Posted by on Mar 5, 2011 in art, kid stuff, remake + recycle, tutorials + DIY | 5 comments

recycled shrink plastic wind chime

Is this a sun-catcher? I want to say wind chime, but it doesn’t actually chime, so I suppose we’ll stick with sun-catcher. Colorful, though; we can call it that for sure!

I’m always on the lookout for number-six plastic that we can use for shrinking. The problem is, I am also generally on the lookout for reducing our plastic use in general, so we really don’t end up with a lot of shrink plastic in our craft arsenal. Enter plastic cups.

recycled shrink plastic windchime detail

I have a love-hate relationship with plastic cups. I really, really hate the idea of a big plastic tub being considered disposable, but when my sister shows up with her six kids and my brother with his five, and we add that to my nine (or twelve, depending on who’s home), well, a girl can become converted to cheap plastic cups real fast.

At my house, though, they are not really disposable. We keep them and wash them and reuse them and pretty much just put them into regular rotation until they crack or break. Or until one gets put in the bottom rack of the dishwasher and they melt like candle wax. Then we say, Oooooh! Aaaaah! It melts! Oh! Pretty! We could make something with that! I was thinking shrink plastic had to be clear and flat and …. and, well, that’s pretty much where this project started. Humble beginnings are best, eh?

Wanna make one?

recycled shrink plastic how-to

If you have ever used shrink plastic, you know it is pretty easy and quick. But I will share a few tips for this project:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Use small, sharp scissors for a happier experience. Do not use your favorite fabric scissors because that’s just wrong.
  • Use a glass pan. I don’t know why. I think I read that on a Shrinky-Dinks package when I was twelve. I always use a Pyrex pie plate.
  • The shrinking only takes 2 – 3 minutes for the rings; the smaller pieces are even faster at 30-45 seconds. Stay close.
  • The more variation in plastic (words, bumps, etc.) the more… interesting the piece will be.
  • You can bend a piece after it is melted as long as you do it very quickly, while the plastic is still very warm. I have never successfully done because it scares me, but I have flattened pieces with a metal spatula.
  • Using cups for shrink plastic is far less predictable than flat plastic. It twists and curls in strange ways. Be open to surprises!
  • Make sure you punch a hole (if you want one) before you shrink your plastic (it will be too hard after). I used a regular inexpensive hole punch and it made small holes prefect for string or small ribbon.
  • The big rings are made from the top lip of the cup. I cut the ring approximately 3/4-inch from the top.
  • For this project I used all of the cup except the words and the bottom – although I did shrink words and bottoms, so they may show up in another project at some point!
  • I used a regular stick off our walnut tree to hang the pieces from. You could also use a hanger or a dowel.
  • I made two hanging lines, one on each side, so that I didn’t have to worry about the weight of the chimes being perfectly balanced.
  • I made little hooks for the hanging strings out of wire. It wasn’t really necessary, so don’t go buy wire. Also, I used metallic thread, but could also use floss or fishing line or even thin ribbon.

recycled shrink plastic painted wood

There ya go! We hung ours in the walnut tree, and it makes me smile. It’s a cheery little bit of spring color – which, as you can see, Mother Nature has yet to grant us here in inkstitch-land.