Reader Spotlight - Handmade Hot Air Balloon for Saige!

Friday, February 22, 2013

While reading through the reader comments on the AG Doll Facebook page the other night I came across this amazing handmade version of Saige's Hot Air Balloon posted by one of our fans!  Isn't it unbelievably cool!  I was just in awe of it when I stumbled upon it.  Beverly Abney (with the help of her husband) came up with this idea and in our opinion executed it beautifully.  The use of the office trash can is just brilliant...I even think that I have at times seen wicker trash bins (perhaps in the bathroom section) that might look neat for this too!  We asked Beverly if she was willing to share some insight into how she put this together and she happily agreed to share some of the following with us...

Supplies: 17 inch party balloon, salsa container (or something similar in size, for the base of the balloon), small wastebasket, lengths of all thread for the "ropes" (found at hardware store, size 6-32, 3 lengths of 3 foot sections), washers and screws, zip ties, masking tape, newspaper, flour, water, salt, sandpaper and Modge Podge

  • I purchased a 17" balloon at a local party store. I blew it up to the size seen. I can get a measurement if you need it. You don't want to get it too taught, but it has to be firm enough to hold the paper mache.
  •  I drilled holes in the bottom of very sturdy plastic salsa container and hot glued nuts to the inside of the bottom so I would have something to screw the all-thread through when I went to attach it to the basket. I also cut the rim off the container.
  • Then I very carefully taped the container to the bottom of the balloon. I used masking tape to attach it with short vertical strips. I had to go slowly and carefully b/c it was hard to keep it centered. It is also important to get a smooth attachment, or it will rumple up the paper mache.
  • Then you just start putting on the mache. I used regular newspaper cut in 1-1.5 in wide strips and about 4 inches long.
  • I used 1 part flour to 2 parts water and a dash of salt and slid the strips through my fingers to get the excess liquid off before applying.
  • I let it dry thoroughly between coats of mache. I had to use a very large bowl to stabilize it. I had to do the bottom and let it dry and then go back and do the other half. You have to do it as quickly as possible or the balloon will go down and ruin it. In other words, you need to get at least the first two coats of mache on it within 36 hours before the balloon starts to lose air. I put it in front of a fan to dry it faster. After 2 coats I relaxed a little because I felt that if it popped, it would still hold up to the extra coats of mache. I ended up doing 5 coats, and it probably needed more. The top is very stable, but you can press the sides in if you try.
  • Then I let it sit in front of the fan for 2 days to make sure it was completely dry. If it is wet when you seal it, it will mold and rot from the inside.
  • Then I sanded it smooth and wiped it off with a microfiber cloth to remove any dust.
  • I sealed it with a clear acrylic sealer called Modge Podge. I put 3 coats on it.
  • Then I painted it with three coats of white acrylic paint until the newsprint was completely covered. Then you can paint it however you want and then seal the paint again with Modge Podge to protect it.
  • My daughter wanted the colors of the AG balloon, but wanted flowers, so that is what we did. I used a large rubber band to get the diagonal correct. Then I used stencils and Elmers Painters to do the flowers. You have to paint them white again before you can add the color.
  • I purchased the wastebasket at WalMart for $7 and the 3ft sections of all thread at the hardware store.
  •  So, after I was done with the balloon, I ran a nut and washer onto the end of the all-thread and then carefully screwed them into the nuts that were glued into the inside of the container until they were firmly attached. Then my husband helped me trim the free end of the all-thread and zip tie the all thread to the sides of the wastebasket.
  • Then I hot glued ribbon around the exposed all-thread to make it look nicer and keep it from snagging clothing.
  • Then I rigged 80lb test fishing line around it by tying it to the inside of the basket where the all-thread is attached and looped them together at the top, and attached this to more line that is tied off to a hook in the ceiling. This is for stability, it will keep it from being knocked over, and so we can "fly" the dolls up and down in the basket.
  • The all-thread was size 6-32. Not sure what that means, but it would still flex and yet not bend too much.
  • I would recommend that anyone who has not done paper mache to do a small test balloon so they can get a feel for how to do it neatly. You have to be patient, or it will get lumpy.

Links below for the products

Thank you so much for this run-down of how you created Saige's Hot Air Balloon Beverly! We think you did an amazing job and thank you for sharing your project with us at AG Doll Play!

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  1. I hope it can help someone else who "needs" a balloon for their dolls! I like that you can make it your own design; it becomes a blank canvas for the imagination! :) - Beverly

    1. This is just so cool, thanks again for sharing it with us!!

  2. AWESOME! I have been wondering how to go about meking a Hot Air Balloon. Will have to try this one out!

    1. Yay! Hopefully it will give you a jumping off point!! :)

  3. I am an art teacher, and have 2 hints for readers who would like to try this. The first, Elmer's makes a paper mache paste that you can purchase at craft stores. It comes as a powder and you just mix it with warm water. It is clear and doesn't mold. It hardens better then the flour/water mixture too. Also, I always use plain newsprint instead of newspaper because you do not need to paint as many coats of paint to cover over the print. This looks AMAZING! Thanks for sharing the idea!!

  4. Love this! Thanks for the Elmer's paper mâché product, I had no idea, no more flour & water again and the plain newsprint is a fabulous idea!

  5. I am in the process of making this balloon and I don't understand how the balloon stays up while the entire toy is being pulled upward by line that runs through a hook in the ceiling. Please help!

  6. I am in the process of making this balloon and I don't understand how the balloon stays up while the entire toy is being pulled upward by line that runs through a hook in the ceiling. Please help!


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