Instructables
Picture of String Pendant Lamp
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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.





 
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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
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  • 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
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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 later...like I said.
marydecorator7 months ago

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

This lamp seems like the perfect display area for one of those new 'PLUMEN' lights. The designer CFL ones from the UK.
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.
ashuavr1 year ago
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!
dambrose21 year ago
Check out the ones I made, similar style, but different materials and process...use your imagination and anything is possible...here is my website if you're interested in them. http://www.etsy.com/shop/StudioDarose
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Luvblooms2 years ago
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
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obrewer3 years ago
white glue
Enough said, huh?
tfrost19802 years ago
Your paintbrush/glue bath is ingenious.
Doing one like this.
It is now hanged ! to get dried.
I will post pics soon
My 1st String Pendant =o) Thanks for this instructable.
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Oh my gosh, I haven't seen these in years, thanks for sharing!

I am also having a 60's-70's flashback. Well done!
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 :)
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.
KitKam3 years ago
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?
artquilter4 years ago
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!
Punch ballons work really well. Thats what I always use for any project like this since they always hand them out at state fairs
 it would look epic if you have a pattern to it all
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!
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OMG!!! So shabby Chic! I wish I could crochet!
beautiful. I so want to make the lacey crochet one. Gorgeous.
What a fertile imaginative brain!
abood bgirl0293 years ago
i like ;) thaaaaaaaanx
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?
It's called ravelry.com - 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.
Wow. Thanks
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 rarara3 years ago
i was thinking to purchase but i wil creat my own thanks
luckydipper3 years ago
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.
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I love the glow yours gives off! Very warm and inviting. Nice job!
kendrarobin3 years ago
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 :)
Liger3 years ago
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...
nmartinez43 years ago
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.
Lets see some new applications somewhere.
duckified3 years ago
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...

http://www.readymade.com/projects/string_theory
lyndelee893 years ago
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.
vernalu3 years ago
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
polyurethane.
sethcim3 years ago
How do you tie a slip knot in a balloon??
bojan babic3 years ago
Very clever way to do a nice lamp. Congratulations
ChristyDurr3 years ago
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.
It is safer to add 2 drops of eucalyptus oil to preserve it.
an-jelica3 years ago
wow... really neat... will make one... soon...
conrad1414 years ago
I'm using this as my cell membrane for my model cell in bio!
laernmoer4 years ago
I had no idea those things were so damn expensive! that makes this instructable THAT much more valuable lol
pklogan4 years ago
Hey i was wundering what kinde of fabric stiffener is good too use
craftyv pklogan4 years ago
There are several methods for stiffening fabric. Do'nt buy from craft shops they are very expensive.
1st. Sugar water has been used by lace makers for centuries.
2nd. PVA glue thinned down with water works well.
3rd. Wallpaper paste thinned with water.

Good Luck.
iosonologio4 years ago
I was using vaseline on the baloon before gluing wire to avoid sticking and was quite ok for me. thought it make the gum of the baloon to swell a bit and might lead to not sferical result.
galenorama4 years ago
I am disappointed you are not using a CFL... : (
 You basically *have* to use a CFL because incandescents get too hot.  The down side is that you have to use a lot more string to get an even diffused light.
I bought a small one for 100Rs (about $2.10) here in India. It's got semitransparent paper on the inside of the shell, which gives a nice diffused light. It's about 14in diameter, and looks fine with a CFL inside.
I could post some pics if anyone is interested in seeing how the paper lining is.
Yes pics would be great to see.
I forgot about this one - pics 2&3 are taken a month after pic 1.
This shows the light at dusk (wo. flash) - normal CFL inside. I then took it down and it shows closeup of the inside folds, and another of the opening.
It's hard do see the folding, but I hope it helps.
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noahw (author)  WillScarlett4 years ago
The lamp globe is full of holes - which is to say, that I can't imagine a better lamp globe to vent heat then this one.  

I'd be pretty surprised if anyone had any heat buildup trouble with a string lamp since the globe is also so far from the heat source/bulb...at least 6 inches in all directions...but, better to be safe than on fire I guess.
The fire hazard is not the issue.  Excessive heat breaks down the fabric stiffener, which results in a misshapen, lopsided, gross-looking teardrop-shaped lamp.

