An artful day: embroidery and playdough

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Artful Letters

Wow! Thanks for all the comments and e-mails. So many wonderful art groups out there. And, definitely a strong interest in the art pen pal idea. 45 kids and counting! I'll post more about the art pen pals tomorrow, but for today, here's a little of what we enjoyed the other day.

Maia received a lovely card and drawing from a friend at school earlier this week in response to a get-well note she had sent. And with the card was wonderful selection of little treasures: shells, sea glass, embroidery thread, and an embroidery hoop. She was in heaven! I put fabric in the hoop for her and she loved trying it out.

Tutu and playdough

We also made a new batch of playdough — green this time. As always, I used the playclay recipe from MaryAnn's First Art. I toyed with the idea of trying a new recipe but in the end decided to stick with the one we know and love.

The tutu is one I just finished for Maia. It's a project that a friend started and handed off to me after letting it languish unfinished. I can understand why! The tulle was very frustrating to work with and the pattern instructions were hard to understand. I finally gave up on the instructions and winged it. It's not perfect, but Maia is happy with it. She's very into dancing these days.

By the way, here's the playclay recipe (since several of you have asked):

[recipe updated 12/20/11]

Playdough Recipe


  • 5 cups water
  • 5 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 cups salt
  • 3 Tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 10 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Food coloring


Mix water, salt, cream of tartar, and food coloring. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring regularly until mixture is hot. Add oil. Stir in flour a cup at a time, stirring in between each addition. Mix until playdough pulls away from pan and is no longer sticky (pinch it between your fingers to test). Dump dough on counter, let cool a bit, then knead.

We keep our playdough in a freezer bag at room temperature. This recipe makes a lot and lasts for several months!

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  1. says

    What a fantastic gift for your little one. I haven’t tried embroidery with my kids yet, though my six year old son did recently sew his first creation. We are so excited about having art pen pals. Thanks.

  2. Ann Dilcher says

    We do a very similar playclay recipe but often add one of the little koolaid powder envelopes as it adds both the color and scent to the clay.

  3. rae says

    yay! thanks for sharing that, jean. sienna was so very excited to receive maia’s note in the mail and it showed by the special package she gathered to give to maia. she said, *i love maia so i want her to learn to embroider.* too cute.
    we would LOVE to be art pen pals! what a fab idea!!

  4. says

    Hi Jean
    What a beautiful surprise for Maia a to receive such a thoughtful and creative gift to say thank you. It was so very sweet of Maia to lift the spirits of her unwell school friend.
    Jean, I hope I am not too late in responding to express interest in participating in your art pen pal group. I just left a comment in your previous post about this as my three year old daughter would love to be involved in such a group. Sounds exciting and fun. Such a brilliant idea.

  5. says

    Can you use something other than vegetable oil for the clay? We don’t keep that in the house, since it goes bad much quicker than we can ever use it…wondering what other oil might suffice…coconut? lard? olive oil?

  6. raizel says

    How very fun! IS teh cream of tartar necessary? I dont know if they sell that where I live. And does the food coloring stain?

  7. Kara says

    To Lisandrea – I used sunflower oil and it seemed ok.
    I was wondering about the texture of the clay. It seems a bit grainy to me and that made me wonder if I had perhaps goofed on the amount of salt or if that’s just the way it is. I was thinking superfine salt might be worth purchasing to reduce the texture if it’s not my error!

  8. [email protected] says

    Love the candy cane playdough in a glass jar! I’m going to make this for my daughters 3rd Birthday party and give these out as favors! She’s a christmas eve baby so it’ll work great:) Only concern though… should it always be in the fridge when not in use? How long does it last until it goes bad? I think I might put the directions for keeping on the tag. Thank you

  9. Dessi says

    hello, i have the same question as some of the other readers – do we keep it in the fridge at all times? and also how long do you cook the first mix until u start adding the rest of the ingredients? thank you! we are making this for ALL my 3 sons’ friends…lots and lots of this lovely project.

  10. Tracy says

    Just wondering where I went wrong, mine turned out to sticky and had lots of lumps!!! Is there anything you can do to fix it, really hate to throw it out, these ingredients are not cheap!!!!

  11. says

    Darn! Sorry about that. You need to cook the mixture until it’s not sticky when you pinch it between your fingers. If you take it out of the pan too early, it’ll be too sticky to work with (and no amount of added flour seems to help). As for the lumps, I’m not sure. We sometimes have a few at the beginning but they work themselves out as we knead the dough. Maybe try again? I’ve made this recipe many, many times and it’s almost always a success.

  12. says

    Thanks for sharing the playdough recipe! We just made a batch today and it made for some super happy kids. We added color at the end to make several colors. Worked great!!