Beachy String Lights

By Gina Olkowski

An easy-to-make light garland to display your favorite seashells

seashell string lights

Several years ago, a friend gushed over the light string her son made for her as a gift. She said, as an avid beach and shell lover, I had to come see it. Draped along her mantle, I saw a typical Christmas string of lights, but glued to each bulb was a shell—scallop, clam, razor, false angle wing, and mussel shells. On my drive home I was already planning out my own light strings. Did I have shorter length strings at home? Would I even find them in stores now? How many shells could I spare for this new project? Fortunately, I was able to hit up post-holiday sales and my local wholesale craft outlet for the supplies. And even more fortunate, I hoard shells!

supplies to make seashell light garland

Supplies

1. 50– or 100-light strand of mini incandescent bulb string lights. 

2. Thin, small, lightweight shells such as reddish scallops, small surf clams, blueish mussels, and false angel wings.

3. Hot glue gun with glue sticks. Glue gun glue is my preferred glue because it is easy to remove when you have to replace the inevitable broken shell or light bulb.

Clean and select your shells

1. Rinse the shells in soapy water and dry.

select shells for light garland

2. On a dark day, at night, or in a dark space, plug in your light string and “candle” your shells. Candling is a method for looking inside an unhatched egg by putting it in front of a bright light.

candling shells

3. Put each shell in front of a bulb on the light string to see if the light shines through the shell. 

4. The more variety of shells, the more colorful your light string will be—purple from blue mussels, yellow from clams, and orange from reddish scallops.
 
string lights with seashells in colors

5. Lay the light string out flat and then line up the shells in order, either randomly or in a pattern, mixing the different types or colors along the length of your light string. Light up the string to see the colors as you work. Have a few extra shells on hand in case any break.

glue sea shell onto string light strand

Attach the Seashells to the light string

6. Put a dot of glue on the shell and quickly glue it to the base that holds the light. Don’t let the glue touch the bulb, so you can change out burnt-out bulbs in the future.

7. Glue about ten shells at a time to make sure they don’t slip off before the glue hardens.

8. If you don’t have enough shells, put a shell on every other light. You can add more later.

displaying seashell light garland strand

Decorate your space

Adorn your mantle, drape over a curtain rod, loop on the ribs on the underside of your deck umbrella, or hang multiple strings on a beach-themed Christmas tree. All that is left is to sit back and enjoy!

Enjoy your daily dose of vitamin sea!

This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine September/October 2022 issue.

Looking for more fun ways to craft with your beach finds?

Coastal and Beach Décor Ideas:

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