Diy: Salt Dough Ornaments

salt dough ornament snowflakes

The holidays have officially begun. As we countdown to Christmas I’ll be sharing some of my favorite holiday decorations, crafts, and gift ideas. To start us off Bread Dough Ornaments from Stephanie of even*cleveland. So cute, I can’t wait to try. Thanks for sharing Stephanie!

p.s. for christmas 2010 Stephanie made these stamped salt dough ornaments. So beautiful and easy!

Salt dough ornaments are an easy holiday craft that everyone can do, and you can make them as simple or as complicated as you like. Properly stored, they last nearly forever.

Step 1. Make the dough
Put 1/2 cup table salt, 1/2 cup water, and 1 cup all-purpose flour into a mixer, and blend together until a sticky dough forms. If you want to experiment with color, you can substitute 1/2 cup of dark tea or coffee for the water. Make sure all of the flour is incorporated. Take the dough out, and knead for 7 to 10 minutes on a well-floured surface. Once it feels smooth and elastic, you are ready to start making ornaments. This amount of dough was enough to make six gnomes, two snowmen and eight snowflakes of different sizes. The recipe can easily be doubled, but be sure to keep any dough you are not using wrapped in plastic wrap, and work quickly – salt dough does not like to sit.

mixing bread dough
making bread dough
rolling dough for ornaments

Step 2. Make the ornaments
Salt dough is extremely flexible and forgiving, so you can make ornaments from it in a variety of ways. For this batch, I rolled it out like sugar cookie dough until it was about 1/4″ thick, and then used my favorite cookie cutters – a gnome and some snowflakes – to make a variety of shapes.

cutting out doughdough shapes

For the gnomes, I used food coloring to dye some dough red for hats and jackets – this was EXTREMELY messy, so I would recommend wearing latex gloves if you mix in the color by hand, and rolling out any dyed dough between two sheets of wax paper to protect your counter and rolling pin. I then used a garlic press with some plain dough to make them shaggy beards. To attach extra pieces of dough decoration, rub a little water on the back of the piece you want to stick on, then gently press. You can make them as dimensional as you like.

making gnome ornaments
gnome bread dough ornaments

Once the ornaments are formed, poke them with a bamboo skewer to make holes to hang them from. I decided to make my snowflakes into a garland, so they got poked twice, on opposite ends. Once you have the holes in, it is time to pop them in the oven. Essentially, you want to dry out all of the moisture in them, so they go in a 200 degree oven for 4-6 hours – you can even leave them in overnight. Once they are hardened, take them out and let them cool completely.

bread dough ornaments in oven

Step 3. Decorate and finish
One of the lovely things about these ornaments is that they can be finished in a variety of ways – they take kindly to paints and pens of all sort. For my gnomes, I drew on a pair of eyes with pencil, and left them as is. For my snowflakes, I decided to draw a variety of little swirling doodles on them with red pen, and then I strung them with butcher’s twine into a garland.

decorating salt dough ornaments
salt dough ornament snowflakes

salt dough gardland

If you want your ornaments to last years and years, coat them with 3-4 very thin coats of polyurethane gloss varnish. Make sure to cover every exposed surface. This seals them and helps prevent moisture from getting in. Once they are sealed, you can deck them out with glitter if you like. Store them in a cool, dry place and you will enjoy them for years to come.

Happy holidays! Check out Stephanie’s blog for more crafts ideas and inspiration.

Related Post:
Macaroni Snowflakes
Diy: Icicle Chandelier

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68 Comments

  1. Hi there,
    These are beautiful, not quite sure why it showed up in my inbox but I’m glad it did! Absolutely gorgeous!!
    I’m passionate about dough too and must have looked at your site at one time. I’d love to follow –
    Thanks,
    Kathy

       2 likes

  2. WOW!! These are totally stunning. Thanks so much for sharing how these are made. I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas. :-)

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  3. I have some of these in the oven right now! I am not using them as ornaments though. How do you think the varnish will work over decorative paper?

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  4. My son and I made some decorations today but the dough bubbled and stuck to my cookie sheet. What can I do to keep them from sticking and bubbling up?

       1 likes

  5. LOVE this! Yours are beautiful. Thanks for the simple step by step for a crafting-newbie! This looks like a lot of fun to do with my boys.

