Growing up, my mom made me a piñata for every birthday. Some of my favorite memories were of the nights we spent crafting together this paper-mâché blob that would eventually turn into something beautiful. Then I became a bratty teenager and I told her I was too mature for piñatas. What was I thinking?! Fortunately, I came to my senses in college and resumed making piñatas for every momentous occasion.
Normally when I make a piñata, I start with a balloon, newspaper, and homemade glue (flour and water). Piñatas are not labor intensive, but they do require dedicated crafting time every day of the week leading up to a party. But sometimes life gets really busy (or you discover that Amy Schumer's entire second season is on On Demand) and all of a sudden, you're a few hours away from a party, and there's no piñata! Enter a sneaky trick that my mom taught me: the store bought piñata.
Let's face it--store bought piñatas are ugly. This doesn't mean they're any less fun to bash open, but they won't be as pretty to photograph. If having a homemade piñata is important to you, but you don't have the time to paper-mâché layers, then redecorating a store bought piñata is the perfect solution. Unless someone spots you at Party City, they will never know your secret. (I was totally busted. From now on, I am only shopping in the dark of the night!)
The first step in your piñata deception is getting rid of the evidence: peeling off any trimmings that don't match whatever you are trying to make. Since I was making a norovirus piñata for my epidemiologist friend, that meant tossing the red lace trimmings of the baseball and covering the entire piñata with lime green tissue paper.
Then comes the most tedious part: the fringe. Cut fold tissue paper into loooong strips that are roughly 3" thick and then fold in half. Cut small slits roughly 3/4 of the way into the strip of tissue paper, creating a fringe with a wide enough border for you to add glue. When I'm doing this, I like to pretend I'm making mini hula skirts for my piñata.
Once you have a small mountain of fringe, then comes the gluing. I'm partial to Elmer's glue, but you can probably use any kind. Draw a thin line of glue across your entire fringe. A little bit of glue goes a long way--if the line of glue is too thick, once you put the fringe on the piñata, it will squish onto your fringe and ruin it. Put the first layer of fringe at the bottom of the piñata, and slowly layer the fringes, keeping them roughly one inch apart from each other. When in doubt, add more fringe.
Since the norovirus (molecule? electron? Clearly this is very scientific!) has funny parts that stick out of it, I decided the piñata needed spikes. I cut a few triangles out of lime green cardstock, folded the ends, and tucked them in between fringes. In order to hide the folded cardstock, I put another fringe on top of it.
Next time, I'll take more photos of the process and fewer demos, but here is the finished norovirus piñata from all angles. Since the design was so simple (no eyeballs, ears, teeth, or other appendages necessary), it only took me around an hour and a half to make.
- $14.99 for a Party City baseball piñata
- $1.99 for Elmer's Glue (which will last me at least four piñatas).
- $3.58 for two packages of green tissue paper at Target.
- $0 for cardstock and scissors, which I already owned.
The total comes to $20.56. If I had planned ahead and not purchased a store bought piñata, I definitely could have knocked at least $10 off the total cost. (Of course, this doesn't factor in the cost of labor).
We haven't broken this one open yet, but I am very excited. Fun fact: if you bring a piñata to a bar, you will almost always get a free drink from a fellow piñata admirer.