Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Polymer Clay Tutorial: Argyle Cane

New year, new state/city/house, fresh start on my business, my blog and my homeschool.  (Not necessarily in that order.)

It’s been nearly a year since my last tutorial here so I figured I’d better make this one awesome.  I don’t know whether this cane fits the bill or not, but I had a lot of fun designing it.  I’m using the website Days of the Year to help me find themes for my blog posts and for this week my inspiration was “Argyle Day” on January 8th. I love geometric shapes and patterns and this one looked like a simple but fun challenge to start the year off with.  Hopefully you can find something fun to do with this cane.

This tutorial assumes you know the basics of polymer clay caning – conditioning, shaping, cane reduction, etc.

Tools Needed:
Flexible Tissue Blade
Pasta Machine
Acrylic Roller

Supplies Needed:
1 oz each of four colors polymer clay
½ oz of a fifth color for the flower centers
½ oz black or white clay for the stitches
(amounts are approximate)

Condition all of your colors of clay.  I am using purple, yellow, teal, orange, pink and black for the stitches.

Roll the fifth color of clay (the ½-oz one) into log for the center of your flowers.

Roll your petal color into a long snake and cut into 8 equal pieces.  Adjust the thickness of them to fit around the center log.

Pack the areas between the petals with wedges of the color you will be using for the flower backgrounds.  I always overpack and trim the excess.

Trim the excess to get something as round as possible to minimize distortion of the flower.

This looks pretty good.

Wrap the cane in a couple of sheets of thick clay.

Mark a square with your blade on one end of the cane.  Make the marks line up with the petals as shown.  You will want to leave a little of the background clay around the petals closest to the edges, but not too much. 

If you are lacking a little (or a lot of) clay at the corners, add some pieces.

Trim the cane into a square.

Reduce the cane to ½ its original width (twice the length)...

...trim the ends and cut it in half.

With your remaining two colors (not including the black or white), make square logs the same size and shape as your flower canes.

Arrange your four logs as shown, with the two flower canes touching at the inside corners.  Compress well and reduce slightly.

Cut the cane into three pieces as shown, getting as close to the middle of each section as possible.

Roll out a sheet of black or white clay as thin as you can.  (I used setting 7 on my Atlas.) 

Cut a strip as wide as the length of your cane.  Cut the end even.  Cut a narrow strip of clay from the end...

...and while lifting the blade just barely off the work surface, pull it toward you so the tiny strip of clay stays attached to the blade.  (You can use your fingers but leaving it on the blade will make the next step easier.)

Lay the strip close to the edge of one of the smaller chunks of clay you cut off the cane earlier. 

Repeat until you have covered the entire cut side in strips of black or white clay stripes.  (Make sure your stripes are going the length of the cane, not the width – they will lay the same direction as the stripes that resulted from cutting the flower in half.) 

Lightly roll over the stripes with your acrylic roller to compress them into the base a little.

Stick the piece back to your cane with the stripes inside.

Repeat the above steps on the other cut part of the cane so you have to rows of “stitching” in your cane.  Compress it well.  Now rotate the cane 45 degrees and make two cuts perpendicular to the first two. 

Add the stripes as before.  Reassemble your cane and reduce it a little.

You can reshape the square into a diamond now and then reduce the diamond-shaped cane, or you can reduce it square and then reshape.  Either way, both reduce and reshape.

And there you have a really fun cane that would be great for covering eggs or Christmas ornaments or whatever strikes your fancy.

I covered a pen with it.

You can also make argyle without the flowers and with fewer colors.  Here I used two colors – plum and a pale sage green.  Make two blocks of each and press them into a four-square checkerboard pattern...

...make the cuts...

...add the stripes, turn, repeat...

...reduce and reshape.  Use it to make something creative.  (I haven’t used this one yet.)

I would love to see what you come up with!




  1. WOW, this is so beautiful and impressive.Thanks so much for taking the time and energy to share this and your step by step photos are great!

    Anita in AZ

  2. Lovely, thank you for sharing! I am new to working with polymer clay, was wondering how you covered the pen. With the canes slices or with a sheet from the cane? Which is the proper way to do this?

  3. This is gret and gives me ideas!! Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. Clare, I always cover my pens with individual slices so there's no seam. There's a tutorial on my blog here: http://www.kaelmijoy.blogspot.com/2011/06/clay-covered-pen-tutorial-how-to-cover.html It's for square canes but the general idea is the same.

  5. And thank you all for enjoying my tutorials!

  6. I love your tutorial and hope that you don't mind that I added it to the 20 best list of polymer clay tutorials!