Pretty-up the path with DIY luminaries


The evenings are becoming warmer, and with summer fast approaching it’ll soon be time to wheel out the barbie. Along with the sizzle and drinks, comes the all-important task of lighting paths for approaching guests. Although it’s possible to head to the shops for some commercial luminaries, why not say goodbye to the plastic, and DIY your own pretty lighting features from recycled materials you already have at home. We have two stunning suggestions that are bound to impress. The first can be made in minutes!

StarlighterPaper bag lanterns

For these super-simple creations, all you need are brown paper bags, sand, and LED tealight candles. Open out your brown paper bag so it sits flat on the edge of the path. (If the bags are a little on the flimsy side, pop one inside another to make a double-skinned bag.) Fold the top of the bag down about 5cm. Fill the bag with a 4cm depth of bone-dry sand or fine grit. Arrange your LED tealight candle inside so it sits on top and in the middle of the layer of sand. At dusk, turn on the light and enjoy the rich glow that fills the bag.

For greatest impact, set out a line of paper bag luminaries along the path at regular intervals. For a more sophisticated look, cut out shapes from a piece of dark paper, and paste them on the outside of the bags prior to opening them out and filling them with sand. The light from inside the bag will illuminate the cut-out shape. Shapes that work well include stars and moons, but you can also feature the initials of a special party guest, a pumpkin at Halloween, or a Christmas tree during the festive season.

Tin can

Tin-can starlighters

To make these twinkling luminaries, you will need:

  • A can (such as a baked bean can) with its lid removed (take care of sharp edges when working)
  • A marker pen
  • A hammer
  • A hole-punch or large nail (such as a roofing nail)
  • An old towel
  • Soft wire (for a handle, if desired)
  • A cup of sand or fine grit
  • A household candle half the height of the tin-can or an LED tealight candle

Draw a shape onto both sides of the tin-can. Suitable shapes will depend on the celebration you are making your starlighter for. Angels and stars suit Christmas themes. If you are celebrating a birthday, feature the name of the special guest.

Fill the can with water, and place it in the freezer until the water is frozen hard.

Remove the tin-can from the freezer and place it on the towel to prevent it rolling about while you work on it. With your hammer and hole-punch (or large nail), pierce through the can at regular intervals along lines of the shapes drawn on the can. Work the hole-punch or nail around a little to enlarge the hole. Punch 2 holes at each side of the can, close to the rim. Leave the ice to melt and drain from the can.

Thread your soft wire through the two holes close the rim of the can and attach them to form a handle. Tip the sand into the can. If you are hanging or placing your starlighter in a position where there is no danger of a naked flame causing a fire, place the candle inside the can and press it into the sand to keep it steady. If you have any fire-safety concerns, use an LED tealight candle instead.

Position your starlighter. If using the household candle, light it with a taper to avoid burning your fingers as you reach into the can. If using the LED tealight candle, switch it on. The more starlighters you make, the more impact you’ll create.

Tip: if shape-drawing isn’t your area of expertise, punch random holes in the can to create a pattern of glowing stars.