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  6. Ahh thanks so much- you just have me the perfect project for this weekend! And, the pics help a ton! Now if could only design those snow flakes as nicely as you have done….

       1 likes

  7. We have shared a link on our facbook page to this great blog post about Salt Dough Ornaments for the Holiday. We are always interested in sharing with our followers ways to enjoy a “Slow” Christmas. Thanks for the great post! Merry Christmas

       1 likes

  8. From Stephanie for Micbelle:

    Hm … I’ve made dozens of batches and never had this problem. It sounds like the temperature in the oven may be too high – I would check it with a thermometer to make sure it is correct. I would also be careful mixing – if the dough is not mixed well, trapped air bubbles would puff up during baking.

       1 likes

  9. Hi, I am making these salt dough ornaments for my daughter’s Playgroup to decorate but when I put them in the oven they keep curling up on the sides and puffing up slightly in the centre. What am I doing wrong?

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  10. Hi Lynn,

    Unfortunately, salt-dough can’t be made ahead – it will not keep even if it is refrigerated and wrapped. For best results, you have to make it right before you use it. Luckily, it is a very speedy dough to assemble. Hope that helps, and good luck!

       0 likes

  11. I am working with a friend’s child to make an ornament for a class project. Will the dough last overnight if we do not use it all. Should it be wrapped in plastic, refrigerated? Thanks

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  12. I just linked back to this post from my blog. Mine didn’t come out anywhere near as nice as yours. They turned yellow and started to curl up in the oven :( Air drying worked much better, although it took much longer. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  13. Hi Carrie and the Bear,

    Stephanie said this:

    I used a red permanent ink pen. I would think gel pen would be a disaster – super smudgy. Hope that helps!

       0 likes

  14. I was wondering (and I know I am 2 years late!) if it was just a regular red pen or a gel pen that she used?

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  15. I was wondering if you used a template for the gnomes? If so, would you be able to email me the template to print out? I would really like to give them a try.

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  16. Oh how lovely! These are SO similar to the salt dough ornaments my mom & I used to make (with pens!) back in the 60’s ~ she was from Germany & made them with her mother… I have been looking for something NICE to make with salt dough and thanks to you I have found exactly what I wanted… I didn’t want to waste my time on making those “kidsy” run-of-the-mill “Christmas” pieces… Now I am INSPIRED to create!! Thank you so much ~ It may be a bit soon, but HAPPY HOLIDAYS!! Zoe :)

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  17. I made these with my kids and even though none of us are particularly crafty, they came out really nice. Even the first batch which was put in a very hot oven because I forgot this was an american recipie (and my oven cooks in celsius). That batch came out brown so we drew on them with our red pens anyway and they look like gingerbread!

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  18. Hi Neeta,

    Stephanie sent me this reply to your question.

    It sounds to me like it wasn’t kneaded enough. It is a bit sticky and gooey at first, but that’s why you have to keep kneading it, and you have to knead it for a while to get it to the right consistency (like play-doh.) It will stick to your fingers, until the water is absorbed by the salt and flour – the point of the kneading is to work in the moisture so that the dough becomes smooth and pliable.

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  19. I just tried making this dough, and it was a sticky, gooey disaster. I’m not sure what I did wrong. The mixture never seemed to arrive to a dough like consistency. I tried adding more flour,and then tried kneading it, and it all just stuck to my hands. It was a terrible mess. Any thoughts on what I might have done wrong or what I might do differently?

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  20. I don’t remember how I got to your site, but I loved the idea so much that I made the salt dough ornaments today with my 3 year old daughter. She really got into it and loved it! (Now she can someday say she remembered making them when she was a kid.:)) They are cooking right now while she naps and we’ll paint them tonight or tomorrow. I’m hoping washable tempera paint work, because that’s what we have. If I get photos up on my blog I’ll link back to you. Thanks for inspiring us!

       1 likes

  21. Thanks for the quick response! That sounds like a simple enough fix. I’ll gather up my courage and try it again.

       2 likes

  22. From Stephanie for Eudora,

    Hmmm … I have made them several times now, and never had that happen, but it sounds like maybe there wasn’t enough water? Usually the dough become smooth and pliable, like play-dough. I mix the flour and salt, then add the water.

       2 likes

  23. Arrgh! I must be really dumb. Only 3 ingredients, I’m sure I put them in properly. I was so excited about making these with my toddler!

