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 Carol F. // Dec 11, 2006 at 9:01 pm

    Cute as can be! I have never seen that!!!

  • 2 Shea M. // Dec 12, 2006 at 3:29 pm

    I used this idea from your site for Mother’s Day last year. My mother was absolutely thrilled and I had a ball putting it together. Thank you!

  • 3 Lisa // Dec 13, 2006 at 12:22 pm

    But I can’t think of what to put inside… I think people would kill me over confetti or glitter… but I love them.
    Must think….

  • 4 Kiddley » Blog Archive » Christmas Piñatas // Dec 14, 2006 at 4:20 pm

    […] I have been wanting to make little papier-mâché Piñatas for such a long time after seeing them on Not Martha, and Christmas seems like the perfect time to make these little balls filled with sweets or toys. They are easy to make with young ones, and fun to find fillings for. Children will enjoy pulling them apart and seeing what’s inside, and everyone will enjoy making them and seeing them hung up around fireplaces, on trees, or clustered on a door or shelf. […]

  • 5 To Do List at Pithy Fit // Dec 17, 2006 at 6:45 am

    […] make these (also seen at kiddley) with the girls […]

  • 6 Only slightly frazzled » o v e r b r e w e d // Dec 22, 2006 at 3:48 pm

    […] 2.) I just finished putting together a batch of Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats, and am now taking a much needed breather. The rest of the weekend is going to be even more hectic…lots of cleaning, baking, and last minute craftyness in the form of tiny pinata thingies to fill with candy and hang on the tree. I just have to remember now to make sure and hang them high enough on the tree so that Wrigley doesn’t catch a whiff of chocolate and decide to knock the tree over again. It’s amazing how much damage a 20lb dachsund can do when he sets his mind to it. […]

  • 7 poodleperson // Dec 23, 2006 at 11:24 pm

    What a fun idea. it looks for a gift or a surprise party and inside that would ne a surprise

  • 8 Michelle // Dec 27, 2006 at 11:09 am

    these can also be used to make a cute lil piggy bank. juust make sure you paste a lot layers on top of the balloon so the walls for the piggy bank is thick enough. my parents taught me how to make it when i was a lil kid and it was a lot fun.

  • 9 » Supersheroes: Introducing Megan of Not Martha! // Jan 5, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    […] Megan: I’m a little embarrassed to admit this but I haven’t gone back and visited many tutorials in a while. It’s hard to have a favorite as lots of them are a few years old. I enjoyed making the Tiny Pinatas most of all, they were from a Martha Stewart project and a lot of messy fun. […]

  • 10 Nika // Jan 25, 2007 at 9:07 am

    Great idea!! I´ll try it for my new baby´s birth´s present.
    A question: Candies are put inside the balloon before you stick the tissue paper? Otherwise, how do you manage to put them in?

  • 11 megan // Jan 25, 2007 at 10:37 am

    Nika – you are removing the balloon from inside the paper shell before you put candies inside.

  • 12 Bailey // Feb 15, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    I just made these for Valentine’s Day and everyone absolutely loved them. The idea for the string was great, it really helped a lot. Thanks for the idea! :]

  • 13 MaRtY // Mar 1, 2007 at 5:23 am

    These are stinking cute.. Can’t wait to make them for New Years party.

  • 14 Ang // Mar 13, 2007 at 9:23 am

    I’ve been looking for goodie bag ideas for my daughter’s Little Mermaid themed b-day party and THIS IS IT! We’ll make them out of iridescent white and beige papers and call them “Magic Pearls”. Not ure what we’ll put in them, but I’m sure we’ll figure it out.

  • 15 Evy // Apr 5, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    I made these for Easter (they’re currently downstairs right now: decorated with polka dots, stripes, and diamonds) and they’re fantastic! I made all different sizes (small for the adults, with dark chocolate, medium for my sister’s friends and giant for the kids, with lots of different candy– all with Easter grass to keep them from being too rattle-y) and used “Stiffy” the fabric stiffener instead of plain starch, which worked great.
    I’m curious: did you do all the layers at once, or wait to let each layer dry? I tried doing a few layers at once, which seemed to work fine, but I didn’t want to risk it so for the most part I waited a few days between layers.
    I also tried using Mod Podge, which was extremely sticky and difficult to work with, but it made a really flexible shiny egg. I think it would probably work great as the last coat, to make it glossy, but I liked the matte finish of the fabric stiffener.

