Fairy Lights For Beginners!
I believe in Fairy Lights!
By Fairy Lights I mean small coloured electric light bulbs strung together & used for decoration. This page is devoted to outdoor Fairy light use.
For more on Christmas Tree lights, gohere.
For things on Fairy lights for the Window, gohere.
What to buy? There are some basic essentials you need to begin with.
Spare light globes, fairy lights, light winders, double adapters,
batteries, plastic hooks, timers.
Plugs. A double adapter plug is a good beginning, but you may like to think ahead a little, and go strait to a six or eight plug extension power point that is surge protected. This will save you having to buy one later, as the light lines build up (and they do!) Be aware that the 'control' boxes some lights come with take up a lot of room on a plug extension, making it impossible to use the plug next to it. Sometimes plugging in a double adapter will cure this. Don't use more than one double adapter per extension plug, it is dangerous.
Cords. A good outdoors extension cord is a necessity. Buy a strongly colored one, so that it isn't accidentally run over by the mower. Make sure it is for out door use, and has no splits in the cord. Check round the plug, if wires are showing, get it fixed. For emergency use have some electricians tape on hand. Wrap over the split, 'and along either side' for several centimetres. Wrap tightly. Still get the cord fixed, or buy a new one, as soon as you can.
Height. A ladder capable of reaching your roof may be needed. I myself am using a little stepping thing on the back of a ute pulled in close to the eves. This is dangerous. Only an obsession with fairy lights could get me balanced way up there on the wobbling step thing, two strands of lights in one hand and six hooks in the other as I struggle to put all of them together in some sort of harmonious accord. Let me repeat, get a ladder.
Hooks. You can buy plastic hooks that hang on the edge of your guttering, from which you can then drape strings of lights. You can get stick on plastic hooks for keeping extension cords tidily against the wall or to hook on patterns over large flat areas, like fences.
Carryalls. Some kind of storage system for all the little bits and pieces you need will be a help. Things like string, plastic ties, scissors, tacks, hooks, winders, spare lights and batteries. A fishing tackle box, craft box or handy persons lap apron would be ideal. Even a peg apron would do in a pinch.
Lights. This is the tricky bit. You are going to have these lights for awhile, so choose carefully. Whether you buy indoor or outdoor lights, always buy as many spare globes as you can afford at the same time.
This is because the makers often go out of business by Easter. The next fairy light maker to enter the market will invariably not be compatible with last years. This is a nasty marketing ploy, forcing you to buy all new product every year. So grab spares while you can and double/triple check you have the right ones. Go by voltage, but take one along and go by looks as well. Sometimes there is just a little difference in length, width, sprocket shape - and suddenly the new globes don't fit no more.
It's enough to drive a girl to LED lights.
Ah, LED lights - tiny, sparkley LED lights! I am tempted...
If you did not buy enough globes - do not despair! People with the same model fairy lights as yours, who also didn't buy spares, will be selling their's off shortly in boot sales! You can get a whole line for 50cents and use all the globes for extras!
Lastly - read the instructions on your chosen lights before purchasing. Many can not be placed near paper, dry leaves or other flammable material, because of the heat the globes generate. Some will tolerate morning dew, but will burn out in a shower of rain.
My butterfly between 2 Christmas trees! The butterfly looks more like an angel, which was a bit of a bonus!
Unpack your lights carefully on the lawn, being sure to keep the packaging so you can store the lights back in their original boxes. While they are lying there, plug them in and check for dead globes, even if you just brought them. It is way easier to replace light globes when they are on the ground than six foot up a tree.
Sometimes a dead looking bulb is just loose, gently push it in to see if that is the case. If a whole row of lights go out, or only half a row, don't replace them all. It just takes one bad one and all it's circuit friends won't work either. Sometimes a dead globe will stop some in front from working as well, depending on the electrical arrangement.
Check each globe in the row until you find the dead one. Be careful not to get mixed up and use a dead globe to do the checking with! If you are not certain, pop the globe in a part of the line that is working to see if it lights up or not. You have to use the same make and voltage globe as what was originally in there.
If the fairy lights are LED lights then it will be the wires themselves that are faulty and you will have to a) see an electrician or b) buy a new line.
The light display from my first year, the year I got hooked! The barely seen lights in the flower box and the rose bush balls are battery operated. On the verandah is a x-mass tree made from a cardboard tube in a bucket of sand with string going down like an umbrella. I tied the lights to the string and instant tree! (the other two lights on the verandah belong to Black Jack, one of my cats!) There were no lights in the gum tree that year!
An x-mass tree shape was also made by taping a line of fairy lights to the window inside. Half hidden by the tree is a star shape made by strapping lights to a wooden frame. My fairy lights line was too widely spaced and had to be wrapped several times, even then the shape was still hard to distinguish at night.
