Not Martha

Christmas tree ornament mobile, how-to

Christmas Tree Ornament Mobile

Christmas Tree Ornament Mobile

Here is how I made my Christmas tree ornament mobile, it was easier than it looks, promise.

The Supplies

Christmas Tree Ornament Mobile

  • a 17″ steamer rack from a restaurant supply store
  • about 5 feet of lightweight jack chain
  • a small carabiner
  • 100 basic ornament hooks
  • one roll, 500 feet, monofilament jewelry string (not the stretchy sort)
  • 200 jewelry crimp beads or tubes
  • jewelry crimping tool
  • 100 lanyard hooks
  • 100 ornaments

Note: In the photo above I show earring wire instead of ornament hooks. I changed that later as I found ornament hooks made it far easier to move ornaments around after they’d been hung. Also, my supplies are based on a 4 foot tall mobile using almost 100 ornaments, you’ll need to adjust amounts if you make one larger or smaller.

Creating the Mobile Frame

Creating the frame for my ornament tree mobile turned out to be fairly simple. I used a lot of hooks to allow for easy adjustment and additions as the mobile was being assembled. I gathered materials from a restaurant supply store, a hardware store and the jewelry section of a craft store.

Christmas Tree Ornament Mobile

For the top of the mobile I needed something that would allow me to easily secure a lot of hanging points without them sliding around too much. The perfect thing turned out to be a 17-inch steamer rack bought for about $6 from a restaurant supply store (I found mine at Encore Restaurant Equipment in the SODO neighborhood of Seattle). The rack comes with folding feet attached that were easy to pop out with a little bending.

Christmas Tree Ornament Mobile

Turn the rack upside down and the spots where the legs were secured neatly become four hanging points.

Christmas Tree Ornament Mobile

I bought some inexpensive jack chain to use for hanging. You can open and close the links in the chain with needle nose pliers so there isn’t any need for heavy duty wire cutters. I separated four lengths of chain, attached them to the points using lanyard hooks found in the jewelry supply section of a craft store.

Christmas Tree Ornament Mobile

I joined the chains using another lanyard hook, and put that on a little carabiner which hung from the hook in the ceiling.

Christmas Tree Ornament Mobile

Notes: Why so many hooks and bits? Because it makes it is simple to adjust and shorten the chain and can later be disassembled and reassembled with very little effort and without needing tools. I kept the same thing in mind when creating the lines that the ornaments were suspended from. This added a bit of visual clutter but made the entire thing mobile easy to adjust and reuse in another year.

Suspending the Ornaments

Christmas Tree Ornament Mobile

I used jewelry monofilament secured with crimp tubes to hold the ornaments. I simply created loops at both ends. I made a bunch of different lengths (details on that below). I secured each line to points in the rack grid using lanyard hooks, and hung a basic wire ornament hook at the bottom ends. The lanyard hooks at the top are strong enough to hold heavier ornaments, and because they close they won’t fall off if the mobile is bumped. The basic ornament hooks allow one to easily move ornaments around from one spot to another. My tip to you: Keep the lines as separate as possible while you’re working with them. I spent more time untangling clear threads than doing anything else on this project. It was maddening. After I discovered just how maddening I started hanging them in groups by length from a curtain rod and weighing them down with an ornament to keep them separated, doing this made the hanging of the ornaments go quickly.

Notes: The use of ornament hooks allows for ornaments to easily be moved around. It does add visual clutter, though. If you want to create a mobile that would only be used once securing the monofilament line directly to the ornaments would look much tidier. I initially planned to use earring wire hooks that closed to hang the ornaments but quickly found that they were frustrating to fiddle with every time I wanted to move an ornament from one spot to another. They were prettier, though, and because those close as well would hold ornaments more securely if the mobile is moved around. (Which I don’t suggest as it tangles the lines horribly. So horribly.) Crimp tools come in three sizes Micro, Regular and Mighty (large). I used the regular size. I did try to use nylon sewing thread but found that the crimps didn’t secure it well enough. I did consider using nylon sewing thread with micro crimp beads and the micro crimping tool but think one would need a lot of patience and really great lighting to get all that done. The monofilament jewelry string is pretty stiff and easy to work with.

Determining Placement and Lengths

Christmas Tree Ornament Mobile

Figuring out where to put the hanging points on the rack involved a bit of math, most all of which I abandoned. I’ll do my best to describe what I did.