  • 16 Letha // Jun 27, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    I absolutely am in love with these! My sister is re-newing her vows with her husband in August and was looking for something really unique to use for place settings. We’re going to put a couple of those after dinner mints inside. I am also going to use them for my baby shower in December. We’re were originally going to put stars on the bottom of the chairs to denote who gets the “good stuff”, we’ve now decided to make these to fill with kisses and a few pink stars. Thank you sooo sooo much for thise awesome ideas, the applications are endless.

  • 17 Yubi Shines // Jul 4, 2007 at 5:51 pm

    Going to try a minor variation of these tonight, more due to lack of resources than creativity. (I only wish there was an art store in walking distance. Sigh.) Hope they’ll turn out!

  • 18 Cherie // Jul 17, 2007 at 9:15 am

    Paper money or small gift certificates would be good…and how about as a gift bag for one or two of your marble magnets?

  • 19 Bessie L // Aug 14, 2007 at 11:19 am

    These are the cutest things I’ve ever seen!! I will definitely make these very soon for a few upcoming parties. I am already thinking of making these for Christmas! Thank you for this website. It is a lovely website :)

  • 20 Bessie // Sep 5, 2007 at 10:57 am

    I just made these for our party with kids; it was great to see them pleasantly surprised! However, I must say that these are very time consuming for a busy mom like me; and I think I glued on too many layers (thinking that they might be too thin) and were too thick at the end. Will make more soon though!

  • 21 Devon // Sep 11, 2007 at 5:51 am

    I love it! I am going to make these for my friend’s baby shower as a party favor!!!

  • 22 To do: Crafts // Nov 14, 2007 at 12:25 am

    […] Crocheted Flowers Little Piñatas Marble Magnets Paper Mosaic Xmas Cards […]

  • 23 Redclix // Nov 15, 2007 at 10:37 am

    I love these!!

    A side note…two small balloons, tied together side by side at the knot, make heart shaped pinatas. :D Just bridge the gap with a small amount of tissue. Allow it to dry and then continue on with the rest of the directions.

  • 24 marcia // Nov 24, 2007 at 9:40 am

    thanks just made them for christmas filling with choc coins etc…

  • 25 Beth // Feb 11, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    I love these. I can’t wait to try making mini pinatas as party invitations! Look on my blog in a few weeks and see how it goes!

  • 26 Monica // Jul 31, 2008 at 4:56 am

    These will be great for Christmas – decorate them like tree ornaments, number them and have them work like a advent calender with little prize inside for every day counting up to the big day!

  • 27 Everything you need to know about Party Pinata’s… // Aug 19, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    […] saw these first on Not Martha and fell wildly in love and had to try them at our next party. They are made with layers of tissue […]

  • 28 se7en // Aug 20, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Hi there, I totally love your projects and linked to this one yesterday in a pinata post.

    Thanks for a lovely fresh and inspiring site

  • 29 Juddie // Nov 10, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    Oh wow! I think you’ve solved my quest to find an interesting way to present little gifts. Yay! Such a great idea!

  • 30 Ideas? party favors - Hippymom - An Evolution of Female Community // Jan 26, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    […] thought of that!! the key is WIZARD wand! good call check out this link, i’m totally doing these! not martha – to make : tiny pinatas __________________ i am a ninja!! You can call me Sarah…. teehee! Gifted […]

  • 31 gangsta bride // Apr 6, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    Great idea! These would be really good as wedding favors too

  • 32 Animals At The Zoo // May 1, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. !!! So adorable, maybe I could put little candy and a quote written on pretty paper inside?

