Thursday, November 19, 2015

Craft Fail! DIY shrink plastic with #6 packaging (and how to rescue it).

If you follow my blog you will know just how much I love shrink plastic.  I've used it to make jewellery, buttons, card embellishments, teacher gifts and fridge magnets.  I just love taking something that's almost as thin as paper, decorating it and then watching it shrink and transform into something tiny and cute right in front of me.  I like to think I'm pretty good with shrink plastic...

A few years ago I read on several craft sites, that shrink plastic is made from clear polystyrene, with the recycling symbol #6 and that you can actually use plastic packaging with the #6 symbol as shrink plastic.  The shrink plastic geek in me got really excited!

After a few months of checking our recycling, I finally found one container that had the rare #6 symbol on it.  Well I put that container aside and tried to plan an amazing project that I would make with it... then I gave up planning and decided that I'd just have a play instead.

I soaked off the label in hot water and washing up liquid, which left me with a plastic box covered in glue. I then washed off all the glue with Sticky Stuff Remover.  It was a lot of effort, but I was going to have some free shrink plastic by the end of it.  That was the plan anyway...

With a sharp pair of scissors, I carefully cut the container up into the largest flat sections I could make. It was certainly starting to look like shrink plastic. I knew that I wanted to either stamp or trace onto it, so flatter pieces worked better in this case.

To begin with I thought I'd see how well my recycle shrink plastic took to permanent inks. I used one of my favourite Little Gorjuss stamps and a Paper Panda Bunny and Bird stamp with a Timber Brown StazOn Inkpad.  I then added a little colour to the girl stamp with some light coloured Sharpie Pens.  It was just like colouring regular shrink plastic, so I was really pleased with my experiment so far.

I cut them out carefully and then popped them in the oven at 175 degrees Centigrade (350 degrees Fahrenheit) and waited.  My regular shrink plastic takes about 2 minutes and this was behaving very much the same.  Unfortunately this was when I realised that my shrink plastic might not be quite so wonderful as I'd hoped...

As I'd expected, the colours became darker and more intense and my shapes were now lovely and thick and flat, sadly they hadn't shrunk equally in height and width.  My bunny and bird look like they've taken a visit to the hall of mirrors and my little girl is only slightly narrower than she was in the beginning and has become extremely short and dumpy.  Not exactly the look I was going for...

I decided to see if I could salvage something from my little experiment, so I thought I'd approach it mathematically.  

I made myself a little 5cm x 5cm square ruler from one of the larger pieces and shrunk that in the oven to see what happened...

... and here's what I got!  The scale on the left is showing the size of the original piece of plastic before it went in the oven.  The width has gone from 5cm to 4.5cm, but the height has gone from 5cm to 1.3cm.   At least it appears to be consistent.

Strangely it's also skewed by about 5 degrees to the right. 

So in an effort to make at least something from my recycled #6 plastic I decided to use these figures to create an image for a card embellishment.

I took the design of a vintage fawn that I created a few months ago for a lino printing workshop that I attended and decided to adjust it for this project.  I then did a little simple maths - 

The width went from 5cm to 4.5.  
5 divided by 4.5 = 1.11.  

The height went from 5cm to 1.3cm.  
5 divided by 1.3 = 3.85.

Therefore I need to multiply the width by 1.11 and the height by 3.85.  Thankfully I'm able to do this easily in Photoshop using the percentage size option.  

I turned off constrain proportions and then altered the width by 110% and the height by 385% to get this image.  I also skewed my image by 5 degrees to the left.

As I was going to be tracing with Sakura Gelly Roll glitter pens I sanded the whole sheet down with some coarse sandpaper to roughen the surface so that the pen ink would dry on it without smudging.

I taped my plastic down onto my stretched image and then traced over it with my Sakura Gelly Roll pen.  I then left it to dry for 20 minutes before cutting it out.  I popped it back in the oven to see if my maths experiment had actually worked...

... and it had!  My little fawn now actually looks fairly in proportion.  OK he's quite difficult to see as the glitter pen is very overpowering, but it worked!

Having had success with getting the scale of my original design right I decided to try a simple black pen for a more subtle and better defined image.

I traced the design again, this time with a 0.8mm black pen, cut a rectangle around it and shrunk it down again.

Finally I had something I could use on the front of a card!  I dusted around the edge of my shrink plastic rectangle with decorative shimmer chalks and then roughly coloured the edge with silver leaf pen.

Finally I added a tiny drop of red Stickles glitter glue to turn my fawn into Rudolph.

I was so pleased with how my little piece of shrink plastic had shrunk down - almost to the right proportions.

I got cocky and decided to finish off my section of shrink plastic, which was made up of one long side of the box.

Sadly it would appear that the calculations I used to worked out the shrinkage and degree of distortion only applied to half of my piece of shrink plastic.  These had been cut from the far end of the same piece and so the last one was really seriously distorted again.  I might be able to salvage something from the one on the left, but the one on the right is beyond saving.

And so ends my effort to make something out of recycled shrink plastic.  Yes, I managed to make a simple Christmas card and I learned a lot in the process.  Sadly I think I'll continue to buy my shrink plastic in future - it's far less effort and definitely much more reliable!

Similar Related Blog Posts

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Child's First Drawings

Shrink Plastic Buttons

Shrink Plastic Teacher Gifts

DIY Shrink Plastic Stitch Markers

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Carolyn said...

Maybe they don't use those so much in your country. In the US, they use #6 plastic in "clamshell" containers, for take-out food, and berry containers from the grocery store. I'm currently in Paraguay and just got some off of a lid over a cake. Of course, there wasn't much in the way of flat pieces in the lid, but the very top. :-)

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Food containers made with the number 6 plastic, specifically ones that have a high and/or loud noise to it when it is handled, is the best to use for recycling. But this is not always a guarantee. I must agree that despite finding the number 6 on plastics, they can come out with various distortions and unsightly flaws. And it seems there is no sure fire way to foresee which plastics will be the ones that do this. But in my city, Baltimore, MD, many Asian restaurants and food businesses in the fresh markets use the number six food containers. And unfortunately, there is a pollution problem like you would not believe in this city. So, I seem to have unlimited access to recycling materials for shrink crafts. It's the perfect opportunity for me to help Mother Earth. And it also gives me the opportunity to have a little fun!

Anonymous said...

The plastic for the containers originally never been what you find it in the finished product, it get formed and stretched to become the various containers. It shrinks because its trying to go back to the original shape it had, so the directions that were stretched more will move more
If you end using pretty much always the same containers you will learn to know how they will shrink with very little variations since each of the same type is made using exactly the same process and, for the most part, same quality of materials (you will be able to tell right away if your usual container has switched quality once you get used to handle them)