Obviously, the is the same result when exposed to prolonged dampness.

Unfortunately, I speak from experience, having built several of these for an outdoor patio.  They look terribly sad now, and need to be replaced.
noahw (author)  WillScarlett4 years ago
Interesting...the one I made is obviously pretty new so I can't speak to how it holds up over a long period of time.

Any rough estimate as to how much moisture/heat causes the fabric stiffener to fail?  Which is to ask, think this is a problem for everyone, or just people expecting to hang these outside?

What would be a better material that we could use to harden the string?  Resin perhaps?
debfjeld noahw4 years ago
I imagine you could use spray varnish over the unit after removing the balloon.  That would stiffen up the lamp even further. 
Right. I think they make cfls that are housed in a shell the has that powdered stuff on it to diffuse some of the light.
Yes, IKEA sells CFLs that are encased in a frosted glass sphere, like this one.
I have those in my house and I dont know if they are glass. They feel like a cool leathery plastic material. (just wanted to throw that out there lol)
AmyLuthien4 years ago
Cool! I'd forgotten about these, we used to make them all the time when I was a kid! We used plain ol' yarn in lots of colors and flour+water paste. Ours were not nearly as durable, needless to say! Thanks!
Sergiozal4 years ago
Cool, thanks for sharing!
LaBeasy4 years ago
someone should make one out of some sort of craft ribbon...
natasqi LaBeasy4 years ago
Yeah I was wondering if colourful wool could be used...
jakyo4 years ago
I made something similar only I used garden string and dipped the string into diluted wood glue,then wrapped the string around a ballon, I used when dry I sprayed them with gold paint and used them as Christmas decorations![after bursting the ballons of course] jakyo ;-)
uncle frogy4 years ago
I would think the Vaseline might weaken the balloon

you might be able to use a waterborne urethane. they have a one hour dry time and might be compatible with the balloon form.

I have an old commercial hanging lamp like that that has large holes in it top and bottom and surrounds a white cylinder diffuser where the bulb is easily accessed

great work!
loveaphid4 years ago
suburbgirl, I noticed that your pendant has a more solid texture. Did you use any paper or was the effect achieved by winding the crochet string very tightly together? Your pendants look great. On and noahw Thank you for this great instructable.
SusanSS4 years ago
Did I fall asleep and end up back in the 60's? You know, the last time I made a string lamp shade?
Instead of ballons you can use beach balls as well.

Hey. this is my version xD. what ya think?
011.bmp
Love this!! What is holding this up!!
Very nice. What, exactly, is holding it up? It looks pretty awesome.
lala19894 years ago
what a great idea!
i love it!
AlfredoSG4 years ago
 For anyone struggling to find fabric stiffner I did this and found that a ratio of 1.5 parts glue to 1 part water worked fantastic. (I used regular elmers school glue)


And get newspaper its REALLY messy.
tristanwelz4 years ago
The only thin I found difficult about this method was finding the right lighting fixtures to place in the newly created sphere...great idea on an old arts and craft!
zombiefire4 years ago
cool
Rimwulf4 years ago
why fabric softener?
not softener, stiffener 
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  Silly me.
LOL well at least with fabric softener your globe won't be so...itchy.
azebra54 years ago
About 30 years ago we did this same project but with glue. I can't remember what the original purpose was but we used the spheres for lights, Christmas tree ornaments and anything anyone thought of for about a month. Good fun for everyone and kids learned a lot as well as me. Thank you for this.
 Thank you, Very cool and atractive!
geoslim134 years ago
about three school years ago in junior high the home economics class made "giant string Easter eggs" using sugar water.  alot ended up melting in the rain
when they took them home.
justink4 years ago
 If you used enough string and silicone instead of fabric stiffener could you make a big bouncy ball???
tommyboy4 years ago

Great idea, reminds me of the one I made in college with string and white glue.  I then painted the string in a motley of fluorescent paints (water based), then placed a black light bulb in the middle, outstanding effect!  Given how hot those bulbs are, I think I'll duplicate it with a  fluorescent version.

Fantastic project, good work!

XOIIO4 years ago
Very nice, I'm going to just make a sphere so I can have some neat little thing to throw at people :)
lycoris34 years ago
instead of regular light bulbs, y not LEDs?  Then you can do different colors on the cheap. 
Its Giggles4 years ago
Great instructable! Totally love it!
ooh i gots an idea :D how bout the longitude and lattitude lines of the globe?


