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Made from scratch vs. readymade containers

There are two approaches to making lanterns - either find something that already exists, dress it up or alter it and and put your light source in it, or build something from scratch. If you have less time, want to save money on materials or just like to re-use things rather than throwing them out, this is for you.

Glass jars

Glass jars are usually easy to find, although you might discover that you start buying stuff because you like the jars more than the contents! Here's a method to make glass lanterns using adhesive paper and glass frosting spray.

We did this very successfully at our last lantern making party:

glass jars

You can see the stickers, reinforcements and adhesive vinyl that could be cut into patterns. If it's sticky, you can use it! Folding a strip of the vinyl and cutting it allowed a zigzag to be easily made.

hard at work

Here's one of the lantern makers concentrating on applying her resist pattern.

Tin Cans

Metal cans are also easy to find, and not too hard to work with, depending on how elaborate your project is. Punching holes can give a great pointillist effect. If you have Dremel tool skills, you can also carve the metal like this.

tin can lantern maker

We discovered that you do need something to nail into when making punched tin lanterns - scrap wood is good if you can get it next to your nailing surface.

Aluminum pop or beer cans are so thin that it takes very little pressure to poke holes and you can cut them with sturdy scissors. Heavier cans like the ones used for soup or coffee make very sturdy lanterns, but any tin can lanterns won't give as much bright light as other kinds.

Here's a little tutorial on working with tin cans:

Ready-made strings of lights

Strings of Christmas lights and party lights are often available at your local hardware or household goods store, especially around Christmas. You can also buy them on-line year round.

You can make lovely strings of colourful lights easily if you can do a simple origami shape - the balloon or water bomb. Choose origami paper that lets the light through (foil is not a good choice for these) and make one for each bulb. Fit them on and secure with a bit of clear vinyl tape. As always, if the light source has its own colour, consider how it will work with the colours of paper you choose. It will affect them.

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