Handmade Paper Lanterns

Carrying the warmth of the sun into the Winter

As the days shorten and the glow of the sun lessens, we aim to preserve the warmth and beauty of the sun in our homes and hearts. To celebrate and carry that warmth of the sun with us into the darkness, these paper lanterns are a fairly simple and remarkably rewarding activity, perfect for fall and winter – Halloween, Martinmas, Winter Solstice or otherwise.

Regardless of how and when they are used, crafting these lanterns with friends is a must – as we depart from crafting together, we carry the warmth of the community and conversation with us into the cold, until we meet again for our lantern-lit walk. And oh my, the glow of many lanterns hanging on branches for a walk after dark is such a striking sight.

Little feet leading and following. Tiny fingers wrapped around bark. Yarn and paper cupping the light, glowing into the evening. Warm, inviting and enchanted...

Materials

  • balloons*
  • tissue paper and other papers (scraps and previously used papers are great)
  • white glue or homemade paste
  • water
  • wool yarn, twine, or other string
  • something to hold your balloon while in progress (jug, bowl, box etc.)
  • a branch to hang your lantern from (please be conscious of your local natural habitat and harvest these from the ground rather than living trees)
  • optional: leaves or other adornments
     

Getting your materials ready

  1. Pour white glue into a tray and add an equal amount of water to make it more fluid. If you’re using homemade paste and it’s already more watery than typical white glue, you don’t need to add water.
  2. Cut strips of paper for easy access before you get glue all over your hands!

Kids applying paper to balloons during lantern-making

Making the lanterns

  1. Place your balloon on your 'pedestal' (jug, bowl, box, etc.).
  2. Recommended: Grease your balloon with oil so that the glue and paper don't stick and make your beautiful artwork cave in when you pop the balloon.
  3. Dip paper strips into the glue and layer them on the balloon. You'll need several layers in order for it to be thick enough to hold, but not so many that your light won't shine through. You can keep the paper as smooth as possible, or make it textured by twisting the strips and/or adding yarn, leaves, or other materials right onto your lantern.
  4. Once your creation is complete, hang it to dry. This may take several hours to a couple of days.
  5. When the paper is dry, pop the balloon and remove it from the lantern.
  6. Punch holes in the lantern on two or three sides and use your twine or string to create a handle to hang off of a stick. Finger knitting your handle would be a lovely extension to the activity.
  7. Gather your friends and family and head out into nature for a lovely, lantern-lit walk!

*Please cut your used balloons up very small before disposing of them to avoid major harm to wildlife. If anyone knows of a way to make these without balloons, please share! For a more detailed explanation of proper disposal, please see this post by the Sierra Club