Polymer Clay Tutorial | Use Cane Slices To Make Pattern Backgrounds

Pattern Background Sheet

Vid #102: Often Referred To as Polymer Clay Fabric… For Good Reasons!

The tutorial video that will be posted later this week in the Polymer Clay Library, is all about making beautiful patterned background sheets. These pretty decorated sheets can be used for making pendants, disc beads, tube beads, pillow beads… as well as for many other bead making techniques.

Create your own fabric like patterns by layering thin slices of your favorite polymer clay canes onto a thin base of solid colored clay. Since the canes in this technique can be overlapped it is also great for using those less than perfect canes. Even partial cane slices can be used with excellent results.

In this upcoming pattern background tutorial video, I show you tricks for getting the least amount of distortion in your designs. I also discuss important information about what can happen if your polymer clay canes are old and brittle.

Further down on this page is a little sneak peak video for you to watch right now if you like. The full version of the video will be available in the members library in a few days on Friday (April 17, 2009).

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Here’s That “Link Below” Referred To at End of the Video
>> Polymer Clay Tutorials <<

The full version of the “Pattern Background” preview video shown above, is available for purchase at my Polymer Clay Bead Making Videos Library in the Volume-011 Back Issue Package.

The following topics are covered in this “Polymer Clay Fabric” video:

  • Making polymer clay sheets that look as though they were cut from a beautiful piece of cloth fabric.
  • Examples of various bead shapes wrapped in pattern sheets, including: Disc, Pillow and Heart shaped beads.
  • Paying attention to and managing the “stretch” factor that is unique to this polymer clay technique.
  • Discussion of what can happen when your cane slices are too old and brittle.
  • Changing background clay colors for creating different effects – muted vs sharp and contrasting.
  • Orderly vs random patterns. The choice is yours.
  • Tips on layering and overlapping your cane slices.
  • Partial cane slices that don’t normally get used in other projects, can easily be worked into your clay pattern sheets.
  • Making sure that your patterns stretch evenly in all directions so they don’t end up looking wonky or distorted.
  • How cane slices that are too thick can create ridges in your clay fabric sheet… and what to do about it.
  • Sanding tips to keep in mind when it’s time to finish your thin sheets of patterned clay.

  1. Sharon the Crafty Bag Lady, 15 April, 2009

    Could it be…could it possibly be that I might actually try polymer clay again? This tut is so tempting!

  2. Cindy Lietz, 15 April, 2009

    Yes Sharon, you might, just possibly want to give it another shot! Loved your post today! Can’t imagine how you could top the Cheerio/Pepperoni/Mouse Droppings necklace though! I’m still chuckling when I think about it!

    Trust me, I can teach you things about polymer clay that will have you making beautiful beads in no time! Might be less funny but you definitely will be able to wear them with pride!

  3. Tammy, 16 April, 2009

    I just became a member on Saturday 4/11/09 and I was just curious as to which day the new videos come out. I was just at the library and only see the disc beads being the most recent. Thank you, Tammy.

  4. Cindy Lietz, 16 April, 2009

    Welcome to the library. New videos are posted on Fridays Tammy. That’s tomorrow :) Cindy

  5. Diana, 17 April, 2009

    I noticed that when you use more than one pattern or cane you would lose the pattern when making perhaps earrings or smaller beads because all you could cut out would be a partial leaf or flower. I think I am asking what kind of project would you use for the whole pattern? Thank you for your attention to my question and your wonderful videos.

  6. Maria, 17 April, 2009

    the comment about being careful with sanding your projects really hit home – I had a pretty mokune gane pattern on the inside of my tiled bracelet – well “had” is the right word because I actually sanded a lot of it off. Oh well, live and learn! (The outside side still looks good though!)

  7. Freda, 17 April, 2009

    Why would you not just lay the cane slices on the bead or piece rather than making a sheet and putting the sheet on?

  8. Jamie H, 17 April, 2009

    Hello Cindy. Boy do I look forward to Fridays now thanks to you. I cant wait to see what you will post next. And I’m never disappointed! This week is no exception. Another finger dancin video I must say. Cause you know the minute I see your e-mail in the inbox my fingers start itchin for some clay. And I luuurv your purple heart shaped bead! I’d join the army if they gave me one of those! The Fimo army that is. Only extruder guns here, lol. Do you ever make a bad video? Probably not right? No chance of maybe a hidden blooper reel or two? Just askin, hee hee hee.

    And if I might comment to crafty bag lady above? I dont think your necklace looks so bad. It just looks lonely. Add a couple more strands of beads to it and I bet it would perk right up! Love your blog too. Hope you dont mind if I pop in sometimes. Im a craft supply hoarding, sometimes poetic, wife/mom/gramma too!

