As dusk falls, my husband and I gravitate toward the garden. We can usually be found lounging in our hammock, sharing dinner with friends, or just enjoying an evening stroll. At these times, the halogen patio light outside our back door seems too harsh. Instead, we turn to candlelight to set a mood.

I’ve made candle holders from antique tea cups found at thrift shops and from inverted garden cloches hung with twine from tree branches. My favorites, however, are my punched-tin lanterns. They add a folk-art touch to the garden and are fun and easy to create. Most of the materials can be found in the recycling bin and in a reasonably well-stocked tool shed. The designs I use are often inspired by the plants and trees around my house, and they reflect the overall feeling of my garden—casual and personal.

Supplies you will need

  • A variety of leaves with interesting, bold shapes
  • Sheets of vellum paper
  • Masking tape
  • Permanent black marker
  • Metal cans, labels removed
  • Sand and water
  • Towel
  • Hammer and nails
  • Spray paint in white or off-white as well as colors of your choice
  • Copper wire
  • Votive candles

1. Prepare the can

Fill the can with sand, add water, and place it in the freezer. The frozen mixture will give structure to the can and a surface against which to pound, so that the can does not become misshapen. Water expands significantly when frozen and will cause the can to swell if used without the sand. Filling the cans with sand first, then water, greatly reduces the amount of water in the can, minimizing the expansion.

2. Make the template

Select a leaf that will fit the size of the can nicely and trace its shape with a permanent marker onto a long piece of vellum paper. Don’t worry about including lots of details because only the basic shape will show up on the final product. If you prefer, you can use the template of a ginkgo leaf on the right. Blow it up on a photocopy machine for a full-size leaf.

3. Position the design

When the water is completely frozen, take the can out of the freezer and tape the vellum paper tightly around the can, positioning the leaf shape exactly where you want it. If the paper does not go all the way around the can, make sure the tape secures both ends of the vellum, since it will not stick to the can when condensation begins to form.

4. Punch the holes

Rest the can on its side on a folded towel to keep the can from rolling around and to protect the work surface. With a hammer and a sharp nail, punch holes though the paper and into the can along the lines of the design. I like to punch larger holes at the peaks in the leaf shape, at the intersections of veins, and along the stem to give some dimension to the design. I also tend to space the holes on the edges of the leaves closer together than those in the veins, giving them more weight. Change nails frequently, as they dull quickly after repeated punches. When the leaf is finished, make two large holes opposite each other at the top of the can for hanging wire.

When the design is complete, remove the vellum paper, invert the can in a bowl, and allow it to thaw. Remove the sand and water, rinse the can well, and allow it to dry completely.

For your lantern design, select a leaf small enough to be seen in its entirety without turning the can. A leaf design that wraps too far around the can loses visual impact.

5. Paint the lantern

Spray the inside of the lantern with white paint to diffuse the candlelight and give the lantern a brighter glow. All that’s required is a couple of quick shots of white or off-white spray paint aimed into the can from 3 to 4 inches above the opening. Then choose a color for the outside and spray on two light coats, allowing the paint to dry between coats. This paint is not only decorative but also offers a little protection from the elements if you leave your lanterns outside. Alternatively, you could skip the paint and just allow your lantern to rust over time.

6. Add the wire and a candle

If you want to hang your lantern, cut about 24 inches of wire and insert the ends into the hanging holes from the outside, twisting the ends back over the top and around the wire again. I like to place a votive candle inside a glass holder for ease of use and even better light diffusion. If you don’t use a votive glass, I recommend using a tealight candle or putting about a half inch of sand in the bottom of the can so that a completely melted candle is easy to take out and replace.


With a hundred or so plastic bottle caps (such as from mineral water), some cardboard and patience, you can easily make this one-of-a-kind lampshade you will absolutely love if you like luminous transparency.
For this project, use low-energy light bulbs

Collect 128 white mineral water bottle caps - or choose colored caps for a different look. If necessary, soak them in soapy water and let dry. An easy way to know where to pierce the caps is to first draw a line on a small piece of cardboard. Use the line as a reference to line up the holes, with the cardboard serving as a cutting board.

bottle cap piercing Punch the first hole in the side of the cap. Using the nail, line up this hole and the center of the cap (where you see a mark in the plastic) to see where to pierce the second hole. Position the nail and hammer it in with one hard blow to make the hole. The two holes are now lined up.

Once you have made all the holes, string the caps together with brass wire. Make strings of 7 and 9 caps. You should have a total of 16 sets.

Print two copies of the pattern below, and glue it to the cardboard. Cut out the cardboard and punch holes where indicated. Prop the cardboard on a stand to hang the strings of caps. Then, fasten the lampshade onto the bulb fitting. Handle with care and follow safety rules (switch off the electricity, work calmly). If you haven't changed your old bulbs for new energy efficient ones, now is the time to do so!

Click on the image to print,
a new window will open.

lampshade instructions bottlecap lampshade detail


This holiday season, many of us may be throwing dinner parties, and expecting more guests than usual on a typical Saturday night. Maybe we'll pull spare seating out of the basement, or rent chairs, fold-out tablecloths, and white linens for the evening, but the last time I checked party rental shops didn't rent light fixtures. So, the next best thing is to fashion one of our own. With a few recycled materials and some tea lights, you can make a gorgeous, energy-efficient, glass chandelier that you may just end up hanging year-round. Make one to hang about each table, and your guests will be well-lit. Just add good food, wine, and conversation! To learn the steps,read more.


