Introduction: Holiday Light Ball

As an avid DIYer (and frugal Yankee), I'm always looking for ways of reusing things that other people might throw away. Some years ago I was pulling out invasive bittersweet vine from the edge of our property, and it struck me that it could be used to make something useful. So I turned the vines into a lighted ball to use as an outdoor holiday decoration. I set it out on our snow-covered yard, and it looked really nice at night. I moved it around to different spots on the lawn every few nights, to keep things interesting for passers-by. My light ball lasted for several winters, until the vines finally collapsed, and I took it apart.

I decided to build another one this year, this time documenting it for an Instructable. Assembling the whole thing took roughly two hours.


Inflatable exercise ball (30")

Vines (I used wild grape and bittersweet growing in my yard)

4" Zip ties (for my first version, I used floral wire and a pair of pliers, but the zip ties worked so well this go-around that I didn't use wire)

String of holiday lights

Step 1: Gathering Materials

I made this Light Ball out of materials I found around the house--an old inflatable exercise ball, vines from the yard, zip ties, and a string of holiday lights.

When you collect the vines, be sure you're getting something that won't cause a skin reaction, like poison ivy! I knew the vines in my yard were wild grape and invasive bittersweet, so I wasn't going to have a problem. Wisteria vines would work well, too, if you have one that's overgrown and needs pruning.

These vines need to be "green," too, so they'll bend well without snapping. Look for the straightest ones you can find. A diameter of around ¼" - ⅜" works best--small enough to wrap around the exercise ball, but big enough to create a solid structure that won't droop.

Step 2: Wrapping the Vines

Begin by wrapping a vine once around the ball and securing it with a zip tie. If you have enough length, bend the vine and continue wrapping it around the ball in a slightly different direction. Secure with a zip tie wherever it crosses another vine.

Continue attaching and wrapping vines, trying to space them out so they cover the ball more or less evenly. There may be places where you can tuck vines over and under each other, and this seems to make a stronger ball when it's finished. Unless you've got lots of completely uniform vines, this is going to have a somewhat wild look.

At some point, you'll decide you have enough vines bound around the exercise ball—it'll look like a complete orb.

Time for lights!

Step 3: Attaching Lights

I remembered that when I made my first lighted ball, I'd found that it was easier to plan the final distribution of lights around it if I plugged the string in before I started attaching them. I recommend starting on the plug end of the string of lights, leaving the "tail" of the cord with the electric plug dangling loose. If you're going to hang your light ball, this helps define where "up" is going to be.

Then, working along the light string, attach it with zip ties. For a random look, work your way unevenly around the ball, attaching the lights as you go. If you want something that looks more evenly-lit, like the New Year's Ball in NYC, either spiral around the ball, spacing the wire carefully and connecting it to vines as you work your way from the top down, or wrap around the ball vertically, creating straight lines like the divisions between the sections of a peeled orange (or longitude lines on a globe).

When the lights are attached, snip loose ends of zip ties to neaten the whole thing up.

Step 4: Deflate the Exercise Ball

Once the lights are attached and well-distributed around the vine ball, remove the plug for the exercise ball and let out all of the air.

Pull the deflated exercise ball out through one of the wider gaps in your vine ball-- and you're done!

Step 5: Display!

As I mentioned earlier, I'd put my first lighted holiday ball on the lawn to display, but my idea for this one was to have it hanging as high up from trees as I could, as though it was floating in the air.

I secured the electric cord to 50 lb. fishing line, and hung one end to an eye hook I installed at the top of my longest extension ladder. I attached a second line to the ball, and secured a weight to the other end of that one, throwing it over the highest branch of another tree that I could reach. That line was used to hoist the ball higher than I could have gotten it via ladder.

It's a simple decoration, but effective--as soon as darkness fell and we turned it on, cars slowed down as they passed the house!