If At First You Don’t Succeed, Make Lanterns Out Of Bulb Covers

A few of you actually called us on something that we said a while back for our BHG & Home Depot sponsored porch makeover project. In the early stages we mentioned that we were planning to whip up some twine mobiles among a slew of other projects but there was nothing of the sort in the big reveal. Of course we were allowed to change gears mid stream, but you can imagine how thrown we were when our little twine mobile project was a total bust and were back to the drawing board for a way to add a bit of ambiance to the corner of the porch. Sure things worked out in the end, but here’s the long circuitous route that we took to create those hanging candle holders that we used to gussy up our front porch:


A while back John and I had seen a really cool idea in ReadyMade magazine about using string, a balloon and fabric stiffener to create a one of a kind hanging light fixture. So when we were trolling Home Depot for something that we could hang to create interest on our porch, as soon as we laid eyes on some jute twine we decided there had to be a way to make some great woven mobiles using the same basic method. Sure twine is heavier than string and Home Depot didn’t happen to sell fabric stiffener (all of our tools, materials, and furnishings had to come directly from Home Depot so we couldn’t hit up a craft store for any supplies), but we were certain there was a way that we could make those twine mobiles work.

We decided to switch out the suggested “fabric stiffener” for indoor/outdoor urethane (in clear gloss) which we reasoned would stiffen the twine after we wrapped it around a balloon to create a nice round shape. We figured that it would harden to create a pretty strong shell around our mobiles so they would keep their globe-like shape and could happily live outdoors through rain or snow. First John blew up a balloon and tied the end of the twine to the end of it. Then we submerged the twine in urethane and wrapped it around the balloon to create an awesome woven orb.


It was definitely a messy job, but doing it outside over a huge piece of cardboard made it go pretty quickly and before we knew it we had a good thing going on.


Within about thirty minutes, we had three different sized twine mobiles hanging to dry in the garage. All we would have to do is pop those balloons after the twine stiffened up for a foolproof trio of textural mobiles to add interest and fun to our little porch project.


Or so we thought…


Yes, that’s me holding our beloved twine creations. And yes, they look like something a giant cat might cough up. Before we left town to celebrate Easter with the fam they were hanging happily in the garage, but somehow in the time that we were gone they experienced technical difficulties that caused them to collapse prematurely. We have a few theories about why this happened (#1: the urethane was so corrosive that it actually ate through the balloons causing them to pop before the twine had adequately dried therefore resulting in the demise of the orb shape, #2: the twine is just too heavy for the urethane to support in that globe-like shape, #3: light cover lanterns were our destiny so the universe intervened to sabotage our first project). Whichever was the case we were sure sorry when we came home to this sad state of affairs.

So it was back to Home Depot to totally redeem ourselves. Or fail miserably under pressure.

Our first thought was that we could save our twine mobiles (first stage of grief: denial) by sticking something round inside of them to stretch ’em back out into their old globe-like shape. So when we happened across these cheap-o bulb covers in the lighting department (just $4.99 a pop) we decided to snag three of them and give ’em a whirl. We intentionally went with the thickest ribbed glass we could find so they wouldn’t be too delicate for the great outdoors, and as soon as we loaded them into the car our conversation shifted from trying to save the hairballs, er twine mobiles, to making little hanging candle holders with our new discoveries. So we stormed back into Home Depot to grab some thin wire for stringing up our light covers.


But how did we get our bulb covers to hang? A little trial and error taught us that securing a ring of wire tightly around the neck of the glass cover was step one. We used our needle nosed pliers to cut the wire with about an inch of extra wire on each side. Then we twisted both ends around each other to create a strong, tight bond, so there was now a ring of wire that rested firmly beneath the lip of the glass (using our needle nosed pliers to tighten things certainly came in handy). Then we cut a super long piece of wire to create the “handle” that we’d use to hang our candle holders from the cup hooks that we installed in the ceiling. We secured this extra long piece of wire by looping it under the existing wire ring around the neck and twisting about an inch of wire on each side around the ring and itself to secure it in place.  We had about a half inch of extra wire on each side so you can see how we tucked it tightly around the lip of the glass cover at a right angle, which seemed to help the handle from sliding around the ring (each side stayed more securely in place across from the other after we added this modification).


