Square Dance Nebraska - Ideas - Decorations

Decorating With Balloons

Decorating with balloons can give a lot of bang for your buck. They can cover a lot of space and give dramatic eye appeal. While it may seem expensive when you first start pricing it out, realize that balloons and some ribbon is all you will probably need!

If you are using helium, be sure to get the proper balloons. With helium you will need to rent the canister and a regulator. The quick ties are wonderful finger-savers. Wherever you rent your canister, they will help you determine the amount of helium you will need to fill the desired number of balloons. If you can use nine inch balloons, over eleven inch ballons, you will save on the amount of helium needed, getting more bang for your buck. Also, while party stores are often prepared to rent you helium, check in the Yellow Pages under "gas" and see if you can find a better price at a store that rents out various types gasses to various businesses. And remember to put your reservation in early if you are going to be preparing for a holiday party!

Along with renting helium, you can also rent regular air tanks. If you have a lot of balloons to blow up and are feeling a bit low on lung power, it may be your best option. There is also another type of gas that is heavier than air which allows for balloons to fall faster or hang a bit straighter in cases of balloon drops or simply hanging balloons from the ceiling. Ask your supplier and they will know what you need.

While an entire background of balloons may be a bit much, look in front of that and you will see half of an arch and two columns. A swag would be the same design as an arch except it will hang and only need air instead of helium. If you could hang your columns you will also be able to save on money.

Putting together an arch, swag or column seems a bit confusing at first but once you get started you get the hang of it pretty easy and they will go together a lot faster than you may think.

In the photos, the items are designed in colors. While it's not necessary, you may wish to tackle it and so the instructions for both planning the color strategy and putting the items together are below.

The Basics
The four-balloon cluster is the basic unit of a spiral which, depending on whether the balloons are filled with air or helium, is used to create arches, swags and columns. With variations and imagination, you can design any number of colorful effects for parties, banquets, or stage settings. The following instructions are for making the basic four-balloon cluster using eleven inch latex balloons. Use helium if the spiral is to be used as an arch; air for pillars and swags.

Materials to Assemble the Basic Spiral
50 lb. test monofilament fishing line
#11 latex, four assorted colors (refer to That Figures) to determine the number of balloon clusters needed for spirals of different lengths.
Paper clips - the recommendation is to use only ACCO brand (except Acco World). I'm not sure why but the two type of paperclips are the smooth coated and rough coated.

HINT: Spirals are most easily constructed when you have a team or assembly line. Each person performing a specific task. For example, two people to inflate balloons, and one or two to prepare clusters and attach to line. Of course, the number of spirals needed will determine the size of your team.

To Begin: Cut a length of 50-pound line four feet longer than the desired length of spiral. Stretch horizontally so line is very taut, attaching one end with a slip knot to doorknob or other fixture that will provide a flat surface, such as a door or wall, and other end to study structure, such as a chair or table leg.

To make four-balloon cluster: Inflate four 11-inch round latex balloons in desired colors. Be sure to maintain a consistent balloon size (which allows cluster to nest properly when attached to line. For the best results you can use a balloon template available from some balloon distributors.

Holding a strong paper clip in one hand with the double-rounded end pointing down, gently push center of clip out with thumb (Figure 1).

Hook four balloons (one of each color) onto the paper clip by pushing the end of the paper clip through the tail of each balloon, close to the lip end of the tail. Move all four balloons at once around the clip to the inside, opposite the double-rounded side (Figure 2).

Attach paper clip to taut line (near point where spiral starts), making sure line is completely inside clip (Figure 3). Secure cluster to line by wrapping any balloon in cluster around the line (Figure 4), making sure to wrap the balloon below the knot on the tail. Push cluster into place at end of line next to flat surface (Figure 5). NOTE: Cluster must lie flat against surface in order to "nest" subsequent clusters.

Prepare second cluster as before. After balloons attached to clip, arrange them in same color patter as first cluster. Secure second cluster to line as before, near first cluster (refer to Figure 3 and 4). Push second cluster firmly up against first cluster, rotating balloons (clockwise or counter-clockwise) so second cluster is nest (at 45 degree angle) into first cluster, with balloons of same color adjacent to each other (Figure 6 at top). Once cluster is properly positioned, push paper clip farther down line toward first cluster to hold clusters firmly together.

Continue adding clusters to line in this manner until spiral is desired length. NOTE: If necessary, any balloon in the spiral can be replaced by attaching a single balloon on a paper clip to line. If clusters are secured and wrapped properly, the line may be cut at any point and sections will remain intact.


