Looking for how to make nautical glass balls? Well, with the right materials and some thrift store finds it is easy. Let me show you how I made my colored glass nautical balls.
Today I want to show you how I created some beautiful nautical decor for my summer decorating. I figured out how I could make homemade glass fishing floats. It is a fun DIY project and the most important materials came from the thrift store so it is a cheap and affordable craft project too.
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What are glass fishing floats
These Japanese glass floats are also called glass buoys. When they used to string fishnets together by hand, they tied these glass balls, which were filled with air, to the edges of the net to keep the net afloat. Beachcombers can still find them washed ashore from time to time.
To be honest I had no idea those things were called buoys before I looked it up. In fact, I don’t even know how to pronounce buoys. I hear it in my head but I am most likely getting it all wrong. To me, they are just large fishing floats or glass balls in macrame nets. Anyway, I made them and I couldn’t be happier about it.
These Japanese fishing floats have become quite the collector’s item. You can still buy real vintage floats but I can imagine they are getting rare. There is no way one of these will wash ashore here on the North Sea, so I opted for the next best thing and make one myself.
How to make glass fishing floats: Dyeing the Glass Balls
To create sea glass fishing floats one needs glass balls that can be dyed and tied into fishnets. Glass vases, lamp globes, or round fish tanks are alternative items that can be repurposed into DIY glass fishing floats. Craft materials involved are glass paint and rustic twine. There are only a few steps involved in making diy glass floats.
The idea for this summer craft project came from a trip to NYC. As a good blogger, I visited a couple of stores I only know from blog reading. Pottery Barn is one of them. There I set my eyes on these:
Mercury Glass buoys from Pottery Barn. They were beautiful and gorgeous and I loved them. I left them there because a) they would not fit into my suitcase and b) they were crazy expensive. So instead I took pictures and made a mental note “make large shipping floats”.
That mental note was still bouncing around in my head when I made a recent trip to the thrift store.
I found a small glass bowl of unknown purpose (a candle holder perhaps) and a large outside lamp with the perfect glass globe. I got them for a couple of bucks combined. I knew they would be perfect for my floating fishing balls craft project.
The next step was painting them to look like vintage glass. I used the Modpodge trick I learned when dyeing small pots on the smaller of the two.
Related Reading: How to Dye and Paint Glass Jars
But I didn’t have time for that. I needed to move on. I painted the small vase from within. I also painted an old lamp sphere I found in our basement. I am not sure if these were a worldwide phenomenon, but I don’t think there was a home in the fifties/sixties in the Netherlands that didn’t have at least one of them hanging on a ceiling. I know we still had at least three of them in my childhood home. This one was in our house when we moved in. There really was not much point in taking it to the thrift store since they have at least ten of them at any given day. So I kept it for the day when a crafting inspiration would hit. Well, that day came. I obviously painted this one from the outside. Just the Modpodge and food coloring combo brushed on with a foam brush.
The large globe from the lamp I painted with glass paint from the inside. It became all streaky and spotty as it was so hard to move my hand inside without messing the paint up all the time. Didn’t take a mid-step photo of that, but you’ll see what I mean. In hindsight, it might have been better to use sea glass spray paint for the large globe. I would do that next time, it would creating sea glass balls so much easier.
More Summer Craft Projects you will like
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Homemade Glass Fishing Floats: How to Tie a Glass Float Net
Tying a glass float net is a simple craft that is easy to learn. It involves only two basic knots, a larks head knot, and a reef knot. Twine is the perfect material to create the look of a nautical glass ball. The only challenge is to make sure the fishnet follows the round shape of the ball and is stretched out evenly around the globe. Let me show you how I did it.
Then it was time to start thinking about the fishnets. My recent fishing net project on my white vase gave me some confidence and guidance but applying it to round globes was a different matter. But I made it work. I used jute twine for this project because it has exactly the right kind of rustic, nautical vibe.
How to make a fishing net around a nautical glass ball.
You start with a circle of twine around the top or base of your sphere.
Tie at least 6 double strands of twine to this circle. You can use a Larks Head Knot (also known as cow hitch) to start, pull your strands through the loop.
The next step is to tie two strands of a different pair together in a simple knot (a reef knot). Go around your glass ball tying strands in knots keeping them at the same height.
For the next round do the same with new combinations of two strands. It sounds complicated but this is so easy. Just look at the picture above or below and you get the idea.
Make sure your fishing net follows the curve of the glass. It can be handy to have an extra set of hands to stretch and hold the twine as you continue to make the knots.
Keep a good tension on the twine and make sure that the distances between the knots remain the same.
If you don’t have a crafting assistant at hand you can use a tie-wrap to pull all the strands tight at the end. Pull the two active stands out while you work with them and then stretch them back within the bunch. This trick will help to keep the net taut around the round surface of your glass ball.
Keep on splitting and tying two strands together into the fishing net. When you reach the top (or bottom when working on something like a vase) you need another circle of twine to tie the fishing net on and end it all up. The little rim on my lamp globe really helped in keeping that circle in place but it made it difficult to attach the strands if I tied it first. (The circle would be too tight to work with).
I hope this image is clear enough. You can see the circle of twine underneath the rim, I have it tied in the front here and you can see very loose knots all around it. The trick was to not close my circle yet but to first make very loose knots in the strands, string the small bit of twine through the holes, then tie the circle of twine really tight under the rim. I then had room in my knots to get them really tight and in place. This last phase is really what makes the fishnet look good, it needs to be stretched and have a lot of tension.
Related Reading: 53 (super cute and easy) DIY Ideas for Bohemian Decor
How to display Decorative Glass Balls
With all my homemade Japanese glass fishing floats ready it was time for the next step. Making a pretty coastal decor with my glass fishing floats on my garden table.
Creating a lovely coastal decoration with your fishing floats is really easy. Just grab a nice tray or basket and put the homemade fishing floats inside. You can add shells, starfish, and flowers. I used mini succulents, and voila – my display was done!
Decorative balls or spheres are wonderful decorating accessories. They are so easy to use and they always add a lot of fun to a decorating vignette. That’s why I love making them and using them in my decor. Like thrifted disco balls on a spring mantel that look so pretty. Speaking of spring decorating these DIY decorative moss balls on my garden table can be used inside and outside. I made faux fabric snowballs to use in my winter decor.
I showed another variation of this super easy coastal style centerpiece decor featuring one of my glass floats on Instagram (and don’t forget to follow me when you are there).
Other decorating ideas for coastal decor with your fishing floats:
- Tie a bunch of them together and hang them
- Put little battery operated lights inside and use them in your garden for evening lights.
- Make mini versions and turn them into Christmas ornaments
- Add them to a crate with bottles, flowers and fairy lights for a rustic coastal decoration
- Hang one from a hook for a light touch of nautical decor in a bedroom
Where to buy glass fishing floats
If you are not into making yourself some homemade glass floats. You can of course buy them.
Etsy is a great place to find vintage fishing floats, and brand new fishing floats can sometimes be found at Wallmart, OneKingsLane, and Wayfair.
Here are my favorites fishing floats you can buy online:
If you like my decorating style, you will find some great inspiration on my FAVORITE HOME DECOR page.
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Marianne Songbird is the founder of Songbird, where she hopes to inspire everyone to create a home they love, one DIY project at a time. She shares anything from craft ideas to home decor inspiration and from DIY projects to decorating hacks. Originally from the Netherlands Marianne and her husband Lex are currently renovating a 250-year-old farmhouse in Germany.