Introduction: String Pendant Lamp

Picture of String Pendant Lamp

Make a designer quality string pendant lamp on your own with just some crochet thread, a balloon, and fabric stiffener.  It makes a little bit of a mess, takes about a day to dry, but it looks really cool, is infinitely cheaper than buying one from Design Within Reach, and is the hot new DIY lamp craze that's sweeping the nation!

Many thanks to fungus amungus for his collaboration and help on this project.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
  • fabric stiffener (1 16oz. bottle per lamp that you'd like make)
  • large spherical party balloons (can be gotten at a party shop in the 16" or 3' sizes)
  • crochet thread or thin cotton yarn
  • lamp cord set (Ikea sells the HEMMA for $3.99 that will work great)
  • rubber gloves
  • newspaper (it makes a bit of a mess)

Step 2: Inflate

Picture of Inflate

Inflate the balloon and tie a slip knot in the end of it (the balloon will need to be opened again later).

Then, secure one end of the crochet thread to the knot on the balloon by either loosely tying it, or taping it into place.  We didn't tie it because we're gonna need to get back into the balloon I said.

Step 3: Saturate Thread With Fabric Stiffener

Picture of Saturate Thread With Fabric Stiffener

The fabric stiffener is what keeps the thread in the shape of a sphere once the balloon is popped, so it's pretty important. 

To really coat the thread well we found that you need to allot around an entire 16 oz. bottle of fabric stiffener per lamp globe.

You can either pre-soak the thread and then wind the balloon with wet thread, which will ensure that every piece of thread is properly saturated with stiffener.  Or, if you are afraid of making a mess, you can wrap the balloon with dry thread, and then dredge/brush the balloon in the stiffener once it has been wrapped. 

If you choose to go the clean road, just really try to soak the thread well and make sure that you've got enough fabric stiffener to thoroughly coat the whole balloon.  It takes more than you'll think!

In the project video and photos below Ed and I are using the pre-soak, wet wrap method to ensure total saturation and coverage.

Step 4: Wrap the Thread Around the Balloon

Picture of Wrap the Thread Around the Balloon

Wrap the balloon with the saturated thread trying to keep good tension the whole time.  You want the thread to make loops around the largest circumference on the balloon as possible.  

Once you've worked in one area a bit, move on to another.  You're trying to get an even covering of string around the balloon.

Step 5: Over-inflate the Balloon

Picture of Over-inflate the Balloon

Once the balloon has been complete wrapped with as much thread as you like (our small, less dense globes used around 150 yards of thread while our larger more denser globes used around 300 yards of thread), take out the slip knot that you previously tied and blow the balloon up as much as you can.  Big cheeks and diaphragm everyone!

The balloon has a tendency to shrink as the fabric stiffener dries, so we want to fill it up as much as possible to keep things from getting wrinkly and sagging over the 24-hour drying process.

Step 6: Dry

Picture of Dry

Dry the wrapped balloon for 24 hours in a temperature stable environment.  I placed some garbage bags down in my bathtub to protect against drips and hung the globes from some extra crochet thread. 

Hot air expands, so heat = a tight balloon.  I cranked up my electric heater and put a small fan in there too to circulate the air.  This method worked well.

I'm pretty adamant about the importance of this step and here's why...the first two globes that I made just dried in my living room, and throughout the course of the night (cold), next day (warmer) and then night (cold) when they were finally dry, the balloon had changed volumes multiple times and distorted the sphere significantly.

Step 7: Remove the Balloon

Picture of Remove the Balloon

Once the fabric stiffener is dry, remove the balloon from inside the string prison. 

First, pop the balloon with a pin.  If you're lucky, it will naturally start to shrink away from the string.  If not, you've got to start poking at it with a long object.  We used a screwdriver.  Bit by bit it will come away from the string and pretty soon it will come completely free. 

Cut the strings around the top that are holding it in place and pull it out.

Step 8: Cut a Hole and Insert the Bulb

Picture of Cut a Hole and Insert the Bulb

Cut a whole in the top of the globe with a scissors so that there's enough space to insert the bulb and the light fixture.

Step 9: Stopper

Picture of Stopper

You've got to create some kind of stopper to hold the globe in place on the fixture.  

The easiest thing we came up with was to drill a small hole in the little plastic thing that manages the cable on the Ikea lamp and use some fishing line to tie the plastic cable manager to the top of the globe.  

You can also use some bailing wire that's been wrapped around the cord and then bent out into two little prongs to hold up the globe.  This is the method that is shown in the video.  There are probably many different ways to attach the globe to the fixture.

