We've been making a lot of fused plastic bead suncatchers lately--the kiddos LOVE them, and I'm secretly trying to use up our huge stash of completely random beads:
|and two buttons--oops!|
Other than the pasta ones, which we dyed ourselves (and which won't work in these suncatchers, so we had to sort them out), they've all been given to us from here and there and everywhere, completely unsorted, and when they're gone I'll be replacing them on an as-needed basis with a much smaller number of very carefully sorted beads, so that we'll have an easier time getting organized for specific projects.
To make the suncatchers, start out with a set of novelty silicon muffin tins--you'll see in some of the photos that I also use regular metal muffin tins, but since those don't bend they're actually much harder to get the finished suncatcher out of, and I don't recommend using them unless you absolutely need that particular shape.
Fill the bottom of each mold with just enough beads to cover the bottom:
The beads will flatten and spread as they melt, so you want your layer to be pretty thin to maintain the suncatcher's translucency:
I move our garage sale toaster oven outside to the back deck for this project, and I would NOT do it otherwise. Melting plastic is a nasty business, and it will absolutely smoke and give off fumes, and you do not want those fumes in your house. So if you do not have a toaster oven that you can haul outside for this project, then I strongly recommend that you simply not do it. Wait around for garage sale season to come back--our toaster oven cost $4, and we seriously use it multiple times a day.
Set the toaster oven to around 250 degrees, and don't bother letting it preheat. Just set your silicon mold on the tray, put the tray in the toaster oven--
--and come back to check on it every few minutes. You'll first see the beads start to look really soft and slumpy--
--but leave them in until the beads look flat and the surface of the suncatcher is even:
Take the tray out of the oven, transfer the mold from the tray to a safe spot for it to rest, and let it cool:
The finished suncatchers should be quite sturdy, and I really like the way that they look:
To hang them, you simply need to drill a hole, add twine, and string them up! It's long been in the back of my mind to make a really cool Calder-style mobile, but so far we've been hanging them all individually, kind of like ornaments for our trellis and our trees:
I've got a miniature skull silicon mold set, so now I'm considering melting the beads in a thick layer in the skull molds, then drilling a hole through horizontally to make giant skull beads.
Because the world NEEDS giant skull beads, yes?