I have been making balloon trees.
The idea started because of a leaflet tucked into our brochure from the Town Hall, for ‘The Balloon Lady’. I got excited, went on her site, and looked at various things. This inspired me:
It then transpired that the Town Hall won’t allow helium balloons, because if some prat releases them, they float up to the ceiling and set the fire alarms off. So my idea was caput. Balloon arches and such forth were too expensive, but it did occur to me to try making little decorated balloons on sticks to line the aisle of the ceremony room with, and later dot about the reception.
My first attempts at balloon trees were very basic. I first tried to secure the balloons to wooden sticks, but these expeditously popped the balloons, prompting me to go out and spend £7 on balloon sticks.
Iris was also very involved:
We didn’t know how big a pot we’d need, so tried a plastic cup and plant pot filled with the soil. Plastic cups weren’t too small to hold the trees down, we found, and there is obviously the usual problem with the plant pots – holes in the bottom.
Which brings me to the next dilemma: the soil. This was kinda heavy for transporting the balloon trees, kinda messy (they would have to be packed and carried upright), and seemed to need to be of a certain moisture level, which was a new kind of palava I wasn’t happy to deal with. So we tried to think of something new. After a bit of faffage with coloured sand (prohibitively expensive, and didn’t solve the moisture and weight problems) I was browsing Christmas decorations and realised that salt dough might be our way out.
It is lighter than soil, and solidifies such that, moulded into the cups, it will not drop bits everywhere, fall out if tilted, or mucky people’s fingers.
On the other hand, I hadn’t made any salt dough since I was in Woodcraft Folk.
So never mind: it could only go wrong.
We decided to use the plastic cups we had. I’d’ve bought some paper ones which might have looked nicer, but the Fiance was keen on these cheap semi-see-through plastic ones (why???), they were free, and we could always change our minds later and only have wasted a bit of time. He also suggested we could dye some of the salt dough blue so that, in lieu with the inspiration picture, we could have blue and white balloons in white and blue pots. It would be pretty.
I was a little dubious about the dying process, as blue food dye is not the most reliable of things, and as I expected, they actually came out a little green. But nevermind.
For this, I spent £1.58 on salt (two 750g packets of salt) and used flour and food colouring we already had (I did use up all the food colouring, but there was plenty of salt left over, so I’m sure it equilibrates somehow or other).
So I shoved 24 plastic cups full of salt dough into the airing cupboard (thus demoting the cat’s sleeping place to a lower shelf) and left them to dry. This took a few weeks. You can cook salt dough in an oven or microwave to set it quickly if you’re making Christmas decorations, but because we wanted them moulded into the shapes of these plastic cups, and I thought they would deform if taken out of the cups, and there was no way I was putting plastic in the microwave, we left them to dry in their own good time.
Looking at the finished the base, they still looked a little… naff. I wasn’t completely happy with the free plastic cups (can’t you get blue ones sometimes? Why didn’t we have those?), but they were full of salt dough now… so how could I improve them?
I decided to have a go covering them in paper to see if it looked any better. I painstakingly cut out a template by attaching, pencilling, clipping and reattaching until it was the optimum shape to wrap around the plastic cup (not easy when the base is narrower than the neck), stuck it together and decided it was good, I would do 24 of them.
12 of these little buggers were done in ordinary white paper, and the other twelve were done in blue, from spare backing paper my mum got from work. Such was the size of the template, I could get 3 per sheet of A4, though they didn’t exactly tesselate well.
To glue them to the pots I used ordinary PVA glue (spent £2.99 on a nice big pot, as we were using it for lots of things), which I applied with a paint brush to the upper and lower rims (the major and minor circumferences) of the plastic cups, with a “seam” down the side in one place where the edge would rest.
I allowed myself just the smallest amount of overlap (about half a centimetre), where I glued once again. If the fit at the top and bottom wasn’t perfect, I erred on the side of leaving a gap at the top. The chances of anybody noticing in any direction were slim, but with the cup rim at the top, upper perspective view into the cup and putting ribbon round the white ones, I felt pretty secure in concealing any mistakes.
Some of the edges needed holding in place whilst the glue set, so I found that even though I was using a paintbrush, I had to wash my hands a lot during the synthetic process, in order to avoid gunking up one balloon tree with the residue of its successor.
When finished, they looked pretty good. I covered teh white dough ones in white paper and blue dough ones in blue paper, just for symmetry. As mentioned, I also used a piece of our blue ribbon round the top edge of the white ones to add a touch of decoration. We didn’t have enough ivory ribbon to do this to the blue ones and my attempts with satin were not too successful, so I let it go. In any case, because the ribbon was edged and the cups narrow from top to bottom, trhe fit was less than perfect, so that those balloon trees sporting ribbons were left with a kind of wobbly “skirting”.
I had a think for a few other ideas, but in the end tissue paper, pom poms or finer ribbon were lacking in either effectiveness, resource, or both.
I think they’re good enough as it is like this.
So, the next step was to construct a new version of the balloon trees (since the pink soil ones). We haven’t bought our balloons yet, because we tried to ask the boy in Card Factory how long they would last before they perished, and he was too thick to understand what we meant, and seemed to believe we wanted to blow them up now and then use them for a wedding in June (no matter how many times we reiterated, he didn’t seem to get it, and we were never sure when he said yes or no, whether he was just trying to resolve the discussion)?! So we decided to wait until closer to the time to buy balloons @ £6 for all the ones we needed, just in case, had we spoken to somebody with a brain, they’d’ve advised us the balloons may not last.
In the meantime, we had no balloons for constructing our trees with… what were we to do?
The answer was – go to a balloon.
The chemistry ball was decorated with blue, white and black balloons (nice convenient colours), and at the end of the evening many of them were cut loose and thrown about the room, since they were filled with helium. Some of them stuck to the ceiling and others rose a bit and then sank down to land on people’s heads. We “borrowed” two and brought them home for balloon tree making.
So here is the apparatus:
The small plastic bit in the middle, the bit which joins the balloon and stick together, was decorated using balloon curling ribbon (£1.88), which I curled with a pair of scissor and attached with the aid of sellotape. I have masses of the stuff remaining.
All that needs to be done now is put these bits together (although obviously for thwe wedding this construction processes needs to take place on the morning of the wedding, but hey, this was a trial with free balloon).
And voila! For a total price of £19.46 (hm, sounds like a lot, but we do have leftover glue and balloon ribbon), we have 24 fab little balloon trees to decorate our wedding with, clean, not perished and of transportable size and weight. I’m sure the ushers will love putting these together…