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Project Thirty Seven: How to Make an Awesome Lampshade using String, a Balloon, and PVA Glue

April 9, 2011

To say I am pleased with this project would be an understatement. I have been on the hunt for a lampshade for my bedroom since we moved into this flat two years ago, to no avail. I have quite specific requirements you see, and I hadn’t realised lampshade designers don’t generally hold the same views as me for what constitutes an ideal lampshade for a bedroom. Or rather, the designers who are on the same wavelength as me like to keep me out of the market with their hefty price-tags.

I don’t ask for a lot. All I want is a lampshade that is closed at the bottom so that the bulb is hidden (why would anyone want to see the lightbulbs through a lampshade? Surely that defeats the point of a lampshade?), and I also (obviously) want it to look nice and preferably be white. I had considered the Chinese paper lanterns, but wanted something a bit more unique than those, a bit more ‘me’. So, in true resourceful style, I set about making my own.

Here’s what I used:

  • 1 large balloon purchased from a party shop
  • PVA glue
  • cornflour
  • string (lots and lots and lots of string, I had to resort to using embroidery thread when I ran out of string) You probably need two or three balls of string like the one pictured
  • white tissue paper
  • something to cover the floor with, this is a very messy project!

Total cost: about £3

Step One:

Blow up the balloon and tie it to a length of string that is attached to the backs of two chairs. You need to suspend the balloon somewhere in order to work on it.

Step Two:

Mix up your PVA glue with a few tablespoons of cornflour and some water in order to make a paste with a runny consistency, but not too watery. This is not an exact science, but the more watery your mixture the longer it will take to dry. You want a mixture that is at least half PVA glue.

Step Three:

Soak the string in your glue mix, in a big bowl, and take the end of the string and start wrapping it around the balloon, making sure you leave a circular space at the top of the balloon big enough to get the light bulb through. Keep wrapping the string around the balloon, in one continuous piece, making sure it is covered in the glue mix. Just keep wrapping until you are happy with the coverage of string. As I said earlier, I didn’t buy nearly enough string so had to use embroidery thread, in light green and light pink, and this actually adds a nice touch to the finished lampshade. You can experiment with different thickness string, or add other things like ribbon or lace. The possibilities are endless.

Once you have covered the balloon in as much string as you want, leave it to dry for 24 hours.




Step Four:

Once the string is dry, it should feel completely hard and solid. Now for the fun part. Take some scissors and make a small cut in the top of the balloon. I was wary of just popping the balloon by stabbing it, incase the force of the balloon popping caused the string to collapse in on itself. So by making a small cut in the top of the balloon you allow the air to escape slowly, thus not disturbing the string.

I realised after doing this that I could have covered the balloon in vaseline before starting to wrap the string around it, to stop the string sticking to the balloon, so next time I will try this and see what difference it makes.

Now, you could leave your lampshade as is, with just the string, which was my initial intention. But I found, when I hung the lampshade and turned the light on, the bulb was glaringly obvious through the string, so I had to think on my feet and come up with a way of adapting my lampshade, which is where the tissue paper comes in. In retrospect, had I known I would need to cover the whole thing in tissue paper, I would have started by covering the balloon in tissue paper before wrapping the string around it, but as I couldn’t do this, I improvised, with the steps below.

Step Five:

Start by ripping your tissue paper into squares or strips, any size will do, and then, place them one at a time inside the string lampshade (using the hole at the top to get your arm in). As you go along, use a paintbrush to cover the tissue paper in the glue mix. The glue will soak through the tissue paper onto he string below. Overlap you pieces of tissue paper, and dab your glue on carefully so as not to rip the tissue paper. This is a delicate and time-consuming task, so take your time, put some good music on, make sure you have a cup of tea by your side, and just go slow. It would have been much easier to cover the balloon in tissue paper before adding the string, so feel free to try that method out instead if you prefer, and let me know if it works!

I have been thinking of other materials to use instead of tissue paper, and think it would be great to try making one with lacy curtain netting (like old people have in their windows). Of course, you could also experiment with different coloured tissue paper, your doesn’t have to be white.

Let the tissue paper dry for another 24 hours, and then you should be ready to hang your new awesome hand-made lampshade! I used some string to attach the lampshade to the wire, it was quite easy.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. sakina19 permalink
    April 13, 2011 10:55 pm

    This is a brilliant idea!
    I will try on my baby girl’s room!

    Thank you!

  2. September 18, 2011 9:06 am

    Brilliant thank you! Will look great in my shop!

  3. February 3, 2012 11:11 pm

    What a great job you did. Creativity means being willing to make mistakes~then using those mistakes to make your masterpiece. Well done!

  4. carol norwell permalink
    April 23, 2012 10:22 pm

    couldnt you glue the tissue on the outside of the string…rather than having to go inside? I recovered an old white ikea type ball paper lamp…and just glued on more tissue….it just seems easier to do it on the outside?

    • April 24, 2012 7:06 am

      It sure would be easier to glue it onto the outside! I wanted the string to show though, so had to do it from the inside, much harder.

  5. Amy permalink
    October 29, 2012 4:01 am

    Might be fun to add beads to the string! Thanks for the idea!!

  6. Crystal permalink
    May 10, 2013 5:40 pm

    Just curious – this isn’t a fire hazard in any way? I would be terrified of the paper catching on fire, LOL.

    • May 15, 2013 3:52 pm

      No, the balloon is big enough that the finished shade is quite far away from the bulb, and all the bulbs we use in the ceilings are low wattage energy efficient bulbs that just don’t get hot…

  7. May 15, 2014 6:10 am

    ahhhh trying the Vaseline now :/ hope it drys ok :/

  8. December 6, 2014 12:04 am

    This is a wonderful site full of crafty goodies! I am very excited about trying this lampshade out, though I wonder if pure wool yarn would be a good or bad idea… What kind of string would be best to use, do you think? And is there something else I could use instead of cornflour? Thanks!

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