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 o...

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!



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    141 Discussions


    Question 1 year ago on Step 4

    Balloon getting shrink automatically with in three hours what would be the problem


    2 years ago

    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!

    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.

    IMG_6237.JPGFullSizeRender (1).jpg

    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.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    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!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    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


    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.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    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?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    1 reply

    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!