Showin' some love to the sheer awesomeness of homemade gifts

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Polymer Clay Knitting Needle Pens

There's tons of Christmas crafting going on in these parts right now, but with projects needing to stay on the down-low, I haven't been able to share them here.  Luckily my knitting group's second annual potluck was a week ago, so one project is no longer secret. There were a lot of fantastic stocking stuffers at the potluck, some hand made and some pre-assembled.  These were my contribution:

They may look like Boye knitting needles, but they are actually pens. 
These would have been a quick and easy project for someone who was experienced with polymer clay, but I'm not so it was a long road.  Here's what it took:
  • Polymer clay (I used Femo and Sculpey mixtures for the bodies, Sculpey III for the knobs, and Promat for the cap mold)
  • Large knitting needles - US 15 looked large but turned out to be a good size
  • Oven safe pens - Bic sticks worked great, but I also tested Paper Mate Eagle in the oven and they did not melt either
  • Silver acrylic paint
  • A little bit of blue painter's tape to keep the paint tidy
The first step was to make cap molds.  I found a large knitting needle and stuck it into a wad of clay to make a mold, and then baked that according to the package directions. 
I originally started with a US size 10 needle, since that seemed large enough in relation to the pen.  However, the end caps lost some size due to my wiggling and compressing the clay to get it out of the mold.  So I made a second mold from a size 15 needle, and that worked much better.  I then made replica end caps by putting small balls of clay into the mold and pulling them out to bake.

Luckily the clay can be rebaked, so I had nice solid pieces to attach to the pens after they were rolled in the clay.  The needle caps may have worked better if I had made them in Femo.  With the Sculpey III being softer, it was pretty difficult to wiggle the clay back out of the mold without distorting the image.

After setting the baked needle caps aside, it was time to remove the pen innards.   It's easy to do with a pair of small pliars; just rotate and pull the plastic portion of the tip (not the metal point), along with the ink chamber, out of the barrel.

The next step was to roll out the clay.  I used a mixture of Femo and Sculpey III.  The Sculpey was a lot softer the Femo, which flaked like crazy through the pasta machine. 

After conditioning the clay for what seemed like hours, I rolled it out in sheets and cut it in rectangles to fit around the pens, just short of overlapping at the seam.  Setting the pasta machine at 5 produced a nice thin layer of clay that seemed to have a neater appearance at first.  Unfortunately clay that thin was not very forgiving because there was just not a lot of clay on the pen.  So I went up to setting 4, and the clay was then thick enough that I could lay the pen on top of it, roll it a few times, and the seam would virtually disappear.  The next step was to pop a pre-baked end cap at the end and set it in a manilla folder folded accordian-style to bake.  This is how they turned out:

The white caps just weren't right, of course.  So I took a little bit of blue painter's tape and wrapped it around each pen to create a sharp line.

Then I brushed on some silver acrylic paint and pulled off the blue tape.  Voila!

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