Thursday, December 24, 2009

I see stars

Where I come from, this beautiful little country in the north of Europe called Sweden, we have this tradition to hang paper star lanterns in our windows for Christmas. I'm no expert on the history of that tradition but my guess it's to symbolize the star of Bethlehem. When I was researching star lanterns online I found out they also have this kind of lantern in India for Diwali, their festival of lights. Yea, that means a paper star lantern will work all year long since it goes with my Indian theme!

Check out the wonderful lanterns at Starlanterns. Pics below from them, aren't they wonderful? The yellow one is my personal favorite :)


These stars (as well as the Swedish ones) usually have punched holes in them to let out the heat for when they're lit with a bulb kit, or just for decorative reasons. When reading on Starlanterns I also found out some of them have tissue paper in complimentary or contrasting colors behind the punched holes to imitate the look of a stained glass window.

In Sweden they will charge you a ridiculous amount of money for these paper lanterns, online you can find really cheap Diwali ones but with shipping etc it's still more than I'm willing to spend right now. So I figured surely someone would have a template for one of these lanterns online so I could make my own fabulous lantern. I looked and looked but couldn't find anything along the lines of my childhood star lanterns. So I had to make my own. I'm not that great at math and stuff like that so I was prepared to spend a lot of time trying to figure this out, but surprisingly I got it on my second try. Here's my prototype.

I made it out of card stock which seems to be a pretty good weight of paper for this project.

I realize this is a little late for most of you for this Christmas, but you have a whole year to make one for next time around :) Or you do like me and have it up all year. Either way, this is how I went about it.

My starting point was a plain American standard size printer paper which I folded in half lengthwise. Like so.

And then unfolded again.
I measured 3 inches in from one of the short sides and then 1.5 inches from the long sides and marked those points.

(For a quick and easy star just print the above template as big as it'll print in your printer, cut it out and copy over on your chosen paper, complete instructions below. In my version A measures 11 inches, B is 8.5 inches and C is 4 inches).

I then connected the 4 points on the paper as you can see on the above diagram and cut the whole thing out with about 1/4 inch extra on all 4 sides. This is half of one point of the star. This is the stage where you need to punch holes and/or transfer any elaborate patterns onto your star. Some things you can add when it's all assembled, but it might be a lot easier when the paper's still flat. The folded line down the middle will still be the center of the finished point.

The next step is folding the little flaps. Fold the flaps on the long sides towards the wrong side of the paper and leave folded, fold the short sides towards the wrong sides as well but unfold them again, like this.

This is the wrong side of the paper after the folding is done. Note that you might have to trim some off the flaps in order for them to not overlap each other when folded.
The measurements above make a perfectly proportioned 5 point star and a nice but maybe not perfect 7 point star. For a 5 point star you'll need 10 of these diamond shapes, for a 7 point one you'll need 14. They both measure about 22 inches across when finished.

Anyway, now you just need to assemble this star with the help of some glue. I used regular white Elmer's glue and it worked great. I took 2 of these diamonds, put glue on the flaps on the long sides of one of them and then pressed them together, wrong sides facing. Try to make all the corners and sides match up, it really helps the end result look it's best.

This is the seam of a glued point. When you've glued all your points you need to fold them all like in this above picture, that is seams together. Put some glue on the short flaps and press 2 of the points together, making sure the walls of the points aren't sticking to themselves inside but only flaps to the other point's flaps. Keep going until they're all stuck together. You may have to gently fold the seams inside the point to one side in order to make the gluing a little easier.
When all the glue is dry gently unfold the stack of points until you have a star. I hot glued the last gap together with a little hanger made out of fishing line, but I'm also not planning on lighting mine. If yours will be lit you need to maybe glue a string/ribbon to each side of the last gap so you can actually close and open the star as needed. Or come up with your own closure design :) 

I made this first star only with what I had on hand already so I painted the plain card stock star blue (craft paint), colored the tips black with a sharpie and drew little swirls with Elmer's glue and sprinkled glitter over it. It turned out pretty good for a first try. But the possibilities are endless!
I'm imagining stars made out of pretty scrapbooking paper or card stock reinforced wrapping paper, decorated with embroidery, fabric trim, beads, sequins etc. I so intend to make at least one more out of pretty paper.
They really aren't all that difficult to make once you figure out how it all goes together, it's more time consuming what with all the measuring. And being made out of paper they could cost next to nothing, it's up to you.

I need to mention some safety things. My stars have a pretty small central cavity for lighting, you'll have to see if you can actually fit a bulb in there. I've read that they don't recommend anything above 40 w and I would also make sure it doesn't touch the paper when in use. For ease and increased safety you might consider a short string of LED Christmas lights, maybe? Just be warned that I have not tried to light this version so you need to be alert if you do.
Anyway, enjoy your Christmas and your lanterns!

Ps. I'm linking this post to the below party.

Shanty 2 Chic

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  1. This is a really great idea! I think I want to make some for my front porch. Thanks for the tutorial!

  2. Thanks for sharing! I love these kind of stars, and depending on how you decorate it, it can be used all year long.



I really appreciate you taking the time to comment because I know you didn't have to. Additional ideas or related techniques are always welcome, the more we brainstorm the better all of our end products will be.
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