Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Rit Dye 4th of July: DIY Patio Lights, Poms & Tags

Red, White & Blue Balls—This was the original title I wrote in the bar above. Oh. Wait just a moment. That may not be the best way to go with a title. Don't want it coming up in the wrong search engine results. I have to admit, writing a post about dying my balls reminded me that my sense of humor is stuck at that of an adolescent boy.

Awe, yes. An oldie but a goodie. 

I assure you I'll do my best to act my age from this point on, as I think you're going to enjoy this money-saving approach to outdoor (or indoor) 4th of July holiday/summer lighting.

Project Sponsor: Rit Dye. Thanks, Rit! I so enjoyed taking this dip with you!

This project was inspired by this blog post, which I happened upon via Pinterest, where This Journey created faux patio bulb lights using ping pong balls. Later, I was at Crate & Barrel, where I fell in love with this set of lights.

image credit: Crate & Barrel

I put two and two together, and, voila, I had an idea. I'll dye my balls in red and blue to create my own custom set at a less than half the cost of the beautiful C&B set.  Intrigued? Here's how you can...

Do It To It!
Beyond basic household supplies, all you need for this little project are:

* Rit Liquid Dye, 8 oz: Royal Blue  (or Navy, for a deeper blue)
* Rit Liquid Dye, 8 oz: Scarlet Red (or Cherry)
* Ping Pong Balls (Actual ping pong balls, not the generic version lacking texture [more on that soon].)
* White Strand of Holiday Lights

Optional Extras
* White Yarn
* Large, White Shipping Tags
* Roll of Extra Wide Washi Tape (I used a Fat Roll by Hazel & Ruby  and a chalk roll by Fancy Pants Designs)
* Clover Extra Small Pom Pom Maker

Step 1
Following instructions on dye bottle, prepare your dye in a large pot on the stovetop. Ideal temp: 140-degrees.

Step 2
Place balls in dye for 30 min (or more, depending on desired saturation).

Tip: The balls will float, which simply won't do. To keep them fully submerged, I placed a colander over them and used long-handled tongs to push them below the surface. Six balls seem to stay put. Seven caused too much resistance and pushed everything above the dye's surface.

Note: I dyed one package of red balls and one package of blue. It wasn't enough for my particular strand of lights. Count the number of lights on your strand to determine how many you'll need to dye in each color. Don't forget to factor in the white, un-dyed balls if you plan on including white in the mix.

Step 3
Remove balls from dye and immediately place them in a cold-water rinse and set aside to dry.

Note: Use a bowl you don't mind possibly dying. I used an inexpensive plastic bowl for my rinse. So glad I did, as it has a line of red dye around it now that doesn't seem to want to come off.

Step 4
Puncture balls with craft knife or sharp paper piercer (proceed with extreme caution) to create opening in ball.

Tip: To keep your lighting consistent, always puncture hole along ball's seem.

Tip: Place the ball on something stable when puncturing (vs holding it in your hand) to help avoid injury. Yeah. Learned this one the hard way. #ouch

Step 5
Position balls over lights in desired color pattern. Since I didn't dye enough colors, I placed a white ball over every other light—red, white, blue, white, repeat

Tip: Keep a paintbrush (or something long and thin with a rounded tip) handy so you can push out any areas that may cave in as you're trying to insert the lights.

Ta da! String lights!

Learn from my Mistakes
This was definitely a trial and error experience for me. Here are a couple of the what-not-to-dos:

1. Stick to the recommended 140-degree dye temp. I accidentally let my dye get hotter than this and my blue balls exploded. Eeep! THAT was a wild ride.

Tip: Use a food thermometer to gauge the dye temp.

2. Thought I'd save some money and dye the Dollar Store variety of "table tennis balls." Not a good idea. Their surface was smooth. Too smooth. And the dye would not adhere. Instead, I spent a whopping $1 more per package, bought the real deal, and it worked like a charm.


3. If you opt to do do Bonus Idea #1 below, use washi tape with an extra strong hold. Otherwise, the tape will come right off in the dye, which means no more mask.

4. Pay attention when the box of dye says to cover your work area, wear old clothing, and sport plastic or rubber gloves. This dye, while SO fun and easy to use, can get messy. Let's just say I now have a new pair of tie-dyed (minus the tie) pajama pants. Eep!

Bonus Idea #1
I thought it would be fun to create patterns on my lights, so I tried these little trick:

Step 1
Adhere washi tape to wax or freezer paper and punch star shapes. This creates star stickers/masks.

Step 2
Adhere stars to ball, rubbing thoroughly to ensure tape is secure, and dye balls.

It's subtle, and not as clean as I would have hoped. But it looks better when it's dark and the lights are fully lit.

large star
small stars

Bonus Idea #2
Create matching yarn for a more homespun look. Save money by investing in a single roll of white yarn, and simply dip and dye that yarn while you're waiting for your ball dye to set.

Step 1
Place yarn in dye for 2-5 minutes; follow dying steps above (cool rinse and dry) to finish.

Step 2
Gather three strands of yarn (one red, one white, and one blue) that are each 6"-12" longer than the length of your twinkle lights. Wrap yarn around light cording for added patriotic pizazz.

Bonus Idea #3
Inspired by fireworks, I wanted to create pom bundles to dangle from my lights. To do this, I simply followed the directions on my Clover Extra Small Pom Pom Maker.

Bonus Idea #4
Dip dye basic shipping tags to add to the light garland festivities. I did a few combinations.

Dip one portion of tag in red dye and let tag dry.

Next, time for a blue bath. 

Cory and I agree that my tags look a little more French-fancy than USA-awesome.

Washi tape masks worked wonderfully on my tags. I little leakage, but I have a solution for that below.

A little glitter glue to disguise the dye bleed and add some sparkle. 

Cheers and happy July 4th, friends!

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