The yarn bowl is THE must-have accessory that every crocheter or knitter dream of having. As a fervent crocheter, I’ve been wanting to own one, especially this past year. The thing is, I couldn’t find one where I live. And I was too scared to order one from overseas for various reasons; such as security, if the bowl would make it safe and sound, through such a long distance journey. Nevermind, I would make one myself with supplies I can easily find here. Air dry clay was the best and easiest option for me to work with. So through this article, I will explain to you how to DIY a yarn bowl with air dry clay, and as the French saying goes “we don’t change a winning team”: the yarn bowl is going to be a Cat Bowl! Meow!
Material – DIY Yarn Bowl
- Air-dry Clay (at least 2 kg)
- Clay Tools
- Acrylic Paint
- Some type of Varnish (mod podge, uv resin, or a glossy medium varnish for acrylic paint)
- Optional: Clay Turntable
Prepare Your Workspace – DIY Yarn Bowl
Prepare a clean and flat surface to work on. Wet clay sticks a lot, so using a silicon mat, a sheet of baking paper or a ceramic tile, for example, are among your best options if you want to avoid too much stickiness. I recommend using a surface that you can easily turn around, to avoid lifting the clay and distort it in the process. That’s why having a turntable is great in this case.
It’s important to note that air dry clay sticks a lot on the hands (and on every thing, really), so you may want to prepare a recipient full of water, to rinse your hands when needed. Also, prepare a recipient with water for your sponge, you will need it to smoothen or glue the clay. When all your tools, clay and water are ready, you can start working with your clay.
Sculpting your clay into a yarn bowl
Before you start sculpting your clay, there’s something you should absolutely do: conditioning it. It will help you sculpt your clay better and avoid cracking when drying. To do so, knead your clay to soften it as much as possible.
When you’re done, make a ball out of your clay. Then with your thumbs, dig the middle of the clay to make a hole. Expand the hole as you push the inside around to the sides, to form a bowl. It’s important to do that slowly and not put too much force at once when digging. If you force too much, the clay will crack a lot, and it will be tedious to smoothen all the cracked areas. (trust me, I learned it the hard way haha).
Note that your bowl should have thick sides and bottom, the clay needs to be thick enough, to not crack later on when it will dry. Avoid having thin edges.
Now, with a wet sponge, smoothen your bowl and make all cracks disappear. Don’t wet your sponge too much, because the clay will become liquid in contact with water. This will make your bowl edges fall apart due to the clay moisture. To keep your bowl edges up, the clay needs to be a little hard and solid. The wetter the clay, the softer it becomes. And you want to avoid that, so wet the sponge a little bit, wring it to get rid of any drip of water, pass it on the clay and watch the magic happens right before your eyes. The clay will become smoother and even at each pass.
Important to note: Use water to smoothen the clay any time you need it, be it with a sponge or your fingers. If you mix some clay with water, you can use the paste obtained, to glue elements to your bowl, or fill cracks to make them disappear.
In brief: water can be your best friend or your enemy when working with clay, use it wisely.
Add the Cat’s ears – DIY Yarn Bowl
Make 2 triangles of the same size with your clay. To connect the ears to the bowl, we will use the technique called “score and slip”. With a sharp tool, score the bottom of the ears and the places you will put them on the bowl, then with a mix of water + clay, make a creamy paste like texture to use as glue between the 2 surfaces. Glue, with this mix, both ears on each opposite sides of the bowl.
Then blend the clay together with your fingers as you push it, alternatively, downward and upward to make the ear become one with the bowl. Take some wet clay and add them on each sides of the ear, to blend it to the bowl edge. This will give the ear a nicer and better shape.
Making the holes for the yarn
Let the clay harden up a little bit, before digging the holes. It will be easier to clean up the clay we cut off this way, and safer too. What I did is cut a triangle shaped hole at the front, whereas I would cut a spiral – tail shaped – at the back. I free-handed cut the triangle, but I used a paper template, I drew and cut beforehand, for the tail (see pictures below). You can use it for your bowl too, just save it and resize it to your need if necessary.
Clean up the excessive clay left, by using water and your fingers / sponge, to either take it off or blending it in. Now it’s time to let your bowl dry. I personally left one of my tool under the middle of the spiral to keep the shape intact, and not let it fall off and dry in this state. The time it will take to dry depends on different factors, such as the clay’s brand, the temperature/humidity of the room, the thickness of the clay …
Don’t try to hasten the dry process by any mean, it will make the clay cracks (learned it the hard way too haha!). Just put it in a safe place, in a clean room, not right under the sun, and let it dry naturally. It took mine approximately 3 days to dry completely.
Note: If your clay has cracks when it’s fully dried out, use the 7th point in this article to fix them up. It’s really easy to fix it up, so don’t worry if you see cracks appear when the clay is drying up.
Sanding and painting your bowl
Once your bowl is finally fully dried and solid, you can polish it with some sand paper. I personally prefer using fine grain sand paper to avoid large scratches on the clay. Moreover, the air dry clay crumble really easily when polished, so it’s best to use really fine grain paper in all cases.
When sanding, do it gently to avoid breaking or cracking up the clay (especially around the holes). Clean up the dust left after you finished sanding.
After that, you can start painting your bowl as you wish. Use acrylic paint, it’s better than gouache for example, as you will need to have multiple layers of paint before varnishing. Gouache can be reactivated, so if you paint another layer on top of the 1st one, the colors will mix up with each other, and you will end up with something completely different from what you wanted.
When painting, apply at least 2 layers of your base color (mine was light purple – mauve). Wait each time for the paint to fully dry out. Never apply another layer of paint while the 1st one is still drying. You will end up with bubbles and the paint will peel off itself from the bowl. So always wait the paint to be fully dried out.
Add some details on your bowl if you want. I went with a sky themed illustration: so I painted clouds, stars, a planet, the moon. I also painted the whiskers of the cat and some blush on its cheeks to add to the cuteness of it. For the inside of the ears, I painted it in pink, while I painted the tip of the tail in white, and added some cat paw prints on the inside.
Let your imagination and creativity speak for themselves. You don’t need the illustrations to look perfect, just have fun and paint what you want.
Varnish your bowl – DIY Yarn Bowl
When you have finished painting your bowl and that it has fully dried out, you can move on to the last step: varnishing it. This is a serious step as you will be using a product that you should be cautious with.
If you use UV resin like myself: prepare some gloves, a special brush for it, a mask if possible, and be sure to be in a room that has a good airing. Apply the resin evenly, with a brush, on the bowl. Start with the outside and inside of it. To make the resin dry out, you have to either use a UV lamp, or put your bowl to dry under a window where the sun is hitting. The resin needs UV light to dry, or it will stick a lot. Give it a fair amount of time under the UV light before taking it off. The longer, the better, to remove any stickiness to it. Then, when it’s dry out, conclude the varnish process with the bottom of the bowl.
You can use a safer type of varnish: the glossy medium for acrylic paint. Apply it with a brush, and leave it to dry out by itself.
The reason I preferred using UV resin is the fact that it gives the bowl a coat that makes it almost waterproof, and protect the paint better from peeling off in the long term.
Use the varnish that you judge is the best for your own use of the bowl.
And voilà! Your bowl is finally ready to be used now.
Let me know in the comments down below if you have any question or remarks, I would be happy to answer them all.
Also don’t forget to follow me on my social medias Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest and Tiktok. By the way, I’ve made a really cool tiktok video about how I turned a pill of cardboard into a super cute Hot Air Balloon shelf, I even used crochet to make the basket, you might want to see it! And I would be more than happy to count you as one of my loyal followers. See you in the next one!