Decahedron Himmeli Mobile

I know what you are thinking: Deck-a-wha?

Here, let’s break it down….

Decahedron: A polyhedron with ten flat faces. Apparently, there are sub-sets of decahedron too. This one is a pentagonal dipyramid decahedron. Just typing that sentence makes me feel pretty effin’ mathtastic.

Himmeli: A traditional Finnish Christmas ornament made from short strips of straw. Back in the day it would be hung above the dinner table to ensure that next year’s rye crop would be plentiful. It was believed that the larger the himmeli, the larger the crop. 

Even though its origins lay in Finland, I know Himmeli as a form of Lithuanian folk art. The two countries are not exactly next-door neighbors, so I hope the folks in Finland don’t think Lithuania is trying to jack their style. This is just one of those old world art forms that is too good to not share.

Here in Chicago, where you can’t hardly swing a dead cat without hitting someone Lithuanian, these little straw ornaments are crazy popular come Christmas time. If you ever have to switch planes in Midway airport around the holidays, I highly recommend you sneak in five minutes to visit the giant Christmas tree decorated by the Lithuanian consulate. The himmelis situation is insane. 

And so what if they are a Christmas project? I am hanging mine up all year round. It’s pretty and modern and mathy. It sways and swivels in the breeze. I want ten of them!



Materials:

  • straight plastic straws, 16 per decahedron (snip off any bendy parts)*
  • extra thin thing florist wire (I think mine here is 26 gauge)**
  • scissors
  • long wooden BBQ skewers (optional)

*Note: Traditional himmelis are made with a needle and thread. I find the florist wire much easier to work with, but I’ll admit that the end result will dangle and move more gracefully if you use thread. Your choice!

**Note: I am using a variety of colored straws for the instructional purposes only. Is that obvious? I’m hoping so.  

Instructions:
Near the end of one straw, poke the wire through the plastic, and twist it back, leaving at least one inch of extra wire. This is your starting point.


Think of the decahedron as a big fat star. It needs five legs. Start by creating four legs (two straws each) with a bend in the knee. Bring all four points together and use the extra wire to tie them all together in a single joint.

Not that kind of joint.

Note: do not snip extra wire, just keeping adding as you need it.


 Now your big fat star has five legs. You just need to bulk it up a little more.


Ta da! Big fat star is complete. Now thread the wire back up through one of the legs to the center joint and attach one more leg. That’s it.

My mobile contains seven small decahedrons +one large decahedron, made the exact same as the small ones but I used three straws for each “leg” of the star. No tape — I just pinched the end to make them fit into one another and reinforced with 18″ wooden BBQ skewers. For such a delicate thing it is surprisingly sturdy.

In case my instructions do not make sense (imagine that?) I suggest you check out this video on how-to make a four-sided himmeli. It’s in Finnish but you don’t need to understand the words to absorb her directions. Check it:




Comments

  1. PeachesFreund says

    I’m part Lithuanian too — I like to think that’s why I’m always to drawn to Scandinavian stuff (like, we are practically neighbors!). If you ever have extra time in Chicago I’ll take you to the Lithuanian heritage center — the have a MEGA sized mobile. Puts mine to shame! http://www.balzekasmuseum.org/index.html

  2. says

    Lithuanians & Fins actually share common DNA. apparently. They’re across the Baltic sea from each other, so you know, things happen. At least, that’s what the Finnish exchange student in college told me.

    Also. I am Lithuanian, and I live on the West Coast where NOBODY is Lithuanian, so it is awesome to hear you say that you can’t walk down the street without finding a Lithuanian.

    Oh, and the reason I am looking at your blog: THE MOBILE. It is divine.

  3. says

    Hate to be nerdy, but deca means ten and your definition says twelve flat surfaces. ;) This looks so cool. It could the base for a fantastic halloween chandelier using black straws. Cut out spooky silhouettes to dangle from it and string with a little spider webbing

  4. PeachesFreund says

    It’s true! They are very much like Polish pijakis but made with just straw — no paper petals or flowers and such. I must have a lot of Northern/Eastern European blood in my veins…I gravitate to their folk art like a moth to a flame. You should see me with embroidery!

    That last pic was taken in Kiki’s place (I took the mobile down for a quick photoshoot — she gets better light in her place)….the piece is actually something I made years ago in art school — I was going to toss it but she liked it enough to hang it up. It’s just two acrylic frames covered in vinyl letter stickers. The words were taken from some written piece that was a 1,300 word sentence. Or something. I don’t remember much. I made it back when I thought a 1,300 word sentence was very impressive. Oh my, how one’s taste does change….

    :)

  5. nutbirds says

    Did you ever think you would write this sentence? “The himmelis situation is Insane?” You like these because they are similar to the Polish Christmas thing that you wanted to make last year. How about an explanation of the word art in the next to last picture?

  6. PeachesFreund says

    Holy cats, I just looked up Raguolis! That is fabulous. I’ll have to get myself invited to a Lithuanian wedding sometime so I can see it in person. Who ever thought of that?! And yes –I have seen and sampled bacon buns — they are delicious!

    You should give this mobile a try. It’s easier than it looks ;)

  7. PeachesFreund says

    Shut up?!?! No way. I’m off too google. Why am I not surprised. All good things can trace origins back to Sweden…

  8. says

    You can find them in Sweden too where they are considered a traditional form of halmslöjd, straw craft. Google halmslöjd oro and you will find some inspiring pics of new and traditional variations of these. The name oro literally means unrest or worry, and it’s used for different types of lightweight mobiles (most likely because of how they move in the air).

  9. Cassie Book says

    YES! I am lithuanian and usually people don’t know what that is and/or think im making it up… but you live in chicago so im not surprised. I always read your blog but never ever comment.. I don’t know why.. nerves? anyways have you heard of lithuanian wedding cake? its called raguolis, I mention this because its probably the nuttiest way to bake a cake. Also bacon buns… need I say more, us lithuanians can hammer out some pretty awesome bacon buns. Also cool mobile, I always say im going to make some of the things you do, but I haven’t yet… But I will…probably.

  10. Stephanie Gahm says

    what kind of straws do you use? Like, drinking straws? I’m thinking of making something like this for a mobile over a baby crib…. would that be weird? What other kind of material could I use?

  11. Stephanie says

    We just made a black version of your mobile, using coffee stirrers (cut in half, so the mobile is smaller to go in a small bedroom). It’s awesome!! Using wire is brilliant – the coffee stirrers are too narrow for a needle to drop through. Thanks for the tutorial!

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