Tag Archives: making stuff

how to make a Vesak lantern

One of the most common search engine phrases that brings people to this blog is “how to make a Vesak lantern” so I’ve decided to post step-by-step instructions. I mean, who better than a half-Jewish white girl from Canada, right?

Vesak is the Buddha’s birthday, enlightenment day and death day and is celebrated on the full moon in May. It’s a big deal in Sri Lanka. We’ve celebrated it there and also here in Toronto. Please keep in mind this is not how my children’s father made his Vesak lanterns. He likes to remind me that they didn’t have bendy straws or twist ties and they had to splinter bamboo sticks and then tie them together with string or flexible rubber bits that they pulled off trees and no he can’t remember what kind of tree.

There are lots of styles of Vesak lanterns. We’re making this kind:


Credit for all techniques goes to my mother-in-law who made that one when we were all in Berlin back in 2009.


  • bendy straws
  • twist ties or string
  • cardboard
  • tissue paper
  • scissors
  • glue
  • tape
  • wire or string to hang the lantern
  • small candle that will stand up on its own (like a votive or a tea-light)

Take four straws and bend them 90 degrees. Squish the shorter end and insert it into the longer end of the next straw to form a square. Do this six times to make six squares.


Using twist ties or string, attach four of the squares together at the corners to form a ring:


Then attach one square to the top and one square to the bottom by tying (or twist-tying) all four corners.


Now cut a cardboard rectangle to fit inside one of the straw-frame squares. This is going to form the bottom of your lantern where the candle is going to sit. Tape it in place. Don’t let the cardboard extend beyond the straws because that will get in the way of the tissue paper that we’re glueing on next.


Now cut four squares and eight triangles of tissue paper. Measure out the first square and triangle by placing the straw frame on the tissue paper and tracing the outside of the shape. Make your tissue squares and triangles just a bit bigger than the straw frame but not much. You only need enough at the edges to wrap about half-way around the straws. Alternate your colours however you like.


Put glue around the edge of your square or triangle and glue it on to the straw frame. I find that liquid white glue works better than glue sticks. It’s a bit wet and messy but it holds well once it dries. And this year I didn’t even have to do it because my kid and her friend now have enough manual dexterity and perfectionist tendencies to manage it themselves!




Make sure not to tissue over the top: guaranteed to send your lantern up in smoke. Once all your tissue paper is in place, your lantern is constructed and now we move on to decorations!

To make a frill around the bottom of your lantern, fold a piece of tissue paper like a fan, leaving a band unfolded at the top. Then, holding your scissors at an angle, cut into the folded portion at about 3 cm intervals. Don’t cut into the band at the top.

Next, unfurl! This very dramatic trick shocked me at the ripe old age of 34 when I first saw my mother-in-law gently shake out a banner of zig-zagged tissue fringe. Am I the only one who missed this trick back when I fan-folded every piece of paper I came across? Am I? When you cut on an angle you get zig-zagged fringes! I had no idea.


Glue your dramatic zig-zagged fringe around the bottom of your lantern. Poke two small holes in the tissue near the top and make a handle out of wire or not-so-flammable string to hang the lantern.


You’re done! Unless you like more decorations. If you do, you can add tissue paper ruffle along all the seams to hide the tissue overlap and glue blobs. Just cut a strip of tissue paper and glue it scrunchily (that’s a word) along the seam. You can also cut out snowflakes to enhance the sides and tape or glue them on. We haven’t done that yet but you can see the scrunchies and the snowflakes on the finished lantern at the top of this post.

Put a candle on the base, wait for it to get dark and light ’em up! (The cylindrical lanterns are from the dollar store. It takes too long to hand-make enough lanterns for a good display. Don’t judge me).

Happy Vesak!


first foray into felting

I made slippers for the kids. It was my first time felting. I started with blue slippers for Malli. First, I knit a giant sock:

Wait – for scale, here it is with Malli’s shoe:

Then I panicked. Is this really how it’s supposed to work? Did I read the pattern right? Did I accidently double the recipe?

No, it was right. I thrashed it about in hot hot water and got these:

Confidently, I knit Akka’s slippers. Longer and narrower for the poor child who has her mother’s and grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s skis feet.

I felted those ones down and stuck on some grippy soles. Now we just wait for snow so we can go somewhere in our snow boots with these slippers tucked into my purse.

it fits!

I finally finished Akka’s new dress. The pattern is Wisteria Child’s Dress by Angela Hahn. It’s the most ambitious thing I’ve ever knit and it took me a while because I was fiddling with the pattern to make a dress that would fit my girl. The pattern has different sizes and I used a small size but made it longer in the body and with bigger armholes. It’s a little tight going over her head but once it’s on, it fits! Now I’m going to stop feeding her so she won’t ever grow out of it.

rattlesnake update

Halloween is over and feels very far away. We’ve composted the pumpkins, turned the page on the calendar, and survived the flu since then. The rattlesnakes were a modest success. They weren’t great but they both got made and one got worn so that counts as a modest success in my book. The final design went like this:

Cut plastic ball in half:


Sew the half-balls to a green tuque, leaving about a third free so you can add lights inside the eyes. I used MEC turtle lights (thanks for the tip, PR!). Then I pinned on a pipe cleaner snake tongue.

Akka cut shapes out of foam sheets and I glued them on, then pinned a rattle onto the tail. I attached the snake to the back of the tuque with safety pins and that was that!


Malli was going to be the white-eyed version but he rejected the whole affair. Just as we headed out trick or treating I strapped his dragon hat on which was enough to convince the neighbours to give him candy.




globalization, economies of scale, and two home-made rattlesnake costumes

The kids both want to be rattlesnakes for Halloween. I was a bit stuck on how to make their costumes. I posted as much on facebook and within minutes I had a wealth of brilliant rattlesnake costume ideas. Sewing tips, light-up eye ideas, the works. I hit the dollar store. Fourteen dollars later I had two pairs of tights, a pair of green socks, a bag of 5 plastic balls, two green toques, a pair of green mittens, pipe cleaners, and some foam sheets to cut into shapes. Back at home, the kids and I cut open an old pillow and stuffed ourselves a snake:


I’m a bit of a costume snob. I eschew the plasticy ones you can buy in the drug store. I’m not terribly crafty but I like the idea of piecing together their Halloween costumes every year. The rattlesnakes have proven to be a challenge, however. The prototype involves a plastic ball sawed in half, attached to a toque, with glowing red bicycle LED lights inside. I haven’t figured out how or where to attach the actual snake bit. They look cool but they look very home-made and, shall we say, rough around the edges.There are several kinks to sort out before the 31st.

Then, today, I took the kids to IKEA. Malli has reached that all-important childhood milestone of measuring 37 inches high and being allowed admission to the ball room. While they jumped and shrieked and buried themselves in balls, I browsed for a new duvet cover and ended up coming home with these masks:

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Well, shit. I’d never be able to make something like these. Once I’d bought the fabric and the elastic and figured out how to do it, I’d have spent a fortune in dollars and time to put together two wee costumes. Home-made costumes just can’t compete with globalization. Just-in-time delivery, low overheads, low wages, high volume production and sales. One ladybug and one dragon neatly packaged up for $4.99 each. Made in Indonesia.

The dragon outfit has an additional power. It quickly yet harmlessly puts its wearer to sleep. A highly advantageous feature that IKEA has failed to recognize and properly market.


Even so, I haven’t given up on the rattlesnakes. I brought the ladybug and dragon home but they may live out their lives in the toybox and not actually venture out for treats with the other ghouls and goblins. I’m going to give those rattlesnakes another try.