    Hope you both have a great weekend.
    XOXO Jamie

  9. Jamie H, 17 April, 2009

    I knew I forgot something! I hope you dont mind if I add my 2cents for Freda. You can add cane slices directly to a bead or other item. I have done it lots of times. But then you have to spend all that time smoothing in all those little cane bits so they dont look all bumpy. This way saves you all that work by letting the pasta machine do it. And we all know thats what Cindy does best, doesnt she? Find us all the quickest and easiest ways to do all those tedious things that can keep us from our “TaDa!” moments. I dont know that this technique would apply in all situations, but I plan to use it all the ones that do. I for one wont miss the process of smoothing out all those little cane bits! Thanks Cindy! XOXO Jamie

  10. Sharon the Crafty Bag Lady, 17 April, 2009

    Jamie: I would be honored for you to visit my blog. Thanks for your encouraging words. Trust me, my necklace looks worse in real life. And after all we’ve been through together–change it? Not a chance. ;-)

    Cindy: This is such a fun blog! You all make it look so do-able! Then I remember, yeah, that’s what got me where I am today. LOL!

  11. Cindy Lietz, 17 April, 2009

    @Diana: I like to use patterned background sheets for larger projects too, like pendants or large beads. One thing you could do, if you are worried about not getting enough of the pattern on small things, would be to start with a thinner sheet of clay as a background and smaller sized canes. This would keep the pattern from stretching and enlarging too big. Though you may have to pay extra attention to the seams around the slices, since they wouldn’t roll out as easily with the pasta machine.

    @Maria: I was just thinking about how we could solve this problem. Maybe a super thin sheet of translucent could be added on top of the pattern so the surface could be sanded without risk. A thin layer of liquid translucent (TLS) could go on finished pieces instead. That might work too. Will have to try a few things and see what works.

    @Freda: Jamie answered your question perfectly. It is a great time saver for many styles of beads and pendants.

    @Jamie: Holy cow girl! One day I’m going to have to hire you cause you are so helpful to everyone here! I send you a huge internet hug for making this blog a better place!!! :-)

    @Sharon: Thanks so much! I love your blog too! Wrote about your funny post. It’s in the queue, so you should be able to read it in the next couple of days. Stay tuned! I’m not like those other people that got you excited about polymer clay and left you hanging. I actually make it simple and help you until you get it. There is great hope for you not matter if you think there is, or not! :-)

  12. Jamie, 17 April, 2009

    Thanks for the hug Cindy! You can never have enuff of those. And as for hiring me? Nawww! Unless you wanna pay me in say…color recipes…snicker snicker. Otherwise Im just happy to add my 2 cents here and there. This is a fun site, and I like that you come out from behind your desk and mingle with your students. And encourage others to participate too. Thats why I’ve been sending lots of friends over to check you out. Hope you dont mind. I dont have a blog yet so its word of type on other blogs and groups for now. But when I do finally jump in and start one, you will be a permanant link. XOXO Jamie

  13. Paul Arthur, 18 April, 2009

    OMG how do you come up with all these amazing polymer clay techniques? Sorry I’ve not chatted for a while but very busy at work. I can not wait to give this and your disc beads a try. Please never stop your truly are my inspiration.

  14. Cindy Lietz, 18 April, 2009

    @Jamie: Thanks sweetie! :-)

    @Paul: Hi there! Glad to have you back!

  15. Freda, 18 April, 2009

    A great thing about these videos and comments (well, one of the great things) is that you can get answers from the other commenters as well as Cindy.
    I always look forward to getting that email each week that tells me there’s a video and blogs to read.

  16. Judy, 20 April, 2009

    I can’t view the latest video 011-2. I have tried everythinbg and video keeps buffering every few seconds, etc. Can you send the video, again?

  17. Cindy Lietz, 20 April, 2009

    @Freda – great point about how everyone is interacting and being helpful with answers and tips. I LOVE it too!

    @Judy – Welcome to the library. It’s great having you as a member. Sorry you are having problems with the 011-2 video. I just checked it on several test computers and from what I can tell, it appears to be working fine. Click the link by my name for general video player trouble shooting tips. And I’ve also included some links below to where specific problems have been addressed with other more specific incidents:

    Finicky Internet Explorer Browser:
    Help for this issue was posted in the comments section at this article:
    Polymer Clay Techniques

    Internet Explorer Gets Hiccups – Firefox Browser Better Choice:
    Help for this issue was posted in the comments section at this article:
    Polymer Clay Tutorial

    Internet Explorer 8
    Adjusting “Information Bar” settings to allow videos to play in your browser.
    Polymer Clay Jewelry Projects

    Buffering Video Issues:
    Help for this issue was posted in the comments section at this article:
    Easy Fimo Tutorial

    AOL Related Problems:

    Help for this issue was posted in the comments section at this article:
    Polymer Clay Artist

    Hope this helps,

    PS: Considering that the videos receive literally 1000’s of views (sometimes all at the same time), I’m quite pleased to see that the number of issues that actually do come up, is *very* low. This means the people who “run” the Internet (whoever they may be), are getting better and better at making all this cool technology work for us all. Yippee!!

