Introduction: Miniature Hot Air Balloon Light
I constructed a miniature hot air balloon. It can serve as either purely decoration or a light, if you choose to add LEDs in the final step. I used embroidery hoops to construct a sphere to structure the balloon and different colored cotton fabric for sewing the balloon. For the basket, I decided to crochet both the supports and the basket itself. The size of the embroidery hoops, the color and type of fabric, and the different shapes and lengths of the crocheted basket and supports all contribute to making this project highly customizable.
This project results from a long-lasting admiration for what you can make using seemingly simple ingredients like fabric and thread. Although I've been crocheting and knitting for a few years, I had never used a sewing machine before this - which is to say: this project is truly for everyone out there, from all skill levels.
Step 1: Supply List
Embroidery hoops (2 each of preferred sizes) (Support your local craft store, or: https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Arts-Crafts-S...)
Fabric of choice (I used packets of quilting squares)
Marking pencil or chalk
15”+ diameter circle (from which to hang the hot air balloons) or other structure
Sewing machine (can also be done by hand)
Crochet needle (1.5 mm)
Step 2: Constructing the Balloon Frame
You will need two embroidery hoop sets to make one balloon frame. In total, you should have four rings (two outer rings with screws and two inner rings without screws). As shown in the video above, the goal for the measurements I used is to have eight compartments to your sphere. You will have to redo your measurements if you end up with six compartments. The trick is to hold one external ring with the screw on the left side. This screw can gauge how you will insert the other three rings. See also the schematic showing the view of the sphere from above (with black squares denoting screws).
Step 3: Measuring the Sphere & Making a Template
No matter what size sphere you choose to put together, the process of measuring will be the same. You just need the circumference of the sphere and the length of the widest point of any given spherical wedge. I made all my spheres eight-wedged in order to strengthen the spherical effect; with only six wedges, the sphere may have too little support and look pointier on its edges. I included a schematic for further clarification on how to measure. (I used a sphere with a 4" diameter in the example.)
Leave 1 cm around the edges of the templates before cutting them out. This 1 cm edge will be used for excess space needed during sewing.
If you're nervous about getting straight to working on fabric, you can get comfortable with the process by creating a paper model balloon as pictured. By doing this, I realized I needed a proportionally much smaller basket.
Step 4: Preparing the Fabric
Leaving 1 cm around the edges of the templates you prepared during the last step, cut out the templates for each sphere. This 1 cm edge will be used for excess space needed during sewing.
Trace the template 8 times for each sphere and cut the fabric. You can trace with a marking pencil or a marker that doesn't bleed. Alternatively, you can use one fabric cutout to cut the remaining 7 wedges. The cutouts don't need to be perfect; the only crucial piece is to make sure there is at least a 1 cm edge. I have found that leaving a little more room helps make the fit slightly more billowy like a balloon, which also allows for there to be less bunching by the velcro seam.
For best results, iron each wedge before sewing. (The last two images in green show before and after.)
Step 5: Sewing the Balloon
Place one wedge on top of another wedge, with the "right" sides facing one another (i.e. the wrong sides will be facing you). As pictured in the third photo, sew from tip to tip, leaving 1 cm edge, only on one side of the two layered wedges. Secure and cut threads on both sides.
Open the sewn wedges like a book to check seam. Repeat process for remaining six wedges onto each subsequent wedge, without sewing the last seam shut. You want an open final seam where you will place the velcro so you can easily remove the fabric or open the seam to insert lights.
Step 6: Assembling the Balloon
Now to the most exciting part! Place your sewn fabric onto the wooden frame, making sure the wedges are vertical and that the open seam faces toward the screw on the left side of the schematic in the second step. Make a 1 cm cut in the middle of the two wedges of the open seam. This cut will hug the screw support.
After checking how tight or loose you want your fabric to sit on your frame, add 4 velcro pairs to each side of the open seam. If you place a whole velcro strip on each edge, the fabric may bunch up, making the seam bulkier. Connect the velcro pairs and turn over the balloon to smoothen any irregularities. If the top tip isn't neat, you can easily tuck it in under the top screw. Because it gave the balloon a cylindrical end tip, I liked how the bottom tip curled out, more prominently on some than others depending on how tightly you sewed the wedges.
Step 7: Crocheting the Basket & Finishing
I crocheted the basket in order to get that wicker basket look. Alternatively, you can easily customize this pattern by sewing a fabric basket instead. Below are the instructions I wrote for the green balloon basket (which has side lengths of 2 cm). This pattern is customizable to your liking. The only important thing to keep in mind is that the shape you want to end up with is a plus sign so you can fold the sides into a box with no lid.
Crocheted Basket (Size: 2 cm^2)
Foundation: Chain (ch) 11.
Row 1: Ch 3, double crochet (dc) into 11th chain of first row. You should have 12 pillars when you get to the end of this row.
Side note: This pattern is customizable to your liking. The shape you want to end up with is the following so you can fold it into a box with an open lid:
Crochet pattern continued:
Row 2: Ch 3. Dc into every stitch. (12 pillars again)
Rows 3 – 9: Repeat Row 2.
Remaining two sides: Connect thread at base of 4th row. Ch 3. Dc in the next 9 stitches.
Repeat for the next two rows. Bind off.
Repeat for other side.
(If your sides don’t fit perfectly together, no need to worry: you will be single crocheting the sides together and sealing the gaps.)
Single crochet the edges or weave together any way you know. Make sure you do this on the “wrong” side of the basket (the side that will eventually be the inside of the basket). When complete, invert the basket inside out so the outside face is the front.
To create the supports that hold the basket, I crocheted two chains of equal length and crisscrossed them through the top screw of the balloon frame. You can customize it as you like - endless possibilities!
At this point, I stuffed each balloon with 10-30 LEDs (which were connected as a single line).
Once you hang them however you like (I used a thick linen thread as shown in the final photo), place a weight into the basket; it straightens out the supports and adds to the effect!