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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Add ambiance to your outdoor space with budget-friendly outdoor lighting (25 cents per light)

When I'm attempting a crafty project, my inspiration springs from my current selection of supplies, before I buy anything new. I really don't need more supplies in my cupboards.

Each spring/summer I dream over glossy images of strings of lights, suspended over decks and patios. The lights glisten in the dark and make an ordinary night look festive. I had a bad case of downright envy, at a neighbor's house one evening, two years ago. She had these adorable dragonfly lights hung from the overhang over her patio. We have no such overhang. There is nothing to suspend the lights from over our deck or patio.

So I just need to be creative. Candles (both real and faux) are always lovely, and can be set anywhere, just needing some protection from winds (for real candles).

In Dollar Tree the other day, I was browsing the candle aisle, and saw some votive candles, priced 4/$1. I looked over their votive holders, but for $1 a piece, none caught my eye. In that moment, I realized that I had all the makings of something far cuter, all in my own cupboards. Making use of things I already had -- that is always a happy thought! So I bought a 4-pack of sage green votive candles, to make into my own outdoor lighting.

Here's what I used:

half-pint jelly jars (from the pantry)
a length of grosgrain ribbon in a light shade of green (from my gift wrap ribbons box, came on a gift last spring)
raffia (who here doesn't have a bag of raffia sitting around -- ask around, someone you know is bound to have some)
faux ivy (this is leftover from the wreath and basket I made for spring decor)
hot-glue gun (if I didn't have a hot-glue gun I would have used rubber cement-type craft glue)
sand, (about 2 to 3 tablespoons sand per jar, alternatively some people use salt in candle jars) if using a traditional candle; not necessary for battery ones

and of course the purchased votive candles (a 4-pack for $1)

I wrapped the ribbon around the jelly jars, just below the threads for screwing on a lid. It took about 9 inches to go all the way around, and have a bit of overlap for gluing.

I used hot glue to secure the wrap of the ribbon to itself (but not to the jar, I want to be able to use these as jelly jars again this fall). The glued ends are on the backside of the candle holder.

I hot-glued a sprig of faux ivy to the front of the ribbon wrap. Lacking faux ivy you could also just tuck a sprig of evergreen like Camellia, under the raffia bow.

I laid the jar on a cloth, to make the bow-tying easier. Then I took a length of raffia, doubled it over and wrapped it around the ribbon and ivy, concealing the end of the faux ivy under the raffia. I tied the bow and trimmed the ends.

Pour in some sand, level, and plop in a candle and I've got a votive candle in a holder for about 25 cents. (I also tucked in some sea glass and shells, as I think they look pretty.)

These were quick to make. I did 4 in about 30 minutes. If you had a large event in your garden this summer, you could easily do a dozen in an hour, especially if you made these assembly line-style.

And you don't need to go to all the trouble of layering the ribbon with ivy and raffia. You could just tie on brightly colored ribbons. Those would look very festive.

We have a lot of small critters in our area. So I wouldn't leave these on the deck railing overnight, but would tuck them up against the house at the end of the evening.

And if I had small children running about, I'd use the battery-operated faux votive candles. I also buy those at the dollar store in packs of 4 for a dollar.

Candle and glass safety

Glass can and does break from candles. This mostly happens when making a poured candle, not with votives, or using non-canning jars or vintage canning jars. But just to err on the side of caution:

  • use votives or tea lights, not large pillar candles
  • do not use vintage canning jars, as they are prone to crack
  • do not use a cracked, chipped or heavily scratched jar
  • only use canning jars, do not use other food jars
  • the sand will both balance the candle and serve as a bit of insulation at the bottom of the jar from a bit of the heat of melting wax. Balancing the candle will keep heat from building up on one side of the jar. The bonus with the sand is that melted wax comes right out of the jar.
  • do not burn the candle all the way down
  • trim the wick to about 1/4-inch
  • place jar on a level and heat-resistant surface, away from dried matter of all kinds
  • if using for indoors, consider the battery-powered lights. They're just as pretty and won't pose any risk, should they be unattended (like in a powder room when you have guests over).
  • if you are wanting to use vintage jars (the blue ones are beautiful with a light in them), use the battery-powered tea lights. You won't run the risk of ruining your lovely vintage jars.
  • if you are still not sure about a candle in use, the battery-powered tea lights are also priced at 4/$1 at Dollar Tree, and will most definitely not cause a fire.

A tip for making bows nice and straight

Do your bows ever look crooked? As a girl I worked in a department store in the gift wrap station. I learned a trick for tying bows which don't go crooked after tying.

First, you make the half-knot part of the bow. Then turn the package or item that you are tying, around 180 degrees. Tie the remaining portion (the two loops) of the bow.

So, for these jelly jars, I tied the half-knot with the jar in what would be the upright position. Then I spun the jar around until it was what would be upside down, and finished off the bow.
I've never thought this all through, but by doing this, my bows turn out straight, instead of the formerly crooked ones.


  1. You certainly are getting a lot of good use from that ivy. These are so nice, I think you will be making more before the summer is over (maybe even begins).

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I know, you'd think my house was smack full of faux ivy! Fortunately, it's pretty well spaced out. I would like to do another 4, and bring some other candles outdoors for the summer. We do spend a lot of evenings outside in summer.
      How about you? Do you and your family spend time outdoors in the evenings in summer?

  2. Oh Lili-
    So, so pretty. They add just the right touch your lovely white deck. I hope that it was mild enough to sit outside and enjoy the delicate glow-

    1. Hi Jemma,
      Tonight will be the first evening outdoors for us. We're in what we think is a heat wave -- it should hit upper 70s maybe 80 degrees F today! I am guessing that you have had many evenings out already this spring. Your gardens are so beautiful. If they were mine I would have a difficult time staying indoors at all!

  3. Great idea! There's nothing like candlelight outside on a warm summer evening. I always tie crooked bows so thanks for the tip!

    1. Hi Sharon,
      I know, flickering candles in the outdoor evening air are so simple, yet so beautiful.
      How's the weather in your area this weekend? Did the cold blast go away? I am sure that the heat is on its way!

  4. Very pretty!

    Thanks for the tip about tying bows.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Thank you. I've never really thought through the why's or how's of this trick for bow tying. I just know that it always works for me. Hope it works for you, too!

  5. How purdy! I'm picturing a cat knocking one over and burning my house down... But they sure are purdy! :-)

    1. Hi Cat,
      Yep, they'd probably chew on the raffia a bit first, before setting the house ablaze! I had a cat with a penchant for walking right up against lit candles. She actually set the tip of her tail on fire once!

  6. I had never thought of using candles outdoors (real or artificial) - will try it!

    1. Hi anexacting,
      I wonder if this is one of those regional differences, common here, but not there. Anyways, we were outside last night, and as the evening progressed, the light of the candles became enchanting. I may have to make a few more!

  7. These are just beautiful. So simple and effective. I have a load of empty jam jars, and some votive candles...and some ribbon! All we need now is weather warm enough to sit outside in the evening. x

    1. Hi Gillian,
      Thank you! They were incredibly simple to put together. And I especially loved that I had everything I needed in my own supplies at home! We're into May. Warm evening weather can't be too far behind!

  8. I know what I can use for the centrepiece if I ever have a dinner party :) Thanks for the inspiration :)

    1. Hi Economies,
      You're welcome! And I'm sure with your cooking skills you will likely have many dinner fetes!


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