I love Mystery Science Theater 3000 and for the longest time I’ve been trying to come up with a craft project I could make that incorporated it. I’ve made geeky Doctor Who, Star Trek, Portal, My Neighbor Totoro, Cthulhu, and Star Wars knickknacks for my flat, from crochet cushions, to plushies, to papercraft ships, but I had nothing for MST3K. I thought about making Tom Servo and Crow plushies, but 1. I have enough stuffed toys already, and 2. it would be more time consuming than I have time to spend on crafts right now.
Finally, it occurred to me that I could just do something with the planet logo, which I love, and I could hang it somewhere, but while making the actual prop would be fun, it would also be ultimately useless in that it would serve no functional purpose (and I’m really already kinda drowning in decorative projects I’ve made). Still, the idea wouldn’t let me go, and for months I wondered how I could make it work, until I realized it could work as a paper lampshade. After a couple of weeks of planning how I’d go about making it, I finally settled on a cheap paper lampshade from Wilkinsons (a UK store, for anyone in the States and elsewhere), cheap white yarn for the contours of the surface, packing foam (I got mine from the back of a mirror I bought the previous week), white tissue paper, and a whole lotta glue.
The bulk of the project took me about 4 hours, so I worked on it on a Sunday afternoon. The whole thing took about 7, max 8, hours, over 5 days (though I think if I had planned it better, it could have easily been a weekend project). The thing that prevents you from working at it quicker is how long the glue takes to set, so it might actually work better in warmer climates than Liverpool. A hair drier might also work, or faster setting glue (I just used regular white glue; Elmers for everyone from home, and PVA for those in the UK).
OK, now for the ‘How to’ portion of this post. If you just want to see the completed product, scroll all the way to the bottom.
STEP ONE: Materials
- One white paper lampshade (size dependent on how big you want to make it; the template for the letter, which I’ve included ahead, can be resized easily)
- One spool of white yarn (you won’t need much, so if you have half a ball lying about, that will be more than enough)
- One sheet of white tissue paper
- One sheet of white packing foam (this was the most difficult thing to obtain, and I was lucky I had bought a mirror the previous week and could use the backing foam that came with it. I don’t know where you’d buy this otherwise, as none of the art shops around mine had anything similar. I didn’t want to use cushion foam because that’s too thick and opaque, and you need it to be as translucent as it can be for it to be functional as a lampshade)
- One 250oz bottle of white glue
- Small bowl with water, to dilute the glue.
- Logo template MST3K Logo Template (I made this myself because I couldn’t find anything remotely similar online. I drew it, scanned it, and traced it on the computer, so it’s a bit wonky, but it does the job)
- Scissors and an X-Acto knife (or any kind of fine cutting tool)
- Find somewhere you can hang your shade for easy access to all sides. I hung mine on a clothes drier, so basically, anything you have handy will do, as long as it will take the weight of the wet yarn.
- Be careful when assembling the shade so you don’t puncture it.
- Lay down lots of newspapers so you don’t make a mess, because trust me, a mess will be made.
- Mix glue and water in a small bowl (about 2 parts glue to one part water, otherwise it will be too watery and it won’t stick).
- Cut up some lengths of yarn, about 8 inches long each, and dunk them into the glue mixture.
- Carefully place each wet yarn on the shade, randomly layering them across the surface. Don’t worry about it looking too pretty; the effect you want is haphazard and sloppy, because that’s how the original was made – on the cheap and without much thought, and that’s how we like it. 🙂
- Once you have completely covered the top half as much as you can, you might want to drip some glue straight on to it carefully, to make sure it adheres to the shade. Don’t try to cover the whole thing now as the wet yarn will not stick to the shade until it’s completely dry. You’ll probably have to leave it for several hours (minimum 5, but overnight is best).
STEP THREE: Letters
- Use the templates provides to either trace the letters or cut them out directly out of the foam.
- Once you have all of the letters out, glue them on to the sheet of tissue paper. This will give them a uniform look, and prevent the foam from pealing or falling apart. It will also make them slightly sturdier, and more light reflective.
- When applying the glue, make sure you smooth it out to prevent bubbled from forming, unless you want to go for a messier look (which is also valid).
- Also, make sure to place them enough apart that you have enough tissue paper to work with for each letter.
- Once they are completely dry, cut them up into squares, and make necessary cuts wherever you need to make a fold.
- Carefully apply glue to the sides of the letter, then smooth it out with your fingers. (in hard to reach sections, you can use a Q-tip, or a small craft’s spatula, or anything else really.)
- You don’t always need to leave a very large portion of tissue paper; just leave enough that you can fold over the edges. (also, be careful with corners and indents; a small tool can help you here).
STEP FOUR: Putting everything together
- As I mentioned in the beginning, what will take the longest is applying the yarn to the lampshade and waiting for it to dry.
- Don’t rush it, no matter how tempted you are. If you start moving it before each section is dry, the yarn will fall down. It may fall down anyways, in portions that didn’t adhere well. Don’t panic; these stragglers can either be glued back on, or cut altogether if you decide they’re not needed. Just take it slow and you’ll have a better product than if you rush to finish it.
- Once you are happy with your planet, it’s time to glue the letters on. You may opt for more yarn than this on the lampshade, or you might want to also glue bits of extra foam and/or tissue paper to give it a scragglier look. I decided I liked mine like this.
- Place the ball on a firm surface, tilted so that you have it facing you. Have a screenshot of the real thing on your pc or as a printout for reference. I used this one: http://nukethefridge.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/MST3K4.jpg
- Glue the letter on from the middle outward.
- Depending on your surface area, you might not be able to glue on all of the letters in one go without risking them falling off.
- Don’t skimp on the glue here; you want these to stick on forever, not just till the not-too-distant future, next Sunday A.D.
- Place your completed planet lampshade somewhere where it can dry off completely.
- Hang your new geeky lampshade for all to enjoy, and sit back to watch a few cheesy movies!
Hope you enjoyed this craft project ‘How to’. Let me know in the comment section how you get on with your own projects! Please, don’t try to kill me with a bulldozer. 😉