Paper lanterns at the Just So Festival

One of the highlights of the Just So festival is the paper lantern parade on the Saturday night. All day on the Friday and Saturday families had been busy in the mess tent, weaving, gluing and sticking to make lanterns from a combination of willow and tissue paper, and by the Saturday night 360 paper lanterns had been made for the evening parade. The lanterns are easy to make and are a magical craft for the winter solstice, Halloween or Bonfire Night.

How to make a paper lantern

You’ll need four long lengths of willow to make the frame of your lantern. Using the thicker end of the willow, cut four pieces to make a square frame. Fasten the willow together with sticky tape, and reinforce the square with extra pieces of willow across the centre of the square. This cross is also where you will attach the candle to make your lantern shine.

There were all sorts of wonderful lantern designs at the festival, but this is how the girls made theirs.

From the square base they used the thinner willow to build a frame, reaching upwards and fastened together at the top with more sticky tape.

A tea candle was held in place in the centre of the crossed base with twists of garden wire.

Once you’ve built your lantern frame, it’s time to add the paper cover. Use a plastic table cloth as a base and brush on a mix of half-PVA(craft )glue / half water. Place a sheet of tissue paper on the table cloth and brush over the top surface with the glue/water mix. The tissue paper will pick up a coating of the glue/water from the table cloth so it’s covered on both sides.

Then place the tissue paper on your lantern frame. Cover all sides of the lantern, including the underneath, but leave a gap of several centimeters at the top, so when your candle is lit there is space for the warm air to escape. (Sorry about the blurry photo – I seem to remember I was holding L’s lantern for her and passing sheets of tissue paper to B while I took it!)

If you have extra lengths of willow, you can loop them around at the top of your paper lantern for extra decoration.

Leave the paper lantern overnight or for several hours so it can dry out completely. The tissue paper dries surprisingly taught. Once dry, use a craft knife or scissors to cut a window in one side of your lantern, near the base, so you can reach inside to light your candle.

At the Just So festival, just as the last of the daylight left the sky, 360 lanterns gathered ready for the parade. Lanterns of all shapes and sizes joined in – many held aloft by sticks or plaited willow handles. The lanterns were beautiful, and surprisingly robust. Ours lasted the parade, two nights in a tent and the car journey home.

The lanterns would be wonderful for a winter solstice event, or to light your way trick-or-treating at Halloween. If you make one, we’d love to see a photo.

Want to see more of the Just So Festival?

Take a look at the clay faces we made or visit the Just So website.

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Want more happy handmade crafts?

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Disclosure: we were given free tickets to attend the Just So Festival


  1. says

    I bet they looked so magical, and are so simple to make! We went to the just so festival on the Sunday, and had a great time.

  2. Valerie says

    Hello thanks for your article. Do you have any idee where I can purchase this paper to make my own lantern ? ( i live in France)

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