Welcome to my big 5th week project! This project is so big it took me two weeks to get it together, constructed and photographed. I made myself a really large hanging pendant lamp, out of approximately 3,000 white drinking straws!
While this project may have ended up being more difficult than I imagined at first, it certainly resulted in quite a statement piece! I hooked it up to a dimmer switch, and it can go from a bright and beautiful snowball to a gently glowing orb.
I first got the idea from this amazing lamp by Mark Montano, from his ‘Big Ass Book of Crafts.’ I’ve created a couple of these more closely based on Mark’s design (projects to be featured later) but I’d been wanting to create a big spherical pendant for a while, without being constrained by size limitations, and without worrying about how to change the light bulb. And that was when I was wandering around a hardware store, and spotted a mesh laundry bag, and an idea was born!
I’ve been trying to figure out whether or not I should make this a tutorial. It was a learning process, making this lamp, and it ended up being a pretty difficult project, but I figured I might as well layout the steps I went through, since I documented them anyway, and you can decide for yourselves whether or not you want to attempt to recreate this project or not.
Step 1: I used a paper lantern as the formwork, and a mesh laundry bag as the structure to hold the straws.
Step 2: Insert the lantern into the laundry bag, and then trim off the top of the bag so that the new top edge is roughly lined up with the top of the lantern.
Step 3: Clip the laundry bag to the top of the lantern, and then start sewing it so that it is taught around the sphere.
Step 4: Sew 4 tucks on each side, one for each quadrant of the sphere. You can either sew them with thread, or I used thin gauge wire for better control. Cut off the excess corner triangles of mesh, once you are finished sewing the new seam.
Step 5: At this point, you need to cut the bag off of the lantern, because otherwise you won’t be able to get the straws through the mesh. If you cut the bag neatly down the pre-existing seam, it will be easier to maintain the shape of the sphere you have created. Cut the seam slowly, in chunks, and keep testing if you can pull it off the lantern so you end up cutting as little of the seam as you possibly need to.
Step 6: Now just start filling it in with straws. Take each straw and fold it roughly in half. Then you poke the two ends of the straw through two adjoining holes of the mesh. (Make sure when you are finding a laundry bag you get one with mesh that has holes large enough to accommodate your straws.)
Step 7: Keep filling the mesh in with straws, remembering to stick them through the mesh from the interior of the shape, out. When you first start, the straws will seem really floppy, but the more straws you build up, the more structure you will get.
Step 8: Keep adding straws until you have most of the mesh filled. At this point I found my lamp more closely resembled a sea creature of some sort. And yes, that’s right, I said it took approximately 3,000 straws. And many MANY hours of folding and poking straws through mesh. This was not exactly a fast project.
Step 9: My original intention was to wrap the mesh back around the paper lantern, but the mesh must have reformed in some way with all the straws, because it wouldn’t fit. So, I decided to simply sew it back up as is. Make sure you leave the mesh around the top opening free of straws, for the moment. It will make attaching the structure easier.
Step 11: Insert into the opening of the mesh, and start sewing the mesh to your round form. You will have a stronger connection if you fold the mesh bag over the edge of the form. Be liberal with your thread, because this connection will hold the entire weight of the lamp, once you are finished.
Step 12: Once you have completely sewed the form to your mesh bag, start filling in the excess mesh with straws until you have filled in all of the empty mesh.
Step 13: Using wire, attach a light bulb cord to your round formwork. You will be able to reach around the wire to change the light bulb when needed. Make sure this wire is strong and reinforced because the entire weight of your pendant lamp will be hanging from these connections.
Step 14: Enjoy!!
Photos of the light during daylight hours to follow! I hope you love this new project, I certainly do! And it will be for sale on Etsy soon, as always.