I love working with polymer clay to create my own charms, tags, and designs. It’s easy to use, versatile and inexpensive, making it a perfect medium even for beginners. Today, I’m going to show you how to create unique DIY bracelet blanks for your own one-of-a-kind look.
The most common thing I do with polymer clay is to make basic blanks and use stamps to personalize them. I use the term “stamp” loosely though – while I do enjoy using stamps, there are SO many household items you can use to create beautiful designs. I’m going to show you a couple of examples, but I encourage you to use your imagination on the technique below – the possibilities are endless!
- Polymer Clay. This assorted kit is perfect for beginners because it has a small quantity of several colors. It’s also great for jewelry projects because a little clay goes a long way, and you will have lots of color options to match any style!
- Clay Tools. I want to note that at some sites, you will see tutorials showing kitchen tools (like cookie cutters, rolling pins, etc) being used for clay projects. While they certainly work well (I actually love fondant tools for my clay projects) please note that polymer clay is NOT food safe and if you use your kitchen implements for a clay project, you should NOT use it for food again, even if you wash it. It’s worth the investment for a few small tools that are for clay use only to keep your family safe.
- Alphabet Stamps for name bracelets, or other interesting household items. Items like coffee beans, burlap, leaves and buttons all make for interesting and beautiful designs!
- Acrylic Paint and Basic Brushes (optional)
- Coordinating Beads. A kids’ assortment of plastic beads would make a great group craft for young ladies, or choose a couple stylish bead strands for your own bracelet!
- Jelly Cord
You will probably want to lay out some wax paper to protect your work surface. New clay will need to be conditioned to work with it. You can speed the process up by running it through a clay roller a few times, or you can also work it by hand, it just takes a little longer. Just flatten it out, fold or roll it back up, and flatten it out again several times; it just needs to be kneaded until it’s soft enough to work with.
Once it’s ready to work with, just roll or flatten it out to approximately ¼ inch thick. Experiment with your stamps; you may find it’s easier to stamp first and then cut your blank, or create your blank first and then decorate it. I do both. When I use the alphabet stamps, I usually stamp it first and then cut it to make sure it’s exactly centered.
For all-over shapes like the coffee beans, there’s less need for precision. And don’t forget, if you don’t like how it turns out, you can just roll it up and flatten it back out again for a clean start!
You can use small cutters (again – fondant cutters work wonderfully) or just a basic clay knife to cut your blank freehand to the basic shape you like. Because it’s clay, it’s easy to round corners or adjust your shape until you get it exactly how you want it. Then, you can use a toothpick or drink stirrer to add a couple of holes so that you will be able to tie on your beaded cord. You can use just one hole on each side, or add as many bead strands as you like for the size blank you’ve made. I like the looks of two, but more or fewer is up to you!
Now – bake your clay according to the package directions. Sculpey clay, like what I am using here, bakes for 30 minutes in a low oven (275F) for charms ¼ inch thick. Different brands may bake differently, though, so be sure to read the instructions!
Now that you have your stamped blank, you can work with it as-is, or you can add some contrast to your design with acrylic paint. Just paint all the way into the recesses of your stamped letters or designs, and use a damp paper towel to wipe off excess paint. A note: acrylic paints won’t wash well, so your bracelet should be removed before bathing or swimming if you paint it.
(You may notice that my finished blanks are slightly arched. I actually bake them flat, and bend them slightly when I first take them from the oven, as soon as they are cool enough to handle. They will be slightly flexible when hot, and will retain that slight curve when they are fully cooled. This is not a necessary step, and really isn’t recommended if your kids are working on the project! Don’t burn yourself trying to curve your blank – I just wanted to mention how I achieve that curve for those who may be wondering.
Once it’s dry – you can begin beading! Just string coordinating beads onto some stretchy jelly cord, and tie the ends through the holes you made in your bracelet blank. There’s no secret to the knot – a double or triple knot should hold just fine. You can check your length against your wrist as you work. You want just enough beads so that it doesn’t stretch when you wear it, but not so many that it hangs loose. It should be a snug fit. For the coffee bean bracelet, I used 4mm crystal bicone beads. For the bracelet I made for my daughter, Raya, I just found some random plastic beads in my stash I thought she would enjoy – projects like this make for excellent stash-busters!
You can see that this made two totally different styles of bracelets using the same technique, and you can personalize them in any way you like! What would you add your your bracelet blank? Are you a sports fan? Nature lover? Would you put your kids’ names on yours? I’d love to hear what you make!
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Adrianne is a writer, artist, designer, wife, and mom of 2 kids. She blogs at happyhourprojects.com where the theme is tutorials and recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Her favorite projects are jewelry-making, paper crafts, and recycled crafts. She participates annually in ArtPrize, an international art competition, and she’s the author of the book DIY T-Shirt Crafts: 50 Ways to Recycle a T-Shirt (August 2015).