I went off the deep end about a year ago after I accidentally came across instructions for Paula Nadelstern’s Opulent Ornaments and decided I needed to make one. Or a dozen. Get her directions here. (Embrace the bling; resistance is futile.)
I spent a long time collecting sequins, pins, beads, and other shiny objects and finally found courage to give it a try back in July when I was supposed to be catching up on crib quilts for new additions to the Simms extended family. (Knowing I should have been doing something else with a higher priority made this particular rabbit hole even more delicious.)
As you can see in the picture above, I’ve exceeded my quota, and that doesn’t count the two I have been working on. I don’t want to stop. I can’t stop. I have collected many pounds of bling and all sorts of wonderful containers to store it in.
Each Styrofoam ball is a new canvas and I can’t wait to “skin it” (cover it with Paula’s phenomenal fabric so that there are no pleats or wrinkles) and stick stuff all over it (self-explanatory). I mostly work on the balls in the evening. I can actually carry on a conversation as I poke pins, so technically it’s “together time” with Steve. I actually volunteered to take a bump on a recent trip back from Florida so I could “ball” in the airport. (OK, so I got a hefty voucher too, but those extra 6 hours went by SO fast!) I even embellished on the plane. Apparently when you’re waiving pins around and spraying sequins in all directions the people on either side of you are willing to relinquish the armrests. It’s all good.
So here’s what you need to get started.
You will need Paula Nadelstern’s fabric panels like the ones on page 4 of her instructions. They are available online. Search for “mandala Paula Nadelstern” or these collections: Kismet, Chromazone, and her newest line, Super Kaleiders, all by Benartex. I also have them on my Amazon list. Click HERE. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from your qualifying purchases. Helps pay for the blog.)
Paula’s instructions call for 6″ styrofoam balls. You can find them at JoAnn.com, Michaels.com, and Wal-Mart.com. Dollar stores have them too, and you’ll hit the mother load in Canada if you live near a Dollarama. They’re all $1.50. Selection isn’t always consistent, but they have pretty colored cup-shaped sequins too. I hesitate to tell you how many times we have driven 90 miles to the Dollarama for balls. OK, there is great Italian food nearby, so it’s not just for Styrofoam.
Note that Paula also encourages you to try other sizes. I find that smaller ones (4″ diameter) are a little more difficult to skin, but they go fast. The 5″ diameter balls look most opulent if you’re using them as Christmas tree ornaments plus they won’t bring down your Douglas Fir. (These ornaments can get heavy!) I’ve never tried any of the green florist Styrofoam balls, mostly out of fear. Anybody used them successfully? I tend to prefer the smooth skinned balls. Much harder to push a pin in, but you get a nice squeaky sound and it feels like the pins will stay put. The rough skinned balls shed a little, but pins go in easy. Larger balls are usually rough. I’ve made an 8″ and a 10″ ball. Use a thimble to save your fingers.
You can find sequins just about anywhere, but if you want to go overboard, visit CCarwright.com. Their website is easy to navigate and the eye candy is magnificent. Prices are very reasonable, especially if you look for closeouts.
My favorites are the hologram sequins and my absolute favorites are the 3mm Flat Hologram Mixed Colors. I use these to cover the raw edges of the fabric. (I tried to outline them in red in the picture to the left.)
Beads & Findings
Check out the beads and bracelets and other jewelry stuff at Michael’s. You can see a silver colored do-dad with a green pin in the center in the picture above (lower left). If you can string it for jewelry, you can stick a pin through it and poke it into a ball. If the hole is too big, put a sequin over it. Watch for the 50% and 70% off sales on the green label “gold” and “silver” beads. (Flat bottomed findings are better; they won’t rock with handling which might loosen the pin.)
Look for glass beads, size 6/0. The hole is large enough for the shaft of the pin to go through, but not the head.
Precision Point Pins (see picture below, silver box) are my go-to pins. They are excellent for beads and sequins. If I’m splurging, the Bohn “gold” pins (same picture, small white box with red band) are wonderful. They are made of brass. I’ve tried cheaper brass pins, but they bend too much and won’t go into the styrofoam ball! Stick with Bohn.
For decorative pins, the more the merrier. I like glass or plastic head pins, short pins, long pins, corsage pins…you see where this is going, right? I’ve turned into a pinhead. The more variety in color, style, and most importantly, size, the better. As Paula says, “more is more.” (Pick them up with plastic tweezers and poke them in with a thimble.) them.)
Pins on my list below, other than the Precision Point Pins and the Bohn brass pins, probably aren’t suitable for sewing. Most have the plastic color extending down the shaft of the pin, and all of them look like they have rolled around on the floor at some point during production, BUT they work GREAT in the balls. Don’t put them in your mouth.
I’ve put together a list on Amazon with all my recommendations. Click HERE.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
You will not be charged extra.
I love plastic storage boxes. Just looking at my stash of bling makes me happy. The black tray in the foreground is a jewelry tray (Michael’s). I ripped out the black ring holder thing and covered a piece of Styrofoam packing material with muslin. Makes a nice flat pincushion. The rigid tray goes on my lap and keeps my balls from rolling away. A magnetic pin caddy holds steel pins. (The brass ones fall off, duh!) I use tweezers for grabbing pins out of containers. I’m switching to plastic tweezers; see the list above. Darice makes the round little screw-top containers in a short and tall version. (Do NOT just use one container with a lot of little compartments. One hiccup and they change compartments.) I use the screw-top containers for sequins. The purple and blue tabbed plastic container is for vitamins. Try nail polish remover or the solvent Steve has in the garage (?!) to get rid of the days of the week, AM, and PM labels.
Now is the perfect time to jump down the rabbit hole with me. Just dive in. It’s so much fun!
Thanks, Paula, for this amazingly fun project and your wonderful fabric!
My list on Amazon is really handy. Click HERE.