Over the holiday weekend, I was thinking about how when I was a kid, the 4th of July signaled the beginning of summer. In New England, we didn't get out of school until late June and returned in the fall several days after Labor Day weekend. Here in the heartland, however, the kids start summer vacation around Memorial Day, so the 4th of July is technically the beginning of the end. I've been meaning to post about this fabulous summer project, so this is for all of you who spend time with children this summer or are just young-at-heart yourselves!
A small disclaimer. I didn't actually make this butterfly lantern, an art teacher friend did. At night, candle lit and hanging from a tree, it positively glows and is hands-down the most charming, functional little project I've come across in years. My instructions will be somewhat general, but I'm posting numerous photos, all of which you can click for a closer view.
First, you'll need to gather some jars. This will give you a great excuse to try some exotic delicacies as you hunt down an assortment of smallish and multi-shaped jars. The optimum size jar is between 3"- 5" tall (you don't want it too heavy) and the top opening needs to be large enough to accommodate a tealight candle.
Supplies you'll need are:
- Colored tissue paper
- Any brand matte medium (at your craft store) or watered down Elmer's glue works fine, too.
- Wire, two weights. A heavy gauge, for the hanger (should not pull out of shape when supporting the weight of the jar) and a lighter gauge, which will be easy to manipulate to attach wings, make antennae & candle dipper.
- Rinsed soda cans for wings. (Almost typed *tonic* there, whoops. My Maine roots are showing!)
- Cheap brushes to apply medium/glue (1/2" width or so)
- Helpful (but not necessary) tools: Needle nosed pliers for wire work, novelty edged craft scissors & paper punch for wing cutting/decoration
- Optional: Assortment of cheap little beads & sequins to use as danglies and antenna adornment.
Most of the assembly is probably apparent from the photos, with the exception of the tissue paper part, which is what makes this project a winner. What looks like a dullish green coating in my daytime photos is a layer of tissue paper applied to the jar. When the candle is lit, this color will glow!
Start by cutting or tearing tissue paper into small pieces or strips, 2"- 3". Apply by dabbing some medium onto the jar, lay down a piece of tissue, lightly stroke on more medium over the tissue piece and continue to add tissue paper until the jar surface is covered. Once you start, you'll see how easy this is. You can overlap the edges of the pieces but you'll want to keep the tissue to one or two layers to allow the light to glow through. Once the jar is covered, set it upside down on some waxed paper or broom handle to let it dry. You'll notice that my butterfly has little sequin polka dots, added with dabs of medium before the tissue layer was applied.
While the jar(s) dry, have fun designing wings (try different shapes!) & antennae and string some beads for adorning. Note that you'll need to cut tabs on the wings for attaching*. These newer, lightweight cans don't seem that sharp, but with young children, you might want to have them draw some wings shapes on paper for the adult to cut. As always, all of my photos can be clicked for a larger view. After assembling, the supervising adult will want to make the candle dippers, which have a little swirly top which hooks on the lip of the jar for easy removal. Each will have to be made for the specific height of the jar.
It's almost impossible to capture the charm of this little piece in a photo. After many tries, I finally got the top shot this morning, out on the deck in my pajamas, balancing on a bench, holding the lantern aloft against darkish greenery with one hand and focusing with the other. These look so pretty in different shapes, sizes and rainbow colors, lit and hanging from tree branches or shepherd's hooks on a summer's night. For now, you'll have to use your imagination. Or go make some!
*There's been some confusion on how to attach the wings. In photo #2, the side view, note the two tabs cut on the inner edge of the wing. Punch a hole in each tab, fold forward and attach to jar by threading wire through holes and around the jar body.