Butterfly Mobile Made from Aluminum Pop Cans

Super simple way to recycle those ubiquitous aluminum pop cans!  Turn them into a mobile of fluttering butterflies!

Making the mobile is fairly easy and quick, but figuring out how to get the butterflies to remain horizontal while suspended from the support string was a big pain.  The reason I wanted the butterflies to remain horizontal while suspended is that I wanted them to gently flutter or tip from side to side in the breeze.

I'm not putting you through the messy details of all my failures, but I am sharing the two most successful suspension methods that seem to accomplish what I wanted - fluttery butterflies!.

Since I plan to hang my butterfly mobile in the garden under my snowball tree and want it to be able to stand up to a little rain now and then, I chose to leave my butterflies completely unadorned.

Method #1

All you need to get started: aluminum tin cans, hammer, nail, fat oval beads about 1/2" long, nylon fishing line, scissors, tin snips and Aileen's Jewel-it Embellishing glue and hanger of your choice.

Note:  Top side of butterfly is the aluminum finish side.  The bottom is the printed side.

Cut the aluminum can apart, removing the top and bottom sections. For this project, I prefer not to flatten the aluminum but rather to retain the natural curve.

Step by step photos showing how I deconstruct an aluminum pop can are provided at the end of this post.

Caution:  Always wear protective gloves and protective eye wear when cutting apart a can.

Make a very simple butterfly pattern.  Use a Sharpie to trace your butterfly, or do as I do and simply hold the butterfly in place with one hand while cutting around the pattern with scissors. No real need for perfection here!

My butterfly measures 3 1/2" across the wing span when flattened and 2 1/2" from top to bottom. I am able to cut two butterflies from one can.

Begin to attach the bead by cutting a piece of fishing line between 18" and 36" long.  I  used embroidery floss in these shots as it is easier to see than the nylon line.

Be sure to vary the lengths of your line so your butterflies will be suspended at different heights.

Punch two holes through the butterfly as shown using the nail and hammer. Thread the fishing line through the bead so that the bead sits in the very center of the line.

Thread the ends of the line through the two holes as shown.

Pulling the bead snugly against the top side of the butterfly, tie a surgeons knot (see instructions at the end of this post) to hold it in place.

Now bring the ends of the fishing line back to the top side again through the holes.  Then pull each end of the fishing line through the bead.

Tie another surgeons knot tightly against the top of the bead.  Some beads can be a little slippery, but with care this can be done.

To hold the knot in place, place a drop of Aileen's Jewel-it right on top of the knot.

Place a dot of glue at each end of the bead where the fishing line is threaded through the holes.

I am using Aileen's Jewel-it because it is designed to withstand many trips through the washing machine so I am thinking it will stand up to a little rain.  The glue holds the knot at the top of the bead in place (which is important if the butterfly is to remain horizontal) and it also prevents the fishing line from being cut by the sharp edges of the little holes.

Let the glue dry.  Jewel-it turns clear once it dries so it barely shows - especially when dangling in the mobile!  I just love the natural little curve the shape of the can gives these butterfly wings.

Method #2  (no gluing!)

The only difference in this method and Method #1 is in the kind of bead used and the attachment procedure. I kind of messed this little guy up during cutting, but I am using him anyway!

You will need, in place of the fat oval bead mentioned in method #1, a small round bead (3/8" diameter)  and a button or washer about the same size.  We happen to have very few buttons in our household but a million washers! (I am blessed with a sweetheart  who owns bunches and bunches of those little "guy drawers" filled with all kinds of cool guy stuff!)

Begin by placing the two ends of your fishing line through the two holes punched in the butterfly as shown.  Pull the line snugly against the surface.

Turn the butterfly over.

Pull the line through the center of the washer. 

Bring each end of the line around an end of the washer and back through the holes to the front side pulling tightly to hold the washer snugly against the surface, adjusting your line so it looks like the photo.

Thread the line through the bead.

Tie a surgeons knot to hold the bead snugly against the wing surface. Some beads have larger holes than others.  You may need to add a seed bead to the top of the bead before tying the knot so the bead can't slip off.  You can see how that looks in the first photo under method #2.

Once all your butterflies are completed, select a hanger and attach with a secure knot. If you wish, add a drop of glue to help secure the knot and hold the support line in place so it doesn't slide around in the wind.

For reference, my mobile is about 20" long.  There are 17 little butterflies attached to the hanger.  We are not talking about what happened to little butterfly number 18 but it wasn't pretty!

For your hanger, you could use a metal or plastic ring, or a couple dowels tied together.  I happen to have a bunch of can rims cut from cans I have used to make the tin can frame.  As I cut them from the can, they formed into cool curved shapes.  I trimmed the ragged edges and used galvanized wire to tie two of them together to make a hanger. 

I cut a larger butterfly from another pop can, punched a couple holes in the center and ran the ends of the wire up through the butterfly and twisted the ends into a hanging loop.

Hint: do not hang your butterflies too close together! I learned the hard way that they like to twist up into each other's lines on windy days.

Leftover tops may not be useable, but check out this tutorial for using pop can bottoms to make a pretty Punched Tin Sun Moblie to celebrate Summer Solstice!

And if you would prefer to make "punched tin" butterflies for your mobile, here is a complete how-to tutorial.  For the garden, be sure to only use aluminum cans or aluminum pie tins so your butterflies won't rust!

If you love to garden and plant things - aluminum pop cans make cheerful plant markers! Here are some tips!

