Introduction: Postage Stamp Necklace

For this jewelry project, I wanted to do something new with Shrinky Dinks. While brainstorming some ideas that haven't been done to death, it occurred to me that this would be a perfect material to imitate postage stamps:  it's an easy way to miniaturize both images and the characteristic perforation patterns around the edges that make stamps uniquely recognizable. Here's how I made this necklace, and how you can make a similar one.

Step 1: Gather Materials

This project has two parts: making shrinky dink stamps and creating a necklace using them as charms. Once the stamps are complete, they can be used in a number of different ways in several different jewelry projects. Therefore, I will list the materials I used specifically for the necklace separately and mark them optional. You can choose to follow my project closely, make a few modifications, or create something uniquely yours.

Necessary Tools and Materials:
White sheet of Shrinky Dinks (or a different brand of white shrink plastic)
Graphite pencil (preferably mechanical, with thin leads)
Color pencils (you may want to avoid watercolor pencils)
Thin black Sharpie pen (or a different brand of permanent marker, but you definitely want a fine tip)
Hole punch
Steel wool or fine sandpaper
Clear varnish to seal images (there are many options from Crylon spray to clear resin)

Optional Tools and Materials:
Memory wire (a loop long enough to go around your neck)
Soft beading wire (I used permanently colored aluminum wire in several colors)
Beads and crystals
Pieces of chain (I used permanently colored aluminum chain in several colors)
Wire Cutter

Step 2: Prep the Plastic

Regular Shrinky Dinks plastic is very smooth. In order to draw designs on it, it needs to be roughened a little with steel wool or fine sandpaper, creating a matte, paper-like surface. It's possible to buy already prepared Shrinky Dinks -- if that's what you've got, then there's no need to do this.

Once the surface of the plastic is no longer smooth, use your pencil and ruler to divide your sheet into somewhat similar sized (but random) rectangles and squares, no more than about 4" on a side. Cut out the squares and rectangles with your scissors. Now use the pencil and ruler again to draw margins on your shapes -- you will want to leave them white.

Step 3: Draw Images

Let your imagination run wild, or use images of existing stamps for inspiration. I suggest drawing faintly with graphite pencil, then outlining final drawing with the sharpie, then coloring in with the color pencils. One important thing to keep in mind is that as the plastic shrinks, the colors will become darker and more saturated, so color very lightly and faintly. Black areas are an exception -- go ahead and use the sharpie to color those in.

Step 4: Edges and Holes

Stamps have a characteristic perforation around the edges. This is easy to create with a hole punch.

First, use a ruler and a marker to mark down regular intervals where the holes should go. For a standard size hole punch, every 3/8" should create a nice pattern. When done, you will need to line up the hole punch so that the marked dot appears in the center of where the hole will be (so that only a half-circle is cut out). Do this around all the edges of all the stamps.

In order to be made into charms, these stamps will need to have holes in them. Since Shrinky Dinks thicken significantly when they bake, you want to make the holes now.

Initially, I wasn't sure whether I will want to use them as charms or connectors, so I went ahead and punched out two holes per stamp, mostly on the diagonal, though I used adjacent corners on a couple of small squarish ones. The second set of holes isn't being used in this project.

Also, I made the mistake of using a small-hole hole punch to create the holes. After the plastic shrunk, they ended up being really tiny, too small to fit any of my wire through. I ended up having to drill them to widen them. In retrospect, I should have used the same standard hole punch that I used for edging. Take advantage of the benefit of my hindsight and use the standard hole punch for this!

Step 5: Bake and Seal

The best surface to bake Shrinky Dinks on is wax paper. I've had them stick to aluminum foil, and I've also had foil make patterns on the back wherever it wrinkled as it was being smoothed onto a cookie sheet. So I started lining the cookie sheet with wax paper.

I've baked Shrinky Dinks with varied results before. The worst problem I ran into was pieces that curled and stuck to themselves. Separating them doesn't always work: they are quite hot (and need to stay hot, or they will harden quickly, and you are definitely not getting them unstuck then), and you can't use the clumsy oven mitts to protect your fingers. The more work you've put into a particular piece, the more frustrating it is when this happens. In order to try to avoid this problem, I covered the Shrinky Dinks with another layer of wax paper.

It's best to preheat your oven (or toaster oven). Shrinky Dinks will shrink at 325 F.

I put mine in and left them undisturbed for 5 minutes. It may have been just pure luck, but none of them stuck to themselves.

If any pieces seem to be slightly curved, you want to straighten them before they cool. Pressing them down with a clean spatula, or putting a heavy book on them should work.

After they cool, you want to seal them. I sprayed mine with clear Crylon.

Note how much darker and more saturated the Shrinky Dinks look after they've been baked/shrunk!

Step 6: Make the Necklace

First, I used aluminum wire to create bails to attach the stamp charms to the necklace. I cut short pieces of wire, created a loop at one end with one long and one short leg, then passed the long leg through one of the holes in the stamp charm, and wrapped it toward the first loop, around itself and the "short leg". If this sounds confusing, the pictures should clarify.

After all the stamp charms had bails, I crimped one end of the memory wire, and strung the beads, crystals, pieces of wire, and stamp charms onto it, trying to keep a roughly equal distance between the charms. When the memory wire loop was completely full, I crimped its other end closed in order to keep the beads from sliding off. All done!

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