By Jessica Wilson
I have always loved piñatas. I cannot remember the first one I ever saw, but I do remember making a strawberry piñata in Mrs. Gardener’s kindergarten class back in the mid-1970s. We were separated into groups, and each group made their own. I have no idea what the other piñatas were, but my group made an awesome pink strawberry that showed off the chalky texture of the powdered tempera we used and smelled slightly of peppermint paste. I don’t remember ever breaking it open, but I do remember how proud I was of dabbing on a series of blacks seeds all over the piñata.
As I grew older and witnessed many obliterations of fanciful piñatas, I couldn’t help but be confused over the beating of objects molded from paper to look like living creatures. I’ve had a go at donkeys, unicorns, seahorses, and SpongeBobs, and with each whackity-whack of the baseball bat or stick, it crosses my mind how savage this whole thing is. Don’t even get me started on how difficult it is to break them open, either!
Here is my fanciful take on a prettified piñata. This could be featured at a birthday party, wedding, bridal shower, or baby shower. All you need is a handful of supplies and some time to get to layering. The finished project is as pretty as can be – maybe even a little too pretty. We haven’t busted ours open yet. Don’t let the number of steps fool you – it really isn’t difficult, there’s simply a lot of drying time. I also broke it down in a way to give you all sorts of info and tips so you’ll know if you are working in the right direction. Take a deep breath, and get ready to get sticky!
1 punch-ball balloon
2-3 discarded sewing pattern tissue
1 small jar of Mod Podge Hard Coat
Empty oatmeal container or other cylinder
Double-stick tape, optional
Wax paper or newspaper
Wide-mouth container with lid
Assortment of small paper doilies
Yarn, thin rope, or twine
Wooden clothespin or stick
Assorted candies and objects for filling
Step 1: Set up your work area. Making a piñata can take up to a week, so make sure you work in an area that allows for lazy projects and mess. Position your oatmeal container in the center of your work area, with two small tabs of double-stick tape settled on the rim across from each other. The tape will help anchor the balloon as you work.
Step 2: Grab your punch-ball balloon and blow it up so that it reaches a full circle. Knot to close. I picked up a three-pack of punch-balls form our local dollar store and have seen them previously at most drugstores here in the States. I like to use these, as they are super sturdy and so perfectly round. Rest your blown-up balloon atop the oatmeal container.
Step 3: Prepare your piñata paste. There are many recipes out there, however I stuck with a quarter cup (2 oz) of Mod Podge mixed with a cup of warm water. I mixed it all up in a lidded cookie container that was destined for the recycle bin. You can use any wide-mouthed container that has a lid, as your paste will sit out for a few days and you will mix up more as needed. I ended up making two and half batches.
Step 4: Get ready to layer on the first layer. To do this, grab one large sheet of pattern tissue and tear it into semi-rectangles that are about three to six inches long. You can use scissors for this as well. If you absolutely do NOT want any creases, go much smaller. Note though, that the smaller the pieces, the more time you will spend layering and building up your piñata. I’m a bit addicted to the loveliness that is pattern tissue, and I periodically pick them up for super cheap at the thrift store.
Step 5: Dunk one torn tissue shape into your mixture (it will be very watery) and pull up and out of your container using the edge as a squeegie of sorts.
Step 6: Find a happy spot near the top of your balloon and gently press to the surface, smoothing out the creases as much as possible. Repeat the process until the top half portion of your balloon is covered save for the very tippy-top (this is where you will insert your treats and hanger). It will be very drippy. Most of the drip will funnel into the container; the rest will splatter onto the wax paper. If the wax paper gets drippy enough, you can swipe at it with a piece of your tissue instead of dunking into the mixture.
Step 7: Set aside to dry for an hour or so, and then flip over and repeat the whole process on the uncovered portion of the balloon, save for the tippy-bottom (leaving this open will help you get the balloon out). This time, allow to dry to the touch, at least two hours.
