Spring is here, and the warm days of summer are right around the corner. Time to start thinking about garden parties, outdoor entertaining, and spending warm summer evenings relaxing in the back garden.
While shopping at a major retailer, I saw some adorable garden lanterns made from mason jars. They were asking $20 for three lanterns – and that was on sale. Not bad, really. 20 bucks isn’t going to break me. But as I was thinking about the individual items contained in each lantern – mason jar, sand, shells, wire, tea light – I realized I could make similar lanterns for less than $1 each. Here’s how I did it.
Start with an assortment of empty and clean jars. The jars should have rims where the lids would have screwed onto. I started with two mason jars I picked up at yard sales for .25 to .50 each. Then I realized I already had a bunch of suitable jars in my fridge. So in addition to the two mason jars, I saved a jam jar, a mayonnaise jar, and a pickle jar. The different sizes and shapes give interest to the lantern assortment.
You’ll need a pair of wire cutters, a pair of needlenose pliers, and some wire. I used 22 gauge wire (you can find it with the picture-hanging supplies in your local home store). I also tried using some old wire hangers, but those were too rigid and difficult to bend. However, wire hangers are perfect for hanging lanterns from tree limbs.
Cut a length of wire approximately 3 feet long. With needle nose pliers, make a loop the wire about 7-8 inches (depending on the circumference of your jar’s mouth) from one end. I used a chopstick to form the circle. Then wrap one end of the wire around the other end 3 or 4 times.
Wrap wire around jar under its lowest ridge. Connect wire around jar by wrapping short end of wire around long end of wire 3 or 4 times. Clip any leftover wire.
Use pliers to twist wire until it’s tight around the jar.
Bend the long end of the wire over the mason jar and feed it through the loop. I like to make sure the top of the loop is at least six inches above the jar so there’s plenty of clearance between the flame and anything that might be above it.
Twist the wire around itself 3 or 4 times, then clip any leftover.
I am lucky enough to leave near the beach, so it was easy for me to collect sand and shells. Um…I mean, I bought shells from a craft store and sand from a home improvement store….yeah, that’s it…I didn’t really take sand from the beach…really. Fill the bottom of the jar with about an inch of sand. Nestle a tea light in the center of the sand, then place shells decoratively around tea light.
If you don’t live near the beach, or a home improvement store, you can gather pebbles from your backyard.
Use a utility lighter to light the tea lights. Then hang from trees or garden posts. If you’re using real flame, be sure your hangers are secure and are far enough away from twigs and leaves that they won’t inadvertently catch anything on fire. You may also use battery-operated tea lights for maximum safety.
Let the garden party begin!