Mason Jar Lanterns

Let’s talk about mason jars.  And how lately I seem unable to shut up about every single summer craft project I’ve finally gotten around to now that I don’t have pesky things like teaching four little people how to read and write and be mathy and stuff.

If you’re looking for a non-Pinterest post, come back…tomorrow?  Sure.  We’ll say tomorrow.


Anyway, Gabriel and I cleared a walking path back among the pachysandra fields.  Ken built me a bench for it.  I love the new space, and want to live back  there.  But it gets dark, and the path is on an incline, so I needed lighting.  Enter the mason jar lantern idea I saw on Pinterest.

My neighbor Brenda had just had a yard sale, and at the end, she kept giving me all the stuff that didn’t sell.  “Take this!” she said.  “And this!”  and the next thing I knew, my deck was full of things that had been sitting on her driveway.  One of those things was an entire box full of her mother-in-law’s old canning stuff.  Probably three dozen jars, both the jelly jars that I used to put up strawberry jam, and also lots of the tall, wide mouth ones.  20 large mouth jars, and other than pickles and apple sauce, I couldn’t see me using all of them for canning.

So they were fair game for the lanterns.

lanterns1First, I needed to find solar lights.  I read that you could get them for a buck each at a dollar store, but there aren’t dollar stores close to me.  So Ken and I went to Big Lots, which is sort of like a dollar store.  I brought one of the jar rings with me to find a solar light that would fit inside the ring.  If you use the small mouth jars, you’d need the smaller light.  The ones we found fit perfectly in the rings, and were $2.50 each.  My sister-in-law tells me they’re only $2 at her Home Depot, but she lives in Georgia, where everything is cheaper than it is here in Yankeeland.  Your actual mileage may vary.

Next, after you hunt down the cheapest solar lights in the land, get some frosted glass paint (I got the Martha Stewart stuff from Michaels), some fairly sturdy wire (I got twine wrapped wire, also from Michaels), and some foam brushes.  “Helpful” minion in the background, not for sale.

All together, I spent around $3 per lantern, once you factor in the paint and wire.  If I’d had to buy my jars, it would have been more.  You can find mason jars at garage sales, but even easier is saving your glass jars from groceries.  Spaghetti sauce, pickles, etc. etc., most of them will work and there’s no additional expense for you.


Next, you paint the jars.  If you want to tint the paint, I think you just put a couple drops of colored acrylic paint in there, but I left mine the frosty white.  I did a couple coats.  This is one of those activities that kids love to help with, and they feel like hot stuff for doing it, but it was naptime around these parts when the pictures were taken, and immediately after I snapped this one, John-Luke got sent to bed because he tried squeezing the whole bottle of paint on his hand.

Sidenote: I painted the outsides of the jars, but you could do the insides, I think.  I don’t know how well the paint will weather outside, and painting the interior may help it last longer.

lantern4Painted, new minion acquired, and shameless advertising for Martha Stewart crafts.

While those dry, remove the light mechanisms from the posts, then insert them into the jar rings:

lantern5And while the graphic suggest that this is easy as 1, 2, 3, I have to be honest and say that this part stinks.  It is such a tight fit that I don’t have the hand strength to do it.  Ken has to wedge them in there, and he broke a couple rings in the process.  But once they’re in, they’re in.  Nothing moving those bad boys.  Since the spot I have the lanterns strung is in deep shade, every morning I take the ring/light section right off the top of the jars, and stick them on one of our rock walls to charge up.  In the evening, I put them back on the jars, and they’re good to go for hours.  If you put yours in a sunny spot, you’ll be able to skip this step.  Also, you’re a lucky duck, because I’d love to have a sunny yard.

lantern7For the handles, I wrapped wire around the bottom lip of each jar, then attached a wire handle to that.  Here’s where I’m glad I got the twine-covered wire, since it gives it a sort of rustic, hey let’s use some raffia! look.

Then, string ’em up!

lights8Super high-quality nighttime photography?  You betcha!

These suckers are workhorses of light.  There’s six of them currently up back there, and I’ve got eight more on my deck right now, waiting for Ken to come home to cuss the lights into the rings.  Once those are up, the yard will be nicely lit, and I’ll be able to walk my path without tripping on a pine root and tumbling into the pachysandra, never to be seen again.





  1. says

    Oh my gosh! cari these are SO cool! I want to make some for our front garden now. Great job!

    Ps I tried to capitalize your name and autocorrect kept changing it to Vatican?! Weird. Ha

  2. molly ishmael says

    “…cuss the lights into rings” best quote ever. Love the lights, I’m filing these away for my sisters outdoor wedding reception next year!

    • Cari says

      That’s actually where I saw this idea first! Pinterest pictures of painfully picturesque rustic weddings.

  3. Rebekah Es says

    Connecticut woman goes missing on midnight stroll in own garden. Pinteresty-tree-luminaries MIA. Pachysandra held for questioning.

    • Cari says

      It’s like kudzu down south, seriously. You know how when people run their cars off the road in the summer, there’s no use even looking for them until the kudzu goes dormant? Same thing, only smaller scale.

  4. says

    Ohh… I have a slight love affair going on with mason jars! I also have a dollar store! Though here in West Mi NOONE sells canning jars at garage sales! I’ve hunted them for years and never found them… I’m shocked that not only were they at your neighbors sale, but that no one snatched them up!

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