Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Adventures in Shrinky Dink: A Cautionary Tale

A year or so ago, I saw an article in Country Living about making a bracelet from Shrinky Dinks.  (I saw it in the print version of the magazine, but the online version is at Yep, they misspelled shrinky in their url.)   Wow, I thought, this looks like fun!  I could make a bracelet for the daughter out of photos we took on our ramble in Ireland a while back.  

She did a study abroad semester at University of Limerick her junior year.  She went over about two weeks early and let me tag along.  We rented a car and drove up and down the west coast of Ireland, narrowly dodging cows, sheep, rock walls, roundabouts and, once, a crowd of knackers.  Not to mention the “Hey, look at that!” stops.  We stayed in bed and breakfasts where we dutifully admired grandkids and dancing awards, we saw an inordinate number of cemeteries and abbeys, and we enjoyed lots of seafood chowder.  It was fabulous.  Really fabulous.

So what better idea than to commemorate the trip with a fun Shrinky Dink bracelet?  I should mention that I didn’t grow up with Shrinky Dinks.  While, according to Wikipedia, they were invented in 1973, they didn’t become really popular until the 1980s. I was very busy in the 1980s being “A Student.”  Those were the grad school years, when English and American literature seemed very important and there were deep meanings to find and pontificate on – finitude, patriarchy, and the impact of empire.  Was I really that stuffy?  Yes, I was too busy for Shrinky Dinks.  But now that I’ve outgrown my stuffiness and embraced my inner free spirit, I was ready to learn about Shrinky Dinks.  I have to admit, though, that I was afraid of Shrinky Dinks.  I bought the package of inkjet Dinks probably eight or nine months ago and hid it in a drawer.  So many worries.  How do I lighten the pictures?  (Eventually got PhotoShop Elements to handle that worry.)  How do I put multiple pictures on a page?  Most important: What if I goof it up???  Finally I realized, it’s a $2.00 sheet of plastic.  It’s okay if I goof up.  And as you’ll see, I did.

I picked out the photos I wanted to use and lightened them waaaay up in PhotoShop.  The green grass of the Emerald Isle turned a kind of sick chartreuse.  That’s okay, it’s supposed to darken up when it shrinks.  (Not back to grass green, boyo.)  Copied the photos into a Word doc (not ideal) and eventually printed it onto the Shrinky plastic.  I say “eventually” because I didn’t notice that the plastic sheets are 8”x10”, not 8 ½”x11”.  I had set the printer to print on transparencies and shortened the dry time, etc., all good, but my printer kept giving me a paper mismatch error message.  Aaaah!  Technology makes me crazy!  Oh, wait, I need to take out the 8 ½” by 11” paper underneath and reset the guide in the printer tray?  Oh, that was easy!

Then I cut out the images and punched holes with a 1/8” hole punch as per instructions from both Country Living and Shrinky Dinks.  I also used a rubber stamp to ink a cool Celtic knot on the back of each piece.  

Before and during shrinkage
So tiny!

Put them in the oven and presto!  That part was super fun and amazing for a first-time shrinker.  Loved that.  Got so excited that I didn’t get them all pressed flat, so a couple of images warped, but no big deal.  After they cooled, I sprayed them with 25-year-old lacquer I found in the basement.  Mistake.  Should have sprung for a more recent vintage.  They dried kind of funky and the ink stamp on the back ran.  Did I give up?  Not yet.  

No longer a ring . . . 

Got out my trusty little 4 mm jump rings and twisted the heck out of those babies trying to force them through the holes.  No camel going through the eye of that needle!  So I read around on the internet and found that many people recommend a ¼” standard size hole punch, even for Shrinky jewelry.  I wasn’t happy with the photo quality or the finish quality anyway, so take two!

The second time, I lightened the photos, but not nearly so much.  I even bumped up the color saturation on a few images.  Then I pasted them all into a PageMaker document.  (I had forgotten I still had a copy of it.)  Wow, that was much easier.  Love PageMaker.  Cut the pieces out, rounded the edges, and used the ¼” punch.  
I omitted the Celtic knot stamp – why risk the bleeding ink?  Baked, flattened, cooled, and sprayed (with new, 21st century clear acrylic sealer).  Oh and a heads up, don’t use Diet Coke boxes to line your cookie sheet.  Recycling, so smart?  In this case, not really; some kind of glue cooked off and gooped up my pan.  

The only real snag the second time around came with the jump rings.  Some of the holes were maybe a little more than ¼” from the edge of the original, unshrunk image, which made the rings pretty tight.  Plus, those 4 mm jump rings are small!  Still, it all came together after a fashion.  You may see in the close-up that my jump rings are not as securely closed as they should be, but, hey, in real life, no one will be looking through magnification!

All in all, it was a fun project.  I’ll try Shrinky Dinks again.  In terms of quality, there’s nowhere to go but up!



  1. Hilarious! The bracelet turned out really cute though. I always use tin foil to line my baking pans, works every time ;)

  2. Lol, great post! Wow what an ordeal! The bracelet looks really great though. I admire your tenacity, I would have probably given up and thrown everything out the window. :-)

  3. Thanks, ladies!

    @ unrewind: I used the box because Shrinky Dinks says to line your sheet with brown paper and my cut open sacks didn't want to lay flat. (I'm a big direction follower when I do things for the first time or two.) Foil would be much easier!


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