Not Martha

to make: tiny pinatas

finished shells

small balloons
I found tiny party balloons at a drugstore, shown here with a quarter for scale. I only blew them up a little until they held the size I wanted.

set up, brush, tissue paper, starch
setup: laundry starch (left over from the window experiment), cheap brush, tissue paper, and a shot glass to rest the balloon on

showing one finished

up close
one popped – this one only has two layers of tissue paper, see how the light comes through?

finished shells
the red and purple ones are overlapping areas of red and purple tissue paper, the look works best when the colors are allowed to overlap generously. the yellow one is two layers of yellow, then two layers of light orange. and the orange one is two layers of yellow, one layer of red, and one layer of orange on top.

long thin opening instead of round one

adding tag

pasting over so loop of tag is embedded

ta da!

These are from the October 2001 issue of Martha Stewart Living. In that project they are made as small jack’o’lanterns, skulls, or small orange candy containers. I figured they’d work well as an interesting gift container for anything small. These work perfectly for my you-have-to-destroy-it-to-open-it thing I’m always looking for. I also plan on using these for easter eggs.

a few tips from my experience:

  • I used straight laundry starch because I had some lying around the house, and it worked great, created a nice hard shell. I’m sure the same thing can be done with white glue mixed with water or homemade wheat paste. For a more permanent decoration I’m sure modge podge would be perfect, although I don’t know for sure as I’ve never actually used it. Anyone know? The project in the magazine calls for wheat paste powder from a hardware store (I’m assuming for wallpaper?) but that’s going a bit far.
  • I used the instructions for the skull project – which is to tear petal-sized pieces of tissue paper, so the rough edges will form a seamless look.
  • When starting I didn’t brush any starch on the balloon itself, I just put the tissue paper down and brushed over it, and over the edges to the balloon. For the subsequent layers I went crazy with the starch. This seemed to allow the balloon to pull itself free more easily. I had no troubles with the shell collapsing.
  • I hung mine to dry by hanging it from a loop of string. They hung from my overhead light, off the bike in the hallway, and on my drying rack, very cheerful!
  • They took a few hours to dry. I left mine to hang overnight and they were dry all the way through.
  • I tested how different numbers of layers worked. The magazine project called for four, which seems very sturdy. Two hold up nicely and is very delicate feeling. One layer collapsed when I deflated the balloon, but I was able to push it back into shape from the inside. It’s too delicate to hold anything, but it’s so lightweight it’s like a bubble! Three layers is what I ended up using to hold candies.
  • Popping the balloon calls for grasping it tightly just above the knot, cutting a tiny hole and allowing the air to flow out slowly (as if you are trying to make balloon sound effects). Hold the shell loosely in your other hand and let the balloon pullitself free. In my experience the balloons pulled away from the inside without and trouble and came right out.
  • I’m planning on putting small presents, small candies and large tissue paper confetti inside of these. But I think they would be great as easter eggs, romantic notes, to hold battery powered lights. And I’m planning on experimenting with colors and patterns. The magazine project cuts holes in the skull form, and glues a single layer of tissue paper to the inside, making translucent holes. I like the way the colors show through and overlap each other. I’m also interested in what a few layers of transparent paper or vellum would look like with stuff inside.
  • For Valentine’s Day I made little balloons, pasted on two layers of yellow and one layer of red. I left the opening as a long thin gash rather than a round hole, this helped create a seamless look at the end, instead of a flat papered over area. The first ones I gave as gifts were just sealed and were hard to start to rip open. So I added a pull string which will start the hole. After I stuffed them, I put a loop of string halfway into the shell and papered around it. It works pretty well.
  • They were a lot of messy fun to make. Oh, and warning: the dye will work itself onto your fingers, but it comes right off, almost.

here are the ones I made for Valentine’s Day, the string worked out really well, it rips the top open when pulled:


one, showing tag


54 responses so far ↓

  • 1 megan // Jul 15, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    Mari – I don’t know! I do not think so, at least not in the way I’ve made these. If you can find liquid laundry starch or make your own wheat paste it might be easier to control. Best of luck!

  • 2 HappilyHandmade // Mar 29, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    Thank you so much for the tutorial! I am totally making these for our fiesta party! ADORABLE!

  • 3 Priscilla // Jan 20, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    This is such a fun idea! Valentines Day is coming and my Granddaughter’s 3rd birthday. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • 4 Papier-Mache Easter Eggs » Mixed Nuts Mommy // Apr 18, 2014 at 10:36 am

    […] Last note: These are based on a Halloween project I first saw in Martha Stewart Living magazine in October of 2001, thePapier-Mache Treat Balls can also be found on the Martha Stewart website. I previously made these as Tiny Pinata gift containers. […]

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