  • 33 youcancallmegwen // Aug 24, 2009 at 7:14 am

    Why not put some of your wonderful wine glass charms inside for a wonderful party favor? I can envision using a theme-shaped paper punch on some of the darker shades of tissue paper, too, to add a little more festivity. Just found your site, btw, and am enjoying it so much. Thank you for sharing!

  • 34 Shelley Noble // Sep 14, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    How fabulous! I love these! Thanks for the idea! Will steal it!

  • 35 Hugging the Coast // Sep 15, 2009 at 4:32 am

    What a great party favor idea!

  • 36 Idea for Invitations « Everyday is Halloween // Sep 15, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    […] for Invitations This could be really cool: for invitations.  Maybe made in the shape of a black cat head or, ooooh, […]

  • 37 Ravyn // Sep 29, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    I just made these for a yard party and the kids absolutly loved them. I also made extra and used them as a decoration some i put the battery operated tea lights in and used them on the tables. Others i used to cover the lights on a couple outdoor christmas light strings. Everyone asked where I got the decorations, and thout it was a great idea.

  • 38 shel // Nov 3, 2009 at 7:36 am

    omg i think this is even better then the ball idea.. so creative.. love the tag!

  • 39 Ashley // Jan 3, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    I did something similar for a Youth Group Christmas craft project. We used newspapers to cover balloons, then we spray painted them and used acrylic paint to create Christmas-themed designs. We then attached glittery ribbon at the top with a glue gun so that they could be hung on the tree. They were stressful with a group of messy 13 year olds, but the kids had fun and the ornaments turned out quite well!

  • 40 One last orange balloon Horrah. | The City Cradle // Apr 7, 2010 at 6:04 am

    […] the party favors I used this tutorial and created miniature pinatas filled with candy for the kids enjoyment. They were a big hit and […]

  • 41 Better with a bow // Sep 3, 2010 at 8:07 am

    What about attaching the cord to the balloon with starch/paste and adding torn paper over it. When closing the sphere, have the cord coming out like a little tail. Can be used to hang and may use a little less cord.

  • 42 HomemadeHappinessNL // Sep 14, 2010 at 1:10 am

    Love them, could’nt wait to make them, so when my daughter turned too we made a bunch of mini pinatas with cute clown faces for her big top party:

    Thanks so much for sharing this great idea!

    (the one and only downside are the rainbow coloured stains in our tablecloth ;-))

  • 43 Circusfeest: mini pinata / goodiebag (printbaar knipvel) « Homemade Happiness // Sep 30, 2010 at 5:31 am

    […] Like to make mini pinatas too? I got the how to from NotMartha’s fab blog, here! […]

  • 44 Classic Play! « // Nov 3, 2010 at 8:52 am

    […] theme for this issue is Science, and I created a Monarch butterfly chrysalis craft, inspired by Not Martha’s tiny pinatas and an experience I had with Monarchs at work last […]

  • 45 Gelia // Nov 11, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Wow, such a great idea! You are so talented! Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful and very useful project with us. I hope to get making these tiny pinatas real’ soon. Meanwhile I wanted to let you know that I blogged about these cute little things over at diy gifts studio.

    Bless you, keep up the talented work!

  • 46 Wedding Pinatas · DIY Weddings | // Feb 27, 2011 at 5:25 am

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  • 47 Tiny Pinatas « HANDWERK KOLLEKTIV // May 7, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    […] this simple tutorial and create tiny pinatas perfect for wrapping small gifts or trinkets or cute party favors. ANTIEL / […]

  • 48 Ashley // Jul 2, 2012 at 11:14 am

    I’m in the process of making these for wedding favor since they’re absolutely wonderful however, the mock ones i’ve tried, the string just comes out without ‘busting’ it open. Any ideas on how to make these really pop open like a pinata? Thanks!!

  • 49 megan // Jul 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Ashley – You could cover more area with string but with this and the papier mache Easter Eggs I made the best you’re going to get it a rip in the paper. Sorry it won’t be more dramatic!

  • 50 Mari // Jul 13, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    I want to make these for my son’s first birthday party but can i use spray laundry starch?

  • 51 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!

  • 52 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!

  • 53 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!

  • 54 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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