Ever since seeing these sari bell chimes, I knew I had to re-create them with a colorful, whimsical, paper mache twist. Paper mache is one of my favorite mediums: fun for kids and adults, low cost, uses recycled and upcycled materials. These DIY paper mache bells are a great process project for kids from preschool to high school, depending on your level of patience and tolerance for messes. It’s also a very relaxing project for adults, a great way to slow down and lean into the tactile nature of paper mache.
You probably already have all the materials you need to make these paper mache bells, and if you don’t, the project is very flexible. No jingle bells? Leave them out. No tulle? Try strips of fabric, ribbon, or even crepe paper. This is a great project to use up odds and ends supplies and recyclables you might have in your crafting stash.
While the bells I made are Christmas and New Year’s themed, it’s easy to customize to another holiday or occasion by switching up the colors, patterns, and/or embellishments.
Keep reading to find out how to upcycle those Amazon boxes and make your own paper mache bells!
GATHER YOUR MATERIALS
Supplies needed for Paper Mache Bells:
- Masking Tape
- Thin Paperboard (i.e. from a cereal box)
- Scrap Paper (old book pages, newspaper)
- Jingle Bells
- Assorted Ribbon & Trims
See my Top 10 Go-To Tools in my Studio!
- Bowl for mixing paper mache paste
- Small pliers (optional, for cutting wire)
HOW TO MAKE DIY PAPER MACHE BELLS
Create the Bell Base
For each paper mache bell, cut a piece of cardboard into a long rectangular strip measuring about 4 inches high by 12 inches long. You can use bigger or smaller dimensions depending on the desired size of your finished bell.
Roll up the cardboard strip, then unroll. This makes it easier to shape into a bell.
Roll cardboard to form a tube which will make your rustic bell shape. I tried to mimic the flat oval shape of sari bells and cow bells. Overlap the excess cardboard an inch or two and trim as needed and secure with masking tape.
Next, make the top of the bell by tracing the bell shape onto cardboard.
Optional, if adding jingle bells: after cutting out the cardboard top, add wire to the inside of the bell. This is where you’ll eventually attach jingle bells.
Using a small tool or sharp end of a pair of scissors, poke a small hole in the center of the bell top. Cut a length of wire ~ 6 inches long. Form a loop, twist the ends of the wire together and poke through the hole in the bell top. Spread out the end of the wire and secure with masking tape.
Fit the top of the bell onto the base of the bell and use masking tape to attach to the bell base. The wire loop should be inside the bell.
Finally, make the top hanging loop for the bell by cutting a piece of paperboard about 1/2 inch wide by 2 inches long. Shape the paperboard strip into a loop and secure with masking tape. Using another piece of masking tape, attach the loop to the top of the bell.
Add Paper Mache
First, tear up paper into small strips. You can use newspaper/newsprint but I prefer to use pages from vintage books. Book pages come in many different weights, I find medium weight ones are the easiest to work with.
Mix up paper mache paste in a small bowl. Start with a 2:1 ratio of water to flour: 1 cup water, 1/2 cup flour. Whisk together and add more flour until paste is smooth and the consistency of thin pancake batter.
Next, dip a strip of paper into the paper mache paste and wipe off the excess. Apply the strip to the cardboard bell base, smoothing as best you can.
Repeat until the entire outside of the bell and paperboard loop are covered, as well as 1-2 inches of the inside of the bell (be careful not to cover or impede the wire loop). Overlap paper strips for better coverage. Tip: tear some paper strips into smaller pieces as needed.
Place the covered bells on a wire cooling rack to allow for better air circulation. You can let the pieces dry on their own for at least 24 hours or speed up the process by using your oven (my preferred method for sure!).
For oven-assisted drying, heat your oven to 180 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the wire rack with your bells on top. You can also place the bells directly on the parchment paper. Bake for about an hour then rotate/flip the bells and continue baking for about another hour. You may need more or less time depending on the number of paper mache layers and amount of paste so be sure to check frequently after the first hour.
The bells will be dry to the touch and very lightweight when done.
I like to sand down any big lumps of dried paper mache paste with a small piece of sandpaper. I used whatever grit I have on hand, typically 100 or 150.
Decorate & Display
Time to decorate! Paint your bells using your choice of acrylic paints. Depending on the look you’re going for, your bells may require multiple layers of paint.
Once the paint is dry, add glitter, plastic gems, and other embellishments as desired.
To ensure longevity, seal your bells with Mod Podge, satin, glossy, and hard coat all work well.
Add jingle bells: Cut one length of ribbon per jingle bell you want to add to each bell. Next, tie the jingle bell onto on end of the ribbon using 2-3 tight knots. Thread the other end of the ribbon through the wire loop on the inside of the paper mache bell and secure by tying 2-3 tight knots. Repeat for each jingle bell.
Add hanging cord: Cut a length of ribbon or yarn about 2x as long as you’d like your bells to hang. You can braid lengths of yarn together to create texture and interest.
Thread one end through the hanging loop on the top of the bell then tie the end together at the top forming a loop. To add more bells to create a grouping, tie additional bells on to the hanging cord with ribbon or other trim.
Final embellishments: Cut several lengths of trim; ribbon, tulle, yarn, and fabric strips all look great. Tie a length of trim to each bell’s hanging loop. You can also tie a group of the cut trims onto the hanging cord. Fluff up for a colorful and unique decoration!
These bells look great displayed all over the house! They are so lightweight and hang easily from a hook, a doorknob, or even a pushpin.
These bells would make a lovely gift or fun addition to your own decor, don’t you think? I love that they can be customized to fit any holiday or occasion.
Be sure to tag me on IG @33cliffstreetstudio if you make these paper mache bells!