How to Make Tealight Candle Holders from Paper Bags

paper bag luminary

Whether you're planning an outdoor party or you're decorating your home for the holidays, knowing how to make tealight candle holders from paper bags gives you an inexpensive and high-impact yard decoration. Also called "luminaries," these paper bag candle holders provide a romantic, glowing light to any outdoor event. Grouped together or lining your front walkway or deck, they are sure to draw compliments from guests.

How to Make Lacy Paper Bag Luminaries

You can give your paper bag tealight holder a romantic, lacy look by applying a paper doily to the outside. At night, when the candle is lit, the lacy portion of the bag shows up as darker than the background. This project is fun and easy, and you can make a dozen or more luminaries in less than an hour.

Things You'll Need

lace paper bag candle holder

To make one dozen lacy luminaries, you'll need the following supplies:

  • 12 white paper lunch bags
  • 12 white paper doilies
  • Non-flammable spray adhesive, such as Elmer's Craft Bond
  • Decorative scissors to create a scalloped edge
  • 12 tealights
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil

What to Do

  1. Begin by measuring three inches down from the top of each paper bag while the bag is still folded. Place a small pencil mark on each side.
  2. Use the decorative scissors to cut from one side to the other, creating a scalloped top for the bag. Repeat with all 12 bags.
  3. Separate the 12 doilies. In a well-ventilated area, spray the backs of the doilies with adhesive.
  4. Using even pressure, apply the doilies to the fronts of the paper bags. Depending on the size of the doilies, you may need to open the bags and apply them to the sides as well.
  5. Open the bags, and allow them to dry thoroughly.
  6. When you're ready to create your luminary display, place one tealight inside each bag and light with a long match or lighter.

How to Make Pierced Paper Bag Candle Holders

A pierced luminary allows the candlelight to shine through the open areas more brightly than it appears through the rest of the bag. This is a great way to highlight a special design, and it's easy to create using craft punches. For a beautiful, natural look, use brown paper bags. You can make a dozen paper bag tealight holders in less than an hour.

Things You'll Need

pierced paper bag candle holder

To make 12 tealight holders, you'll need these items:

  • 12 brown paper lunch bags
  • Craft punch in desired shape, such as a star, heart, snowflake, etc.
  • Pinking shears
  • 12 tealights
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil

What to Do

  1. Start by deciding on your design. You may want all of the bags to look the same. In this case, you'll need to mark the areas you plan to punch with a pencil. If you're fine with each candle holder being different, there's no need to mark anything.
  2. Measure three inches down from the top of the paper bag on each side. Place a pencil mark to guide your cutting.
  3. Cut from one pencil mark to the other using the pinking shears. This will create a decorative edge for the top of the bag. Repeat for all the bags.
  4. Open the bag and use the craft punch to create your desired design. A row of hearts is a fun, romantic look. Snowflakes are lovely for Christmas decorations.
  5. Place the bags in your desired location, and add a tealight to the bottom of each bag. Light the candles using a long match or lighter.

How to Make a Painted Luminary

This project is great for kids, who can display their lighted artwork for all to see. Always use tempura paints because they are opaque but far less flammable than acrylics or other alternatives. Because of the painting, this project can take a little more time than other paper bag candle holders. However, the results are light-hearted and full of personality.

Things You'll Need

painted paper bag candle holder

To make 12 painted paper bag candle holders, gather these supplies:

  • 12 white paper lunch bags, matte finish
  • Tempura craft paints
  • Paint brushes
  • Pinking shears
  • 12 tealights
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil

What to Do

  1. First, measure three inches down from the top of each bag and mark with the pencil.
  2. Using the pinking shears, cut the top three inches off of each bag.
  3. Place the bags on your work surface and paint as desired using the tempura paints.
  4. Allow the bags to dry thoroughly. If desired, turn them over to paint the other side.
  5. When all the bags are dry, set them up in your desired configuration.
  6. Place a tealight in the bottom of each bag, and light it with a long match or lighter. Only adults should use the matches or lighter.

Safety Considerations

Because of the fire involved, luminaries do have a few safety considerations to keep in mind:

  • For the safest display, use battery-operated flameless candles instead of real tealights. The effect will be similar, but they're much safer.
  • If you use real candles, keep a hose or bucket of water handy to put out the flames. Never leave the luminaries unattended.
  • Don't let kids light the luminaries or play around them if you're using real candles.
  • Always decorate your paper bag candle holders with the least flammable materials you can find.

Get Creative

Making your own tealight holders out of paper bags is a fun way to decorate your home for any special evening. Take your time, and get creative. You'll love the beautiful visual effects you can achieve with this fun project.

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How to Make Tealight Candle Holders from Paper Bags