either painters tape of that paper tape from nursing.

You can turn the sheet over so the shiny side is up and outline with a fine point Sharpie. The second image in the mosaic above shows how this will look on the shiny side after heating and the third image shows the rough side after heating. The lines are not as defined on the rough side. We'll come back to this issue in a minute. It may also be helpful to outline the outer edges with a regular Sharpie to help with cutting out. Just an FYI- drawing on the shiny side with a Sharpie is like writing on a grease board- it's slick and your residents may not feel they can do as neat of a job as they would like. Again, we'll come back to this issue.

Then start the coloring magic with your colored pencils.

Some coloring hints that may be helpful-

There is no need to press hard. Even light sketching is enough because the colors will intensify once the plastic shrinks. That's because the pigment does not evaporate or cook off while the sheets are shrinking in the oven- it's the same amount of pigment just in a smaller space so the colors are much darker and brighter. Pressing down hard will just wear down the pencils, fatigue your resident's hands, and worst of all may discourage your resident because it takes longer to color. Pressing hard can, however, create some fabulous jewel tone colors after shrinking. Just sayin'

Keep pencil sharpeners handy so that your residents can keep their pencils nice and sharp. Use the long exposed side of the pencil to fill in larger areas. Use the point for highlights and adding definition. And don't forget that colored pencils are erasable.

You can also use a finger, paper towel, or tissue to blend the colors. This is a good trick if the colors are kind of rough and streaky on the sheets (i.e. not filled in nice and evenly).

Once the templates are colored in, carefully cut them out. If the sheets are handled too roughly they can rip so "gently" is the functional word. Save any scraps that are even remotely usable as we will be visiting Shrinky Dinks again sometime to use up these little scraps. Use a regular hole punch to make holes. Double check top and bottom. It is easy to look at these holes and think they are way too humungo but remember, everything's going to shrink. Avoid the temptation to use the smaller scrapbooking hole punches.

Now come the exciting magical science part. Time to shrink them babies. Set the oven to 325 degrees and line an old cookie sheet with paper. The instructions say to use brown paper bag but remember this is vintage 1970's issue crafts we're doing and brown paper bags may be tricky to find these days. White copier paper or even parchment paper work fine.

Once your plastic goes into the oven, don't walk away. This seriously takes only about 3 minutes. The cut-outs will start to move and bend and curl and get all crazy and just about the time you think they are ruined they will start to unfold and relax. So nifty! Once the cut-outs lay back down flat, give them another 30 seconds or so but don't go too long as they start to get very soft and jelly-like. One of these days I'll experiment to see what happens if you leave them in for a long time. I bet they start to smoke and melt! I originally made these suncatchers by cutting out the starfish but the legs tended to curl and stick to itself so now the live inside the circles.

Once the pan is out of the oven, slide the paper off, cover with another sheet of paper, and weigh down with a fairly heavy book. Use a hard back book. The shrunken cut-outs (shrinked? shrinkened? shranked?) only need to cool for less than 30 seconds.

Look how much more intense the colors are after shrinking! I hope you can see these images OK. The first is the rough side while the second is the shiny side. This side was outlined with Sharpie and the details stand out much better. The third image shows that while the colors on the rough side are awesome, the details can really be less than satisfactory. Maybe, some people are OK with front and back.

As I mentioned earlier, I experimented a bit and have a preferred method for getting the best results. The instructions say to use the Sharpie on the shiny side, but guess what? You can outline with a fine point Sharpie on the rough side as well.

Use either a black Sharpie or colors that kind of match how the images will be colored. Then color them as before, right over the Sharpie. Let's look at how results.

                               1                                                                 2

In the mosaic above, image 1 shows the shiny side of the sheet after being heated. The seahorse on the left was outlined on the shiny side with black Sharpie while the fella on the right was outlined on the rough side with colored Sharpie. Image 2 shows the rough side after heating. You can see on the horse on the left that the details get lost while the horse on the right shows nice details (this one was outlined on the rough side with Sharpie). So if you use Sharpies on the rough side, both sides come out looking pretty crisp and colorful. There are some interesting almost 3D aspects but we just can't go into that here. You'll have to see for yourself.

OK- seriously, this is getting long but let's push ahead and get this baby strung and hung. From here it goes very quickly.

Addendum- you may want to have some needle threaders on hand for this step, just in case. I also have a magnifier glass on a little stand that we sometimes us.

Cut a length of dental floss about 12-18 inches long. Starting at the lowest part of the suncatcher, thread the floss through the hole of the first image and secure with two or three knots. Trim the end. Now thread on the beads. Three is a nice number but let your residents roll with whatever their muse suggests. Next string the second image. No need to knot off, just run the thread up to the next hole and thread it through. Keep adding beads and the last image, ending with two or three beads at the top. Finally, secure to the key ring and knot off with two or three sturdy knots. Trim the ends.

Hang the suncatcher in the window with the mini suction cup. Doesn't that look nice? These could also be hung under a lamp or some place more readily seen by a resident.

The number of images and the order they are hung can be changed endlessly. The stringing is the trickiest part of this project. Getting every one's sheets through the oven just takes timing and of course this could be broken into two sessions, though most of my patients are anxious to see how they look after being shrunk. I have found that people work at different speeds so I don't normally have everyone waiting for the oven magic at once.

Even just one is still lovely. You could add a charm or pre-made tassel at the bottom, maybe a bell.

OK- this has been a long one today. Thanks so much for hanging in there with me. If you have questions just shoot me an email and as always I would love to see the creations if you do this project.

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See ya next time.

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