DIY Enamel Dots
In December 2015, I had a rare opportunity to be creative without limitation (well except for what my body was able to handle). I had major surgery which was a 9 to 12 week recovery. The surgery was scheduled well in advance so I had time to make a game plan of projects I would work on while rehabbing. DIYing my own craft materials was at the top of my list.
About 2 weeks after surgery I was ready for this particular project. I had purchased two packages of Perler Beads (exactly like what I've listed in the supplies). I found the primary colors, and neutral colors. Altogether I had 8,000 beads! I watched a variety of videos which are rampant on You Tube.
Here's my recipe:
- Smallest dot = 1/2 perler, cut in half with sharp scissors (the sharper the better because these little guys are NOT easy to cut)
- Middle sized dot = 1 perler sitting up tall with the hole down the middle
- Largest dot = 2 perler beads preferably in a T, bottom one sitting like the middle size, top one sideways (I was often lazy and made them stacked up two tall, and that worked ok)
I have a convection oven, I used convection and found 20-30 minutes at around 310 degrees to be best for my oven, but I experimented with a range of 340 down to 300. Many guides talk about 325. Warning if too hot, you will end up with an overcooked dot that becames discolored... I saved all of my rejects in a small bead case and have indeed found uses for the discolored ones. Watch your dots after 20 minutes and don't take them out until all of the pinholes in the center have disappeared. Check every last dot. I used a cookie sheet with a red baking mat (some videos show a glass cake pan with smooth craft mat), I like that the mat gives a pattern to the bottom of my dots to help adhere them. You can use a craft mat, but then your bottoms will be slick, and more likely apt to pop off your project- that is just a theory I had...I did not test it out. (textured bottom pictured as well as the baking mat texture pictured below)
I did also mix colors, in fact in my pictures, you can see me stacking two colors. I've been able to use them on various cards, anything fun or even distressed works well. I also got mixed shapes, many not quite rounds, those I saved too. In my craft room nothing goes to waste.
In theory since Perler Beads are meant to be baked into their final image, and they are for children, there should be no harmful fumes. I did smell a faint plasticy odor and I opened the kitchen window to alleviate the mild odor.
Tips: When you are stacking your largest dots, two tall, be aware that if you are NOT doing so on the rack in the oven, you will have to manage walking the sheet to the oven, pull out the shelf, place it and slide it back in, there's lots of opportunity to make a mess of your work. I had to reset some each time. I was wary of disasters and limited the colors per sheet, and typically would have all three sizes. (note the only pictures I took last year was when I had NOT learned my lesson. I took a picture of way too many colors, all two high... All it took was one accidental bump and I learned this is NOT the best strategy. In addition, the way the perler beads are stored, the tops are not secure so I used rubber bands (pictured) IN BETWEEN rounds to ensure no accidents would happen. I had a young cat then and had visions of beads flying everywhere, and my surgery would have made it impossible to clean up myself. So, be careful of messes. As your dots sit, they will lose their shine, buff them on any cloth if you prefer a shiny surface, or leave them matte. You could even use a very fine grit sand paper to give them that matte look. Ah and a final tip, if you want them metallix, Gilder's paste in the coordinating color works great! I use a small adhesive dot to apply these to my projects, but a thicker wet adhesive like Glossy Accents will work as well.
Storage ideas - long ago when I made blinged apparel, I tried all manner of storage options for my rhinestones which were a mix of Swarovski and Korean stones, so mixing them would have been bad, very bad. I quickly gave up on the cheap bins where you open the lid and all compartmens are exposed. All it takes is one bump and you have a mess on your hands. I use storage with individual containers. Any one will do, but I've linked my own favorite. I like the variety of sizes. I make more of some colors than others and the variety of sizes that this container comes in worked for me. You can find this same system with just the shell, and you buy sets of the inner containers in the sizes you want.
I made a minimum of one tray per day for a few weeks. It has now been about a year since that project. I made so many dots that I still have plenty before I will need to start up another round. I believe I have a lifetime of dots.
Opinion on the result: These dots are taller than the ones purchased in the store. They have a very rounded edge to them. If I were to describe them I would call them "plump". If you like a flatter style of dot, you can try paper with glossy accents or a clear perle pen. Because I made so many of the Perler style I have yet to find a need for a flatter dot. (I've pictured the purchased by the sheet dots next to mine.)
Update 4/20/2017 - I've not had to bake any more dots yet. I've given these as gifts to friends, as well as a bunch to my mom and I still have a huge supply left. I think I still have 3/4 of the unmade beads hiding up in my mom's attic. Perhaps next fall when I return for a visit I might be getting low on certain colors and will bake more.
Thanks for stopping by, please feel free to leave comments or questions, I am here to help!