I decided to create rings on the rack, with the longer threads hanging on the outside rings to create the cone tree shape. Actually it creates tiers, think a tall skinny wedding cake. I figured that my ornaments were usually about 2 or 3 inches in diameter so I needed to space the rings a little more than 1 inch apart so that the ornaments would have room to hang without being crowded by the longer threads around them. I spaced the rings about 1.5 inches apart. This gave me a center point and 6 rings to work with, with the last ring being the outer edge of the rack, like so:

Christmas Tree Ornament Mobile

I determined I wanted my tree to be about four feet in total height from the top ornament to the bottom. I made the first ornament, the center point, hang 3.5 inches, and added length from there. For my needs, each set of string needed to be 1.75 inches longer than the last. Each ring on the hanging rack held for different lengths of string. I added 2 inches to the length of string I actually cut to allow for the loops.

To figure out how many ornaments per ring I, well, completely made it up. I decided the first ring should hold seven ornaments and went up by four from there. So the number of ornaments went: 1, 7, 11, 15, 19, 23, 27. I divided the four lengths of string between those, giving the longest length more ornaments to help the triangle effect. Whew. So I cut this many at these lengths for these rings:

  • For the Center Point: 5.5″
  • For Ring 1: one at 7.25″, one at 9.0″, two at 10.75″, three at 12.5″
  • For Ring 2: two at 14.25″, two at 16.0″, three at 17.75″, four at 19.5″
  • For Ring 3: three at 21.25″, three at 23.0″, four at 24.75″, five at 26.5″
  • For Ring 4: four at 28.25″, four at 30.0″, five at 31.75″, six at 33.5″
  • For Ring 5: five at 35.25″, five at 37.0″, six at 38.75″, seven at 40.5″
  • For Ring 6: six at 42.25″, six at 44.0″, seven at 45.75″, eight at 47.5″

Christmas Tree Ornament Mobile

In order to make the measuring a cutting go as quickly as possible I taped a cloth measuring tape to a tabletop and marked each length with the number I needed to cut with sticky notes. So all it took was to stretch some string out and clip at the needed point. Keep these in groups at this point forward, it will make it far easier later. I looped and crimped the ends, then hung them in groups on a curtain rod weighted down by an ornament.

Christmas Tree Ornament Mobile

To figure out where my rings would fall on the rack I tied a cotton string to my center point and marked it at 1.5 inch intervals. Then I swung the string around and put as many hooks as I needed on each given ring. I usually put them on the X and Y axis first, then filled in the quadrants. It went faster than it sounds, promise. I spaced the hooks, aka the hanging points, like so:

Christmas Tree Ornament Mobile

Looking up at the mobile from below you can sort of see the rings emerging:

Christmas Tree Ornament Mobile

And after this I attached a hook into my ceiling and hung the rack. I found the best way to hang everything is to work from the center out, hang each set of lengths of monofilament string spacing it around it’s designated ring as evenly as possible, then hang ornaments before moving on to the next set of lengths of string. By weighing the strings down as you go along it will help them from getting tangled as you work. You can add or move string, and move ornaments around if needed. I didn’t worry too much about getting everything just perfect and I think it worked to my advantage, the slightly controlled randomness gives it a nicely organic look. At least I hope so.

Christmas Tree Ornament Mobile

If I were to do it again I would make my tree taller and more dramatic. I think I would try to squeeze in one more ring and stagger the ornaments with even more lengths of string, maybe in increments by the inch. As it was I found that there are lots of spots where two of the same length are side by side. If I had more money to devote I would buy glass ornaments that don’t have a metal cap, just a glass loop at the top, and would skip the ornament hooks to make it look tidier.

Christmas Tree Ornament Mobile

I’m growing more and more fond of the mobile with clear glass ornaments.

update: Here is a photo of the mobile taken apart and ready for storage, the ornament hooks in a bag and each set of lengths of string committed to it’s own numbered envelope. The envelopes were orphans from previous years of Christmas cards that I had saved (reuse!). I left the hanging hooks on the rack so when I return to put it up again next year it will be very quick and easy.

· comments [295] · 12-21-2010 · categories:christmas · craft ·

295 responses so far ↓

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  • 7 Natalia Blanco // Apr 13, 2014 at 11:09 am

    Great tutorial. Christmas tree gorgeous. Thank you.

  • 8 Paisley & Perspecitive -- A Design & Lifestyle Blog // May 20, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    […] via Donna on […]

  • 9 Gita // May 21, 2014 at 7:38 am

    Megan, thank you for such detailed instructions and helpful photos. I’m so grateful for creative and generous people like yourself.