-m
deannap4 years ago
 I tried this a few months ago but my balloon shrank and the whole thing was lopsided.  Thanks for the tip on adding air and keeping it warm.

I also taped the cap from a milk jug to the the balloon and worked around it so that I didn't have to cut a whole in the top.

The best way to get a perfectly round shape is to use a "punching balloon".  Remember those?  I had been wanting to do this and when I saw those punching balloons at the dollar store I bought a whole bunch of them!
I made a ornament once doing this, and used white glue. It left a clear but noticeable layer in open spots, and didn't look that great...I would definitely use the fabric stiffener!
Blakeney4 years ago
I also notice the Design within Reach site describes the artist as wrapping the  fiberglass the balloon "in varying patterns". Other than the different angles the string globe on the site seems to have fairly straight lines of string crossing each other - but maybe it would be possible to do som string "doodles" on the balooon (swirls, loops, etc.) to get other patterns? Might be too tricky with the drying and the mess factor though.
Blakeney4 years ago
Just checked the Design Within Reach link - $587 for a small ballon-epoxy-and-string lamp?  Not to knock an artist's creative process, but $587 for the designer version seems a bit steep - even if it is fiberglass.

We used to make string globes in school but I'd never thought of using one for a lamp - great idea. Genius is taking same-old, same-old, and adding a new twist.
static4 years ago
 A good job all around. I would suggest a close up photo of the final attachment to the globe to the  fixture though. That moment go by quickly in the video, and pausing doesn't leave a very clear view.
noahw (author)  static4 years ago
That's an excellent suggestion!

Step 9 has been updated with a proper photo.

Sorry for the oversight.
Arbitror4 years ago
A commercial medium sized one is $1,127? I'm starting a business selling these! Great 'ible by the way!
a tiny little remark for Shadow Ops: keep in mind that it might be illegal when you sell the products...! making product for yourself is never a problem, even for products with patents. But you can set up a workshop where people make there own.
Just kiddin' by the way! ;)
static Arbitror4 years ago
 LOL around here it would be tough to find someone to pay $11.27 for one.
noahw (author)  Arbitror4 years ago
Those are made of fiberglass and resin and the one Ed and I made is made of string and glorified white glue, but basically...YEAH - what the heck?
josufra4 years ago
Another idea... just a suggestion..

Instead of using fabric stiffener or glue, soak the thread in sugar water before wrapping it around the balloon to make this. I've been doing the same for easter baskets for years!!!
Sugar water is great in certain areas of the country, however, on the very humid east coast it takes forever (or at least a long time) to dry and it can attract bugs even after it is dried.
Inexpensive liquid starch can be substituted for fabric stiffener. You can also spray it with clear polyurethane after removing the balloon. You could even sprinkle or spray glitter on it. This sounds like lots of fun!
Glockenator4 years ago
you could just use white glue instead of trying to find fabric stiffener
noahw (author)  Glockenator4 years ago
Fabric stiffener is available at just about every large box craft store, Michaels, Jo-Ann's, Beverly's etc...so I don't think anyone will have too hard of a time finding it. 

I think white glue would work, but it probably wouldn't flow and wet out as well, and may have a tendency to leave more semi-transparent white buildup once it's dry.
not easy to find where i live. the closest fabric store is 45 km away
You need to look in any grocery store where laundry stuff is and look for "starch"
cuesegue noahw4 years ago
White glue also has a tendency to yellow and crack over time. I don't know if that would happen in this project but....
sixsmith noahw4 years ago
you can thin white glue so that it has a lighter viscosity.
I once cut it about half and half with water so i could spray it out of a squirt bottle to stabilize some ground cover medium on a model rail road layout. it instantly seeped into all the little spots between the miniature rocks.
I imagine it would do something similar with cotton thread  
This is true...I made one once using white glue and the residue it left made it look like a kids' craft project...not very neat.  The stiffner gives it a nice clean look.
Maybe it would work best if you watered the glue down ~ like you would if you were doing papier mache or decoupage.

I think I'd want to put more string on it, to make it a little less see-through. 