Once the globe is affixed to the fixture, it's ready to hang and light up your life!


bubblegumdish45 (author)2016-09-06

How safe is it having dried glue near a light bulb? Wanting to make it for students but want to make sure it will be okay before they take it home!

achristiansen1 (author)2015-05-06

This is my first string lamp! I used 5 skeins of yarn because I didn't want the light bulb shape to show.

The process of hanging it was a challenge at first because I didn't get the Ikea light which came with the clip. But then I realized that I could hand the light cord separately, and hang the string lamp independently with a couple pieces of fishing line. Worked brilliantly.

marydecorator (author)2014-03-27

Seen this trick before, but not in this scale. Really cool to see it working with larger balloons as well!

whimsicalwonders (author)2013-12-31

This lamp seems like the perfect display area for one of those new 'PLUMEN' lights. The designer CFL ones from the UK.

CreativeGeek (author)2013-10-30

Those string globes are awesome and *very* fun to make, made one today, it was so messy and I had an absolute blast with it. Hands felt weird from the PVA though.

ashuavr (author)2013-09-01

Hi!! I saw the Youtube video of this and came to this page. Its a really nice project. I liked the idea of blasting the balloon at the end!! :) Thanks!

Luvblooms (author)2012-09-24

Hi all

I tried a bit different design using a cold drink bottle and here is the out come.
Please let me know the corrections required

obrewer (author)2011-06-06

white glue

Terranan (author)obrewer2012-04-26

Enough said, huh?

tfrost1980 (author)2012-04-24

Your paintbrush/glue bath is ingenious.

SofyanHayajneh (author)2012-03-31

Doing one like this.
It is now hanged ! to get dried.
I will post pics soon

suburbiagirl (author)2010-09-03

My 1st String Pendant =o) Thanks for this instructable.

WUVIE (author)suburbiagirl2011-08-06

Oh my gosh, I haven't seen these in years, thanks for sharing!

CatTrampoline (author)WUVIE2011-12-13

I am also having a 60's-70's flashback. Well done!

kendrarobin (author)suburbiagirl2011-09-09

Did you attach your pendant light to a pre-existing light fixture? I am wondering because you have the "pole" from the ceiling coming into your fixture. I will be making one for a room with a fixture that also has that feature and I was wondering whether I should take that part down or not.

:) love your project :)

suburbiagirl (author)kendrarobin2011-09-09

Thank you! I found a canopy kit to cover the hole in the ceiling and the pole you are referring to is light or lamp cord that I attached to the lightbulb socket/fixture in the pendant. I painted the canopy and cord all brown. I forgot how I attached the pendant to the cord though.

KitKam (author)2011-10-26

Wow, these came out awesome! If only I could find a place for them in my apartment... maybe I could make lampshades using this string technique?

artquilter (author)2010-05-26

I'm really having a problem finding these round balloons in Minneapolis.
A balloon store actually had the 3 foot ones, but that's too big to do with my niece and nephew.
I asked at the party stores, and all they have are tear-drop shapes.
I see someone said they found them at the dollar store, so I'll check those out in the next week or so.

Maybe it would work to use a shaped mylar balloon, like a big star.  I dunno, just throwin' that out there.  Probably more $$$ tho'.

And for those of you using elmers glue - The Stiffeners should actually remain stiff/dry for longer than the regular glue.  Not out in the rain, of course.  I've been using it for years to make fabric postcards stiff, so I can send them in the mail.

And stiffeners can have water-based acrylic paint added to tint with a little color.  They can be found at fabric stores, or craft stores, like Michaels.
"Aleene's Fabric Stiffener and Draping Liquid" is one I've gone through a couple bottles of.

And it could look nice to use a variagated yarn.

You can get those slam balloons, the kind with the rubber band on them that you bounce against your hand almost anywhere!!!! Those work great and you can blow up bigger or smaller as needed. GOOD LUCK!

Did you find the balloons? I would be happy to look here. I'm pretty sure I've seen lots. It would be my pleasure to send them to you. Just let me know. It would be an uninflated balloon bouquet gift to you. O.K, now my mind is thinking, sayings like "don't burst my balloon" and the song with the words, "Up up inthe sky with my beautiful balloon" and silly sayings I could make up for my grandchildren, like," Look at that big baboon, holding the red balloon." ;0)

Oh yes and Noaw.. thanks for the stallar Instructable!

