Making a pattern sheet or a piece of clay fabric is a great basic skill. It uses up canes and bits and hides a lot of bumps and edges by flattening in the pasta machine. You can use sheets of clay to cover ornaments, make simple pendants, make pillow beads, cover pens… all sorts of good stuff.
1. Gather up what you’ll need. Clay, canes, a sharp blade, a roller and a pasta machine are my basics.
2. Slice yourself some clay. Start with 1-2 oz (1/2 a small package to 1 package). It makes lots of clay fabric. If you don’t have many canes or just need a small amount of fabric, start with less of your base sheet.
3. Flatten your slices a little before putting them through the pasta machine. This is much easier than trying to warm up a chunk of clay by rolling it in your hands. Then, put the sheet through the pasta machine at the thickest setting on the machine. You’ll end up with a nice sheet of clay.
4. At this point, think about your design. This sheet will have layers of cane slices on it making a patterned sheet of clay fabric. I usually build up my design by placing the leaves on the base sheet, then the flowers and then whatever my accent flowers and designs will be. In this example it will go leaves, red, yellow and orange flowers then white flowers and a couple butterflies.
5. Start slicing. Getting good coverage on a sheet of clay this size needs LOTS of slices. Leaves up first.
6. Next, I place the leaves down for the first layer. My goal is to spread them out fairly evenly. The flowers will go down in clusters around them.
6. I use the roller to gently tack down the leaves. I’m not worried about flattening much yet, just getting the first layer stuck down.
7. Slice the flower canes you’ll need. There’s no rule for coverage but remember we’ll be putting this through the pasta machine. As it’s flattened and thinned it will stretch and spread the designs but also show the background. Also the halos around the cane will disappear, so there will be the under layer or base layer showing there, as well.
8. Place the flowers, have a look. Add more if you need. Roll gently with the roller.
9. Place your special and accent designs, in my case the butterflies and little white flowers. This is the top layer, so it will show best. Roll gently with the roller.
10. Time for the first pass through the machine! Make sure the machine is on the THICKEST SETTING. Then, roll it on through. It will smoosh the designs a little in the direction it went through the machine but that’s okay. If you’re piece is smaller, give it a quarter turn and run it through the machine at the next thinnest setting on the machine. This will stretch it all the other way.
11. Because my sheet of clay is large, I need to cut it in half before I quarter turn it and run it through the machine. So I do that and do each piece through the machine. Then, another quarter turn and the machine down one more step.
12. And because I made a lot, I have to cut it again for my final quarter turn. I am now at the 4th setting on my machine, which on my Atlas is 4. I have a lot of clay fabric!
You can store this between layers of wax paper or compatible plastic wrap until you need to use it. I tend to have stacks of scraps of clay fabric in one of my boxes to get used.