Our Martinmas -- and lantern tutorial


We celebrated a beautiful Martinmas last night with a group of homeschooling friends. There were moments that were so quiet and reverent, looking around the circle of us singing together, and there were moments that were rowdy and a bit challenging to manage. But overall, it was such a delight to celebrate as a group. 

I didn't get very many pictures (just these three, in fact, and I was missing my lens!), but the few I have tell a story, I think.

martinmas table

We met in a large park and shared a simple meal (of pumpkin soup, bread, and cider). Then we set out, a merry little band, singing. We stopped at a couple of houses in the neighborhood, and then wound our way back into the park. In a stand of trees, we stopped and I told the story of St. Martin to our group. All was still and dark, except for our lanterns. Finally, a quieter group found its way back to the tables to pack up and bid one another farewell.

small lantern

There were moments that weren't perfect. But it was beautiful -- magical, even.

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making lanterns10

This year, we again made our "go-to" lanterns. I loved the balloon ones we made last year, but didn't want to do them two years in a row (not that my children would have minded!). I thought about making some out of beeswax (sort of like these), but ultimately decided against it because I wanted my children to be able to make their own lanterns.

making lanterns12

These lanterns take 3-4 work sessions. You'll need heavy-weight watercolor paper (approx. 12"x18"), high-quality watercolor paints (those that come in tubes rather than the dry ones in a tray), paint brushes, smooth boards (can be made of plastic, wood, or any smooth surface) for painting on, cooking oil, paper towels, glue, a hole punch, tealights, and yarn, ribbon, or wire to make the handle.

painting for lanterns7

painting for lanterns12

painting for lanterns8 painting for lanterns2 painting for lanterns3

The first day, we made our paintings, using the wet-on-wet watercolor painting method. I like to use paintings that are completely saturated in color for these, so this method is perfect for that. (I took a lot of pictures of our painting day this time; find more pictures here.)

lanterns - oiling

Once the paintings were completely dry, we oiled them using cooking oil and paper towels. (This picture is actually from 2006; I don't have one from this year). It is important that the paintings are completely saturated with oil. You are not going for a light coating -- you want the paper to be soaked all the way to the back. This makes it translucent once dry. Expect each one to absorb several teaspoons of oil, at least. This is really messy and they will need to dry overnight.

making lanterns1 making lanterns4

making lanterns3

The next day, we marked one of the long sides of the painting with lines that were 2" apart and 2.5" long. I cut along the lines. 

making lanterns5 making lanterns7 making lanterns9

Then we glued them into a cylinder along one of the short sides, using clothespins at the ends to hold them together, and stones to weigh them down while they dried. Once the sides were dry, we folded the notched ends over and glued them shut, once again using stones as weights while they dried.

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Finally, we punched holes and added our handles -- these were yarn that had been finger-knitted by Elisabeth, and glued tealights into the bottom of each lantern. It's really good for children to have running projects like this, even something like this where each work session only takes a few minutes. It's very strengthening to work on something over several days.

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I hope if you try these, the instructions make sense and they turn out beautifully! Let me know if you try them. Enjoy your beautiful lanterns!