Introduction: String Pendant Lamp

About: 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 founder and manager for Autodesk and just finished building out…

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

  • 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!