My mom was kind enough to visit us recently to lend her wedding elf services. (Thanks, Mom!) Little did she know she'd be spending her time out here developing an intimate relationship with balls. We're talking large balls, small balls, fragile balls, scattered balls, stacked balls, and everyone's favorite - flaky balls. Oh yeah, we were ballin' out of control, and I'm just dying to show you what we accomplished.
I'm so proud, and so relieved, to to say that this box contains 136 small, black and white string balls. Tutorials for these things are all over the internet, but I'll add my two cents as well. And if you want to see our mock-up of how we plan to use these beauties, just scroll straight to the bottom of this post. I won't be upset. :-)
The materials were incredibly cheap given the visual impact they'll make, but it is a project that requires a lot of time and patience. We started with a box full of small ballons, Stiffy fabric stiffener, size 3 crochet thread, and a glass bowl to hold the fabric stiffener. We experimented with embroidery floss because it's cheap and comes in so many colors, but the resulting ball didn't hold it's shape. And if I had it all to do over again I would get white or clear balloons because sometimes the balloon color rubbed off on the white string.
We learned the hard way that the trick to getting nice, clean string balls that aren't full of glue flakes is to DILUTE the fabric stiffener with a bit of water before you start. I can't stress this enough, and I promise you will thank me for sharing this with you. Even just a little bit of water makes a huge difference. I also suggest 'rounding' your balloons before you get started so your string balls look less balloon-like. Soak your thread in the fabric stiffener mixture and then 'squeeze' out the excess before placing the string on your balloon. I found it easier to soak and squeeze a long length of string at a time so that I could wrap more continuously, but you don't want to do too much at once because the string will knot and the glue will start to dry.
Some tutorials suggest tying the string onto the balloon before you start wrapping, but we found that made it much more difficult to remove the balloon after the string dried. So we just laid the string on the balloon and then wrapped it a few times to stabilize the end of the thread.
By the time I'd made a couple dozen of these, I had developed a wrapping system that was faster and resulted in a rounder shape. It's hard to explain, but imagine your balloon is a globe and the balloon knot is at the North Pole. I started wrapping my string 3-4 times around the 'equator,' then I wrapped it from the North to South pole and pulled the string tightly, which pushes out the air in the middle of the balloon. You'll be able to see it getting rounder. To hold that shape, continue wrapping from north to south all around the balloon. The outcome looks a bit like a pumpkin with vertical lines going all the way around.
Once that shape is formed, you can wrap string to your little heart's content until you're happy with the look. Cut the string and then loop the end twice under another string on the balloon. This will keep it from unwrapping and/or becoming loose while it's drying. To string them up, we poked a paper clip through the knot and hung it on a line running through our house. They're so pretty this way, you might not want to pop them!
Give them 24 hours to dry, then pop the balloons with a straight pin. Some of them will deflate right away, and some will slowly unstick themselves from the string over the course of a few minutes. Hopefully you'll then have a perfectly formed string ball with no unsightly flakes.
Here were our final stats: We were able to get about thirty 3-4" balls per bottle of fabric stiffener and twelve small balls (or three large 8-10" balls) per spool of thread. Once we had a routine going, each of us were able to make about ten small balls per hour or three large balls per hour. Total cost of all centerpieces for twelve 8-foot tables (including string, fabric stiffener, balloons, hurricane vases, and tealight candles) is $202.47 or $16.87 per table. Not too shabby!
If you made it this far, then I'll reward you with a picture of our centerpiece mock-up. The only thing we have in our house that's eight feet long (like our reception tables) is our window seat, so you'll have to forgive the bright back-lighting. Imagine this with a very light gray tablecloth, sapphire blue tealight candles in the votives, and a hurricane vase that's just a smidge taller. If you've got all that in your mind, then you're picturing our centerpieces!
Love. LOVE! Oh, how I adore seeing it all come together like this! It's so satisfying to know that all of our hard work is paying off - both in dollars and in aesthetics. *happy sigh*
What wedding project has been particularly rewarding for you?