Barrettkg (author)artquilter2010-09-06

Punch ballons work really well. Thats what I always use for any project like this since they always hand them out at state fairs

unbentcrayfish (author)2010-04-03

 it would look epic if you have a pattern to it all

bgirl029 (author)unbentcrayfish2010-09-22

if anyone knows how to knit or crochet, you can use anything lacey looking you have made and personally, I think it looks even cooler. I have been dreaming about making one of these after seeing this on my favorite knitting site. please note, I did not make this one myself, however the person that did make it crocheted all the lace herself she is AMAZING! To those of you that are not artistically inclined in the fiber arts department, you could also use doilys, lace, mesh, see-through fabric, pretty much anything you could think of!

shelley echtle (author)bgirl0292011-09-14

OMG!!! So shabby Chic! I wish I could crochet!

aurorabveen (author)bgirl0292011-01-27

beautiful. I so want to make the lacey crochet one. Gorgeous.

chinchu (author)bgirl0292010-12-04

What a fertile imaginative brain!

abood (author)bgirl0292010-11-15

i like ;) thaaaaaaaanx

porcupinemamma (author)bgirl0292010-10-19

Now I am thinking what other cool mediums would work. The lace is beautiful!
Could you please tell me the name of the knitting site that you visit?

bgirl029 (author)porcupinemamma2010-10-29

It's called - I have all my knitting and crochet projects there, you can put all your yarns, patterns, needles, projects, pretty much everything. And they have every pattern you could every want plus 100's of thousands of other people, forums, groups, pretty much everything ever knitting related.

porcupinemamma (author)bgirl0292010-10-30

Wow. Thanks

craftyv (author)bgirl0292010-10-15

Absolutely fabulous. Cotton also is the best thread for colour dying so the lace could be colour matched to your room. Cold water dyes are available and work very well. Love it to bits.
(By the way I havn't spelled colour incorrectly) Here in Australia we use the British spelling.

sara rarara (author)2011-09-12

i was thinking to purchase but i wil creat my own thanks

luckydipper (author)2011-09-05

Thank heaps for the great idea, I used vibrant orange string from bunnings warehouse (hardware store) and wood glue that dries clear, it cost around $3 to make.

kendrarobin (author)luckydipper2011-09-09

I love the glow yours gives off! Very warm and inviting. Nice job!

kendrarobin (author)2011-09-09

Do you guys think I could use hemp? I know most of you were using 100% cotton and I was not sure whether the hemp would absorb the stiffener in the same manner that the cotton fiber does.

Thanks for the help! Loooove the project and all the comments :)

Liger (author)2011-07-28

Instead of making a hanging lamp, you could put the String Pendant Lamp on a lamp that doesnt have a lamp shade on it. Then you could use it as a sidetable lamp. Just an idea...

nmartinez4 (author)2011-07-22

You can also use liquid starch.
Also paper towels work well also, just peel them apart, and lay on the ballon add your starch , sugar water, whatever you decide to use.
i have made these for easter cutting a hole out in the side after it is dried and adding lace around the hole I had cut out put easter grass in a bunny or whatever you like and use as table decor.

craftreporter (author)2011-04-10

Lets see some new applications somewhere.

duckified (author)2011-03-24

I remember seeing this in ReadyMade Magazine quite some time ago. They use a container take out lid for to hold the lamp in place...

lyndelee89 (author)2011-03-08

I remember making just the ball part with no light with my mom and sisters when I was in elementary school. We used colored kite string and clear drying craft glue. We just used them as shelf decorations. It was fun. I keep thinking about making some again I just haven't gotten around to it.

vernalu (author)2011-02-09

Hi im Verna from Monterrey Mexico i like a lot this video and your page too... I want to ask if i can use another different material instead of the fabric stiffener
Thanks a lot for your attention

coyote_brains (author)vernalu2011-02-23


sethcim (author)2011-01-29

How do you tie a slip knot in a balloon??

bojan babic (author)2011-01-16

Very clever way to do a nice lamp. Congratulations

ChristyDurr (author)2010-11-11

I found homemade fabric stiffener recipe if anyone is interested. This is it.
Heat 2 cups of water to boiling, now mix 1/2 cup cornstarch with 1 cup cold water and have another cup of water available. When the water is boiling, add cornstarch mixture slowly, stirring constantly. If mixture becomes too thick (which can happen quickly), add some of the extra water.
After if cools, saturate the items to be starched, squeeze out excess, shape and let dry. Press with steam iron. Leftover starch may be stored in refrigerator for use at another time. If it separates, use a wire whisk to blend it.

chinchu (author)ChristyDurr2010-12-04

It is safer to add 2 drops of eucalyptus oil to preserve it.

an-jelica (author)2010-11-11

wow... really neat... will make one... soon...

conrad141 (author)2010-11-01

I'm using this as my cell membrane for my model cell in bio!

laernmoer (author)2010-10-29

I had no idea those things were so damn expensive! that makes this instructable THAT much more valuable lol

pklogan (author)2010-10-07

Hey i was wundering what kinde of fabric stiffener is good too use

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Bio: I've worked for Instructables off and on since 2006 building and documenting just about everything I enjoy doing. I am now the Creative Programs ... More »
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