                   ************************

Deconstruction of an aluminum pop can!

 

 

if you don't like the can

if you don't like the can written side showing, when you work the cutouts, just put two pieces back to back (ad side to ad side, shiney sides out)and work per the rest of the instructions. You'll end up with double winged butterfys, all shiney. Cut one pattern piece just a little smaller, or offset one just a little and you will get a pretty shadow look. sharon

Interesting idea Sharon!

Interesting idea Sharon!  Certainly worth a try!!! Thank you for sharing.

I was looking at mobiles and

I was looking at mobiles and was wanting one with butterflies that could withstand the weather. LOVE THIS IDEA. I have been crushing and recycling my cans but will recycle the scraps from now on!

Love your idea. What about a

Love your idea. What about a bee or ladybug! The way the wind blows around here sometimes I would hang them one by one on trees. Don't drink outta cans any more but will find enough cans. Thanks

Wow, your butterfly mobile is

Wow, your butterfly mobile is gorgeous! Thank you so much for sharing such great, photo illustrated tutorial! I hope that it is okay, I just finished a soda can crafts round-up and just couldn't resist featuring your pretty butterfly mobile! Thank you again for sharing :0)

I love this, But...Every year

I love this, But...Every year I have to tie aluminum pie tins to my cherry tree to protect it from the birds. My grand-daughter and I are going to do this, and tie these babies to the tree EVERYWHERE! This will look great and recycle. I am not even counting the fun of doing it with my grand-daughter.

I love this craft idea. It's

I love this craft idea. It's beautiful, thank-you!

I can't wait to make it

I can't wait to make it

like it alot

like it alot

Love this. Want to make this

Love this. Want to make this with my boys this summer, but we adore the sound of windchimes. Any ideas on how to add noise? Bells below each butterfly perhaps?

Can't wait to make these

Can't wait to make these lovely creatures for the garden. With newley planted vegies I am hoping this will keep the local animal and birds away so I can enjoy the vegies. Thanks for the wonderful idea.

Wow I love this mobile! And i

Wow I love this mobile! And i love the idea of having it outside! I wonder if i could make one...?!!!!

I sent you an email of how I

I sent you an email of how I took this idea and played around with a bit.... I hope you like it or can turn it into something even nicer than I did.

Neat idea! I love everything

Neat idea! I love everything to do with recycling. I've linked this to my blog. Thanks for sharing :)

those are so nifty :) and I

those are so nifty :) and I love the modge-podge- glass lights jars as well *sigh for a pretty whimsy garden*

Pam - hope you don't mind my next bit of a shout out to a great charity :)

on a side note for those in the US - if you find yourself still swamped with aluminum cans (even after creating fabulous garden things) - there is a great fireman's charity called "Aluminum cans for burned children" (ACBC)- they collect and recycle the cans then use the money to help send burned children to summer camps and give them things they need as they recop. as well as doing burn prevention things. Just a thought for those buried under lots of cans - if your local station participates you just drop off your cans to them.

Thank you so much for the

Thank you so much for the shout out Heather. 

 

I did not know about this organization nor what they are trying to do for children who are suffering from burn injuries. 

Normally, I recycle my aluminum cans, but I have had many readers suggest it as a source material for my punched tin peojects so of course i had to try it out! And boy o boy am I glad I did!  Because now i know about ACBC and if i can find a local station that is participating, THAT is where my aluminum cans will be going in the future.

For anyone reading this comment - here is the direct link to the ACBC site,

The effect of these is so

The effect of these is so cool. Wouldn't it be great to have them all over!? Another wonderful idea, you crafty one!!

Hello! You are so lucky. In

Hello! You are so lucky. In Germany we pay a kind of recycling-money to bring our cans back to the shop to get the money back again. So I have to think of a diffrent way to get some thin tin... Thanks for sharing the great idea.
ines

My favorite tutorials are

My favorite tutorials are those from people who have tried things multiple ways. I love the ways you used to suspend these. I bet they're so pretty floating in the breeze. Thanks so much for sharing this, I'll be linking.

Great idea Pam !!! Were they

Great idea Pam !!! Were they really sharp? I guess that will not be a good craft for toddler to sloppy tween?
I wonder if you make them super small if they could work as wind chimes? Or maybe I can get something to paint over them (involve the little ones) before hanging them.

http://polwig.com

Love this! Seriously have

Love this! Seriously have been wanting to make something out of my pop cans. Plus, with my garden all freshly planted, I'd like to keep birds away. I think a swinging, dangly, shiny mobile might be perfect for all of this! Thanks for sharing!
Rebecca of the R&W Gals

I LOVE this and will

I LOVE this and will definitely try this. I linked you on my blog. Thanks!

I'm totally amazed at the

I'm totally amazed at the variety of things you come up with to use aluminium. I know you love making butterflies but you could also make hummingbirds. They like to hover and flutter as well. And while you're at it why not make some big petalled flowers (for ease of cutting the shapes) to put with the hummingbirds to hover from? Something like lilies or something similar. The hummingbirds could be attached by their beaks to the centre of the flower and when the breeze hits them, they would flutter up and down with their beaks as the axis point. It sounds like it would work, but I have never done this so I can't say for sure.

What a fantastic idea! It

What a fantastic idea! It looks so beautiful hanging in your garden. Thanks for sharing it with us :-)

What a great project. Your

What a great project. Your brain must be just floating over with great ideas! This is so neat.

Oh! That is fun!

Oh! That is fun!

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