DIY Fire & Ice Lanterns

The old becomes new:  A new variation on the outdoor lantern.
We have had an unusually warm winter in Michigan this year, and while the temps have been nice, I have had to hold off on this project idea until we got a cold snap.  We finally got some snow and cold earlier this week, so I was able to try out this fun winter project.
I had pinned a product called Globe Ice Lantern Kits a few months back recognizing that I could DIY them at home.  Originally priced at nearly $30 for a kit that makes 6 lanterns, I think they are very reasonable for a small batch.  If you are making several (say, for a special event or to light a walkway), you can make 3 of these DIY versions for only $2 worth of supplies from the dollar store.

To make DIY Fire & Ice Lanterns, you will need:
a package of 3 punch balloons from the dollar store
a package of 3 LED tea lights from the dollar store
small cylinder (shot glass, pop bottle, etc.)
freezer or below-freezing outdoor temps

attach balloon to faucet

You are getting a glimpse of my less-than-sparkling kitchen sink in this post.  Be kind  in your judgments.
First,  stretch the opening of one punch balloon over your faucet.  The punch balloons are thicker than normal party balloons, so they can take quite a bit of stretching and snapping.

fill balloon with water

Turn on the faucet and let the water pressure fill the balloon to your desired size.  My lanterns were about 6-8 inches in diameter.

use the punch elastic to tie off the balloon

Pinch off the opening of the balloon and wrap the attached rubber band around the neck of the balloon (like a ponytail) to temporarily tie it off.  This will take a little finesse.  The water in the balloon won’t want to stay in there, so it will try to spout back at you.  I may possibly know from experience.

If you were to freeze the balloon as it is, you could make a lovely ice orb.  If you want to be able to insert a light inside the ice lantern, you need to create a notch for it in the candle.

put small cylinder in balloon

Stretch the opening of the balloon neck over whatever cylinder you choose to use.  Just make sure the diameter of the cylinder is slightly larger than your candle.
Once the cylinder is fully plugging the opening of the balloon, you can remove the rubber band.  Little by little, work the neck of the balloon over the cylinder until a few inches of the cylinder are submerged in the water.

put the balloon outside

Place the balloon in a bowl that is roughly the size and shape of the filled balloon.  For two of my lanterns, I used a bowl that was too small, which resulted in more egg-shaped lanterns than perfect spheres. Place the bowl in a freezer or in a snow bank for 12-24 hours.

pour hot water into the cylinder

I brought in my first lantern after 12 hours.  I poured hot water into the cylinder to loosen it from the ice.

peel off balloon

One quick slice with a knife and the balloon peels away from the ice.  Carefully remove the ice lantern from the bowl.  Because this lantern only froze for 12 hours, the shell of ice was thin and the center was not frozen.  The water inside the shell will need to be emptied into the sink to avoid a mess.  Again, I might possibly know from experience.

thin shell ice lantern

Place an LED tea light onto your table and set the lantern carefully over it.  If you choose to use a real candle instead of a tea light, you will need to create a “chimney” at the top of the lantern, either by drilling or melting, to allow oxygen into the lantern.  Also, the lantern will obviously melt more quickly with real fire inside.

thin ice lantern at night

The thin shell of the lantern allows a lot of light to shine through the ice, but it is quite fragile.

thin and thick ice lanterns

You can see that I damaged the top of the lantern on the left while moving it outside.  The lantern on the right was allowed to freeze for 24 hours and is much thicker, more opaque, and stronger.

blue ice lantern

As an experiment, I added some blue food coloring to the water on the final lantern as I filled it.  The result was pretty cool.  When making these again, I might try other add-ins, like glitter or flower petals.

lit blue ice lantern

If you use food coloring in a lantern, realize that the dyed water will melt onto whatever surface on which you have place the lantern; and food coloring stains.  A placemat or lipped tray would catch the drips.

lit clear ice lantern

I think these lanterns would be lovely lighting the pathway up to your home over the holidays. 
You could also use them as inexpensive centerpieces at a winter wedding.  Place the lantern in a wide, shallow bowl and surround it with evergreen clippings or fresh flowers.  The slowly melting ice would provide water for the cut flowers and greenery.
frost poem
You didn’t think I would make it through an entire post about Fire & Ice without bringing up the Frost poem, did you?

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Thanks,  Jessica Hill
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  1. Diane says

    Thank you, this is perfect. I wanted to create a cylindrical cavity without using a drill as I’ve seen others do. I have some stainless dip cups that might do the trick. Your way makes so much sense. Happy Holidays and thanks for sharing.

  2. Kelly Rodgers says

    I love that I found you! I almost spent thirty bucks on a kit on a boutique site – until I found you on Pinterest. I had ALL the supplies on hand, who knew?? I also have very bright purple lights (similar to votives…) that can even go underwater – I originally used them at a wedding. I think the purple will be magical. I made my first one tonight for a party in two days – the freezing is happening in the freezer. We’re in Southern California and here at 10 PM, it’s 66 degrees. I’m going to use them to line our walkway. What a lovely, magical idea. Thank you, thank you. :)

  3. Barbara Gilloren says

    What r u using to stretch the neck of the balloon can’t figure that out. Thanks for your pictures it helps . Can’t wait to make these.


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