Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Turn Dead Christmas Lights into Napkin Rings!

Yesterday I finally replaced the broken lights with working ones for my mini Christmas, which I then set up in my studio. If you decorate for Christmas, like me, chances are you've tossed out plenty of dead light strings over the years. After all, they are so cheap now, it's just not worth the time to inspect every bulb to find the one that needs replacing. So, last night I thought I'd come up with a project to recycle these lights into some festive holiday table decor.

I remembered back in grade school, we used to make napkin rings for Christmas out of toilet paper tubes and yarn. We'd cut about a 1" ring off the tube, wrap yarn around the whole thing, and then staple a little piece of garland on for some decoration. (I hope to offer some junk mail napkin rings on Junk Mail Gems in the near future too!) This childhood project spurred another idea for me to make napkin rings out of lights. To keep in the Christmas theme, I used a cardboard wrapping paper tube instead of a toilet paper tube, but either will work. Here are the raw materials...things you find most people toss out during the holidays:

The first thing you have to do is separate the light string. These mini lights are made up of two wires, twisted together. You'll have to take a scissors or wire cutter and cut off the plug, then cut the other end open. Un-twisting them takes some time to do, but I found it easier if I wrapped what I separated as I went. I wrapped around more pieces of wrapping paper tube, which also gave me something to hold on to while I un-twirled the wires. I basically sat on the couch with my foot on the cord, spinning these two tubes around each other and rolling as they separated:

Once they are separated, use a pair of scissors to cut some 1" thick rings off of the wrapping paper tube, and start wrapping with lights! This takes a little time as well, as the lights tend to catch as they pass through the tube. But, it's a great project to do while watching TV, or to keep your kids occupied! Make sure the wires are closely pushed together as you go. I found it helped to crease them around each bend with my fingers as well. Once you get to the end, simply tie the end to a piece of the beginning, hiding the knot inside if you can.

This I believe was a 50-light string, so not a big one. In the end I got two napkin rings out of it:

Insert napkin and place on the plate... Voila! A beautiful, festive table setting for your Christmas dinner! These lights are clear, but it would be very cool with colored lights. I even thought of painting each bulb to add some color, but I think they still turned out pretty cool!

Now go out there and get yourself some LED lights to replace the dead ones, and you're set!


Amy @ Experience Imagination said...

The napkin rings are a really cute idea. I would be careful using them on surfaces where food will go, though; the PVC insulation used around the wires can carry toxic levels of lead.

Gretchen Fleener said...

Thanks for the comment...something I was not aware of!

Shannon said...

Maybe you could spray them with some kind of clear spray (like Krylon stuff) - which probably isn't supposed to be in contact with food but I would guess is better than lead covered wire that has warning stickers to wash your hands after handling.

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