Introduction: The 5-Hour, 'Anything Goes' Baked Bracelet
"Big is Beautiful" and that saying couldn't be more true today with fashion trends in jewelry.
You see it everywhere: American Idol, malls, and movies: big necklaces, big bracelets, big earrings and big rings abound!
Even if you've never worked with polymer clay, this bracelet goes together in an afternoon and is a blast to make. The basic instructions opens up a whole slew of creative ideas with how to put together different elements. On top of this, this bracelet is perfect for those who cannot tolerate metals on the skin and, despite its appearance, it's so lightweight it feels like you're hardly wearing anything.
Polymer clay, too, is one of those crafts that is completely forgiving; in fact, 'boo-boos' can look great and deliberate! It's also cheap: the initial outlay for the materials in this project was under $20----and will make several bracelets.
The reason I call this "Anything Goes" is because there are no set rules with how to incorporate your own ideas into this bracelet. As we go along through this Instructable, I will give additional ideas to help you dream up your OWN bracelets that you can sell, give as gifts, or use for that next big charity bazaar!
Step 1: Materials You Need/Some to Consider
Here's what I'm starting with on my tv tray with a towel on it. I have two groups here:
1. Absolutely Necessary:
a. Black polymer clay
b. Sculpey Liquid Clay (either type you find is fine)
c. Razor blade or clay blade
d. Piece of tile (glass can be used as a last resort)
e. Small piece of cardboard
f. Beading cord: any type as long as it's elastic
g. 5 pieces of fabric (cotton is great). Note: if you are making a dress for a special occasion, you can use scraps to make this bracelet match your outfit). Lace can also be used. NO vinyl, anything that could shrink or melt in a dryer!
h. Clay roller or glass
j. Different strengths of sandpaper
k. "Poker" such as a drill bit
n. Tape measure
a. E600 or similar jewelry glue
c. Glaze (Mod Podge and acrylic floor finish are both good options if you don't want to buy glaze).
d. Mica/effect powders (shown later in this Instructable). Find them in the scrapbooking section of your local craft store.
e. "Glue Pad" also in scrapbooking
f. Ultra Thick Embossing Enamel
g. Heat gun
i. Wet/dry sanding sponges of different grades
j. Very sparkly eyeshadow or nail polish
k. Toaster oven
m. Pasta Roller (craft stores carry them and they're well-worth the money if you're going to make a lot of these). Note: NEVER use anything you use for food with polymer clay!
n. Face mask (I found some on eBay to keep the clay dust out of my airways)
Step 2: Taking Measurements and Cutting Pieces
Generally-speaking, most people like 1" to 1 1/2" high tiles or sections. THAT's THE HEIGHT of each "tile" or section.
1. Measure your wrist leaving some room for comfort and subtract 1". Now divide that number by 5 (for five tiles). That number is how wide each tile will be. In my case, I went with 7/8" tiles because the person I'm making this for has a smaller wrist and would like that height as well.
Cut the cardboard for your square 'tile' template.
2. Condition your black clay. I like Sculpey III but, for this project, even 2 blocks (2 oz. each) of a cheap store brand will work fine. I paid $1.29 a block the last time I made one of these bracelets and it cured just fine. I think the difference was it was harder and took a bit longer to condition.
What I mean by "conditioning": with polymer clay, you not only have to make it soft to work with, but you also have to let it warm up so its properties will 'cure' when heated. If you're conditioning by hand, it will take you about 20 minutes to knead that clay; about 10 mins. or less using a pasta roller.
After cutting your squares of fabric, roll out the clay to about 1/4" thickness. Make it as even as possible if you're rolling by hand.
Step 3: Measuring and Cutting the Clay
You will need a total of 10 (front and back for 5 tiles) clay sections and a third row of 5.
1. Using your template, measure off and cut 3 rows as shown.
2. On that third row, cut off 1/2" from the tops of those tiles.
3. Cut into thirds across evenly as shown. These form the 'channels' (three pieces per tile) you will be pulling the elastic beading cord through.
Step 4: Create End "Catch"
1. Using the height as a guide, cut a narrow rectangle the height of your template, depth about 1/2", and width about 1/2" - 3/4" wide.
2. Using your "poker" (I used a drill bit), poke two holes through the clay as shown. (This is also why I use an old towel: I don't mark up a surface when 'poking').
