We love to decorate for Christmas. But up until last year all our festive decorating efforts were limited to just the inside of our home. This never sat well with our girls. Particularly when we drove down our street passing by all sorts of lighted displays…only to find a lonely, shadowy wreath on our front door. That all changed last year when I added 8 or so lighted Christmas balls made out of chicken wire hanging from our Japanese Maple out front.
If you’re determined to use chicken wire to make lighted Christmas balls, check out the how-to post I did on it last year…complete with a handy printable.
But…if you don’t want to mess with chicken wire, I think you’ll like the alternative that I found that’s much easier. If so, keep reading…
[And by the way, I know that we’re still on this side of Thanksgiving…but a lot of people like to decorate for Christmas soon after the Pilgrim Turkey salt & pepper shakers are put away. So I wanted to make sure to have this post out in time.]
Now…it’s not that I don’t like how our chicken wire lighted Christmas balls turned out. Because I do. But they were kind of a pain to make. Wrapping the lights is easy, but I found creating the balls themselves really cumbersome – wrastlin’ the chicken wire into submission, measuring, cutting, then molding them into shape…all while wearing gloves so that you don’t draw blood! Go ahead, call me a wimp…but I thought that there just had to be an easier alternative – it’s just a wire ball for cryin’ out loud! So I went online in search of an alternative.
I found one option that used 2 wire fern baskets fastened together. But the cheapest wire baskets I could find were about $15 each. So I kept looking.
Then I found these folding wire balls on CraftOutlet.com. They come in three sizes: 12”, 18”, and 24”. And they are relatively cheap…ranging from $5.50 to $9.50 each. Jackpot! I bought enough to get free shipping…knowing that I could sell or give away any that I didn’t use. So here’s what you need and all you need to do.
Materials Needed for Lighted Christmas Balls
- Folding wire balls…whichever size you want.
- Wire or twine…to secure folding ball in place and to create horizontal lines to wrap string around. [See “UPDATE” below.]
- Outdoor mini-lights (100 count). The number of strands you need depends on the size of your wire balls and how sparkly you want them. I used 2-3 strands for the 24” balls I purchased…and I think they’re sparkly enough.
- …and then to hang, outdoor extension cords and paracord. (Note, last year I initially used white extension cords and clothes line, but later swapped them out for darker colored versions…which are less noticeable when wrapped around the tree branches.)
That’s it. No measuring tape. No wire cutters or any other tools. And no gloves. Nada!
How to Make Lighted Christmas Balls
Unlike the many steps required to make lighted Christmas balls out of chicken wire, there are only 2 steps using the folded wire balls:
- Unfold and secure the wire balls in place.
- Wrap them with lights.
And what took about 45 minutes to make with chicken wire, now only takes about 10. What’s not to like about that!
- Unfold and secure the wire balls in place: When you get your folding wire balls, they’ll be…well, folded. To unfold them and get them into place isn’t that difficult, although at first you may think they’ll get the best of you. But just keep going back and forth…and in a matter of a few minutes you’ll be done. Check out this video from CraftOutlet if you have any trouble. [See “UPDATE” below.]
- Wrap them with lights: Since there are no horizontal wires with the folding balls you have a few options:
- Option #1: Starting at the top, simply wrap the string lights around the individual wires…going round and round. The more times you wrap, the tighter the lights will stay on the wire. For the 24” folding ball I used 2 strands and had some lights left over…so I simply went back/forth in the center until I reached the end.
- Option #2: Again, starting at the top, twist the lights around and around one of the wires to about ½ way down. From there use one of the twist ties that comes with the lights to secure it in place. Then take a 90° turn and go across the center of the ball, twisting the lights around every other wire. This holds the wires in place allowing you to then go back and forth around the outside of the ball. I used 3 strands of lights using this method.
- Option #3: Combination of both.
I did all 3 options and if pressed option #3 probably turned out looking the best and is the sturdiest. #1 has a cleaner look when not lit and #2 probably looks the sloppiest. But when they are lit up you can hardly tell a difference. So just figure out what works best for you and have fun doing it.
I do have a few tips for wrapping your lights that will make this project even easier:
- Cut off the tags before you wrap the wire balls. If you wait until after they’re wrapped you have to hunt for the tags and sometimes they’re all twisted up.
- To start your light-wrapping, tie the male side of your string lights at the top of the wire ball. This will keep the lights in place when you start out and allow you to plug in the extension cord at the top of the ball.
- When you start wrapping only take the twist ties off the first of the two bundles of lights (if yours are packaged like mine were). This makes it a lot easier to go round and round the wire while wrapping. Then when you get to the end of the first bundle, take the twist ties off the second and keep wrapping.
- I try to make the connections of subsequent light strands at the top or bottom of the ball. There’s typically a higher concentration of lights there, thereby camouflaging the bulky connection points better.
That’s it you’re done. Easy peasy!
All that’s left now is hanging your fancy new…and much easier to make lighted Christmas balls. Which is the same as with the chicken wire version. So if you want tips on how to do that, go to the bottom of last year’s post and you’ll find some hanging tips.
[UPDATE: So we purchased a few more of the folding wire balls and some of them were not easy to unfold and secure into place…like impossible. It may be because we bought those with the “Rust” finish…I don’t know..but I just couldn’t get them to work. They were too cheap to deal with returning, so I came up with another plan that killed 2 birds with 1 stone.
Starting at the center of one of the wires of the folding ball (…like at the equator) tie a piece of twine or wrap a piece of wire. Then go to the next wire and make another knot…still on the equator…and so on and so on. Then I went back and did the same thing 1/2 way up from center and 1/2 down from center. And by the way, you never need to cut the twine until the very end.
Now…not only are all the wires staying in place, I also have horizontal lines that will make it easier to wrap the string lights around the folding ball. Done!]
Merry Christmas everyone…err, Happy Thanksgiving!