  • 10-12 spare glass jars (mason jars, baby food, jam)
  • Circular gridded cooling rack
  • Thick and thin gauge wire
  • Beaded chain and locking links
  • 1 large S hook
  • 10-12 small S hooks
  • Wire cutters
  • Sand or small pebbles
  • 10-12 tea lights

Here's how, from Ecologue:

  1. Wash all your recycled materials.
  2. Turn over your cooling rack, and at its center cross two lengths of the thick wire, looping their ends through the feet on the rack and twisting them to secure them.
  3. Attach the large S hook by twisting the wire at the point where the two wires cross (at the center).
  4. Under the lip of your jar lids, wrap the thinner wire around the tops three or four times, and tuck the ends underneath the wire to secure it.
  5. Cut various lengths of beaded chain using wire cutters at twice the length you want them to hang from the cooling rack. You may consider a random arrangement or some sort of pattern for hanging.
  6. Loop a piece of beaded chain through the thin wire on one jar, and then lock its ends together with the links. Do this with all the jars.
  7. Fill the base of the jar with sand or pebbles, and then place a tea light on top.
  8. Hang the cooling rack above your dinner table, or wherever you'd like it to be.
  9. Then, hook your candle-filled jars with the small S hooks onto the cooling rack.
  10. Use a long lighter to light them right before guests arrive, and fini!



I noticed this stash of cupboard doors at my local salvage yard. The white one was the perfect size to make a serving tray. The old drawer pulls—also found at the salvage yard—made ideal handles. Their swirly shape gave me the inspiration for the pattern I painted. All it took was a little black paint. As with many of my projects, the possibilities are limitless: change the handles, add d├ęcoupage or fabric, paint it a different color, or just leave it classic white.



  • cupboard door
  • black acrylic paint (I used Liquitex in Ivory Black)
  • black spray paint (I used Rust-Oleum semi gloss)
  • white house paint (I used leftover paint from my antique bookshelf makeover)
  • 4 machine screws
  • 2 drawer pulls (large enough to fit your hand)
  • 4 felt pads (I used 3/4-inch)
  • wood filler
  • sandpaper
  • newspaper


  • pencil and hi-polymer (white) eraser
  • drill and drill bit
  • screwdriver
  • small paintbrushes
  • ruler
  • painter’s palette or paper plate


1. Spray-paint your drawer pulls—top and bottom—if desired. Follow the directions on the can.


2. Draw your pattern with pencil. (Many of you talented artists could probably skip this step, grab your paintbrush, and go for it. I’m not one of you, so I had to sketch it first.)


3. Start painting over the lines. Work top to bottom, left to right (if you’re right-handed), so you don’t smear the paint. Apply thickly so you will only need one coat. (I used this same technique on this tabletop.) Let dry for several hours. Erase any stray pencil marks when dry.


4. Using wood filler, fill the holes where the hinges attached on the back. Let dry. Sand smooth with a piece of sandpaper. Wipe off the sanding dust.


5. Touch up with a few coats of white paint.


6. Attach felt pads on the bottom at each corner.


7. Measure, mark, and drill the holes for your handles. The left ones were pre-drilled on mine, so I matched the placement on the right.


8. Screw on the handles. You’re done!


Last night's project, a basket made from old newspaper. After seeing this post at CraftStylish, I was inspired to try one. Maybe I'll keep books and remote controls in it.

1. I cut the folded edge off a couple sections of newspaper and then cut those pages in half lengthwise. I used about 20 pages for this basket (about 40 strips). My rotary cutter and cutting mat made short work of the cutting. Recommended if you have one.

2. Fold the newspaper pieces in half lengthwise, then again lengthwise into quarters, then into eighths, so you have some sturdy strips. Mine were 3/4" wide. If you want to use fewer, wider strips, use the whole newspaper sheet. Obviously you can adjust the size of your strips.

3. Start weaving from the center outward. Use staples (or glue dots, double-sided tape, etc.) where needed to secure your pieces, especially on the first few strips you put together. You can remove the staples after the basket is finished if you think they're too hideous to bear.

4. When you decide your bottom is big enough (your basket's bottom, that is; I'm sure most of us think our own bottom is plenty large), fold your exposed strips upward at a 90┬║ angle to form the sides. Start weaving in horizontal strips to fill in the sides, securing the ends with staples as you go.

5. When you reach the top, fold the vertical strips over to the inside and secure them with staples, or cut them off. I stapled another strip around the circumference of the top, folded over the rim, to hide the ugly ends. You could use glue or double-sided tape for this if you don't want to see staples.


At this time of the year, I have all kinds of shredded paper sticking out of my favorite gardening books and a bunch of full size seed packets with a millimeter of seed inside. Messy! How to Get a Free Bookmark with Seed Purchase

1. Bang chosen packet on its noggin to shake the contents to the top.

2. Fold left bottom corner to the far side, if you wish to preserve the directions.

3. Snip, fold, and tape on dotted line.

4. Petite packets and perfect page-markers. (Ooo, alliteration…)

Incidentally, you also get free bookmarks with your junk mail and bills…


What you Need:

  • Empty baby food jar

  • Small amount of poly-fiberfill or cotton balls (enough to fill the jar and a little more so it makes a mound on top)

  • 1 4-inch circle of fabric

  • Rubber band (large enough to fit around the neck of the jar)

  • 12 inches of ribbon

  • Strip of wrapping paper, 3-1/2 inches by 8-inches

  • Clear tape

What you Do:

  1. Place the wrapping paper strip inside the baby food jar, printed side facing out, and secure with tape.

  2. Fill the jar with poly-fiberfill or cotton balls.

  3. Center the fabric circle over the top of the jar and secure with the rubber band.

  4. Tie the ribbon around the jar, covering the rubber band. You may also use plain white paper instead of wrapping paper and draw your own designs on it