Arches: Once spiral is complete, attach each end of the line to a brick to anchor. Helium-inflated balloons will float skyward, forming a natural arch. NOTE: Manufacturer says applying Qualatex HeiliumHold to the balloons before inflating will provide extra-long lift to the arch. Not that I knows what that means but it may be worthwhile to research it.

Swags: Anchor each end of an air-inflated spiral to wall, ceiling, or other fixture such as a basketball goal. The balloons will swoop downward from their anchors. The spiral can also be anchored to any point between the ends to create multiple swags with one spiral.

Pillars: Form a pillar by positioning the spiral vertically and anchoring the top to the ceiling or to a helium-filled #40 Paddle-latex balloon. Anchor the bottom to the floor with a brick, duct tape, or drapery hook. For a unique looking pillar, use Microfoil and latex balloons to construct the four-balloon clusters. NOTE: This type of spiral does not require paper clips.

To make foil/latex cluster: Air-inflate and heat seal two 9-inch foils (in one or two colors). Tie tails of foils together near the middle of tails (Figure B-1).

Air-inflate two 5-inch latex (again, we recommend using a balloon template for consistent sizing). Tightly twist tails and tie them together. NOTE: Do not tie a know in each balloon separately.

Wrap latex and foil balloons tails together to form the cluster (Figure B-2). Attach to line near starting point by wrapping one of latex necks (below knot) around line. Position cluster against flat surface as in basic spiral. Foil balloons should be positioned perpendicular to line so they lie flat against surface and each other in spiral. If foil balloons seem loose, wrap one around line until tight.

Continue adding clusters as above, creating spiraling effect as described in basic spiral.

When spiral complete, attach one end of line to brick to anchor. Helium-inflate a 40-inch latex and attach to other end of line. It will provide enough lift to hold pillar upright.

OTHER VARIATIONS: Spirals using four-balloon clusters may be constructed with any size balloons: 5-inch, 9-inch, 11-inch, or 16-inch. Of course, spirals made with 5-inch balloons are suitable for air inflation only. Five-balloon spirals may also be used, depending on the density and color needed in the spiral.


Balloons murals are used to display a company, school, or team logo; to carry a message, initials, or a figure; or to coordinate a color theme.

A mural is made up of columns of balloons that are packed tightly together when finished to achieve the look of a solid wall. The basic unit of the column is again the four-balloon cluster. However, unlike the spiral which is created by nesting each cluster on the line (at a 45 degree angle) into the previous one, the column is constructed from clusters formed according to a color pattern that is pre-determined using a balloon grid (Figure C at bottom). Balloon murals may be constructed to view from one side (against a wall) or from both sides (in the middle of a room).

As with the spiral, it is best to construct a balloon mural using a team or assembly line. One person supervises the construction of clusters (and columns) using the completed balloon grids as a guide, and several others inflate balloons, from the clusters, and attach them to the appropriate line (nesting them as required). As before, we strongly suggest the use of a balloon template to ensure consistent balloon size.

To design a balloon mural: First, determine the size of the finished mural, the balloon size, the number of balloons in each column, and the number of columns needed to complete the mural. NOTE: The balloon size will affect both the number of balloons in each column and the number of columns needed for the mural.

Once that information is determined, color in the grid (Figure C-1 at bottom) to show the finished mural. Using the completed grid as a guide, code the individual balloons in each column, cluster by cluster, according to color (Figure C-2 at bottom). Use numbers or the first letter of each color to code balloons in each cluster.

As you code balloons, remember that the grid displays only one side of the column, which shows a partial view or section of each four-balloon cluster. Thus, any balloon that is positioned behind another within one cluster must be the same color. For example, clusters with three balloons shown require that the two center balloons be the same color. Clusters with two balloons require that the two rear balloons be the same colors as the front balloons.

Once the grids are complete, you are ready to begin: Using a 50-pound test monofilament fishing lie (as for spirals) secure the appropriate number of lines to the ceiling and carpet by tying the line to a standard drapery hook (leaving space between each line to allow you to work with the individual columns). Use duct tape to secure the line to hard surface floors.

Construct the mural starting with the center column, assembling columns from the bottom up, according to your color-coded grids. To attach and secure four-balloon clusters to the line, follow the instructions outlined in The Basics above. Subsequent clusters will be nested according to your grid pattern.

When all columns are finished, tighten the space between them so the columns nest as planned on the grid. If the mural needs more support, weave fishing line from column to column, pulling the line taut as you go from one end of the mural to the other.

On to That Figures
Square Dance Nebraska - Ideas - Decorations