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Handmade Summer Luminaria

Handmade Summer Luminaria

Most of us just love sitting outside on a summer evening watching dusk turn to dark, fireflies winking on and off as we eat a late supper under the stars. After Annie was invited to a party where hundreds of handmade luminaria added magical light to the scene, she learned how to make them herself. Now you too can make these lovely little glowing lanterns that echo stars and fireflies.

Luminaria work beautifully to give a sense of special festivity to parties, celebrations, or meals. You can use them outdoors to line a path or driveway, or to encircle a table, or indoors to highlight a special spot. They’re wonderfully easy to make and the results are completely charming.

Here are the easy steps to make two different kinds of luminaria:

Paper Bag Method:

These are perfect for the outdoors.

1. You may use any kind of lunch-sized paper bag for this project (recycled brown ones are inexpensive and easy on the environment.) You could make cut-out designs with stencils for the light to shine through, if you wish. Fold the top edge of the bags down about an inch for extra sturdiness.

2. Pour sand or clean kitty litter into the bag to a depth of about 2 inches. This will keep your luminaria stable and less likely to tip over.

3. Place a tealight in the middle of the bag, anchored firmly in the sand. (We have found that tealights, in their own little recyclable aluminum cups, are a safety-conscious alternative to tapers—-which can tip over—-or votives.)

4. Put your luminaria where you want them to go and light carefully. Keep away from very small children or companion animals. Not recommended for use in a strong wind.

Special Paper Method:

Using special handmade paper makes fancier luminaria that look as beautiful inside the house as they do outside. Surrounded by flowers and placed in the center of your summer table or on a mantelpiece, these lovely lanterns will add a unique character to your lighting.

1. Use any sturdy, decorative, translucent paper for this project. (If you make your own, now is the time to show it off, or you can find lovely papers at your local art-supply store.) Cut paper to measure 13- x 8-inches.

2. You will need a small shallow can for a base: a clean empty cat food can is perfect.

3. Apply a strip of double-sided tape to the wrong side of the 8-inch edge of your paper.

4. Remove the protective strip of the tape and place the bottom edge of the paper (the 13-inch, untaped side) on the edge of the can, making sure the tape on the opposite edge is facing in toward the light.

5. Wrap the paper around the light until it fits snugly. Carefully attach the tape to the other edge of the paper.

6. Put a tealight in the center of the can, anchoring it with a drop or two of wax, place the luminarium where you want it to go, and light the candle carefully. Be mindful around children and pets, and be sure never to leave indoor luminaria burning unattended.

Read more: Crafts & Hobbies, Home

Adapted from Paper Illuminated, by Helen Hiebert (Storey Books, 2001). Copyright (c) 2001 by Helen Hiebert. Reprinted by permission of Storey Books.
Adapted from Paper Illuminated, by Helen Hiebert (Storey Books, 2001).

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.

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Paper Illuminated

Includes 15 projects for making handcrafted luminaria, lanterns, screens, lampshades, and window now


+ add your own
6:26PM PDT on Mar 31, 2013

so pretty and so simple to make!

1:56PM PDT on Mar 31, 2013

Love candles,thanks for sharing

8:09PM PDT on Mar 30, 2013

pretty idea. maybe use fake candles?

4:58AM PST on Nov 26, 2012

Is this not rather a fire hazard using a paper bad ,

12:41AM PDT on Oct 22, 2012

People can be creative! Nice to hear good ideas! Thanks for sharing!

12:25AM PDT on Mar 27, 2012


4:11AM PST on Feb 15, 2012

Thanks for the article.

12:00PM PDT on Sep 17, 2011


10:06PM PST on Jan 16, 2010

some good ideas to try, thankyou

5:17AM PST on Dec 12, 2009

Lots of fun ideas for making luminaries and other lights out of paper for use with candles or other lights. I used this when I made luminaries for our libraries Grand Opening last summer.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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people are talking

Adorable indeed. Thank you for sharing.

Thank you for sharing. Its good to know these things.

I love this. So adorable I want to kiss this kitten!


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