  • 10 Pam Thompson // Jun 29, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    I saw this done in silver, white with sea shells and star fish painted white or silver… It was breathtaking… Do you think spray painting the top hooks and the steamer rack the color of the ceiling would reduce the clutter…???

  • 11 Patti // Sep 9, 2014 at 9:57 am

    I do love that tree. I don’t think I could of figured out the math! You did such an excellent job! Kudos!!

  • 12 Pam // Sep 9, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Need to figure out how do make this in a 17 foot version for my two-story family room. Suggestions?

  • 13 megan // Sep 10, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    Pam – I admire your scale! My best advice is to find a place that sells store display fixtures and find a large gridded wire panel, or set of panels. It’ll be square but you can create the round shape by hanging ornaments from certain points. And good luck!

  • 14 Wendy Foot // Oct 12, 2014 at 3:27 am

    WOW!! This is BRILLIANT!! I’ve been wanting to find an alternative to a traditional tree (last year I didn’t bother at all but made other decs) but THIS I’m def gonna do this year!! Or should I say ‘attempt to make’! Lol! Thank you for this utterly brilliant idea! x

  • 15 RobyGiup // Nov 7, 2014 at 3:15 am

    This is amazing, really! I love this tree, thank you so much for sharing the tutorial!!!

  • 16 Nancy // Nov 19, 2014 at 2:20 am

    I think this is one of the most beautiful Christmas trees there is. I can’t wait to try it. I’m already looking for the clear ornaments but I do like the green one too! Thank you so much for the math, the figuring, and the tutorial. It is so very beautiful!

  • 17 Elena // Nov 19, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    Finally I found your article! Found the pics years ago, want to make one soon but with lights.
    you are really great!

  • 18 Fabienne // Dec 7, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Wooooow! I’m gonna make one next year (in hospital now)!! It’s gonna look stunning! Would it look great if you start at the top with for example light colored balls like white and each time you go tot the next level you use balls a little darker and so on? I think you’ll have the impression ‘the tree’ looks taller? white and then very light colored blue and so one to stop with dark blue??
    Just an ideal from Belgium ;-)

  • 19 Sheri // Dec 9, 2014 at 9:53 am

    Hi! I did a little post on beautiful holiday DIY decor, and included this amazing tutorial. Thank you for sharing with us! :D I hope you’ll come over check out the rest of my beautiful DIY picks.

  • 20 Michelle Bardales // Dec 10, 2014 at 8:44 am

    I did this Christmas ornament last year, it was a little dificult but the result is fantastic.
    It is very cheap and you don’t have to kill a tree.
    Thank you for the instructions you are wonderful.

  • 21 Jennie // Dec 16, 2014 at 7:42 am

    Thank you so much, I’ve just recreated my own version with your amazing talend and help & I love it! Merry Christmas xx

  • 22 Sue Pendleton // Dec 16, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    A group of us at the office made this tree. We just completed it today. It is very labor intensive, but the result is stunning. We chose a variety of all red bulbs. Instead of a steaming tray, we used a pizza rack that is made similar to the steamer rack. Thank you for posting the step-by-step instructions!

  • 23 zaiton ismail // Dec 17, 2014 at 6:50 am

    Hi! I don’t celebrate christmas but love the Christmas ornament and it took me 3 weeks to complete haha!
    The result was awsome. I hanged it in a school where I work. Thank You for the wonderful ideas.

  • 24 Eva Chung // Dec 17, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Hey Megan! I absolutely love the hanging ornaments as a Christmas tree! it’s look sos stunning! I wanted to let you know that I featured it here: :)

  • 25 Maureen Roach // Dec 21, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Thanks Megan! I just finished my version of your tree. It was the perfect solution after my toddler grandson forced me to dismantle our big tree.
    Your directions were so clear that after the first ring of ornaments, I found myself actually enjoying the process.
    My only change was the addition of a red star ornament as the first ornament at the top of the green tree.
    I am fortunate to have a basement that is strictly storage. No dismantling this tree for me! I plan to drape it with plastic from the dry cleaner and hang it intact.
    Thanks again Megan. With two small grandsons and one on the way, this will be my main tree for the next few Christmases.

  • 26 Martinou // Dec 23, 2014 at 3:11 am

    J’adore !!!! Très original, ton sapin en suspension
    avec le pied en cadeaux ! Thanks for the idea !

