DIY Craft Tutorial: Polymer Clay "Knit Stitch" Notions or Trinket Box
This little box is made with polymer clay, an Altoids tin, and some creativity. Great for keeping small items, this would be perfect for any knitter to store notions like stitch markers, tapestry needles, or buttons. Although this box features a knit stitch design, this pretty keepsake would appeal to almost everyone for holding little things.
This project takes some detail work and patience and is probably not suited for small children.
About the Materials
I used polymer clay for my box, mainly because it comes in a number of colors, and you can blend colors together to change the shade or make more colors. I'm not sure how this project would work if you used air dry clay. It may not stay stuck to the box over the long term.
Polymer clay must be baked in an oven or toaster oven to harden. An Altoids tin (or similar item) seemed to work well as a base for this project because it could withstand the heat of the oven without warping or giving off any smell. However, I would be careful of using other metal boxes that might have a plastic coating or other surface treatment. They might affect your clay surface or give off fumes while baking. A glass box might also work, but do not use a plastic (it might melt) or a wooden box (the polymer clay will not stick to wood).
Do not use any items from your kitchen, or that you will later use for food preparation, when working with polymer clay. Your tools can be quite simple - like a wood popsicle stick, plastic knife, and ball point pen - but do not use them with food after they've touched the clay.
- Polymer clay, in your choice of colors. I used about 2 blocks of Sculpey brand clay for my box, but you can use any array of colors you choose.
- An Altoids tin, or similar box
- An array of household items to use as clay tools; a plastic knife (to cut with), a wooden dowel ( to roll your clay), a skewer or ball point pen (for detail work), a plastic credit card (for cutting and shaping) are all great tools.
Great to have, but not necessary:
- A clay gun or extruder
- clay tools
Directions for Making Little "Knit Stitch" Box
1. First, take your Altoids box, turn it over onto its top, and trace the shape on to a piece of paper. This will become your template for the top of your box. Cut out your template and put it to the side.
2. Start making thin clay rolls for the top of your box. You can use a clay gun or roll them out by hand. Depending on the thickness of your rolls, you will probably need about 30 of them. Each roll should be at least 8 inches long.
You will also need two longer rolls if you want to put a knit stitch border around the top of your box (see below). You can join shorter rolls together to create a piece that is long enough.
Polymer Clay "Knit Stitch" Tutorial
3. To start making your columns of knit stitches, take two of your clay rolls, put them next to each other, and start twisting them together by turning your strips to the right. Then take two more rolls and do the same, but twist these strips of clay together, turning to the left.
Be careful as you work not to squeeze or squash your clay rolls. Do not twist your rolls of clay together too tightly (see photo example). To stop your clay for continuing to twist at the top, put your finger lightly on your clay roll to stop any movement.
Turn your left twisting column and your right twisting column evenly so the twists are about equally spaced on each piece.
4. Now, putting your right-twisting column on THE LEFT, and your left-twisting column on THE RIGHT, line these two rolls together so your twists create little "v's" (see photo). Give these two columns a gentle squeeze together on the sides to get them to stick to each other.
5. Continue to make columns of knit stitches for the top of your box. Try to make all your "stitches" even by twisting your clay together evenly on each column.
6. Line up all your columns of knit stitches to create a plaque for the top of your box. Try to line up the "v"s of your stitches across your plaque so they are all in a row across. As you place each column, give it a gentle squeeze to the next column so they stick together.
7. Take your template of the top of your Altoids box, place it on your clay surface and carefully trace around the template with your cutting tool. Remove your excess clay and put it to the side. You may need it later.
8. Place your plaque of clay stitches on your Altoids tin so it covers the top.
9. (optional) I took a single roll of clay and put it around the edge of my top surface (making sure that the join was on the back side). This created a nice finished edge and also helped to adhere my side piece to my top surface.
Once your top is complete, carefully open your box to work on the sides. You may want to put something in the opening so it will not close while you work.
10. (also optional) I took a longer column of stitches and used it as the side edge on top of my box. You can join columns of knit stitches by carefully nesting the bottom of one "v" into the clean edge of another "v". Use your cutting tool to trim the stitches to create a clean join.
If you do not want to add a knit stitch edge, you can either roll out and cut a strip of coordinating clay to wrap around your box top (see below), or you can glue on real ribbon around your box after your clay has been baked and cooled.
11. You can also cover the sides of the lower portion of your box in clay, if you want. Roll out a long piece of clay (I chose a lighter purple color to go on my box). The thickness of your clay should be about the same as the thickness of your original clay rolls or a little thinner. Cut a long strip of the clay that fits on the side of your box, but sits under the little bumps that act as catches on your tin. Join your strip in the back and blend your seam so it is unnoticeable.
If you don't want to use clay to cover your sides, you can glue on some ribbon or decoupage some decorative paper onto your box after your clay has been baked and has cooled completely.
12. You can add a clay ribbon to the top of your box, too. A ribbon is a nice detail and is great for distracting from any small mistakes or blemishes. (You can also just glue on a real tied ribbon after your box has been in the oven and cooled.)
To add a clay ribbon:
- cut a thin strip of clay that is the length you want your ribbon to cover
- cut two smaller pieces of clay (same width) that are each about 1 inch long
- take your two smaller pieces of clay, fold them each in half, leaving a little loop of space like a teardrop. Gently squeeze the ends together on each piece.
- place your two loops of clay in the center of your ribbon strip (or wherever you want your bow). Your two loops should be in line with your ribbon.
- take a smaller strip of clay and put it over the seam of your two loops like a bridge. This will create the knot of your bow and hide your loop ends.
- place your tied ribbon on to your box top and gently press the strips of your ribbon onto your clay surface.
14. Place your completed box into the oven for baking. I would bake your box with the lid slightly open. Follow the manufacturer's directions for your clay for temperature and duration. You may want to bake some of your leftover clay trimmings with your box so you can test glazes and sealants on them.
Finishing Your Box
You may want to seal your box after it has been baked and cooled. There is a lot of discussion about polymer clay glazes and sealants which is worth reading before you decide to coat your box. I bought a glaze that Sculpey makes for its polymer clay, but didn't like the plastic look it left on my test pieces, so I have decided to leave my box as is.
Copyright © 2014 by Donna Herron. All rights reserved.