2.9 Podcast 6 – Chemical Christmas & Christmas Memories

December 20, 2009

Podcast Feed

This Christmas I have 3 (4) ornaments to share with you.  One chemistry, one yarn, and two fabric wreaths (variations on the same idea).

The Chemistry Borax Crystal Snowflake Ornament

Growing crystals from super saturated solutions is something that you can do easily with household products.  A supersaturated solution is one that you force a liquid (typically liquid solvent) to dissolve more solid (called a precipitate  solute) than it typically can hold.  Most of the time, heating a solution can force the solution to dissolve more solids, and then as the solution cools, the solids come out of solution – sometimes in the form of crystals.  Alton Brown says that even fudge is a crystal structure, so crystals are found everywhere this time of year.

To grow borax crystals


  • several pipe cleaners
  • something to cut pipe cleaners (NOT fabric scissors)
  • a string or fishing line
  • a pencil or pen
  • a wide glass jar
  • hot (boiling) water – just enough to almost fill up the jar but not too full
  • Mule Team Borax laundry booster
  • (You can substitute sugar crystals for borax, but I think they take longer to crystallize)
  • (I wonder if you could substitute fabric pieces for pipe cleaners.  If anyone does this, I’d be curious to know)

Procedure for creating crystal snowflakes (or you could do a star of david, or other object you want to crystallize)

1.  Cut the pipe cleaner into sections to create the crystalized shape

2.  Tie your fishing line or string around one side of the snowflake.

3.  Place the pencil across the top of the jar such that your ornament hangs in the jar without touching the bottom. 

4.  Any snowflake too high up will not have water on it, and thus may not form crystals.  Make sure the sides don’t touch the jar either for more perfect crystals.

5.  Remove the snowflake once you get it to the right height in the jar. 

6.  Add water to the jar near the top (or you can put this in a microwave safe measuring cup that holds the same amount of water as the jar). 

7.  Microwave for at least three minutes.  If you’re worried about superheating your water, place a chopstick in the water as it sits in the microwave.

8.  Use a hot pad or towel to CAREFULLY remove the jar from the microwave.

9.  Add borax crystals until you can’t get any more to dissolve and start to see borax staying on the bottom.  This takes a lot of stirring and a lot of patience.  I had to remelt my crystals after the first night because I was too impatient and I thought I had enough borax the first night. 

10.  Keep adding and stirring, and if you need to, carefully pour off some of the excess water so you don’t spill over onto the floor.  Remember that the snowflake is also going to displace some of the water so you may have more liquid than you realize.

11.  Add the food coloring to the jar, and then put in the snowflake into the jar.  (the following picture shows too little borax dissolved to get a good result.  Add more borax than this.

12.  Wait overnight at least for the solution to cool to room temperature.  If you have multiple jars / snowflakes you could try putting one in the fridge (be careful!) to see what type of crystals form.  Crystals forms differently with different amounts of starting temperatures and cooling rates.

13.  Take a paper towel and place the completed crystal on the paper towel giving it time to dry.  This snowflake you can see a little bit of blue tint to it with lots of crystals.

 Another ornament I made this year

The dragon boat ornament from Jennifer Ackerman-Heywood at CraftSanity.  I had black yarn available, and I used a piece of cardstock and cut out her template on her site.

Christmas Wreaths made from fabric scraps

Styrofoam Wreaths – Wreath Variation #1

  1. Take a styrofoam wreath shape – cut out from various styrofoam leftovers from presents!
  2. Take scraps of fabric 2 inches square or so – pinked edges look nice here
  3. Wrap the fabric right side towards a pencil
  4. Dip the pencil in Elmer’s glue (or maybe Eileen’s tacky glue)
  5. Stick the fabric into the styrofoam
  6. Repeat the process until the wreath is completed

Wire Wreath – Wreath Variation #2

  • Bend a wire hanger or pipe cleaner into a circle

  • Use small strips of fabric, cut into sections
  • Tie each section of fabric around the wire
  • Repeat for all the fabric pieces around the outside of the wreath.


This particular wreath is a little messy.  With more time and patience, these can look quite nice.

Other chemistry christmas ornaments to try

Additional Resources

Christmas Memories

One christmas memory from each of the people in my immediate family that is no longer with me.

Grandpa – Polka music (Watch out it’s loud!)

Grandma – Cross stitched snow globe angel – Free Design at Black Swan Designs

Mother – Lighted candle angel

Grandma – Amazing Grace church


  1. keep it up Darla – you r getting better and better! keep em coming – sry now typing with 1 wrong hand due 2 baby in other….

    • Thanks Allison, I am glad for your support so far! I don’t know how much I want to do the personal stuff like that – it was really hard to do this time, but in the end I felt it was important. I don’t have as much going on as you do in my normal life. Day to day is pretty much the same no matter what week we’re talking about. Thanks for taking the time to comment with all thats going on!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by SisterDiane, ErinBassett. ErinBassett said: Cool! RT @SisterDiane: If only I'd known about Borax crystal snowflake ornaments weeks ago! http://ow.ly/TldA (via Scientific Quilter) […]

  3. I am still catching up on all the podcasts I missed during the crazy Christmas rush–and I was moving at the same time! Keep up on the podcasts! You are getting stronger with each one. This was very sweet with the memories of loved ones and items you associate with each. I’ll have to think on this some and do a journal entry on my loved ones and items I think of. Don’t you just enjoy getting enough age on us, that our idea of “rich” changes? God bless those who have enriched us with their love and “presence” as well as presents.

    • Jill,

      You’re brave for trying to move during that time of the year. I hope things are starting to settle down now.

      Thank you for thinking I am getting better. I still have many problems with my voice pitch and blowing into the microphone and the volume of the bumper music and other things. The end of this episode was really hard for me to get through – many different retakes and restarts there. It’s too bad that (bad/hard) things have to happen in your life to really see all the value of everything you have around you. I hope you have good luck on your journal. It was suggested to me to write a journal after my mother passed, but I didn’t. I have some e-mails that I do go back and reread that I sent to friends that help me describe my feelings at that time. It was also suggested that I make a t-shirt quilt in her honor with her T-shirts, and that would be a good idea, so if I get a chance to get her t-shirts I’ll put that together for my dad.

  4. […] still have my church up (see episode 6 for the christmas memories episode I think — haven’t listened in over a year) in honor of people who are no longer with me […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: