September 1, 2013 Evie 80Comment

DIY Better-Than-Paint-Chip Mobile

Pinterest addict that I’ve become, I’ve been admiring the gorgeous DIY “paint chip mobiles” that pop up, so I decided I would give this project a try. It seemed pretty straightforward and didn’t require too many pricey materials—just my kind of thing right now. But it was darn near impossible to find a thorough tutorial for one of these mobiles, so I’ve given it my best here :)

Once I started to figure out what I’d need to replicate the most beautiful of the examples I’d seen, I knew paint chips were out of the question. You can do the math and see that you need hundreds of these little circles to make a nice, big mobile, and while it might be cool to save money on paper, I didn’t think I could count on my local hardware store to supply me with that many paint chips! Plus, I wanted my circles to be substantial—bigger than those I could cut out of most paint chips I’ve seen.

While perusing Michaels for supplies, I found their Recollections cardstock sets: 50 sheets of colored paper in expertly paired shades (I chose “Soda Pop”) for just $3.99. These are perfect for this project! Plus, the sets were buy one get one free that week. This way, I could cut circles till my heart’s content.

paper

Here’s what else I used:

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With my trusty circle punch in hand, I was able to cut 20 circles from each sheet, and I used four sheets of each color (so 80 circles of each color—that’s 400 circles!! Can you see why I didn’t want to cut them by hand?).

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Next, I speared each circle using my pin cushion and roughly eye-balling the center. It’s totally fine if you don’t actually poke a hole through the true center because that just makes the circle hang a little off-kilter, which is really the desired effect.

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With a piece of thread the full length of my arm (doubled back on itself), I began to thread the circles. I would use 3 of each color, adding colors in the order shown on the paper’s packaging, which I liked. For a few of the strands, I varied the length, adding or subtracting a circle, so the bottom of the mobile wouldn’t look boxy and uniform.

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Once I had threaded a circle, I would tilt it to hold it flush against the thread and use the outer edge of that circle as my guide for where to make the knot that would eventually hold the next circle. I wrapped the thread around my finger and looped the needle through 2 times, in order to make a slightly bulkier knot.

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No fancy manicure for this mama, but I knew you wouldn’t mind :)

At the end of each strand, I left myself a good 8″ of thread that I later used to tie the strands to the embroidery hoops.

The finished result looks like this. Pretty, right? I calculated that, once I had the process down, it took me about 6 minutes to make each strand. I ended up making 15 strands for the larger hoop and 10 strands for the smaller one.

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Once I finished making all the strands, I prepared the embroidery hoops. In case you’re not familiar with them, they’re sold as a set of two that fit one inside the other, and the outer hoop has hardware on it that’s useless for our purposes. I discarded each outer hoop and worked with the inner hoops that are hardware-free.

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I decided to wind yarn in a coordinating color around the hoops, first because I thought it would look cuter than just plain wood, and also because I could tuck the white thread of each strand into the yarn to keep it from sliding around.

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See how the thread kind of gets tucked inside the loops of yarn?

Trying to space the strands just close enough for all the circles to rotate freely on neighboring strands, I tied them onto the hoops using a square knot. I found this was easiest to do with the hoop resting on a table, since it’s impossible to hold up the hoop and tie your thread off at the same time.

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Once both hoops were full, I tucked one inside the other, on the table, and began securing them to each other using 4 pieces of coordinating yarn. I wanted the inner hoop to hang a few inches lower than the larger one, so I adjusted the length of the yarn accordingly.

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The last thing left to do was to create a way to hang the mobile. Once again, I used one super long piece of yarn that I attached to three spots on the larger hoop and a key ring above it. Here’s how:

      1. I tied one end of the yarn to the outer hoop and fed it up through the key ring (I left plenty of length between these two points because we have high ceilings in our house and I want the mobile to dangle down close to Baby J’s crib).
      2. Then, I brought the yarn back down to another spot on the hoop about 1/3 of the way (120 degrees) around the circle from the first point, tying it off there.
      3. Next, I fed the yarn back up to the key ring to go on to the third and final point on the circle, where I tied the yarn around the hoop again.
      4. The yarn went back up to the key ring once more and down to the original point where I secured it and cut off any remaining yarn. Using this system to secure the mobile to the key ring allows you to adjust its angle so you don’t have to stress about it being perfectly level (or is that just something that would bother me?!).
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The final result is gorgeous, if I do say so myself! This project was a lot more work than I anticipated (aren’t they all??), but I’m so pleased with the result that it was totally worth it!

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mobile 2

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What do you think? Would you give this project a try?

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80 thoughts on “DIY Better-Than-Paint-Chip Mobile

  1. Thanks for linking to my site! I LOVE your mobile…maybe even a bit more than mine (I love the fullness yours has). I’m with you on the paint chip thing, but I lived in a town that was almost two hours from a craft store, so I went with what I had. Cardstock would have been easier, though, because I had to double-side the paint chips which was tedious.

    Anyway, I love how your mobile turned out!

    1. Thanks, Ashley! Your fantastic mobile was definitely my inspiration!! I remember reading in your post that you didn’t have access to a craft store, so I can only IMAGINE the dedication it took to work with real paint chips, especially since they’re one-sided!

      I’ll definitely be visiting Naptime DIY for more ideas to steal borrow :)

      1. I love it. Wish I could buy it. It’s perfect colors for my nursery. I am not that talented so I could never make it myself. Great job.

    1. Thanks so much! I debated whether to go with that design in which the circles are sewn together. It might have been easier, but I didn’t think it would look as full as the style I ultimately went with. Glad you like it!

  2. I just finished making this last week for my baby’s room and it looks beautiful! Definitely buy the circle cutter when it’s on sale as well as the paper and make sure your thread isn’t too fine. Great instructions!

    1. I’m so glad you found the instructions to be helpful! And great tips! Can you imagine cutting all these circles by hand?? Holy cow!

  3. I just finished making this. Great instructions. I had a bit of trouble getting the inner circle level but eventually I got it! Time consuming, but worth it in the end. Beautiful :)

    1. Lara, I’ve had the same problem with getting that inner circle to stay level both times I’ve made one of these mobiles. I wish I’d thought of some kind of trick, but alas, not yet.

      I’m so glad you took the time to attempt one of these mobiles! What colors did you use? Thanks for leaving a comment!

    1. What a compliment, Sarah! I’ve actually thought about selling these mobiles, but they’re SOOO many hours of work, I’d have to charge something completely exorbitant ($300-400) to make it worth it.

      1. haha. I just went today to get everything from Michael’s to try it. If I quit halfway through or hate it, at least I only lose about $20 :) Though I’m trying to decide if I should to the circles or use an arrow punch instead. May I ask how you hung it? Did you just use a hook in the ceiling?

        1. Yes, I used a metal hook in the ceiling. I probably could’ve gone with something less strong, but considering that this mobile is hanging over my sleeping baby all night, I wanted to know it was secure.

  4. So glad I found your post. I’ve been looking for something to hang above the crib, but nothing was quite right. I saw a previous comment about not using thread that’s too fine. Good advice! Mine was too thin, so I ended up using a drop of super glue on each pin hole to keep the circles from slipping. Had to wait for it to dry overnight, so we’ll see how it works! I spent ALL DAY yesterday working on this (I’m a beginner crafter), so if it doesn’t work out, I’ll be heartbroken!

    1. I hope it works out, Ashley!! The finished product is beautiful! It does take a long time, but it was worth it. I’ve made two now, one for my daughter and one for my nephew, and a lot of love goes into these mobiles :)

  5. I’m in the process of making this! I used a flower punch instead of the circle! I used the same paper pack but in pink ombré! Thanks for such great directions! Oh and I am using an old lamp shade instead of the circles! :)

    1. Andrea, would you mind emailing a photo of your mobile to merelymothers[at]gmail[dot]com once it’s complete? I’d love to be able to add pictures of reader variations here! Good luck :)

  6. Thanks so much for this tutorial! I finally hung my finished mobile and I love how it turned out. It definitely was time consuming and frustrating at times (getting the inside ring level) and hanging it was quite the challenge but it was all worth it!
    Here’s a link to my mobile:

  7. Help me!!! I’m trying to make this mobile for my baby girl and I’m having so much trouble threading. How did you secure the bottom circle? I’ve been making a knot but I’m left with all this extra string hanging from the bottom. Also, I having so much trouble making the knots in general. I loop through twice like you said but I always end up with two separate knots instead of one big one. Any tips? I’m going to go get thicker thread because I think that’s part of the problem. Ughh I don’t think I was meant to be crafty.

    1. Kari, I am not at all crafty and couldn’t make the knots work either. I gave up and resorted to stringing all the circles, spacing them out, and putting a dot of super glue on the underside of each pinhole. I think it worked fine, although lots of the circles hang more vertically than I’d like. It’s pretty but not as “fluffy” as some of the others. Mine is the yellow and grey one pictured above.

      1. Thanks for your response! I actually ended up using fishing line instead, and it worked sooo perfectly. I’m all done stringing the circles. Tomorrow I’ll start putting them on the hoops. So excited!

  8. Wow! Your mobile looks really nice. I will do it soon for my little girl and send you a picture. Thank you for this great tutorial!

  9. hello,

    I am trying to make one of the DIY mobiles. Everything else was pretty easy, I used my cutter and cut the circles. I covered the rings with the yarn. I threaded my needle and started going through the circles. Here is where my problem started. The string would continually slip through the previous circle. PLEASE HELP!! WHAT AM I DOING WRONG? Everyone else stated how easy and simple it was :(

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Paola, it sounds like the problem is that the holes you poked in the circles to thread them are too big, so you either need to make bigger knots with your thread (double or triple knotting) or use a heavier thread (or make smaller holes in the circles, maybe with a very fine needle, if you haven’t already punched a whole bunch of them). Good luck!

  10. Hi Paola!

    I am currently making one of these and let me tell you it took me 2 frustraying days to figure out the solution to that problem! I loop 6 times with regular thread to make the knots. I wrap my finger as pictured but then go around that loop 6-7 times then pull toward the last circle I knotted amd this gives me the perfect distance between all of them. Took me a lot of trial and error…i got the hang of it now and am almost finished with that part…I’m waay faster at it now! Good luck!

    1. I placed my stacks of circles around the embroidery hoop so they were hanging about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch apart. That seemed to provide the right level of fullness for my taste. You can use the same measurement as a gauge. Good luck!

  11. Thanks for the awesome tutorial. I am making this as a baby gift for my friend. Just spent 2 hours cutting the circles. Hope I have enough. I realize I have one sided paper so I need to glue some of them together. Can t wait to finish.

    1. Hi Alice, you probably won’t need to glue circles together, if you stack them, backsides together, as you string them onto the thread, gravity will hold them in place. Good luck!

  12. I should have read your directions more closely :-\ First, I wrapped both loops, and then I decided to buy one of those free-cutting tools w/templates b/c I thought it’d be better to have more options. However, I’ve already broken both blades it came with and all I have is one misshapen circle. Definitely going back for a circle punch! As for the yarn…it may be staying unless I can bring myself to unwrap them. Making this for my niece for Christmas. She’s 11 months and obsessed with mobiles.

  13. I love this idea for a mobile. My only worry is that dust will collect on it quickly & then there would be no real way to wipe it down only being on paper. Has anyone noticed any issues with dust collecting on theirs, how do you plan to keep it clean etc.
    Thanks

    1. I’ve had mine hanging for months and months now without much trouble. I do occasionally take it down and shake it out a little, though. That seems to do the trick!

  14. Hi,
    Great tutorial!
    I found it worked well (and saved a step) to not put holes in the circles ahead of time. I just put the needle through the center when I was stringing the circles.

    Also I found that upholstery thread (made of nylon) was easier to work with than polyester or other thread.

  15. We have made a few of these. My husband had the idea, rather than tying the thread to the hoop, he double knotted the thread and then wrapped the thread around the hoop. He opened the end of the thread to form a loop and pulled the rest of the thread (with the circles on it) through the loop. It was easy to move the threads around the hoop to space them out evenly or swap them out if several of the same length were together.
    We stored the completed hoop in a new unused pizza box. He asked for some boxes at Little Caesars and they gave him several for free.

  16. I am using paint chips as that was what I had on hand before findjng this tutorial. I also used a 1.5″ scalloped circle cutter. I have approx 100 each of 4 different colors. Do you think that will be full enough since I have to have them back to back?.

    1. I assume that if you put them back-to-back you’ll actually have about 50 scalloped circles in each color, right? My chains had (approximately) three circles of each color, with 5 colors, so 15 circles long.

      If you do yours with four colors and put three of each color, your chains will be slightly shorter, but that’s okay! With 50 scalloped circles in each color, divided by 3 circles on each chain, you could make 16 chains.

      I ended up making 15 strands for the larger hoop and 10 strands for the smaller one, so if you want your mobile to look as full as the one I did, you’ll probably need more circles :(

  17. Hey Evanthia,

    I have all the bits and pieces ready to make my son a mobile but all I am yet to purchase is the circle punch.

    In your instructions it says you use a 2″ punch which links to the fiskars large punch on Amazon that says it fits inside a 1.5″ circle. Just checking if these are the same thing or whether I should be buying the extra large one which fits inside a 2″ circle.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

  18. Your spacing between each circle/knot on the strands looks perfect. Is it about 1 inch? I can’t quite tell. I don’t believe I missed it in the instructions or other comments.

    1. Hi Julia, what I did was use the previous circle I’d attached to the string as a guide for where to make the knot. I’d hold the circle down flat against the string, and where the edge of the circle hit the string, that’s where I made the next knot. Does that make sense?

  19. Looks amazing! Looking forward to starting mine :)

    I just wanted to ask, when you added or subtracted a circle, did you do it randomly on any colour at any time? Or did you follow a order? I love that it’s not boxy down the bottom as you said :)

  20. I ‘m in the process of making your beautiful mobile and am wondering if you ever tapered the last few circles toward the bottom of the mobile with a smaller circle like 1.5 inches vs 2.0 inches? It would probably work out to be one similar color for all of the strands.

    1. You could certainly give that a try, Carol! I haven’t ever done it myself, but it might have an interesting effect. The only consideration is that I used strands of varying lengths (some had more circles attached than others), so the bottom of the mobile was naturally uneven and slightly tapered/not as full. If I were to use smaller circles, I might want to keep the bottom a little fuller to compensate.

      I’d love to see a mobile completed like this! Please email to merelymothers [at] gmail [dot] com :)

  21. Thanks so much for your tutorial! I am in the middle of making one for my daughters room and I was wondering how you tuck the strands into the yarn without them falling out? I used hot glue for the outer hoop but it just looks messy. How do you make it secure?

    1. I hang each strand from the hoop with a simple box knot. Then, I try to tuck the thread that hangs over both sides of the hoop in between two strands of yarn, so it’s not super visible. That’s it!

  22. Okay I just tried to do the threading and every time I made a knot it was way too far away from the previous circle, I’m very frustrated. How on earth did u get your knots to be so close to the other circle? I tried your trick you mentioned in your tutorial but that was disastrous help!!!

    1. You can buy these embroidery hoops at Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, JoAnne Fabric or any other craft or fabric store.

  23. I’m Struggling to Find a string That will Work best for Holding thE circles on and tying knots With. I’ve tried FishinG Line and two diff Strings from michAels. Thanks

    1. I’m working on a mobile of my own right now, and I’m honestly using good old fashioned white thread. Nothing fancy. It’s easy to manipulate, readily available, and hardly visible at all.

  24. I am so excited to make this!!! i am cutting circles as we speak lol the only difference is im using a 1 and a 1/2 inch punch instead

  25. I just made two of these for my kids’ rooms! They look great. I used a 1.5 inch circle punch! I am going to start another one as a baby gift. They look stunning!

  26. Could you make a chandelier using the same method? Could a light bulb catch the paper on fire? I’m curious to hear if anyone tried this? I love how this looks! I’m new to crafting, but I think I’m going to try this. Thank you for the clear instructions and inspiringly beautiful pictures.

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