Introduction: Babybel Cheese Wax Yarn Toy
This is a set of DIY instructions for making a waxed yarn stick toy like Wikki Stix, Monkey String, or Bendaroos from cotton yarn and upcycled Babybel cheese wax. I had something similar years ago when I was a kid and loved them.
If you are unfamiliar, this type of waxed yarn has the unique property of holding its shape while still being quite malleable. It sticks well to itself and other smooth surfaces, and as such, can be used to make all kinds of 3D designs, including impromptu props and decorations.
If you stick around to the end, I will channel my inner 6 year old and show you how I used to make my own press on nails (It was my 6 year old answer to the Lee Press On Nails so popular at that time. Are you old enough to remember the numerous commercials?). When made with black yarn, they make some wicked Halloween claws!
Step 1: Materials
Wax from Babybel Cheese. How many will you need? I ran an experiment and found that each Babybel cheese wax wrapper will coat approximately 40 inches of Lily Sugar N' Cream cotton yarn.
Don't forget to salvage the wax stuck to the paper pull tab. You won't be able to get it all off the paper, but you can easily remove a good chunk of it.
I bought a giant 32 count bag from Costco for $10.99, which makes them about 34 cents each, and should make about 35 yards of bendy waxed yarn (If I did my math right).
Yarn - I chose 100% cotton for its absorbent and wicking nature. I used white (which turned out red) and black (which stayed black). One of the advantages to making them yourself, is that you can make them whatever length you wish. I did find however, that when I made the yarn segments over an arms lengths, they became very unwieldy to fish out of the pot and spread out to cool.
Double Boiler - I used two empty soup cans in a pot of water. Using two cans filled the pot and prevented them from up-ending, and I got to experiment with two different wax formulas.
Scissors for cutting yarn
Forceps to suspend the yarn during dunking or fish it out of the wax for the stir method
Wax Paper, Foil, etc to protect surfaces during cooling
Alternate Recipe:I also experimented with a beeswax base. It worked, but I didn't love it. If you are interested, here is what I used:
Beeswax - 1 oz bar (Vitamin Cottage $1.25)
Cocoa Butter - 1/8 teaspoon
Coconut Oil - 1/8 teaspoon
I used white yarn and it turned out an off-white yellow color (this is what I used for the spider's web in the photos)
Step 2: Heat, Dunk, and Cool
Heat the wax in the double boiler until fully liquefied.
When the wax is all melted, dunk pieces of yarn into the wax, one at a time. Pull the yarn out of the wax and let it drip back into the pot for a few seconds. You may need to repeat the dunking multiple times in order to coat the yarn, as it sometimes it just coils up, preventing sections from being submerged in the wax. When the wax stops dripping, transfer the yarn to a cooling area lined with parchment, wax paper, or foil. I tried just regular butcher paper, but it pulled some of the paper fibers off.
One method I liked was shoving a length of yarn into the can and just stirring it around until it was fully coated and then fishing it out with my forceps.
Troubleshooting: If the wax is too cool when dunking, you will get a heavy build up on the yarn and start to form a candle. If this happens, you can just drop the yarn into the wax (if you want to salvage it), turn up the heat if necessary, and wait until the wax melts and becomes less viscous before fishing it out.
Step 3: Creating With the Waxed Yarn
As you can see from the photos, there are all kinds of things you can make and do with waxed yarn. Let your imagination be your guide.
Halloween Claws (as promised)
Take a length of waxed yarn approximately 7 to 8 inches. Bend approximately 3/4 of an inch or 2 cm back onto itself and gently press together. With the bend pointing upward and the long and short legs pointing down, coil the long leg around the short leg, and then up and over the top bend. Continue coiling and gently pressing the waxed string together until the string is all coiled into a flat oblong oval disc. You can then gently squish one end to make it more triangular and claw like.
To attach to nails, line up the bulbous end with the edge your cuticle and press firmly, rocking back and forth across the round of the nail.
I have found they stay stuck to the nail very well. I could vigorously wiggle my fingers and shake my hands and they wouldn't fall off. They will pop off if you try to actually use your hands to do things, like type or pick up a piece of paper off a desk. They will work really well if you just want to jump out and scare someone though.
Spider and Web Decoration
This stuff sticks to walls and windows really well.
To make a quick and easy spider web decoration, crisscross two segments into a plus sign, then add another plus sign, crossing at the origin of the first, but rotated 45 degrees. Starting in the middle of the spokes, begin to spiral outward, pressing the string into each spoke as you pass it. To give it a nice swoopy look, pinch the spiraling string into a "V" pointing outward before pressing into each spoke.
When done, you can gently peel it off your work surface. It should have some movement, but generally hold its original shape. You can then just press it where ever you want it, a corner or window frame works well.
To add a spider, coil two flat discs. I made a large oval for the body and a smaller circle for the head. I pressed the head onto the body and then flipped it over. I cut 4 even segments for the legs. I pressed the middle of each segment into the middle of the body and then arranged the legs and bent them to make knees. I then pressed the spider onto the web.
This might be the easiest and fastest decoration I have ever made in my life, AND it can just be taken apart and fashioned into something new for the next season or holiday.
Photo Booth Prop Idea
Playing around with it, I thought it might be fun for impromptu props at a photo booth. It would be interesting to give guests at a party a few lengths each and then see what they come up with. It will temporarily stick to your face long enough for a photo, but not long enough to be an all day costume, well at least not on my face, it is way too oily (Which brings up the point, if you give this idea a try, give your guests fresh unused pieces of waxed yarn. Nobody wants to use pieces previously stuck to somebody else's face. YUCK!)
Final Thoughts and Warnings
It does leave a slight residue on the hands (as all toys like this do), and a few times I got it too warm and had to put it in the freezer for a minute to cool down and become less soft and sticky. I found the Babybel strings worked well at room temperatures below 72 degrees Fahrenheit, but frequently became a bit too soft as the temperature rose beyond that point.
With the red wax, I think I would only let young kids play with it at a table or desk. It is not particularly messy, but little bits of wax frequently come off when it is peeled off what ever it is stuck to, and I wouldn't want to risk young kids grinding it into my upholstery.
Have Fun! I would love to see what you make!