Ask the Audience: A Sticky Crafty Conundrum

Dear Home Ec 101,

When I was younger (much, much, younger) we would cover bottles with tissue paper – the kind you use for wrapping packages – torn into various sizes and dipped in liquid fabric softener.  When it dried, it was tough as nails, and you had an unusual-looking vase.  I’d like to cover a ceramic lamp with this method, but I can’t remember if you use the fabric softener full-strength, or if you dilute it and, if so, by how much.  I’m hoping you, or your readers, can help me.

Thanks a million – love the site!


Sticky Bits

Heather says:

I rolled this question around in my head for a few days and as I was driving home from my recent trip, it dawned on me the reader was referring to a method of papier-mâché! I pulled over at the next exit to write this down before the answer could wander back off into the ether.  I remembered making a sort-of pig shaped bank with a balloon, strips of newspaper and a blue liquid. That blue liquid wasn’t fabric softener, it was laundry starch.

As far as I can recall -and elementary school was a while ago here, too- we used full strength laundry starch.

Since I’m not exactly the world’s craftiest gal, I’d like to open this question up to the audience to see if they have any tips for your project.

So Home Eccers, is there anything she should keep in mind to make this lamp transformation a success?

Does the finish need to be coated with anything when she is through?

Send your questions, even the crafty ones, to


  1. tony on October 25, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Use me to get from point A to point B,
    To bind yourself to another for eternity,
    When it all goes wrong it's because of me,
    Houston, we have a problem, technically.
    What am I?

  2. Erin on October 24, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Another crafty thing we did in grade school: we would take colored yarn or embroidery thread, run it through watered-down Elmer's glue and wrap it around (and around and around) a balloon. Once dry, you pop the balloon, cut out an opening (remove said balloon parts) and you've got a great Easter-egg to fill with yummies, or cut out everything but a handle, and you have a basket.

  3. Jenn @FrugalUpstate on October 22, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    A bit off topic-but I once used laundry starch to "wallpaper" my daughters room with fabric in a rental house-when we moved i just pulled it down and scrubbed down the walls-all done.

  4. Kathy on October 20, 2010 at 6:29 am

    You can do this with starch, Mod Podge, or white school glue. I would suggest a protective coating when finished. You could do a couple clear coats of Mod Podge on top or even a couple layer of polyeurethane for a great level of protection. I never thought of doing a lamp, but you can even use starch to keep fabric designs on a wall. Just peel off when you are tired of it.

    • Ashley on October 24, 2010 at 6:54 pm

      I use the starch for fabric on walls & windows. When I went to college, we fabric-starched coordinating sheets to the ugly dorm room closet doors. I currently fabric starch on my preschoolers walls (and window- use dark fabric, fabric starch it and suddenly he wakes up later!) Just take a spray bottle of water & spray and peel it off. Great when you live in a rental house and can't paint!

  5. Ivy on October 19, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    I'm with Keter, either acrylic medium or ModPodge is the way to go. I don't have any other actual advice except this: don't use glitter. It's the herpes of crafting. Once you have it, it will never, ever go away. There is no cure for glitter.

    • Nilzed on October 20, 2010 at 9:14 pm

      I did a major glittery project creating stage decorfor my daughter’s kindergarten mid-year program. We’d just moved and I guess I wanted to impress the teacher or the class mom or someone by putting green glitter on several dozen posterboard sized pieces of ‘seaweed’. She’s almost 24 and we’ve moved 4 more times. We don’t even have any of the furniture we owned then. But we still find green glitter mixed in with old papers and keepsakes.

  6. Keter Magick on October 19, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Technically, the term for decorative paper applique is decoupage, even if there's no real cutting involved. Papier-mâché is when you make the entire object out of pasted paper or paper pulp.

    I use acrylic medium for this purpose. This method allows you to make very thin sheets for decoupage that very closely follow the shape of your piece.

    ModPodge, which is similar to but thicker than artist's acrylic medium, and closely related to white glue, is also good because you don't have to coat it with anything else after it is dried. Choose matte finish or slick finish formulas according to how shiny you prefer your finished result. You can also use ordinary white glue thinned with water, but this may need to be coated with clear spray lacquer or polyurethane after it dries, and it WILL yellow with time (which can be a good thing if you like it that way).

    Liquid fabric starch, not softener, is also used for decoupage, as is wheat paste. See if you like these approaches:

    My experience with wheat paste says that silverfish are drawn to it, so I recommend using the starch methods if you don't want to use white glue or Mod Podge.

  7. Princess Leia on October 19, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    I vaguely remember also making "slime" out of liquid starch and glue? Have to ask my mom.

    • casey on October 20, 2010 at 11:13 am

      cornstarch & water makes slime

  8. Melinda on October 19, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    According to the bottle of liquid starch that I have (purchased for a paper mache project), you take a half cup of flour and add a cup of liquid starch. Whisk until smooth. It works really well. 🙂

  9. Roxie on October 19, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    We used plain old glue. Watered down just a bit to make it thinner…
    Also something else we did was to take twine (the kind used for wraping packages) and dipped it into the glue and wrapped it around the bottle. When it dried we painted it. It was a beautiful vase…

  10. Stacy on October 19, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    I can sort of remember the liquid, but not what it was. However, it's pretty much what you do when you make decoupage projects, which use the Mod Podge glue mentioned by Valerie. You can get it at almost any craft store, or craft section of Walmart and the like.

  11. Paula @ home decor on October 19, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    I'm not much of a big help here, because I can only remember what Eugene posted above. I just remember that stuff was cold., but fun to work with.

  12. Patrick on October 19, 2010 at 10:37 am

    I was trying to remember my elementary school craft activities. The best I could recall wasn't really elementary school, it was when my Dad and I would draw pictures of animals on the wall of the cave. Mom told us to knock it off because we were lowering the resale values and we'd never be able to move into one of the nicer 3 chamber caves up the hill.

    • HeatherSolos on October 19, 2010 at 10:42 am

      That was full of awesome and win. I'll be chuckling the rest of the day.

  13. Valerie on October 19, 2010 at 9:47 am

    I've done something similar but with Mod Podge. Just paint the Mod Podge on stick the tissue paper to it (do smallish sections at a time so the Mod Podge doesn't dry) and then paint over the tissue paper with more Mod Podge. It goes on white but dries clear. There might be some drying time inbetween the 2 layers but it's fairly easy. We just made a little candle holder using this method with our 4 and 5 year old Sunday School class. Hope this helps!

  14. Eugene Mah on October 19, 2010 at 9:32 am

    we did the tissue paper thing too, but I just remember doing that with glue and then painting it with shellac afterwards.

  15. Eugene Mah on October 19, 2010 at 9:30 am

    ooo, i remember doing stuff like this back in elementary school (a long while ago for me). i seem to recall we used some kind of paste. Don't recall what it was, but it was something the teacher mixed up for us. I do remember thinking it was way more fun to squish my hands through the paste than doing the papier mache thing we were supposed to be doing. It was a little bit lumpy, kind of thick like a bernaise sauce and somewhat translucent looking.

    After everything set up and dried, we painted our creations with shellac the next day.

    • HeatherSolos on October 19, 2010 at 9:38 am

      I know it can also be done with flour and water or thinned Elmer's Glue.

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