I agree with flamethrower, a nicer fixture, or maybe even just a nicer lightbulb ~ like one of those round ones...

As far as adding Christmas lights... it's certainly do-able.  I made a grapevine 'globe' like this one, and used a string of lights in it.  Looks awesome!  I bet one of these string ones with those teeny white LED's would look like it was full of fireflies!

Thanks noahw, great 'ible!
i agree. i've done many of these string globes using diluted white glue. It dries pretty transparent if you water it down. Never thought to turn them into a lamp, though. GREAT idea! i live in an apartment with no overhead lighting in several of the rooms, so i've been thinking about making lamps.
RickO54 years ago
Ive had a pair of these lighting my bedroom for years, hung by chain from the ceiling,
Lorellai4 years ago
Impressively simple hack of something that is overpriced in the shops!
melafefonim4 years ago
very cool!
GianniMora4 years ago
 great instructable, 4.5*


                   -M
natewebster4 years ago
Great Idea!!  

just an after thought...

maybe a beach ball if you want a perfect round??? 

Great work here! 
Beach balls are made of panels. They're not as round as these balloons.
I doubt if you could tell the difference in roundness in the stringball shapes. It also occurs to me that tubular balloons also could look pretty cool. You could even make your own shapes by taping pieces of plastic bags together.
 Great idea  
the only thing I find that could be changed is the light fixture if you instead put something more elegant inside the pendant and centered it I think it would look even nicer.  Or maby even weave Christmas lights through the yarn. (I cannot however explain how you can accomplish this impossible task.)
Perhaps you could add the xmas lights in a multi stage process:
1. make a stringball in the usual way but  with about 1/2 the usual strings and let dry.

2. pop balloon and add xmas lights facing inwards on stringball.

3. add second stringball layer on top of the xmas lights layer.

4. Revel in your creation.
Azayles4 years ago
This is absolutely ingenious! You could cover other things, like the outside of a large icecream tube, leaving one side uncovered to make a string basket of sorts :P
 I think it'd be nice for ambient lighting if I covered the balloon with starched colored tissue paper, like paper mache, before I wrapped the string. Then the light would show through, but not so much the actual light bulb. ( I wonder if this would make for a fire hazard?!)  
Very nice. I like the geometric look a lot, and I bet you could use the pre-shaped mylar balloons to get stars, or fish, or flowers or other non-geometric shapes, too. If you then used different colors of string to fill in different areas, you could do all kinds of neat stuff. Thanks for the ideas!
rc jedi4 years ago
well done! gives me ideas....
   thanks!
Manoj4 years ago
This is a nice tutorial, but I liked the way the lamp at this tutorial has turned out : 
http://www.pickles.no/whirl-it-lampshade/2009/6/28/whirl-it-lampshade.html.

Especially useful idea of using vaseline to coat the balloon and to leave a circular hole at the top instead of cutting a hole later to insert the bulb and holder. Combine these two tutorials and you could have a wonderful thing to do over the coming weekend !
I remember seeing this in a Ready Made magazine 2 newyears ago.  Way to put it into an "ible" and sharing it .   It really does make some killer lamps!.
hasha20004 years ago
I've seen this done a long time ago. The person I knew did it with smaller balloons, and used sugar water for the glue. They was used for Christmas ornaments...  
rimar20004 years ago
Very clever. Nice.
Goin' old school!
 
luizrochaa4 years ago
reall nice
It's an interesting idea and definetly cheaper than whats for sale, but I think it looks a bit ugly (I am really not into the whole "modern art" movement, so thats why)
artquilter4 years ago
If you happen to have helium, that could assist in the hanging to dry step.
Not that I can suggest how to do that when you have to re-open the balloon, but just a thought.
Jayefuu4 years ago
I need to make some lampshades for a project I've had on hold for a while. This solves the spherical one problem! Think the same technique could be applied to make a cube?
noahw (author)  Jayefuu4 years ago
So long as you had an exit strategy for the form I think you could make a string mold of just about anything.  I made a cylinder and it came out quite well...

Think you can leave one side of the cube off?
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Could you use a thicker yard?

I love the idea of straining the string through the paint brush, BTW.
 Really beautiful! I think I'll be making some of these when I move. :D
J@50n4 years ago
 sweet idea!