Polymer Clay Basics 1 — How to knead the polymer clay
Recently I was shopping polymer clay online and noticed a strange phenomenon — a lot of good quality polymer clay only gets 3 or even 2 stars on customer satisfaction. When I read the reviews, I noticed many people complain the polymer clay is way too firm, very crumbly and difficult to knead.
I feel the pain of those crafters. I used to think kneading the clay is the most time-consuming step in a polymer clay project. But after a lot of practice, I get more and more efficient on this task. Today I want to share my approach with you guys. Hopefully after reading this post, kneading polymer clay won’t be a headache for you anymore.
By the way, in the future I will write series of articles covering polymer clay basic knowledge. Consider this post the first one.
This post contains affiliated links. If you buy something through one of those links, it won’t cost you a penny more, but I’ll get a small commission. It will help me to create more free tutorials. Thank you for your support!
Why polymer clay is so firm?
Before diving into the kneading technique, let’s first understand why the polymer clay is so firm. Wouldn’t it be great if the polymer clay is soft like Play Dohs so everyone can knead it in 3 seconds? The answer is NO. The polymer clay is designed to be firm so it can hold the shape better and presents more details. In fact, professional grade polymer clay is usually firmer than its peers.
So if you always choose softer clay in your project just because it is easier to knead, you are probably sacrificing the quality of your final product.
How to knead the polymer clay QUICKLY and cleanly
So the question remains…how can I knead a piece of firm clay without breaking my hands?
The answer is quite simple — don’t use your hands! All you need is a simple clay roller, or an old pasta roller collecting dust in your kitchen.
Another major complaint people has during the kneading process is the clay crumbles into small pieces and falls everywhere on the workstation.
To solve this problem, when kneading I always use a piece of plastic wrap to cover the polymer clay. Even when it goes through the pasta machine.
Now let me show you step by step how to knead the polymer clay quickly and cleanly. The polymer clay used in the picture is Fimo Effect Translucent, which has a reputation of difficult to knead and easy to crumble.
Step 1. Preparing the polymer clay
Before start kneading the clay, wash your hands and wipe your workstation. Polymer clay attracts dirt like a magnet.
Lay a piece of plastic wrap on the table. Then take a piece of clay from the block using clean hands. With plastic wrap underneath, break the clay into small pieces.
Fold the plastic wrap into a closed package as shown in picture 4. Remember to leave plenty empty spaces around the clay pieces as they will expand when going through the pasta machine.
Step 2. Going through the pasta machine
Set pasta roller to a relatively thicker setting. Then slide the polymer clay package through the pasta roller. The plastic wrap will prevent polymer clay from picking up dirt on the machine.
After going through the machine, you can see the clay pieces are being flattened as shown in picture 6. Now open the plastic wrap and stack the clay pieces on top of each other. Fold the plastic wrap again and go through the machine.
Repeat the open-stack-slide process a few times until you get a sheet of clay that is smooth and bendable. In my experience, polymer clay is usually ready for use after 3-4 rounds in summer and 5-6 rounds in winter.
Product used in this tutorial
Step 3. Store the polymer clay
When the kneading is complete, keep the polymer clay covered in the plastic wrap and store them in a small sealable plastic bag as shown in picture 11. If you own a lot of polymer clay, you should also label the bag to avoid future confusion.
As you can see in picture 12, I keep all my kneaded polymer clay as flat sheets and each color has its own plastic bag and label.
The importance of plastic wrap
At the end of the article, I want to emphasize the importance of the plastic wrap. During the process, all the clay crumb is covered in plastic wrap so you should have a clean workstation afterwards. In addition, the plastic wrap also prevents polymer clay from getting dirty during kneading. This is especially important for the light- colored clay.
Today’s tutorial is summarized in the step-by-step picture illustration below. If you have any polymer clay tricks and tips you want to share, please leave a comment below!