Saturday, June 2, 2012

Paper Lanterns for Reception Tables

Not too long after our eldest became engaged, I saw an idea for a reception table decoration.  Since she had decided on a rustic theme, I suggested these paper lanterns with a bird window to match her invitations.  We ended up making 17 lanterns in all.  I started way ahead of time with the cutting and scoring, then waited until the week of the wedding for the assembly.  The paper stored flat in a drawer, but the 17 lanterns took up a bit of space.
Paper Bird Lanterns

Here are the supplies that you'll need to get started:  
  • 2 sheets of sturdy paper for each lantern body. 8.5 x 11 is what I used.
  • A translucent paper for the window and the top.  Depending on your cut-out opening, you may be able to get 2 or 3 from a single sheet of 8.5 x 11. My design was about 3 inches from the top of the bird's head to the bottom of his tail.  I got 3 strips from each sheet. You can get 2 tops from one sheet.
  • Exacto knife for cutting out the window shape (or a punch if you can find one in the shape you need.  Butterflies abound:  birds we liked, did not!) This pink swivel x-acto was perfect for all the curvy cuts.
  • Stencil (if you're not using a punch)
  • pen or pencil for tracing your stencil
  • Cutting mat or something to protect your working surface from the knife
  • Ruler
  • Butter knife (You don't want a serrated blade for scoring for the folds)
  • Glue stick or some other glue made for paper products.  Those sold in the scrapbooking section of your favorite store work best as they don't tend to wrinkle the paper.  Elmer's school glue is a bit wet for this purpose.

The DIY stencil pastic I found was 10 inches wide, which was perfect for my purpose.  The finished lantern is 5 inches on a side.  I drew the outline of the birds we wanted on the stencil.  This design was going to continue around the corner of the lantern, so I centered it on the 10 inch plastic.  If your design is single, center it within 5 inches.
The cut-out openings at the bottom are 3 inches wide.  Leave a 1 inch tab on each end and a 2 inch tab in the center. (1+3+2+3+1= 10)  The last inch of the 11 inch paper will be used to attach 2 pieces together into a square.  Ignore it for now.

You'll notice that the birds are reversed from the above picture to the one below.  Flip the stencil over.  I did this so that when I draw the design on the good paper, I'm drawing on the back of it.  That way, I don't have to worry about pencil lines showing on the good side.  To make sure I always put it properly on the paper, I wrote myself some notes about how to line it up.  If I couldn't read it, I knew I had the stencil wrong side up. (you can click on the picture to see it enlarged)
If your paper has a right side and a wrong side, be sure to have the wrong side up to draw on.  I lined the stencil at the bottom right corner of the paper to draw the foot openings.  Then I slid it up to the top right corner to draw the birds, so they would be closer to the top.
For cutting out the bottom openings, it helps to use a ruler (with a metal edge) as a guide to slide your knife along.  This keeps the line nice and straight.
The picture below shows the paper with the elements cut out.
 Here you'll see that the paper is flipped over to show the right side - the side I didn't draw on.  Now you're ready to score the paper so that the folding lines stay straight.  On the finished lantern, one inch will overlap and be glued to make the box shape.  Line the ruler up one inch from the edge of the paper.  Make sure it's that empty 11th inch that you ignored when you were making your stencil.  Holding the ruler firmly, run the butter knife hard against it to make a grove in the paper.
 Now do the same thing five inches from the other edge.  This will place the score line in the center of the 2 inch foot tab.  You now have a 5-inch section on the left, another 5-inch section in the center and a 1-inch section on the right.
 With the size of my cut out, I was able to cut my translucent sheets into 3 even strips, a bit over 3.5 inches wide.
 The strips needed to fit inside the corner of the box, so I scored them across the middle.
 Now you're ready for some assembly.
(sorry, I forgot to take a picture of an assembly step here.  Fold along those score lines you made on the big lantern papers.  You'll need 2 sheets for each lantern.  Put glue around the cut-out window and place the translucent paper over the opening.  Make sure it's not too tight or loose with the paper folded like it will be when finished.)

Now put some glue on the outside-the good side - of the 1 inch section on one sheet and more glue on the inside - the wrong side- of the other sheet.  Press them together.  Then join the far left with the far right the same way you joined the center.  Glue on the outside of the 1 inch section and the inside edge of the other end.  Stick them together.
Now you've got your basic box.
To make a top, cut a 5.5 inch by 6 inch piece from your translucent paper.  You can get 2 per sheet.  Score it so that you have a 5 inch square in the center.  That will be 1/4 inch from 2 sides and 1/2 inch from the other 2 sides.  Cut the little corners out with scissors so you'll have tabs to attach inside the lantern.  I used tape rather than glue for this attachment.
Here is the finished lantern.  Please be sure to use battery operated lights inside.  You DO NOT want to use candles with a real flame in a paper lantern!

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