DIY recycled can luminaries — a quick craft to light up your holidays

Dec 23, 2015 at 1:10 p.m. ET
Image: Mariko Giverink/SheKnows

Who knew a recycled can could look so beautiful and festive? Instead of tossing your cans into the recycling bin, create some pretty luminaries to decorate the house for the holidays or new year.

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Image: Mariko Giverink/SheKnows

Luminaries have long been associated with a warm welcome. In times past, a lantern or candle always burned in the window during snowy or stormy weather to welcome guests or guide travelers to a safe resting place.

I started an oil lamp collection when I was a teenager and not only do they look pretty on the bookshelf, they also come in handy whenever the power goes out. I don’t think you can ever have too many, and they look so beautiful decorating the porch or incorporated into your centerpiece for the holidays.

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Image: Mariko Giverink/SheKnows

I turned these luminaries into a garland for my fireplace mantel by using stocking holders and ornament hooks, and also hung some along my front window. And the best thing about these luminaries is they are just about free, unless you count the tea lights that fit inside them, which are less than $10 on Amazon ($9.38 to be exact), bringing the grand total to less than 10 cents apiece.

To make these festive for the holidays, choose brightly colored aluminum cans. I love the different colors Izze's sparkling beverages has to offer. The fancier-shaped Coca Cola bottles turned out really cute, but I’ll warn you they were not easy to cut and bend. If you want to keep it fast and simple, stick with a pop-top can.

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Image: Mariko Giverink/SheKnows

Plan ahead so you can buy a batch and serve them for a party or BBQ, then designate a spot for guests to save them in, unless you want to enjoy a few all to yourself!

Here's how I made these in a few simple steps:

Mask off the top and bottom of an aluminum can so you have a cutting guide.

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Image: Mariko Giverink/SheKnows

Put on your gloves, and hold the can in such a way that you are being very careful not to cut yourself should your box cutter blade slip. I held mine from the top and cut from top to bottom on a table, so there was no risk of an accident. Cut lines from top to bottom about an inch apart. You can either cut lines straight as I did with the Coke bottles, or you can cut them on a diagonal as I did with these Izze cans.

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Image: Mariko Giverink/SheKnows

Now bend the strips outwards to form your lantern. The Izze cans cut and bent very easily, but the Coke bottles took a little muscle and a screwdriver to help pull the strips out and shape them. If using the bottles, I recommend a pair of gloves and some patience to help with this process.

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Image: Mariko Giverink/SheKnows

Pop the tops up and attach a wire ornament hanger to the Izze bottles, or punch a hole in the top center of the Coke bottle with a nail and insert a wire loop as shown.

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Image: Mariko Giverink/SheKnows

Insert a tea light through one of the “panes” or if you need more room, and light through the slit.

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Image: Mariko Giverink/SheKnows

These will heat up once lit, so handle them from the bottom when they are lit or let cool before handling.

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Image: Mariko Giverink/SheKnows

Now hang your luminaries from stocking holders or from a string or wire to turn them into a garland.

can luminaries
Image: Mariko Giverink/SheKnows

And if you're feeling extra crafty, make these DIY glass bottle lanterns to complement your luminaries.

Recycled can luminaries

Materials:

  • Empty aluminum cans with the pop top still attached
  • Box cutter
  • Painters tape or masking tape
  • Gloves
  • Tea lights
  • Wire ornament hanger or string hanger

Directions:

  1. Mask off the top and bottom of an aluminum can.
  2. Cut lines from top to bottom about an inch apart.
  3. Bend the strips outwards.
  4. Attach a wire ornament hanger on the Izze sparkling beverage bottles or punch a hole in the top center of the Coke bottle and insert a wire loop.
  5. Insert a tea light. Hang from stocking hooks to form a garland or hang from a string or wire from a window.

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