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Project

Make a Pinata

Part of a pinata's unique charm is that no matter how ornate it is or how much time went into making it, its decorative qualities are entirely temporary. Stuffed with candy and treats, the pinata is meant to be smashed apart, spilling its contents into the hands of the children clustered around it at parties.

Introduction

Long associated with Mexico, pinatas actually originated in Italy, where clay pots were filled with treats and slung high above the ground to be broken with sticks. Adopted by the Spanish, the custom arrived in Mexico with the explorers, who had since begun to add color and decoration. When tissue paper became widely available during the 20th century, the pinata evolved again, incorporating more colors and designs than ever before.

Papier-mache is a popular craft technique that involves covering a form -- like a balloon or a bowl -- with strips of newspaper drenched in a simple, often homemade, paste; the paper and paste bond as they dry, forming a hard shell around the form. Try using wheat-paste powder, available at hardware and art-supply stores, instead of ordinary flour -- the resulting paste will be less prone to cracking.

Materials

  • 14-inch balloon
  • Cloth tape
  • Scissors
  • Newspaper, cut into 1-by-6-inch strips
  • Wheat-paste powder
  • Strong white paper (20-pound copy paper works well)
  • Spray mount
  • Compass
  • Craft glue
  • Tissue paper in several colors
  • Rotary cutter (optional)
  • Self-healing mat (optional)
  • Utility knife
  • Large needle or piece of wire
  • Tissue-paper streamers
  • Strong cord
  • Candy, treats, and small prizes, for stuffing

Steps

  1. Step 1

    Inflate the balloon, and coax it into a round shape by wrapping it with cloth tape. Set it aside.

  2. Step 2

    Make paste: In a medium bowl, mix 1 cup wheat-paste powder with 4 1/2 cups water. Dip newspaper strips one at a time into the paste, and place them on the balloon, overlapping the strips slightly, until the balloon is completely covered. Let dry overnight. Repeat this process twice more for a total of three layers.

  3. Step 3

    Our pinata design calls for six cones; to make them, cut six sheets of strong white paper into 7-inch squares. In a well-ventilated area, spray-mount different colors of tissue paper onto the squares. Place the point of a compass at the corner of one of the squares, and mark a 6 1/2-inch arc. Trim the paper around the edge of the arc. At 1/2-inch intervals, cut 1/2-inch-deep notches into the rounded edge. Roll the paper into a cone, and glue or tape the straight edges together where they meet. Cut 1/2 inch off the tip of the cone to create an opening for streamers. Fold the notches outward, and using craft glue, adhere the cone to the pinata. Repeat with the remaining cones, gluing the first two cones at opposite ends and spacing the remaining cones evenly around the sphere's center perimeter.

  4. Step 4

    For the fringe decoration, begin by cutting tissue paper into narrow strips about 3 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. A rotary cutter and a self-healing mat will enable you to cut through several layers of tissue at one time. Fold each strip lengthwise, creating a 1 1/2-inch strip, and cut the strip down the center from the open side, up to within 1/2 inch of the folded edge. Each strip should yield four "fringes." Starting at the bottom of the pinata, glue the strips, fringed edge up, in a tight circle. Glue a second row above the first one (the circle will be slightly larger), tucking the glued portions of the second row behind the fringe of the first. Work your way up the pinata, gluing rows of fringe in circles of increasing size. Glue a couple of rounds of tissue paper over the fringe at the top and bottom of the pinata.

  5. Step 5

    To complete the pinata, use a utility knife to cut a small trap door near the top. Make two vertical cuts 3 inches apart, and connect them with one horizontal cut at the top to create a flap; fold the flap back. Using a piece of wire or large needle with a length of strong cord attached, punch two holes at the top of the pinata, and pull the cord through the holes. Knot the cord above the pinata, leaving enough to use for hanging.

  6. Step 6

    For a final touch, twist 10 streamers together for each cone; apply a dab of craft glue to the twisted end, and tuck it into the small hole at the end of the cone. Repeat this for each of the cones. Fill the pinata with a selection of candy, treats, or prizes; push the flap back into place, and hang your pinata.

Source
Martha Stewart Living, May 2000

Reviews (12)

  • Steffy Watson 11 Jan, 2013

    Wow. This will be helpful for people who cannot afford buying the expensive ones.

  • jen21998 28 Feb, 2009

    I just used 1 part all purpose flour to 2 parts water and it worked great. Alittle messy but very worth it! We had a great time. Making and breaking it!

  • AvocadoLady 8 May, 2008

    Thank you,
    I had never heard of wheat-paste before.
    Avocado lady

  • CraftTestDummies 6 May, 2008

    If you don't want to use wheat paste, or don't have that handy, just mix white glue (like Elmer's) 50/50 with water. Works just as good! -Jenny of CraftTestDummies.com

  • azieaznam 6 May, 2008

    We never have pinatas in Malaysia but looks like I am gonna introduce them during our Hari Raya Eid festivities!

  • howdydog1 5 May, 2008

    In Honduras, pinatas show up on any festive occassion, from birthdays to bridal showers, where they are part of the decorating scheme, in the form of cartoon characters, etc. A hook and pulley for a pinata is always included in a party room. The youngest child gets the first three swings, then older and older children until someone, usually a 10 to 12 year-old boy breaks it open. Some of the pinatas look pretty pitiful when they're done.

  • sharonmanis 5 May, 2008

    Thank's for the great Idea, My grandbaby's B-day is comming up.
    It's not just for 5th of may!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • karenrsalo 5 May, 2008

    I was going to say the same thing as Lolka. These are great ideas, but sending them the day of the event is too late.

  • shesthecatsmeow 5 May, 2008

    When I was a young girl my artist Fther always made Pinatas and when my children came along he made them for their biorthdays. Now my Grandchildren have one at every party but they are not homemade. Thanks for the "recipe". I amy just try one myself for them.

  • Lolka 5 May, 2008

    Why do you wait till the day of the celebration to offer this project.
    Had it been available a week or so ago, I'd have had a better chance!
    Cathy in Az

  • bearsforever 5 May, 2008

    About 8 years ago I made two wonderful pinatas for two different grandchildren. I had a great time doing it and for anyone who has the time I recommend doing it. Mine were shaped like fat goldfish, one golden and one white, scales, fins, tails and all. I really enjoyed making them!

  • kristinowen 13 Nov, 2007

    reminds me of when i was lillte and the pumpkin pinata i made for a halloween party i had