Thursday, September 29, 2011

DIY Hemp Pendant Light

There's already a few of these tutorials floating around the interwebs, and the one I mostly followed is located here. I picked this one because the big difference was this tutorial used a bouncy toy ball instead of a balloon to get the sphere shape (the ball just seemed a bit more sturdy for a klutz like me, if ya know what I mean). While the existing tutorial is an excellent one, we deviated a bit when it came right down to how we did things - especially when it came to actually hanging the light fixture - which was a whole 'nother project in itself.

So, after a fun run to Walmart (and Lowe's), here's the supplies we gathered:

- 15" diameter bouncy ball
- 5 rolls (or 375 yards) of medium-thickness hemp (we only used 4 - or 300 yards, though)
- ball inflater/deflater thing
- 2 big tubes of Aimee's Sticky Glue
- rubber gloves (you'll definitely want these!)
- pendant light hanging kit (which we didn't end up using)
- newspapers (or a tarp or something to cover your workspace with)
- Sharpie pen
- (we later used) paper bowls, old tiles, and DIY our own pendant light hanging fixture

First I marked the ball with the Sharpie where I wanted the top and the bottom holes to be. I made sure that the bottom hole had the little plug thingy (what is that actually called?) in it, and that it would be big enough for me to fit my hand(s) through to screw in/unscrew any light bulbs.

Then it was time to begin! I snapped on my gloves, covered my workspace, and got to work.

I began gluing the hemp string to the ball, careful to avoid the hole(s) I'd marked (I marked one for the top, too, but if you aren't using a specific pendant light kit - which we didn't end up using - you won't need the top hole).

I found that the best and easiest way for me to get glue on the whole hemp string was to just pour the glue into a paper bowl and dip my glove-covered fingers into it, and then running a length of string through my glued-up fingers and stick it onto the ball.

Something I didn't anticipate was that the ball (as it accumulated more sticky, gluey hemp strings) would begin sticking to the newspaper covering I'd laid out to protect my work surface (I tried holding the ball with one hand while using the other to apply the gluey hemp, but that didn't work out - the ball was just too big!). I first tried using tools to hold down the newspaper, which worked but soon bits of newspaper started ripping off and sticking to the hemp. Rats.

Then Tom had an ingenious idea (seriously, what would I do without him?). He grabbed a paper bowl and threw a couple of old heavy tiles into it that we didn't care about to weigh it down. And lo-and-behold, it worked like a charm. I was able to rest the ball on it without the paper bowl sticking to the ball when it was time to pick up the ball and turn it (which I was constantly doing). While we used tiles, you could probably use almost anything heavy (water or tools maybe?) to help hold down the paper bowl. Just make sure that whatever you use, you don't care if it gets any glue on it!

As I went along, I first tried to just fill in any less-dense gaps with the hemp, not paying much attention to any patterns I was making. After a while, I noticed that the hemp was looking a little too... perfect. So then I switched it up and started applying the hemp string more randomly, and that achieved the no-so-perfect look I was after (I realized later it specifically mentions this in the tutorial I was following - doh!).

After 4 rolls of hemp (or about 300 yards) and literally most of my weekend - like 6 hours! - I decided that I was done. Besides the fact that if I had to spend anymore time on sticking gluey hemp to that ball I might just explode from monotony-induced brain damage - or go crazy and start gluing the hemp string to everything I see - I decided that the ball looked great. I was pleased with the spacing and gaps, and worried that if I added any more hemp to it that the light wouldn't shine through enough to actually light up a space.

I let it dry for about a day, and after testing to make sure the ball was sturdy, it was time to deflate the ball and make a pendant!

We just inserted the ball inflater/deflater thing into the hole and the ball started slowly deflating. The hemp strings and glue made all sorts of funny and hilarious noises as they were slowly unstuck from the deflating ball. It was definitely one of the most exciting parts of the project!

Once the ball was completely deflated (towards the end we got impatient and just stuck a knife in it, haha), we carefully removed the ball and were left with a totally awesome hemp pendant light.

