One of my students told me about this little craft project, and she was as skeptical as I was about what the heck would happen. In the end, there were some supercute ornaments made that looked nothing like the kindergarten-style mishap I expected to see. So I was psyched and decided I would make an ornament to attach to everyone’s Christmas present. I’m still working on it, very slowly and with some mishaps. I expect you to do better.
What you need is pretty simple:
One box of 20-Mule Team Borax – @$4 in the section with detergents and sponges and stuff
Pipe cleaners – keep in mind you’ll see some color underneath the crystals
You’ll also need something like fishing line or bent paper clips to suspend your ornament with, a glass or plastic container to fill with Borax solution and a stick or pencil to lie across the top of said container, holding your ornament for a few hours.
Yes, I said a few hours. This is supposed to be a craft for children but I say you would only do that if you really hate your children because expecting them to wait for hours (or overnight) to see what they made is just pure evil. That said, would I make these with my five* year old niece if she wanted to? Hells yeah.
Anyway…using pipe cleaners, craft something you want the ornament to look like. Most craft blogs show snowflakes but my students made initials and I thought that looked pretty classy. Something classy made from pipe cleaners. The mind reels. So I made initials and used fishing line to hang them in a solution of 1 cup boiling (or near boiling) water to 3 tablespoons Borax. Don’t do what I did first, which was boil three giant pots of water, dump them in a long plastic planter box and pour in the Borax all willy-nilly because I thought I could assembly line these suckers on a yard stick. The first problem with that was I didn’t think to measure how many cups were in the pots so I just figured I’d pour in Borax until I felt it was “enough”. Use the formula! Second, you can reuse the solution a few times but you have to put it back in something you can heat on the stove or microwave. Giant PITA. IDEALLY, you could make a smallish ornament and suspend it in an empty glass jar. Super compact, you aren’t wasting tons of Borax, you can pop it in the microwave for another round and when you are done and have crystals all over the glass you can just chuck it in the trash. Yes, that means you can only make one at a time, unless you have lots of jars.
Because I’m a dummy I made my ornaments kind of big so I couldn’t use an empty jar. I am using a tall, wider crystal vase. Oh, the things I’ll do different next time. Also, some letters are easier to work with than others (assuming you go with letters and not snowflakes or icicles or something). The letter A is great, there’s a perfect spot in the center to suspend it. Work with M or N or W and it’s more complicated. If you tie just one spot on those, the letter will droop and lose its shape and when you take it out of the solution and try to get it in the right shape, bunches of crystals will break off. Epic sadness. I don’t even know what I’m going to do with the S.
Why does this take so damn long? Non-science-talk answer: The Borax dissolves in superhot water and as the water cools, it can’t hold as much of the Borax, which then turns into a crystal and clings to whatever it finds. How long that takes varies – could be four hours, could be overnight. I’m told you should maybe stir the solution now and then if you see crystals starting to lie on the bottom, but my best ornament yet (the A) happened on its own while I was out running errands and ignoring it. Make sure the entire ornament is covered in water but not touching the sides or bottom of the container. And wait.
When your ornament is sufficiently awesome, take it out and lay it on a piece of paper towel to dry for a while. I’m told that as long as these are handled with care and kept dry, they will last for years.
*I think Nora’s five. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I have to subtract 1973 every time someone asks me how old I am, so don’t expect me to remember other people’s ages. Even ridiculously cute people.