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Are you up for it?

Here's a link to a great tutorial for a simple-to-make gypsy lantern by Mia of One Hour Craft.

Here's a link to another great tutorial for an easy windsock lantern by Daisy Janie.

Both of these lanterns require only basic sewing skills and can be easily adapted to suit your design.

If you have mad skillz, you can try a sewn silk shade using the tutorial "Sewn Silk Lampshade."

Hong Kong Dragon

Image - Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong, courtesy of Tiamyaium via Wikimedia Commons

Fabric gives extra sturdiness and a special quality to a lantern. Different methods of decorating textiles, such as silk painting or batik, work quite well, but don't forget that you must let the light through! Don't make it too thick or dark. Stretching fabric onto a frame is challenging and probably not for the beginner, unless they are patient, ambitious and brave. Layers of fabric will make opaque areas which can be used intentionally to create designs, but will keep your lantern from looking its best if they are not carefully trimmed as you make the lantern.

Asian lanternmakers, especially the Chinese and Vietnamese, are masters of fabric lanterns. Silk is traditional, but some cheaper lanterns are made from nylon. You can use whatever lets enough light through and has enough stretch to form over your frame. You can use strong double-sided adhesive tape to attach the fabric pieces along the frame. Cut the pieces a bit larger than the area to be covered, apply the tape along the edges of the opening. If you have time or are more ambitious, you can carefully hand-sew around the supports and though the fabric.

In the case of the dragon lantern above, it looks like thick lines of glitter were applied along the frame where the fabric would have been adhered. My suspicion is that the adhesive used soaks through the cloth and looks bad, so they decided to make it a feature, not a bug, by emphasizing the lines with glitter. Whether or not you are a fan of glitter, you can adapt this trick to your own work and use some other material to conceal glue stains.

Painted silk

Painted silk is a terrific material for lanterns - but the question becomes at what point do you do the painting? Should it be before you apply the panels of silk to the frame or should it be once the whole thing is assembled? Bear in mind that you need to stretch silk to paint it and you will need to apply heat, sometimes by steaming, to make the silk paint set permanently.

I think that until you are an expert silk stretcher, it may be necessary to do the painting first, using whatever silk painting technique you choose, so you can set the colours properly. When you make your design, build in some room for error and don't try to make the different panels match too closely (for example, having a line run from one to another across a join). Then, if you must stretch a panel a little differently than you expected, it won't look like you messed up.

I'll put this question out to you all - before or after stretching on the frame? What do you think? Share your ideas on the Mad Gleam forum!

G&S Dye has a store in Toronto, and carries much useful dyeing material plus fabric - plain silk scarves yield lots of material suitable for beautiful lanterns once you've worked your silk-painting magic on them! They also put out lots of helpful information sheets which you can access here.

Dharma Trading, a good source of all things to do with dyeing, has some helpful tutorials about silk painting here.

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