  18. Mary Ellen Soffee, 09 June, 2009

    Cindy I’m sure It’s probably me. I go to mem library to watch full version and it keeps bringing me back to sneek peek what am i doing wrong? Won’t let me watch mem version.

  19. Cindy Lietz, 09 June, 2009

    Hi Mary Ellen,

    The “Pattern Backgrounds” link by my name, should work for you… as long as you are logged into the library with your username and password.

    Let me know if this works for you.


  20. Mary, 29 September, 2009

    I just purchased this back issue and I love the clay background pattern techniques. I had some Halloween canes and made some pillow beads out of the pattern. They came out so awesome. I’m having so much fun and catching on quite quickly. It’s very satisfying to know that I made the beads I use making the design. OK, I do not make the canes, I do buy them from Etsy, woopes. Having a Jewelry business I have to pick and choose what I can make myself. I will however, buy a rock tumbler soon. Thanks for all you knowledge, Mary

  21. Cindy Lietz, 29 September, 2009

    Thanks so much Mary, for posting your comment and sharing your thoughts with everyone. When you get a bit of spare time, you might want to try your hand at cane making too. It’s really not all that hard… at least with the way I teach it :-)

    I think you hit the nail on the head about feeling the satisfaction of making your own beads. It really is such a great feeling! And the other big benefit is that you can keep your designs exclusive to you.

  22. lynn watts, 07 November, 2009

    Hello Everyone, I use the clay fabric sheet to cover items such as the altoid tins , bottles(liquor), plates etc. When I worked at Motels alot of people left liquor bottles. Some were so pretty(shape) I rinsed and took them home. Not any more cause I take care of my Mom,whom is a cancer (lung) survivor. I quit work first to take care of my husband’s Grandmother for a year then my Mom needed me. Lynn Watts

  23. Cindy Lietz, 09 November, 2009

    @Lynn – thanks for your comment. Hopefully your mom is in good spirits these days.

    **PHOTOS ADDED: Some project pictures of clay fabric, copper bezel jewelry have just been added to a Spotlight Feature showcasing Melinda Herron. She is a member who is very much appreciated here at this supportive polymer clay community. Click on the “Polymer Clay and Wire Work” link by my name to have a look.

  24. Cindy Lietz, 17 April, 2010


    Polymer Clay Jewelry Projects

    Hello to Everyone,

    Some new Spotlight project pictures that relate to the topic of this page (Patterned Background Sheets), have just been added in another post. They were submitted by Carole Holt. The link by my name will take you to where you can see them, along with a bit of a write up. Hopefully they will inspire you to achieve great things with your own polymer clay projects.

  25. Pat Rozman, 25 June, 2010

    Do you have a technique for making polka dot sheets. I usually make my sheets by cutting out dots and inserting another color dot of the same size. I was wondering if there is another way of doing this.

  26. Phaedrakat, 26 June, 2010

    @Pat Rozman: The video intro above is to Cindy’s tutorial which uses cane slices to make background sheets. You could make a polka-dotted sheet with a dotted cane. Are you familiar with canes at all?

  27. Jocelyn, 07 July, 2010

    @Pat Rozman: I think your way is best for less distortion in the dots, a one to one ratio. Using the ball stylus for depressions, you can add dots or bullseye canes in for more color. Roll these in by hand using an acrylic roller, or use a spoon to run over the top of a sheet of waxed deli paper, to mush in the design.

    These sheets are tough to make, the size and shape of consistency is important to getting the proper effect. Always make sure you are using well conditioned and warmed clay and do not stop….go from sheet to object. Less bubbles more sticky. Best of luck. Love that look.

  28. Brenda M, 21 September, 2010

    Does anyone know if you can bake background sheets on glass vases? If so what temp and how long.. I was asked to make this for a gift.

  29. Cindy Lietz, 21 September, 2010

    Hi Brenda – Yes you can cover glass vases in clay. Although it is not something I do much, other clayers do it all the time. But not all glass is made the same, or has the same properties. So my suggestion would be to first test bake the vase without the clay, at your normal clay baking temperature (unless of course the vase is a one-of-a-kind heirloom… in which case you had better ask a glass expert to be real safe).

    Always start glass in a cold oven and then after baking, turn off oven and let it cool down in the oven. No ice water!! Glass hates quick temp changes. Thicker glass works best and don’t use lead crystal because the metal in the glass causes problems in heat.

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