Step 8: Once your first layer is dry to the touch, you can add another layer in the same manner. This time, once it is dry to the touch, you are going to drizzle on a bit of your basic white glue and spread it out with your paintbrush. This coat will need to dry overnight.
Step 9: The next day, grab a large sheet of pattern tissue and fold it into quarters. With your scissors, cut a big heaping pile of rectangles about the same size as your torn pieces. Layer up four to six pieces of tissue and dip into your paste using the side of the container to catch the drips like you did for the first batch. Find a happy spot and apply to your piñata.
Step 10: Repeat until half of your piñata is covered. Set aside to dry for four hours or so, flip over, and repeat. Once dry to the touch, add your glue bath and allow to dry overnight. Repeat this whole process three to four more times. You will want your piñata to feel sturdy once the balloon is removed. When it is built up enough, it will give a satisfying WHOMP when you pat it.
Step 11: Doily time! Use a dab of glue-stick to the backs of your doilies as you arrange them around your piñata. This is simply so that you can see what your design will look like.
Step 12: Once you are satisfied with the positioning of your doilies, dip them one at a time into your mixture and press onto piñata. When wet, the doilies are very delicate and tear easily, so work quickly and press gently. Set aside to dry about two hours.
Step 13: With a paintbrush, apply a thin layer of Mod Podge directly to each doily. Set aside to dry.
Step 14: It’s time to remove the balloon! Use scissors to cut the knotted end open and allow to rest for a minute or two. Depending on how sticky your paste was, the balloon may shift on its own or need your help. To remove the balloon, gently pull away from the inside of the tissue layers. It will make a popping, static-y noise and your piñata may buckle a bit into itself. If you can finagle your scissors inside, give a few more cuts to the balloon. It will eventually work itself free on its own. Shake it out and discard.
Step 15: If your piñata buckled and got all wonky from the liberation of the balloon, don’t fret! Use the spoon end of a long wooden spoon to push out the collapsed bits and reshape your piñata. Return to your oatmeal container and get ready to seal up the open ends.
Step 16: Position the piñata so that the open bottom is up and apply a few layers of cut tissues and paste. Once dry, add a doily to reinforce.
Step 17: Position your piñata so that the opening is at the top and use your scissors to cut it a bit more evenly.
Step 18: Add your bounty. This piñata, while sturdy, is still a bit more delicate than a store bought piece. Make sure to not over fill it, and add items that fit your party theme. I went for pretty and added salt water taffy, chocolate coins, pretty tea bags and fabric flower petals. Once added, seal up half of the opening with a layer or two of tissue that has a small slit cut into it.
Step 19: Prepare your hanger. I used a long length of braided yarn knotted around a wooden clothespin. You can use any kind of sturdy wood you like. Place inside your piñata so that the clothespin rests at the opening.
Step 20: Gently rotate the piñata so that the remaining opening is at the top facing you, and make sure that the twine, rope, or yarn of your hanger can be inserted into the cut slit. Close up your piñata, reinforcing it with white glue, and set aside to dry.
Step 21: Are you still with me? We’re just about finished, I promise. Once your opening has been closed, pick up a doily and cut halfway into it with your scissors. Use a hole punch at the end of the cut and position over the top so that the rope, twine, or yarn of your hanger nestles inside the hole. Cover in Mod Podge and set aside to dry.
Step 22: To add dimension to your piñata, gather up your extra doilies and fold into quarters, and then smoosh them a bit to create fans of a sort.
Step 23: Add a drop or two of glue to the center of each folded doily and position over the piñata doilies. Set aside to dry, and that’s it! All you have to do now is decide whether or not you can bear to break it open!
Step 24: Hang in a happy place until party time, and don’t forget to take lots of pictures!
About the Author:
Jessica Wilson is most happily known as ‘jek in the box’ and spends most of her time crafting it up and taking pictures. She can often be found standing on benches over on Flickr and creating all sorts of kiddie crafts on her blog scrumdilly-do! She lives a life of scrumdillydilly and loves to share.