Plugging in. Be careful not to over load one power outlet with too many lights, use several different power points if you can. The plugs should be in a dry place, out of the sun (even if they are 'outdoors' ones). Make a little shelter for them if you can, but keep the areas around them free from flammable material, don't have paper etc touching them. Keep the right string of lights with the right control box (if they come with a control box.) Also, if you are putting lines out directly through a window, keep the control box inside, you have less length, but it is safer.
Cords. There will be cords everywhere. Try to run them along things if you can, i.e. along buildings, fences etc. Having hooks in place to keep them snug away from being knocked about is a good idea. If the cord is going through open areas, tape it down with electrician's tape so it doesn't get tripped over. A carpet mat can be placed over them for security too.
When hanging cords over an open area, attach a bit of tinsel so people can see it. And reconsider putting your lights somewhere if the cord hangs low over a walk or driveway. Even if they don't touch your head, there are taller people, kids with new fishing rods and visitors cars with huge CD antennae to be considered!
Do not roll up your excess cord into a tight ball. Loop it loosely, and tie it loosely, or it could cause a fire. Don't have to many lines crossing the same spot for the same reason.
Broken fairy lights. If the lines get broken i.e. run over with the lawn mower, they can be fixed. You might have to do some hunting though. When the infamous mower event occurred to me I took it to three different places. The first said it couldn't be done. The second said it could be done but wasn't worth their time. The third fixed it for me in five minutes for free. Guess whom I'm taking my next electrical emergency to?
I had this made for me. The holes are for cords to go through,
the hinged lids keep mice and insects out when the
box isn't in use. I keep the control boxes, timer and
double adapters in it and run an extension cord from the
outside power point directly into the box.
I also use it to store the lights during the rest of the year.
The front of the house year 2. Taken with a digital camera, hence little flash. Rose trees have plug in strand lights entwined this year, the pot plant holder had a net light that blinked.
Drape the lights everywhere. Well, yeah. Directly over a sprinkler is probably a bad idea, but really, the sky is the limit. For a start, simply follow the roof line of your house, the fence, or maybe the edges of the garden beds. As you get more adventuresome, try wrapping lights round a post or tree trunk.
Be careful of using tape to secure your light lines against the side of your house with, it can take the paint off when removed later. Use hooks, sisal twine, or plastic ties. Even stockings cut into strips can be used, so long as it's not too close to a globe.
Shapes.Using a piece of wood (the sort that wont burn easily!) you can nail the outline of a simple pattern, a star or Xmas tree. Attach the line to the nails with twine. You have to have a fairly closely linked globe line, or the pattern will be unrecognisable.
For the really keen, you can drill holes into the wood and stick a light globe through each hole to make a fixed silhouette with. This would require a lot of measuring, of distance between globes, depth of wood/globe etc. Remember not to bunch the lines up to much, or they will overheat.
If the area you live in is dark enough, you can make a fantasy shape by creating new outlines over the outlines of your house, so it looks like a castle or boat. In brighter areas the actual shape of your house can be seen, and will spoil the effect.
Be a considerate neighbour, and turn your lights off around ten at night. The light can keep fussy sleepers (like children) awake, and people stopping to admire your lights can be an annoyance, too. Especially if the neighbours (or you, as I do) have dogs that bark at anything passing by. A timer primed to turn the power on and off at a set time is a great idea, saves you having to go out and flick switches in the dark!
Nearly forgot, get a friend or family member to help you put the lights up. They can hand you things when you are on the ladder, tell you if a line is not strait, and call the ambulance if you falland hurt yourself while getting the perfect drape over the seven foot gum tree's branches. :)
The gum tree gets decorated!
(Note 2 pairs of cats eyes on veranda!)
Make sure your lights are nice and dry, not covered in morning dew etc. Remove cobwebs and dust as well.
Winding. Now is when all those boxes you kept will come into their own. Reinforce the boxes with tape at the bottom now, before you put any lights in them. Unfortunately you can't just stuff the lights back in their box - for one thing, they won't fit. Instead, I suggest buying some of those plastic winder things, or using a bit of card narrower than the box to wind them on.
Note : If you really, really have to throw the boxes away, write down the name of the manufacturer, the plug's voltage, the light bulb watts and anything else you may think matters and keep 'em with the lights still.
Carefully lay out the lights next to the big control boxes that belong to them. Wind each line and place it in it's box, along with the correct control box. It probably wont quite fit, but now everything is together with their instructions and ready to be unwound and hung up next year. Secure the boxes with long pieces of twine.
Instructions are handy to keep. I lost the ones to my timers and had to go look at some in the store to remember how they worked!
Store everything together in a cool, dry place. Plan for next years lights.
Buy anything that comes out on special in the post Xmas sales.
Save up for even more lights.
Isn't this fun!
A fairylight corner!
This is how the x-mass tree is made. It uses a hook at the top and tent peg like spikes at the bottom. (I used bent wire cut from coat hangers.)
There is a snowman cut out in the middle of these lights. Note how hard he is to see, despite having lots of lights around him.
Cat cut outs bat at icicle lights!
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