My Material Life

Make a Household Key Ring Set with Shrink Plastic

mml key ring set

Hello again.  What have you been up to?  Me?  I’ve been turning my kitchen into a miniature plastics factory with lots of shrinky dink activity.  I had a project to show you last week, but then I thought, no – all these school projects – you’re probably getting tired of them.  My school project did inspire these key ring tags or charms or whatever you’d like to call them though.  This is a pretty fun project for keys you have around the house or for key rings you might want to give as small party favors for just about any celebration you can think of.  These charms (their colors any way) were printed using Shrinky Dinks Ink Jet plastic.  You can also use this plastic to print photos, text, patterns – just about anything really.

I started by thinking of the different number or kinds of keys I need for my house and I came up with three.  Then I thought of a shape that would represent each of the three and experimented with how I could represent it with squares, triangles or circles.  I was really happy with what I came up with for the cat.  The house and sewing machine needed refining through actual practice runs of shrinking, but that’s all part of the process.

I used primary colors for my set, but experimented with a few more as well.  When you shrink plastic, you have to remember that your colors will deepen after shrinking, so it’s important to start with lighter colors than you really want and to test your colors if you have a specific outcome in mind.  Here’s a photo showing my final version of printed plastic with two of each color in 3″ square areas.


I made my templates from cardstock by hand (just because you have the ability to have the computer do it doesn’t mean you have to; our eyes really do like the imperfection you get “from hand”), but you do what you like.

mml shrinky pre-shrink

I used the softest pen I had in the house to draw my shapes onto the shrink plastic.  Harder points (like on mechanical pencils) tend to drag along the plastic and take off the color.IMG_4026

As for cutting out the shapes, embroidery scissors worked really well for curves and inner corners.  I even used them to cut out the cat’s tail once I slit the plastic with an X-ACTO knife first (much easier than trying to use the knife to do the whole job).

mml shrinky scissors

The last step before baking (shrinking) your plastic is to punch a hole towards the top of the shape, so you can insert a jump ring into it later.  Here you see the house shape set on parchment paper on a baking sheet and ready for the oven.


You might be wondering what that white powdery substance that’s been brushed on is.  Well, I had a couple of problems with this round of shrinky dinking.


Shrink plastic will curl as it gets smaller, but I’ve never known it to stick to itself before – it’s always uncurled for me and worked just fine.  Not this time though.  I consulted my Shrink! Shrank! Shrunk! book and the internet and discovered that baby powder might help.  Only I didn’t have any baby powder or talcum powder, so I used cornstarch.


I’d say it did the trick.  I also put my baking sheet on a lower rack and let the baking go on for as long as it needed, i.e. until the pieces were about as flat as they were going to get.  I followed the baking with a quick rinse and blot with paper towel to get the cornstarch off; luckily this did not remove the color!  Next came three light coats of clear nail polish to seal the color (another great suggestion from my Shrink! Shrank! Shrunk! book).


I finished the key rings with a large split ring, a smaller split ring, and one jump ring.  If you want to get fancy, you can add a bit of chain and another jump ring like I did with the pink house shown below.

Can you stand one more shrink plastic photo?  I made these last week for Samantha’s class and our last Project Cornerstone session of the year.  The square tags are made with Bright White Shrinky Dinks plastic and extra fine Sharpie pens.  The circles were made with a 1″ circle punch and Ink Jet Shrinky Dinks plastic.  The attributes printed on the circles came from the kids’ classmates.  Time to close my plastics factory until the next shrinky inspiration hits.

mml end-of-year shrinkies

mml key ring cluster


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