When I tell you what it took to make this Snowball light, you’ll think I’m crazy. So I’m not going to tell you right away. Just know that its basic components are basket-style coffee filters, a sheet of hardware cloth, and a string of LED lights.
I call it the snowball light because it reminds me of the giant snowballs that terrorize Scrat, the acorn-obsessed saber-toothed squirrel in Ice Age. But if you look closer, the delicate ruffles of the coffee filters look like carnations. I thought it would be fun to dye the coffee filters or dip the tips in paint to mimic red-tipped carnations. In the end, I kept it simple.
The snowball light also resembles Serena & Lily’s Feathered African Headdress. Although not as elegant, it’s fun and a lot more affordable.
Tutorial and photos after the jump!
Are you ready for the numbers now? My Snowball light took 800 coffee filters, 400 staples, 60 cable ties, two people, and about 16 hours. I didn’t think it would take that many coffee filters when I planned this project. I originally bought 400 thinking I would have plenty extra. But I started out placing the coffee filters close together, so I had to finish the way I started or the light would have been lopsided.
If you think the sheer quantity of supplies I used is bad, consider the fact that I did exactly what the light-string safety instructions warns against: “Do not cover the product with cloth, paper or any material not part of the product when in use.” So, as with all of my projects, light this lamp at your own risk. Treat it like a burning candle or a lit Christmas tree: Never leave it unattended. And only use LED lights. All you safety police should know that I kept my light on for several hours, and the bulbs never got warm, let alone in danger of bursting into flames. Granted, I only tried Ikea’s Glänsa lighting chain, so I cannot vouch for any other brand.
If all the above information didn’t scare you off, and you still want to make a Snowball light, I recommend recruiting a buddy to help you, pop in a favorite DVD, and build it assembly-line style. And make your snowball less dense by spacing out the coffee filters and therefore cutting your coffee-filter requirements—and time investment—in half. I hope some of you are brave and try it. I’d love to see what variations you come up with.
Supplies and tools
1. My circle is about 28 inches in diameter. If you want to make the same size light, download and print my circle pattern pdf. Protect your work surface from scratches with newspaper or a drop cloth. Using tin snips or wire cutters, cut a piece of hardware mesh that is 60 x 60 squares wide/tall (about 28 x 28 inches square). Follow the pattern and cut off squares in each corner to make a circular shape.
Note: I only had 24-inch wide hardware cloth on hand, so I sewed on an extra piece of mesh with 24-gauge wire. That’s why my circle has a seam in the photo above.
2. Starting at the outer edge of the circle, secure the end of the LED light string to the wire frame with a cable tie.
3. Trim off the excess cable tie with heavy-duty scissors or wire cutters. Be careful not to cut the wire or light string.
4. Continue around the outside edge of the circle, attaching the light string with a cable tie every few inches.
5. Continue attaching the light string to the mesh in a spiral pattern. Allow 2-1/2 to 3 inches in between each concentric circle. Ideally, your light string will reach the middle as shown. If you have excess, continue circling back, attaching as you go, until you get to the end.
6. Grab your coffee filters, stapler, and staples for the next part.
Taking one coffee filter at a time, place your finger in the middle, then wrap the coffee filter over your finger.
7. Remove your finger, then crimp the end off the coffee filter about 1-1/2 to 2 inches to make a flower shape.
8. Insert the tip of the coffee filter flower into an opening in the mesh, front to back. Skip a square, then insert another coffee filter flower. On the back, cross their tips and staple the two flowers together. This will keep them from slipping out of the mesh.
9. Repeat step #8 in a circular pattern. I did a row in a checkerboard pattern, then skipped a row and repeated. If you follow this pattern, you will need 800 coffee filters. I recommend spacing them out more than that. Try skipping two squares instead of one, or skip more than one row at time.
10. Continue until your entire circle is filled with coffee filters. As with cross stitch, it’s always nice to keep the back looking as clean as the front.
11. Hang your Snowball light on the wall with a hook and turn on the lights. It’s super easy to hang, because you have lots of holes to choose to hang it from.
Special thanks to my good friend Kristi who helped me for nine hours stuffing coffee filters, and lent me the use her apartment for the photo shoot.