Monthly Archives: November 2016

Falling Leaves Lamp


I think autumn is my favorite time of year in the Upper Midwest, and this year has been especially extraordinary. Not only did we have a brilliant display of fall color, the leaves stuck around for a while, as there were no major storms to knock them to the ground. Most of the leaves have fallen now, but there are still those moments when a dry wind whips up, seemingly out of nowhere, and carries a shower of leaves, in gold, crimson, and blazing orange, down the street.

This lamp, made from tissue paper disks, string, ribbon, and an old tomato cage, reminds me a bit of those falling leaves. I love how the light shines through the tissue paper disks and casts funky shadows on the walls. Best of all, this project is a great way to bring new life to materials you have sitting around the house… such as that box of old wrinkled sheets of colored tissue paper that you wouldn’t dare use to wrap a gift. Here’s how to make your own Falling Leaves Lamp.

Making the Disks

  1. Melt 2 blocks of paraffin wax in the old insert a slow cooker (Note: the insert shouldn’t be used for food after completing this project). Plug in an old iron.
  2. Cover your work surface with a thick, felt cloth or doubled up cotton blanket. Anything thick enough to protect the surface from the heat of the iron.
  3. Spread one sheet of tissue paper on your work space, smoothing out any wrinkles. Dip a paintbrush into the melted wax and spread a thin layer over the tissue paper. There’s no need to cover every inch.
  4. Layer another sheet of tissue paper over the top of the first, and hover the hot iron about a half-inch over the top of the sheet. The heat of the iron will fuse the two sheets together.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 with a third layer of tissue paper. Carefully peel up the sheets of tissue to prevent them from sticking to the cloth. Allow to cool.
  6. Using a 3-inch and 1.5-inch paper punch, begin at one edge of the sheet and punch circles from the tissue, working your way across in a row. Repeat until the entire sheet has been punched.
  7. Repeat this process using different colors of tissue paper. For the sample lamp, I used a combination of purple, orange, red, and red patterned paper.

Threading the Disks

  1. Thread a darning needle with a 3-foot length of lace weight yarn in a neutral color. Insert the needle into the center of a circle and slide the circle down the thread, leaving a couple of inches at the end. Continue threading circles, until the strand of yarn is full (each strand will take 10-12 circles). Make 20-25 lengths.
  2. Set strands of threaded circles flat on a table and apply a dab of glue to the needle hole to prevent the circle from sliding down the string. Allow to dry.

Make the lampshade

  1. Turn the tomato cage upside down, setting the top ring of the cage on the ground. Leaving the supports between the rings AND the second ring on the cage intact, use a wire cutter to remove the remaining rings. Trim away any sharp pieces of wire. (Note: If you have an old style lampshade with a metal frame, feel free to remove the cloth lining and use that instead.)
  2. Use your hands to bend the three support wires in toward the center of the cage, then twist them together to secure them.
  3. Beginning at the bottom ring of the cage, tie a double knot with a length of decorative ribbon (I used 7 yards of 5/8-inch ribbed, 100 percent polyester ribbon). Wrap all of the wire supports with the ribbon, overlapping the edges of the ribbon just wrapped to make sure every bit of wire is covered. Note: there is no need to wrap the supports that form the top of the lamp frame.

Finishing the Light 

  1. Feed the bulb attachment (I used 1 cloth cord hanging light kit, IKEA Sekond) through the top of the metal framework, threading the cord up the center, between the twisted support wires.
  2. Wrap the support wires and cord with duct tape to secure, carefully covering the ends of the wires. Insert an appliance-size low wattage LED lightbulb into the lightbulb housing.
  3. One by one, tie the end of each strand of circles to any of the support braces on the top of the lampshade frame. Drape the strands over the top of the uppermost ring, allowing it to dangle down well past the bottom ring. Alternate colors as you attach the strands, arranging them however you like.
  4. Follow the cord kit directions to hang the lamp from the ceiling. Hang and enjoy a little bit of fall all year long.

The Falling Leaves Lamp is one of many fun projects that will appear in my forthcoming book on crafting with recycled materials for teens. Stay tuned for more details.