    I beat the salt, flour, water with a mixer til blended, then took out and kneaded on a floured surface for 7 minutes… 8… 10… 12. OK, had to stop, because the dough had turned from a ball into a collection of more and more separate bits.

    What did I do wrong? Help!

       1 likes

  24. I made dough ornaments as a teen, learning how to make the dough from a pamphlet provided by Morton Salt! I made wreaths, figures of friends, monogram wreaths, and I painted them with acrylic paint so they were colored and sealed at the same time.

    Salt dough is a wonderfully easy inexpensive craft!

       1 likes

  25. I LOVE the Garlic Press idea! We did a batch today, so I’m looking for new ideas to use the rest of the dough tomorrow! I used cinammon to make my dough a sandy brown color, and they have come out nicely so far!
    Thanks!

       1 likes

  26. Wow!! Thanks so much for this wonderful inspiration. As it happens I just got some new snowflake cookie cutters that I can’t wait to try, so this is really perfect!

    Thanks for sharing this!!

    – Marija

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  27. Hi, Jayne!

    The white background is the salt dough au natural – it is not painted, just left plain, and I drew the designs directly on it.

    Hope that helps!

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  28. Hi

    Just wondered what makes the white background to then draw the red swirls on with. Is it paint or felt of some sort?

    Lovely instructions!

       0 likes

  29. Hmm .. I would probably recommend re-attaching them with a craft glue rather than a hot glue. Hi Kylee,

    Stephanie e-mailed me some tips. Read below.

    In my experience, things attached with hot glue (particularly low-temp hot glue) tend to pop off pretty easily, so I avoid using it. I would try sticking them back on using Aleen’s or some other permanent type craft glue that is designed to be used on all surfaces. You have to let it dry flat for an hour or two, but it usually holds pretty tight.

    Alternatively, you could try using an industrial glue like Gorilla Glue or E6000.

       1 likes

  30. HELP!
    I made a salt dough wreath with the little girl I nanny for. We baked it & let it cool through & got all sorts of ‘ornaments’ to attach to it like pictures of her & her baby brother & little holiday charms from Michaels & we used a hot glue gun to stick them to the wreath..that was friday now I am back at work monday & they are all falling off. How do I attach the objects so they will stay?? It is so cute & she worked so hard on it, I’d really love any suggestions! Thank you!!

       1 likes

  31. Hey – nice to see these come around again, I haven’t done them in a long time! Years ago when I was babysitting we made dough just about every week, and once we decided to color it but didn’t have any food coloring, so we used turmeric. The color was fab, but we and everything we made smelled like a spice market for a long time… maybe it will be fun to try some other spices for coloring… hmmm… like paprika, or sumac, or..?

       1 likes

  32. These are lovely! The red pen is fantastic!!

    I just wanted to let everyone know, that DOGS LOVE salt dough ornaments. Keep them higher up on the tree if you have curous pets. I had an entire batch eaten a few years ago right off of the table before they’d even been hung.

    Thanks for sharing and keep up the beautiful work.

       1 likes

  33. these are beatuiful! i’m remember making these when i was a kid. i’m gonna try this with my kids. thanks for the inspiration!

       1 likes

  34. This is such a terrific tutorial! Thanks for taking the time to put this together! I have not made these since I was a kid! I might have to give this a go this weekend! Yours really came out nice!

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  35. Through a series of blog posts I found this! Which is awesome I remember doing these with my mom when I was a kid but was never able to find the instructions on how to do them as an adult.

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  36. Jen –

    You can use acrylic paint, gouache, or watercolor, even. I used pen to do the very fine detailing on the snowflake. The thing to keep in mind is that the varnish may cause the non-permanent media to smudge.

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  37. Those are so amazing! I have heard you can paint the ornaments with acrylic paint – this might be the way to go if you think dough dyeing is beyond your capabilities (like me).

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  38. These are so beautiful and inspiring! The gnomes are very cute.

    I am going to try to make these – I hope they come out as beautifully as yours did!

       2 likes

  39. Lovely!

    We made them when we were kids and my mom still has some of them- she pulls them out every year ;) The favorite is my angel; since I had black hair and freckles, I made sure she did, too!

    Yours came out beautifully.

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  40. Oh my! I love Stephanie and these are absolutely fantastic. I was going to try her macaroni snowflakes from last year, but maybe I’ll try these now instead!

       3 likes