Whether it’s a family member, a friend or even your lucky self, expecting a new arrival is such an exciting time!
One of the most enjoyable things for many is taking the time to decorate the nursery, and having a handmade nursery piece is such as popular choice. I’ve noticed that many people shy away from nursery DIY because they don’t consider themselves ‘crafty’ or ‘creative’, which is such a shame. I wanted to share with you my tutorial for a DIY nursery mobile in the hopes that with all the design and materials planned out for you, it might encourage a few more people to have a go at making their own nursery piece. These mobiles also make the most thoughtful gifts for a baby shower and are a guaranteed way to give something unique to the lucky mum-to-be.
I would say that none of the techniques described in this tutorial are particularly hard, but you will need to have patience because they can be fiddly, repetitive and it’s a fairly slow process. Have a read through the entire tutorial before you get started and make sure to read my hints and tips at the end to make sure things run as smoothly as possible!
If you plan to shop locally, it’s pretty easy to pick up some soft goose feathers and wooden beads from your local craft supplies store. Me? Well, I’d be a little crazy not to feature my own gorgeous range of handpainted feathers and handmade polymer clay beads for this project. I’m using feather packs of ‘Rose Gold and Blush’ and my ‘Boho Neutrals Leaves’ with matching pink and wood-look handmade polymer clay beads. I’ve also added in a handful of soft, plain dyed goose feathers in matching nude tones to show you how you can mix and match. If you’re shopping online for some of your mobile supplies, feel free to browse the ever-changing range of cruelty-free, handpainted feathers and handmade polymer clay beads available in my online boutique.
For your supplies, you’ll need:
- 24 feathers
- Beads – I used 2 per feather, and some on top (78 total) which is an extra pack of small wood-look beads to those pictured here. If you don’t want to add beads to the top, you can easily get away with 24 small and 24 medium. I also used a large one to finish off the top, but there are multiple ways you can do this, so to avoid confusion I haven’t included it in the picture
- Metal craft ring – the one pictured is approximately 30cm diameter
- Your choice of material to wrap the metal ring – it can be lace, wool, fabric strips, leather string etc. I’m using a soft, flatwoven bamboo cord. The thinner this is, the more you’ll need. That bit is obvious, but keep in mind the cost if you’ve chosen a leather string or similar!
- A role of white string – I used hemp twine. Definitely a good idea to buy a whole roll because you need LOTS and it’s hard to advise on lengths because you will adjust them later.
- Craft glue
- Sharp scissors – not sure what excuse to use here but I simply forgot to include them in the picture
- A measuring tape
OK, time to get started!
First, wrap the craft ring with your chosen material. The wider your material, the quicker this step is done. This is where I completely regretted my choice of 4mm wide bamboo cord which gets thinner when you pull it tight! Start off with a dab of craft glue to hold the end in place and continue wrapping as tightly as you can until you get back to the starting point. Double up about 1cm over the starting point and glue the end down securely with another dab of craft glue.
Next, cut 24 pieces of twine. Mine were mostly around 100-110cm and I adjusted some of the lengths later on to give the mobile some variation between strands. They may seem long to start with but you will need quite a lot of length for the top part of the mobile
Turn your feathers over and put a thin layer of craft glue onto the stem. Stop your glue line about 1cm from the end, as you won’t wrap this section. Next, place a piece of twine on top of the stem, with about 5cm running over the end (as pictured above). While this is drying, you can prepare a few more.
When the string is attached to the stem, you need to wind it over the stem and continue wrapping until you are about 1cm from the end. This is where your 5cm extra length is used to tie both ends together and stop it from unravelling. Give it a tight double knot and then you can feed on 1 medium bead over both ends, pushing the unwrapped section of the stem inside the bead.
If adding a small bead on top, cut the shorter end and feed on your bead over the two ends to cover any raw ends. Now you should have a single strand with 2 beads and a securely wrapped feather. The next job is to repeat all of the above to make 24 of these strands….good luck!