Hallelujah!, I thought. The hard part is over!

You'd think I'd have learned by now.

Here's where we ran into problems: the pendant light hanging kit we'd purchased from Lowe's would require that the light bulb hang at the top of the pendant light - and we wanted it to hang in the middle of the pendant light. Drat.

So we returned the pendant kit to Lowe's and instead headed over to the lamp-building supply section, and found a: light socket, universal mounting kit-thingy, a white cover plate, and white electrical tape (we had some white electrical wire on hand). And this is where things got hard.

What we should have done: wired the light socket to the electrical wire and inserted into hemp pendant, then wound the electrical tape around the electrical wire at the top of the pendant to hold the top in place. That would make the light bulb hang around the middle of the pendant. Then we could have installed the light fixture on the ceiling and wired it in.

What we did: we mounted the hanging kit to the ceiling first. Bad idea. We basically had a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling (electrical wire and the light socket all installed), and then we had to figure out some way to thread the large light socket with wiring through the top of the pendant, and then somehow close up that opening a little and hold up the top of the pendant, putting the light in the middle. Yikes.

Let's just say this was a huge pain-in-the-you-know-what. We thought of all sorts of ideas - clear discs that we drilled holes in, a TON of electrical tape, twisty ties, fishing wire, you name it. In the end, though, we ended up using white floral wire that we wound around the top of the pendant and also around the main wire, holding the pendant in place (and backing it up with a little white electrical tape, for extra security) - which keeps the light bulb suspended in the middle of the pendant.

I know that was all probably very confusing. Honestly, it confused us, too. If we had just waited and installed the fixture on the ceiling last we could have avoided all that. Oh well, live and learn, right? So if you guys tackle this project, please learn from our painful mistake! It will make us feel a little better to know that at least someone benefited from this huge mishap of ours (and you won't have the "rig" the thing with floral wire, either).

But in the end, all the pain and endless hours of hemp-gluing were totally worth it. Yep, we LOVE it.

And now for everyone's favorite part - the budget breakdown!

Cost Breakdown:

Ball - 2.50
Inflater/delfater things - 1.00
Hemp - 4 @ 5.00/ea = 20.00
Glue - 2 @ 2.50/ea = 5.00 (and we still have alot leftover)
Gloves - 2.00
Light socket - 4.00
Electrical wire - Free (on hand)
Universal Mounting Kit - 1.50
Ceiling plate cover - 1.50

TOTAL: $37.50

Not bad, right? We're totally loving it. Especially since we couldn't find any other light fixtures in our price range that we liked at the store. Gotta love DIY for those extra options!

Have you ever DIY a light fixture? Are you planning on tackling any in the future (maybe even this one)? Do you love ours as much as we do?

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  1. AHHH! I love this! So neat. I may just be doing something like this over winter break. Do you think it would be something I could paint to match my decor, or is hemp a material that doesn't like paint?

    What a neat earthy and beautiful idea for a nursery. Something that adds such visual interest without being overly dramatic, but just the perfect amount of cozy to a room! Genius idea Chelsea!


  2. The lamp looks amazing! We were going to make one had we had a little boy! I can't wait to see what else y'all do/did!

  3. Amazingness!! I seriously want to go home and do this right now! I've been meaning to get a new light fixture for my stairwell, and I think something like this would look awesome! Thanks for sharing!

  4. This is amazing! I know other bloggers have tried this and failed, so you are a genius for getting it right. Looks so fabulous!

  5. OH MY GOSH!! So fabulous!!!!! Where can I put one of these in my place????

  6. I love how the light flows through that pendant light. The contrasting look of your materials to the wall and ceiling makes a different beauty. Especially during night time. Cool.

  7. Hi, I made a different version prior to finding yours and it left glue between the threads as it dried and took forever to try to pick all of the glue out (and still haven't gotten it all!) Did you have any problems with dried glue showing on your final pendant with this method? Thanks in advance!

  8. Thanks for sharing your process with us! The insights were really helpful :D


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