  • 27 Cinnamon and Silver Jewelry // Jan 22, 2015 at 6:52 am

    This project is beyond my patience ability, but WOW! You did a fantastic job!

  • 28 Donna Pheneger // Mar 24, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    I just saw this at All Free Christmas Crafts. Since I am a cross stitcher, I thought I would use bobbins normally used for floss for the mono filament string. All the info could be printed on each of the bobbin cards. I apologize if this is a repeat as I have not gone through all the comments.
    Blessings, Donna

  • 29 Nina // Nov 6, 2015 at 8:25 am

    Hi! I’ve been looking for different ideas for my new apt decor (well, my new bf’s apt lol) and I love this!!!
    now, I’m thinking about adding colour to it… like a real christmass tree, with some red and silver and gold ball ornaments… What do you think? Or should I stick with the monochromatic style..?
    I would really appreciate if anyone has an opinion about this since I’m not as crafty/visionary…!
    Neveer mind! I founf pictures of lovely trees with diferent colours and love them too. Now I just need to get all the mterials! Thank you Thank you

  • 30 megan // Nov 10, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    Nina – By all means, yes! I was making this with sets of ornaments that I got on sale but hanging any ornaments will have the same effect.

  • 31 Amanda // Nov 14, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    Loved this idea but I also wanted to do an upside down tree, so I did both!

  • 32 Jess // Nov 18, 2015 at 7:24 am


    I have been tasked with decorating my (architecture) office this year, I’m so excited to try this!
    I just wondered if you could tell me roughly what size baubles you used?
    I’m going to drill holes in a piece of MDF and replace one of our ceiling tiles with it so it should hopefully look seamless!

  • 33 megan // Nov 18, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    Jess – I used ornaments that were about 3 inches in diameter, so I set the hanging rings 1.5 inches apart to allow room for the ornaments to hang straight without bumping into the hanging strings. If you use larger ornaments just make sure that you space the hanging points a little farther apart than half the width of the ornaments. I hope it looks amazing, have fun putting it up!

  • 34 Anne // Nov 29, 2015 at 11:27 am

    Hi, thank your for this lovely tutorial. I made it yesterday (only until ring 4.3 (47 glass balls in silver and red) as I could not find any rack large enough so far). It turned out fantastic ! Thanks again!

  • 35 Lauren // Dec 7, 2015 at 1:32 am

    Day Megan, this looks awesome and is going to be our christmas tree this year as our 8 month old is constantly pulling himself up on things and i thought safest option with him on the move, only thing is i can’t seem to find a steamer rack, big enough here in australia and i was wondering if you think that cardboard would be sufficient and strong enough to hold the weight??

    Thank you!!

  • 36 Marquette Mower // Dec 7, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    This gorgeous project was the inspiration for our tree this year (using pinecones instead of ornaments)! I’m hoping in future years I can use all your suggested supplies and really make one that looks super nice! Thank you so much for sharing your genius with all of us!

  • 37 megan // Dec 7, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    Lauren – Yes, I think holes poked in cardboard would work out just fine, the ornaments are very lightweight. You might also consider white foam core board, if you have white ceilings it would look tidier without you needing to paint it.

  • 38 CD // Dec 8, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    This would be incredible with mirrored ornaments, the disco ball kind.

  • 39 megan // Dec 9, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    Marquette – Pinecones! That is a a brilliant idea.

  • 40 megan // Dec 9, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    CD – I was thinking about that earlier this week!

  • 41 Kelly // Dec 26, 2015 at 8:35 am

    Wow, this project was a nightmare. It looks so pretty in the pictures, but in reality it tangles soooooo easily. I made this to decorate my workplace, and it was hung quite high out of anyone’s reach, and still got tangled just hanging there. My original plan was to store it as pictured above and re-use it… but honestly, I’m just going to throw it out after the holiday season.

  • 42 Maureen Frank // Dec 26, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    I wound up making this on christmas eve…although I used supplies I happened to have on hand. For instance for the “grill” at the top, I used a metal vegetable steamer. It already had the holes in it!

    you can view it here:

  • 43 Lovis // Nov 15, 2016 at 3:27 am

    May I know y the ornomant for each ring go 1, 7, 11, 14 but not 1, 8, 12, 16…

  • 44 Ms Meehnia // Nov 15, 2016 at 11:38 pm

    This is amazing <3

  • 45 Brenda // Nov 25, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    Hi! Did you use glass or shatterproof ornaments and what size crimping tubes? I was thinking of getting 2mm but wasn’t sure if it would fit the string. Thanks!

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