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How to Make Paper Lanterns for Your Next Outdoor Garden Party

One of the most charming ways to light up an evening outdoors is with a set of paper lanterns. Ever wondered how to make the ingenious decorations which also function to light the way for you and your guests? If you're throwing an outdoor get-together, whether it be a barbecue or garden party, paper lanterns are a superb way to dress up your backyard. And fortunately, they're easy to make!

Maybe you love arts and crafts or maybe you can't stand them – whatever the case, you might find that it is surprisingly convenient and easy to make a paper lantern. Here is a step-by-step guide for how to make paper lanterns and ultimately light up your backyard with style and elegance.

What you need

First, get all your ducks in a row. The supplies you need include: three lightweight, letter-sized sheets of papers, glue, markers, a string, and scissors. Got everything? Now time to move on...


Take the three sheets of paper and attach them together with glue (or tape) so that they basically make one thick piece of paper. In other words, glue the papers together length-wise. Now fold this new sheet in half – length-wise – so that you end up with a smaller, rectangle-sized paper. Now, get to drawing, coloring or whatever you prefer. You can use markers, crayons, or any utensil you like. Create a pattern or a picture on both sides of the rectangle – a pattern or solid color, however, will fare the best for this project.

Don't you fold yet... there's still more folding to go!

Have you ever made a fan out of a piece of paper? You'll essentially fold your lantern in such a way. If you still don't know what to do, here's another way to put it: take about a half inch of the paper from the bottom and fold it over on its side, pressing down hard. Now pick up this new fold and turn it over on the other side, again pressing down hard again. Continue this, alternating the direction of the fold every time.

Now unfold!

Now, you're going to undo what you just did... but only a little. Unfold the makeshift fan you just folded, but leave all the indentions intact.

Let's cut to it already

Make snippets with your scissors along each fold line, but stop cutting as you get to the very top of the paper.

It's all coming together

Now that you've cut along the folds, you've made the rigid paper somewhat elastic. You can now attach the opposite sides (the short ends) of the paper together with glue, staples, or tape, forming a circle. Attach a string to the top of the lantern and hang it on a hook. You can use another string to suspend a flashlight within the lantern.

This is the simplest paper lantern to create. If you're still in the dark, take a look at a visual diagram, You can also look into your options for more complicated, sophisticated lanterns, but this is a great easy and cheap way to get started.

For more information on having fun with outdoor lighting, please read this article on Chinese and Silk Lanterns.

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