In short: a ring of wire around the neck of the glass bulb cover was the foundation that the loop of wire for hanging could be twisted around so the whole shebang could be strung up with a cute pillar candle inside. Each lantern took about five minutes to make and ours have been hanging happily on the front porch through rain and even a tornado warning for the past month.


In the end of course we love the added ambiance that our trio of candle-lit accents bring to the front porch project (all for just $20!), so although we’re sad that our little twine mobiles were a bust, we’re happy to say that the second time really was the charm for this project.


So how about you guys? Have you used anything unexpected (from the hardware store or even the grocery store) to amp up your home decor? Do tell.


  1. says

    Sherry, you look so sad in that pic! I love the glass candleholders – beautiful.

    We got creative in my youngest’s room once with ribbon. We attached a short pretty curtain rod to the wall, and looped various colors and lengths of ribbon around it. Made for interesting wall “art” that we really liked.

    Also took smallish, thin planks of wood and wrapped ribbon in patterns to completely cover the front and sides, and attached a ribbon hanger on the back.

  2. Pamela says

    Thanks for sharing your decorating bust with us! It’s nice to know I’m not alone in such DIY projects seeming to work for others in magazines and not for me at home.

    Just a thought, would (a maybe watered down) Elmer’s glue work for the twine project?

  3. says

    The bulb covers are so pretty! I really want to try something like that on my screened-in porch.

    are you going to try the original idea again with the products listed in the article? maybe for the sunroom?

    oh and i just voted! i hope you guys win, i really want to see what you do with the prize money!

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Amy,

      Thanks for the vote! We need all the help we can get. As for trying the original project again with the correct materials, it’s definitely on our list (actually we’d like to create a large round light fixture for one of the guest bedrooms) but our list is always so long that it might be a while til you see it resurface. Stay tuned…


  4. says

    UMMMMM LOVE THOSE! That is a wonderful idea! I am a fan of using stuff that no one expects I have a glass cylinder in my bathroom for makeup brushes that I’ve filled with shiny bb gun pellets! It looks sleek and classy and no one knows! Super cheap too!

  5. says

    i bet the twine was too heavy when it was wrapped so much! you could’ve probably succeeded if you wrapped it less, and used fabric stiffener for the beginning phase, then after it was popped and outta there, sprayed ALOT with a clear poly spray. perhaps. :) who knows! oh well. really cute idea, nonetheless :)

  6. Jen says

    I love the lanterns — I wish I’d seen that before I got married last year. I love your porch project — it’s easy for anyone to do, and makes good use of the $500 you were allowed. I’ve been voting and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you…

  7. Kathleen says

    I’ve also seen the twine, elmers glue project done where they covered a small rectangle trash can with plastic wrap first to protect it. They put the watered down elmers in a bucket and let the twine soak for awhile, then proceeded to wrap it around the trash can, let it dry and slid it off. Looked really nice!

    I do love the glass globes, excellent plan B.

    I’ve been voting for you every day, good luck.

  8. srabee says

    im confused, i thought this was a 48 hour project? if you left for the weekend of easter wouldn’t that be more than 48 hours?

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Srabee,

      Good question! The rules were that the completion of the entire project must be physically possible within 48 hours (aka: one weekend, so really it’s more like 24 hours since you wouldn’t work through the night both days). But the challengers were allowed to work on it in chunks of time (4 hours here, five hours there) to get it all done on their own schedule (to work around the weather, holiday/weekend plans, etc).

      The idea is that anyone who wanted to transform their porch in a weekend could, but they could also do it a little bit at a time (just like we did). We think the time limit is just so that no one got too complicated and drummed up a plan that would take five months to execute (building a pergola for instance… they really wanted simple and do-able ideas). Hope it helps to clarify!

      Sherry (& John)

  9. says

    I actually prefer the candle light covers for your porch – love the ambience!

    However, those twine mobiles are awesome…I’m going to have to give those a try (with the right materials :) ).

  10. says

    The twine would work, but not with urathane. You needed to use liquid starch, and once that it was dry and stiff, then you could hit it with spray varnish to make it more weather proof, I think. White glue mixed 2 pts to 1 pt water would work well too.

  11. says

    Thanks for posting this tutorial! I noticed that ingenious idea when you first posted the reveal, and LOVED it. (I even tucked it away in my “when I stay in one place for more than a few months” mental book!)

    Great idea!

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