Garden Party Decor

11 Materials
1 Day

With summer just around the corner and with parties and BBQs on the horizon, why not add a touch of fantasy to your garden in the form of papier-mâché hot air balloons. If you’re like me and prefer to avoid ‘boring’, then this should be right up your street. These cute tree hangings make lovely flame-less tea-light holders for when the sun goes down, party favours to hand out at the end of the day with a trinket stowed away in the basket, or just simply colourful decorations to brighten up your surroundings. Here’s how I made mine!

Feel free to deviate from my steps if you prefer a more simplified finish, different colours or if you want to embellish the pants off yours. Go for it and have fun, no 2 hot air balloons should look the same if you ask me!

The materials I used to create my balloon are:

  • PVA glue
  • Junk mail
  • Balloons
  • Cheap paint brushes
  • Acrylic paint
  • Scissors
  • Sellotape
  • Hot glue gun
  • Garden twigs
  • Small cutters
  • Styrofoam stuffing balls
  • Thread and String
  • Twine
  • Assorted ribbons

The first thing I did was mixed together my glue/papier-mâché mix. I used roughly a 50/50 mix of glue and water and stirred the 2 together with a wide cheap paintbrush.

I blew up a balloon to the size I wanted my hot air balloon to be and tied it. I then cut up all the junk mail I had received over the last 17 seconds into small pieces, approx 2 inch by 2 inch in size, and smothered them in the glue mix, pasting each one in place over the blown up balloon.

You may want to do 2 or 3 coats in order to have a good solid balloon that can withstand a few crazy parties, depending on your circle of friends.

Leave about a 2 inch gap from the tied part of the balloon for later use.

Hang your creation up to dry out thoroughly. I hung mine from a light fitting. Follow this advice with caution.

By hanging up your balloon like this instead of laying it down, you should get a little blob of glue mix right at the bottom in the center once it is dried. This blob is a good guide for future steps.

Once the balloon is fully dried, pop the balloon with a pin, a very satisfying step. Pull the balloon carcass out of your papier-mâché dome and coat the entire outside in white acrylic paint. This step should be followed regardless of the colours you wish to use as the white will hide the junk mail base layer.

These next steps create the 8 orange segment design that I have on my balloon, so if you want a different design, this is the time.

I coated my balloon in 2 additional white layers of paint as I knew I wanted white to be one of the main colours I used. I stopped when I couldn’t see the junk mail at all anymore.

I then took some string, cut it into 4 long pieces (enough to wrap over the balloon) and using the glue blob as my middle, I halved the balloon 4 times and secured each end of the 4 pieces of string on the inside of the papier-mâché shell with sellotape. This gave me 8 equal segments ready to paint.

I painted alternate segments in red. Don’t worry too much about the segments being perfect at this stage, once you have painted your desired segments, remove the string and neaten up your edges. Make sure you wait until the paint is dry first or be prepared for smeared red string marks!

For the netting over the top of my balloon, I had to adjust what I was doing as I went along as I’d never made a net before and thought “ah, that looks easy enough...” well, it was actually quite tricky.

I lined up an even number of pieces of string and sellotaped them in place. I then tied the pieces of string in couples.

I then realised that I needed to add 2 more pieces of string in between each tied couple so that I could do the same with those pieces of string!

Eventually I got the hang of it until I finally realised that I need 2 more pieces of string, one at each edge of the net and then I was set. Hopefully my pictures show all of this.

It’s then just a case of trying to keep your knots spaced evenly as you go and making the net big enough to go over your balloon.

I’m sure there are better ways of making a net for a round object but this is how I made mine!

Place your net over your balloon and then wrap a piece of twine around the upper middle to secure it and also to give it a neat edge. Hot glue the whole lot in place, up to the twine, so that the net is tight to your balloon and even all the way around.

Once you’re happy that the net and twine are secure, trim the excess netting off below the twine line.

I then cut little semicircles out of twine and stuck them on to my balloon at the point each colour segment joined.

I then cut longer strips of twine, approx 15 inches each, and glued the ends in the middle of where the semicircles and segments joined.

These joins started to look a little messy so I hid each one under some cute white bows made from skinny ribbon.

Now, onto the basket!

I used twigs that I had collected earlier from my garden and tried to find the straightest ones, though I think crooked twigs could look really cute too. Maybe if you’re doing more of a simple balloon design, a kooky basket would look great.

I decided on the length I wanted my basket to be by holding my balloon up and imagining what would look best, the most scientific approach of course.

I then trimmed many twigs to size and created a base square piece by hot gluing the twigs together. I then alternated gluing 2 twigs at opposite ends so that the basket started to grow upwards until it reached a good height.

I wrestled with the idea of leaving the basket plain like this as it was so lovely and simple, but I was worried that it wouldn’t stand out against the trees once it was hanging up in the garden. I think it would have made a beautiful tea-light holder balloon for once the sun had gone down.

Once I finally decided to embellish my basket, as us Yorkshire folk would say, “I proper went for it!”

I used some beautiful white lace and red gingham ribbon to trim and line the basket. The colours matched my balloon perfectly.

I then added some adorable little details like sand bags and rope to hang off the outside of the basket.

The sand bags were made from cutting the necks off some white balloons. I sellotaped the ends and then turned them inside out before stuffing with teeny styrofoam balls. I secured them in place with thread and then wrapped the same coloured string as the ‘rope’ around them to hang from the basket.

The rope is simple brown string wrapped round my fingers to create a loop and then tied in place with more brown string.

I then glued each detail to the outside of the basket and tucked the ends of the string inside and glued them in place so they couldn’t be seen.

Back to the balloon...

Trim the edges of the papier-mâché balloon so that they have a nice scalloped edge in keeping with the painted segments.

You then want to cut the dangling twine to size in order to attach them to your beautiful basket. How I quickly did this was I pulled each piece of string down and across the bottom of the balloon to it’s opposite side and cut it where it met the trough of the scalloped edge. Again, this is not very scientific but it gave me a good guide for each piece. If you would prefer to do all that measuring stuff then be my guest!

Now glue each end of the twine strips to your basket where the x’s are shown in the above picture. There should be 8 pieces of string and 8 x’s. Be sure not to muddle up the order in which you glue them in or your basket will end up looking rather wonky!

Hold your balloon up and make sure that the basket is sitting level. Make some gluey adjustments if necessary.

I then added a circle of twine around the 8 pieces of string and glued this in place to create a bit of a concaved effect because, before this, my twine was bowing out slightly and I didn’t like how it looked.

I then glued the twine strips down along the painted edges of my balloon so that it had a neater finish. I left about a 1.5 inch gap of unglued edging so that the twine could drift nicely off the edge of the balloon down to the basket.

Lastly, I made a little hole right at the top of the balloon (where that blob of glue would have been from hanging it upside down to dry earlier) and stuffed a loop of twine in it so that I could hang it up. I glued the loop in place with my hot glue gun and added a cute red and white bow to hide the damage. I made this bow by tying together 2 pieces of different coloured ribbon at once.

And there you have it. Garden party decor to get your guests talking, and the possibilities are endless!

This project was genuinely so fun to make. I felt there were no rules holding me back, none of it was boring, and the end product still makes me smile. I implore you to have a go and be sure to share your creations in the comments below!

Please also skip across to my Instagram page to follow all the other crafty things I get up to.

Have fun!

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