How to Make a twig Ball Lantern
Whether you love fairytale multicolour twinkles or a soft, golden firefly glow, a twig ball lantern can add a really enchanting touch to a party, wedding, or festival. No party to decorate for? Hang them in a corner of your garden to add a touch of magic to long, summer evenings. You don’t need specialist equipment, a willow tree wood or vineyard full of grapevine to make them either – the kids and I made ours with trimmings from the common garden climbers that regularly take over our back yard.
Want to make some too? Of course you do – everyone needs a twig ball lantern in their life! So read on for the full tutorial…
There’s nothing more magical outdoors at night than the soft glow of twinkly lights. Whether it’s for a spring festival, summer party, or an autumn wedding, these twig ball lanterns can be made any time of year, and any size from teeny-tiny to absolutely huge. You can carry them with you or hang them up for a beautiful garden feature, and there are no end of uses for them. We made this particular lantern for a camping trip with a group of friends, so that we can show the other kids coming how to make them too – a little DIY woodland festival activity to keep them busy and help them enjoy the dark skies we’re camping under.
Want to get some twinkly fairy light magic of your own? Here’s how we did it…
To make a twig ball lantern, you will need to gather the following supplies (all these are affiliate links):
• Long, flexible twigs (such as willow withies) or vines from the garden such as grapevines, honeysuckle, passiflora or clematis. Most climbing plants with woody stems are suitable – freshly cut will be more flexible, or you can soak willow withies for 24 hours before use. Remember to strip the leaves before you begin! Alternatively, you could use wire such as this grapevine effect floristry wire.
• A cylinder roughly the same diameter that you want your finished twig ball lantern to be. I used a large coffee tin. This will be your ‘form’ or mould, which will help you bend the twigs to the right shape. Bear in mind that the smaller the diameter, the more flexible your vines or twigs will need to be!
1. Bend one of your twigs or vines gently to form a circle that is the diameter you want your twig ball lantern to be. If your sticks are a little stiff, you may find it easier using a ‘form’ or mould – basically a curved object that you can bend your twigs around to make them curve. I use an empty coffee tin, but anything vaguely cylindrical will do.
Ideally, to make these wreaths you want to use a piece of vine/twig that is roughly twice the length needed to make your circle, so that you can twist the excess back around the full circumference. This doubles up your vine/twig to make a simple, plaited, circular wreath. Weaving the vine or twig back around itself like this will hold your circle together without the need for any wire or tape, and will be useful later on as you can tuck other twigs in between the twists to hold them securely.
Tuck the ends of your wreath into the twist (use a bit of tape if necessary). Don’t worry too much if bits are sticking out – that can be sorted later.
2. Repeat two or three times so that you have at least three circles. They don’t have to be perfect, but should be as close to the same size as possible.
Insert one circle into the other at roughly a right angle, and then do the same with the others. At this point, use a little floristry tape or wire to hold your circles in position.
You should see the twig ball lantern sphere taking shape. Again, don’t worry about stray ends or a perfect shape at this stage.
Once you have a rough ball shape, you will need to attach your lights.
1. Decide which way up you want your lantern to go. You’ll need to make sure that this is where two of your original circular wreaths cross, as this junction will be one of the strongest points on your ball. Tape on your battery pack using the floristry tape or gaffer tape (in a colour that will blend in with the twigs) to cover it completely. Make sure that the on/off switch is accessible…
2. If your lights have a plastic-coated section of wire at the start, hide it by wrapping it with more floristry tape or gaffer tape. Don’t worry about the copper wire as this will blend perfectly with the twigs once the lantern is finished.
3. Position your lights. I like to have most of the lights in the centre of my twig ball lantern, but you could just wrap them around the exterior if you prefer. Copper wire lights are great for using in the centre of your twig ball, because the copper wire is soft enough to bend very easily but stiff enough to stay in whatever position you put it.
1. Using some more of your twigs, weave a handle at the top of your twig ball lantern. There are lots of ways you can do this – a wide, basket-like handle that spans the whole width of the globe is pretty, but this time I just made a simple loop (in the same way that you made the original vine circles) for either hanging or holding the lantern by. You could use string, twine or ribbon for this if you don’t want to use more twigs.
2. Weave in more twigs into your twig ball lantern. Don’t be too precise about this; it will look more organic if the vines or twigs cross each other at random angles and have the odd bit sticking out.
Use your floristry tape (sparingly) to hold twigs in position. It should be mostly unnecessary, though, as just weaving the twigs through one another is enough to hold most of them in place. I use brown tape, which blends really well with the twigs (don’t forget that green twigs will tend to brown and shrink as they dry out over time).
How many you add is up to you, but you don’t want your twigs too dense, or you won’t be able to see the lights.
And that’s it! Your twig ball lantern is finished. Now you just need to decide how and where to display it…
There are lots of different tweaks you can make to the design of your twig ball lantern – here are some ideas to get you started:
- Experiment with different shapes – pyramids and cubes, for example, or an open basket or a cylindrical jam-jar shape, all work well.
- Try using different materials – (affiliate link) wire or even wool/yarn stiffened with PVA glue are just as easy to do.
- (affiliate link) LED lights are available in any number of different colours. Soft white is my favourite, for a sophisticated yet romantic ‘firefly’ glow. The lanterns pictured were for the kids, who requested multi-coloured for a fairytale festival vibe!
- Try painting your twigs – either completely or just adding in some bands of colour here or there.
- Or you could (affiliate link) gild the sticks with gold, silver, copper or rose gold instead.
- Add ribbons, coloured wool/yarn, fabric strips, or lace – either woven through the sticks or dangling down, chandelier-style.
- To keep it natural, weave in flowers or use herbs like rosemary or lavender.
- Put a handful of (affiliate link) moss or hay in the very centre for a fairy lantern look. Use just a little, though, to keep the lights visible.
You can also play around with how they are held. Think about a basket-style handle, mounting them on a stout stick, or adding a simple loop (as I made here). With a loop or handle, you can either hold them by hand or use a long stick with a hook to raise them up higher – a great option if carrying your twig ball lantern in a parade. Your loop handle doesn’t need to be made of twigs, of course. You can always just thread in a bit of ribbon, rope, or twine instead – this works well if you are hanging them in a cluster or along a rope, garland-style.
And don’t forget about size. Hanging a group of different sizes together can make a really great display, or alternatively you could make a garland of them. I’ve made much, much larger versions for our annual lantern festival (a good four or five years ago, and they’re still going strong). Weirdly these larger twig ball lanterns are easier to make than the small ones, as you don’t need your twigs to bend to quite such tight curves.
However you chose to make your lantern, when the sun goes down and the lights go on you are sure to have a magical display. If you do make one of these, let me know – I’d love to see what you did!
Looking for more ideas for fun things to do with your kids? Take a look at these nature-based activities.