A few days ago I was at the centre where I teach various String Things, when I was asked if I could help someone make a mobile featuring origami cranes for her new apartment’s new Asian-inspired theme.
Now usually I wouldn’t be able to help as there are only limited amounts of string used in this craft but I did have a brief but extremely passionate love affair with kinetic art and thus have lots of experience.
Since I promised to teach her how to make her own version of my Cherry Blossom Mobile (above) I thought I might as well share it here too!
The shopping list for this craft is very flexible, but here is what I used.
- String. I suggest extremely strong fishing line but pretty much any very strong string will work. I originally used hemp on most of the mobile above because I had the urge to make it in the middle of the night and had no fishing line. C’est la vie, it worked!
- A needle that fits your string can be helpful for managing tricky beads too.
- Two stiff branches. I used two fake (and somewhat imperfect) branches with cherry blossoms that I found at a deep, deep, deep discount at Michaels. Any branches, reeds, pieces of bamboo, stiff wire, or whatever will work though.
- A tiny bit of glue to keep the strings from sliding around.
- Beads, light pretty objects, origami cranes, single earrings, teaspoons or whatever else you can think of that makes you happy to hang on the branches.
- A counterweight. Now this is important. You will need a heavy enough object to counterbalance all of the other materials. If you look above you’ll see that I used a decorative iron and stained glass star that I had lying around as my counterbalance. Feel free to be creative!
- And lastly, something to tie the mobile to that can easily hang on a ceiling hook. I used a spare ring from my keychain. Oh, and a ceiling hook too of course.
If you have amassed your materials, you are now ready to proceed. It’s best to start at the bottom and work your way up, one balance point at a time.
- On the floor or on a large table lay everything out.
- Tie a string to your counterweight and then tie it to the non-flowery end of your second (smaller) branch. If you have pretty beads, especially ones that will look good in the light you might add them to the strings. Glass and crystal are especially fabulous in the sunlight.
- IMPORTANT! Use all non-permanent knots as there will be adjusting to do most likely.
- This is where a second set of hands is helpful but it can be done alone. You need to pick up the second smaller branch and find the balance point. I carefully balance the branch on my finger until it is perfectly balanced and then tie a string to that exact spot. The balance spot should be more or less at about the 3/4 mark of this branch, with the flowery side being longer. The heavier the counterweight the longer the flowery side will be. And the more off-centre the balance points are the more dramatic the mobile will be.
- Now use that string to hang the second branch to the larger first branch. Tie it about at about the 3/4 mark of your biggest branch so that the flowery side is longer.
- Now comes the tricky bit, balancing it. Find something to hang your mobile from like a nail or hook on a wall. If you can recruit a volunteer to hold the branches steady this will be a lot easier but you can do it alone if you have to.
- Tie your hook onto a string and tie it to the top larger branch exactly at the balance point of the whole mobile. The heavier the counterweight is the closer the balance point will be to it.Be patient finding it as it is the most crucial bit of the whole process. Use a non-permanent knot.
- Now go get a cup of tea. Take a break and and congratulate yourself for doing the hard bit!
- When you are refreshed, come back to your nicely balanced branches and begin hanging pretty things from them. This is actually totally optional. The branches alone would be gorgeous too. But if you want to decorate here is one way.
- Attach various light objects directly to the branches or via short lengths of thread. (On mine I used my orphan earrings, giant jacks my kids once played with, beaded strings, my grandmother’s china roses, broken/disliked jewellery bits and bobs, and an extra crystal from a broken chandelier.) Be wild and crazy and use anything you feel like!
- If the objects are light enough the balance will most likely remain unchanged. If not, do small adjustments (from the bottom balance point up) until the balance is perfect.
- When it is, lay the whole thing down carefully and tie permanent knots in place of your temporary ones. Hang it up again. Is it still perfectly balanced? If so, add a drop of glue to every knot. Superglue is ideal but you can use what you have.
- Hang it from your ceiling hook! (Ideally, where it will not bump the heads of your taller guests, will catch the light, and might catch a breeze.)
- Congratulate yourself on a job well done!
So how clear are these instructions? It is easier to show than to describe, that’s for sure! If anyone makes a mobile I would love to see it!
With all of my love,
Baba StringThings (aka Renata from Winnipeg)