Ok, so if you’ve made it through that process, it’s time to attach them to the wrapped ring you made earlier. Tie on all 24 strings with just a single knot to start with, working your way around and making sure to mix up the colours and different sized feathers all the way around. You need an excess string length of 50cm to finish the top of the mobile, so use your measuring tape for this as you tie each one on. Once again, it’s a pretty slow process and you need a lot of space to spread out the strings, which is why I didn’t take a photo of the tangled looking mess I had on my studio floor while I sat down to do this step!
Once they’re all on, your mobile will start to take shape. You can hold it up and adjust the strings so they are all about the same distance apart around the ring, and so there’s varying lengths of each string. Larger feathers drop lower than smaller ones on the same length of string, so have a play around with what looks good to you and make sure you don’t have any that are hanging way longer than the surrounding ones. When you’re happy with it, go back and double knot each one tightly into position.
When you have all the spacing sorted, you can gather all your top pieces and add an extra bead to each one if you like. Pull them all up together to the centre and make sure each one is tight. The beads add a bit of weight to each string, so if one is loose it will look saggy compared to all the others. If not gathered into the centre, your mobile will hang lopsided, so take the time to balance it perfectly. It’s a bit of trial and error really. I like to cut all the string ends to the same length, add some craft glue and pinch them to a point so I can thread on a large bead.
Alternatively, you can use a hairband like in the picture above. The bead or hairband keeps the strands together while you tighten them, and you can use it as a guide for the centre of the mobile. When you have it right, snip off the glued ends and tie them all into one knot about 2cm above the bead. Then slide the bead up to under the knot to form that pointed canopy shape. If you’ve used a hairband, just unloop it to remove it after you’ve tied the knot.
To make it hangable, you can plait the remaining ‘ponytail’ of threads and loop them back down. I used some of my flatwoven bamboo cord to tie the loop together firmly and then trimmed the ends very neatly. There’s no pictures of this because it’s a two-handed job, but if you find the instructions confusing you can just tie another knot in the ends about 3cm from the first one and trim the ends. The space between the two knots will be plenty to hang your mobile on a ceiling hook.
Of course, no mobile ever leaves the Nestworthy studio without some of my frayed fabric bows, so I added some along the lengths of my feather strands and a larger one on top to slightly conceal the trimmed ends of my hanging loop. This step is completely optional – your mobile will already look amazing without them.
If you’ve made it to the end of this tutorial, you deserve a big pat on the back and a high five! A LOT of hard work and time goes into handmade items but the finished product is something you can be so proud of. I’d love to see your own finished mobiles and I encourage you to email me with any questions you might have along the way!
Time for some helpful hints and tips that might save your sanity:
- If you’re using fluffy goose feathers, it’s a good idea to remove most of the ‘fluff’ by pinching tightly and pulling it down the stem to strip it back. If you don’t remove most of it, you can run into trouble with the glue and cord winding later on! Once stripped, cut the bare stem back to about 2.5cm in length.
- Make sure your bead choice has a large enough hole to fit the wrapped ends of your feathers. Polymer clay beads are a really good choice because you can hollow them out further with a sharp pair of scissors if the hole is just a little too small for any of your bigger feathers.
- When tying your wrapped feathers, it’s a real time-saver if you have someone to help you hold them so they don’t unravel. If you’re on your own, pop your bottle of craft glue on top of the feather to hold it flat while you use both hands for tying.
About the Author
Melanie Newton is a wife, a mother of 3 precious children, has been on extended maternity leave from her job as a biomedical scientist for the last 6 years, and is the owner and maker of all things Nestworthy. Not being a fan of buying anything mass-produced that goes out of fashion quickly or breaks easily, she creates products that stand the test of time – both style-wise and quality-wise.
Melanie’s work is truly individual – you won’t find anything like it in the shops. She purposely steers her product ideas and colour schemes away from what’s trending, and focuses on making something of the highest quality that can be kept forever.
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April Mason says
where did you get the beautiful beads?
I know that Melanie has a whole range of gorgeous beads on her website: https://www.nestworthy.com.au/collections/handmade-bead-packs. Otherwise, feel free to get in touch with her via her ‘Contact us’ page.
Hope this helps!