Introduction: Sparkleball (no-melt) for the Holidays!

A sparkleball is a magical ornament handmade from plastic cups and mini-lights; usually displayed at Christmas or holiday time.

You'll need 50 soft 9 oz. solo-style plastic cups, a hole-puncher, a drill with a 1/2" bit, a string of mini-lights (100-150), and 200 small zip-ties or your choice of connectors like wire. (recycled clean cups will work perfectly as will an old string of mini-lights.)

NOTE: The "no-melt" refers to the old school method of melting the cups with a soldering iron. This INSTRUCTABLE has been so popular, even though there are new techniques in making sparkleballs, I've just left it the way it was first written.

Step 1: Drill the Cup Bottoms

Drill the cup bottoms of all 50 plastic cups. You can stack and drill 2-3 at a time. The holes should be about 1/2" or large enough to insert one or two mini lights.

Step 2: Punch Holes

With a hole-puncher (the kind for punching holes in paper), punch 4 holes evenly spaced around the top of all 50 cups. Place the holes just under the raised lip. Each hole should have a hole directly opposite, but just eyeball the placement.

Step 3: Layer One

Arrange 12 cups in a circle. Attach each cup to the cups adjoining, using a zip-tie through the holes. Do not tighten the zip-ties until all the cups are connected. Then tighten one by one, making sure the ring of cups stays flat.

Step 4: Layer Two

There are 9 cups in Layer Two. Place one cup on top of Layer One. Connect it to the cup it sits on.. Do not tighten zip-tie all the way. Now add second cup. Attach it to cup it sits on top of. When all 9 cups are situated on top of Layer One, forming Layer Two-- then connect each cup to those on either side. Every cup in Layer Two will be attached at three points. When all zip-ties are in place, tighten and trim.

Step 5: Layer Three

There are 4 cups in Layer Three. Fit the 4 cups into the space left at the top of the sparkleball-half. Once they fit neatly, then start attaching the 4 cups to each other and to the cups in Layer Two. The last 4 cups will be attached at 4 points. Punch new holes, if the holes don't align. Tighten zip-ties and trim. Half the ball is done! Time for the lights.

Step 6: Inserting Lights


To insert lights: start at the prong end of the cord. Insert the two lights closest to the prong into a cup at the outside rim. (The plug will then hang out when you put the two halves together.)

Put 1 or 2 lights in each cup. Work your way around the ball half, zigzaging from outer cups to inner cups and back. You want to end up on the outer rim, at the cup next to one you started with.

Work slowly. It's important NOT to skip a cup or miss a light. If you crack a cup, that's ok.

Step 7: Build Second Half

Set aside the completed half. Build the second half just like you did the first. (Steps 3 - 5) Same formula for the 3 layers: 12 - 9 - 4.

Step 8: Finishing the Lights

On the second half, insert lights starting from the opposite end of the cord (the plug end.) Start with any cup but make sure you finish at the outer rim. (But if you plan to hang more than ball at once, make sure the plug end hangs out between the cups, as well.)

The last lights will be the hardest to insert as you juggle the two halves. Some people use two strands of mini-lights, connecting them once the two halves are threaded with lights.

Step 9: Join the Halves

Press the two halves together, making them fit snugly. Line up holes and attach loosely with zip-ties, all the way around. Finally, tighten zip-ties and trim.

Step 10: Make a Hanger

Make a hanger for your sparkleball. I use a bit of chain and two "s" hooks. Choose the top of your sparkleball. (Will you want the electrical cord hanging out on top or at the bottom?) Punch holes between two cups. Insert an "s" hook into the hole and close. Add chain and second "s" hook.

You can also use zip-tie loops, clear fishing line, wire coat hangers, or ribbon to hang sparkleballs.

Step 11: OPTIONAL: Beads? Glitter?

My friend Erika likes to string plastic beads on the zip-ties, as she threads them between cups. Her sparkleballs look as pretty unlit, as lit. You can also dip cup rims in glue, then glitter, or use dollops of glitter-glue between the cups.

Step 12: OPTIONAL: Chasing Lights

Multi-function, "chasing" lights turn sparkleballs into mini-ufo's. The blinking, pulsating, rhythm-changing light sequences have to be seen to be believed. If you do use chasing lights, you'll need to insert 2 or 3 lights into each cup bottom. Experiment with drill and hole sizes and lights BEFORE you begin building your sparkleball.

Step 13: Plug in and Enjoy!

To see more sparkleball-making ideas and photos from around the world, check out