Step 5: Applying the Liquid Clay and Assembling the Tiles
1. I use my finger to coat the fabric pieces on both sides with liquid clay.
2. Using excess liquid clay on your fingers and maybe a tad more, dab 5 black tiles from your group and fit the fabric on each piece.
3. Place smaller pieces on back tiles as shown.
4. Put the fabric tiles on top and lightly press all together for contact.
Step 6: Curing the Clay in the Oven
1. Bake on your tile or glass at 230 degrees for about 1/2 hour. You can also let them bake longer (an hour) at 180 degrees with no problem.
2. If you're baking in a regular oven, 'tent' foil over your pieces to prevent browning. In this case, I have a toaster oven dedicated to curing clay only so I took this tent off.
3. When done, using a spatula, plunge your tiles and catch into waiting ice water.
Step 7: Optional Edging
1. Once tiles are cool enough to handle, dry and sand sides down evenly. I cheated and used a sanding bit in my Dremel I inherited from my Dad after he passed away from cancer. It's nice to have even though it's old and vibrates like crazy!
Note: Scissors work well where fabric may fray at edges. Polymer clay is fairly easy to cut and carve.
2. Using a very thin sheet of clay (here's where the pasta roller really comes in handy), measure, roll, pat and trim black clay. Don't worry about the openings; you should be able to see them and poke through them easily after a second baking.
3. Bake again and plunge again in ice water. Dry thoroughly.
Step 8: Stringing and Waxing
Okay, we're getting to the really, really fun parts (really).
1. I want to see where the colors are truly at, so I apply a coat of acrylic floor wax to the tiles and choose what spacing beads I want to use (you don't have to use them but I like them).
2. Now, looking at the picture (sorry, somehow the photo of the stringing pattern didn't come out), take your elastic thread and go through the bottom holes of all pieces to your right.
When you get to the last tile, turn and go left through all the top holes through to the catch.
3. Add floor wax to the backs, tie a long knot, and hang to dry where convenient.
Step 9: Securing
Yay! On the home stretch (no pun intended :-)
1. Tie a number of knots to secure everything together. Cut ends, leaving about 1/2" 'tail."
2. Using the loop at the other end, pull the one side to slip the knot and short tail into the catch's hole to hide.
Step 10: Wearing
1. To secure, pull open the loop at the end of the tile and slide the catch through (you can leave it this way if you want because the bracelet will stretch on and off your wrist and hand).
2. Ta-da! I'm calling this one "Wood and Stones." The fabric tiles look like cool stones that have been cut. Very earthy and expensive-looking (so everyone says when they comment on it when I wear it).
BUT....am I really done with this one?
NAW......let's have some more fun.....
Step 11: Turning 'Wood and Stones' Into 'Glass Cosmos'
I can't help myself....
Out come the pearl and special effects powders especially made for scrapbooking.
My heat gun also stands at the ready.
Note: If you don't have a heat gun, you can do these steps by putting the tiles back in the oven.
Also Note: When using the oven or heat gun, you will need to unstring the bracelet. Especially transparent nylon beading cord I used for this bracelet will melt away.
Step 12: Creating "Cosmos"
Okay, we're now going to enhance the colors in the fabric.
1. Using a glue pad especially for the powders, dab each tile.
2. Using a soft paintbrush, dab small amounts of pearl and glitter powder abstractly.
3. Coat the top of each tile with powdered enamel. Dab on more glue if you need to in order to make it stick.
4. Use the heat gun to melt the enamel.
CAUTION: Tiles will be very hot. Let them cool before handling further.
Note: You can apply additional coats of the powdered enamel using the glue pad. You can also rebake in the oven at 250 degrees for about 15 mins.
Step 13: Cosmos and Other Versions of This Bracelet
1. When cool, buff the tiles and re-poke any holes as needed.
2. Restring and wear!
OTHER IDEAS TO PLAY WITH:
1. Instead of fabric, use:
a. Photos printed to size on photo paper and cut out.
b. 'Marbled' clay tops of two or more other colors
c. Special Foils for holographic, pearlized, metal, rainbow, and other effects. (Check "Jones Tones" on the web).
2. Use different types of beads: rhinestone, pearl, wooden, metal-look, etc. for spacers or --- make your own from polymer clay!
3. Look at different types of beading elastic: transparent, gold, silver, colored.
4. Use ecru-colored clay and dremel tool to carve 'ivory' tiles. Antique or make them look 'scrimshaw' with acrylic paint dabbed on and rubbed off so the color stays in the ridges.