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Into The Jam: Jar Lanterns Part One

Blueberry! Nom nom!

But seriously, folks.

Today’s post is about making jam jar lanterns — so we had to finish off all the jam in the fridge.

I chose a blueberry-lemon combo.

Dan went with strawberry-pear. Sonia ate cream cheese straight out of the container after deeming our grown up flavors “yuh-ty.”

Then I washed out all the jars thoroughly & soaked them in HOT soapy water (thrice draining & refilling for maximum continual hotness) for about 30 minutes to loosen up the paper labels.

Tip: The longer you soak them, the easier it is to get the labels off. The glue, however, requires some elbow grease no matter how long you soak.

I scraped with a butter knife, then got the glue and remaining paper scraps off using the back of a kitchen sponge & a copious amount of liquid soap.

I scrubbed rapidly in small circles, being very careful about the slippy-ness.

Then I gathered the rest of my supplies:

Needle-nose pliers with wire snip built right in!

Some 20-gauge copper wire

Plastic-coated copper picture hanging wire

A Navajo dream-catcher

Don’t despair if you don’t have the fancy pliers. You will need pliers — preferably of the needle-nose variety — for some of the wire tucking, but I have successfully managed to cut both 20-gauge and picture-hanging wire with regular old scissors before. I just wouldn’t recommend using your favorite pair.

The dream catcher was for inspiration. During the contemplation stage of this project, I kept worrying about how I would secure the jam jars well enough to keep them from falling on us, while still maintaining a somewhat “floating” look.

Then, as if by kismet, my parents sent us a care package from AZ and inside was this little dream catcher. I happened to notice how the thin little threads formed a sort of basket-bottom shape. So I took a drinking cup that was approximately the same size as a jam jar & set it in the middle of the dream catcher.

“Well there you go!” I said to myself. “Instead of trying to hang the lantern by the mouth of the jam jar, I’ll create a little wire basket for it, and hang it from the basket, not from the jar itself! Genius!”

“Yes, you’re a genius. I’ll bet the Nobel Prize committee will call any minute,” my self responded. (What a b*tch.)

Anyway, I enlisted Dan’s help & we got to work.

First, we estimated the length of wire we’d need to make the bottom part of the basket by simply running a little wire underneath one of the jam jars & snipping them an inch or so above the lip.

Then we measured against that first piece to cut the rest of the pieces we’d need.

(3 pieces per round jam jar; 2 pieces per square jar.)

Next, we laid them out in a spoke pattern… (as we were starting with the round jars)…

And folded each piece over twice to create a knot.

How To: Start with the bottom-most spoke at 12 o’clock. Fold it backward toward you over the center point of the spokes (It should end up in a 6 o’clock position.) Then fold it back again underneath the center to its original 12 o’clock position. Turn the “wheel” and repeat with each of the other two original spokes. Viola. That’s it.

Then we ran the wires (in their now-secure spoke pattern) up the sides of the jam jars and tucked the ends over the lip to hold them temporarily in place.

Next, we wrapped two separate lengths of the plastic-coated picture hanging wire around the jars near the middle and twisted the ends shut, like you do with those bread bag twist-tie thingies. But not too tight.

** In this pic, I had wrapped the picture wire a little too high on the jar, but it was a good illustration shot, so I used it anyway. We suggest wrapping right around the middle. Too high of a wrap left the wire basket looking and feeling a little less structurally sound than when we wrapped right around the middle. Also — notice that we left some length on the ends of the picture wire for easier twisting when we needed to tighten it later on.

The next step was to bend the wire spokes down over the picture hanging wire “belt” & slip the whole thing off the jar. (See? Middle = better.)

By taking the basket framework off of the jar, we could more easily wrap the trailing ends of the spokes around the picture-wire belt & tuck in the loose ends.

** Again: Please pay no attention to the fact that this one has a “double loop” belt rather than two separate single loop belts. This was an early attempt that we had to undo/redo when we realized we couldn’t tighten the belt very well this way. More on that later. It was just the best pic we had of the finished, but empty basket. Trust us, go with two separate belts. (And sorry. I’ll get better at this take-a-good-pic-of-every-important-step thing as we go…)

Anyhoo… See? A tisket, a tasket, a little wire basket!

Then we slipped the jam jars back in and twisted the ends of the belts using our needle nose pliers to get the belts  good and tight around the jars — and snipped off the excess. Done.

The process is the same for both round and square jars, except that the square jars only require a cross shape for the basket rather than a spokes shape.

Also, admittedly, the square jars are a little more difficult to “belt” with the picture wire. Because of the corners.

The picture wire is stiff and holds it’s original spooled shape well enough that it kind of “fights” having that shape changed. So you have to wrap, tighten, flatten, wrap, tighten, flatten. Kind of a pain, but worth it, I think.

Because look at these cutie pies!!!

We’re not finished yet, of course. These are going to hang from the ceiling of our porch, so we’ll have to build some mounts & install a little hanging hardware. Plus, we’ll do our magic to turn them from jars into lanterns! Oooh!

So no worries. We have a plan & we’re working on it. They should be finished in the next day or two. Stay tuned!

NEXT POST: JAM ON IT! — JAR LANTERNS REVEAL

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