How to Create Your Own Wine Bottle or Mason Jar Lamp

mason-jarIf you’re looking to have your very own one of a kind handmade lamp, or perhaps you have a friend or family member in mind as a recipient for a special occasion, look no further! The art of upcycling jars and bottles to make some really striking working lamps is still going strong and now you probably want to get some idea of how they are put together.

You are going to need: A “make-your-own lamp” kit that will consist of wiring, a filament, and a rubber-like gripper thing that connects the jar lid to the other components. You will also need a Mason jar, try to go with a large one if at all possible-and you can also find nice wine or spirit bottles for this purpose as well. For extra panache, you can leave the label on the bottle, and using shellac or Mod Podge can preserve it neatly. A harp and finial-these parts secure to the filament part and the finial holds the lampshade in place. A desired lampshade-it s size should kind of dovetail nicely with the proportion of the jar or bottle.

Some people may let the wiring part just stay at the top near the lid of the jar, but others may prefer to have the cord interwoven through-in that case, you’ll have to do the legwork of drilling a hole in the bottom for the cord to thread out of. This is not your standard drill bit, by the way. It’s a spade-shaped bit and the package should indicate “for glass”. I have left this step up to the professionals. If you undertake it yourself, do go SLOWLY. The resulting hole should be close to the bottom (about a half-inch so you don’t get too close to the bottom) and about the size of a dime. You may also want to gently sand that area because it may be kind of sharp.

You will need to assemble the lamp kit components according to the directions on the package now. Be sure you thread the electric cord through so that the plug is outside the dime-shaped hole. Tip-Use a plastic drinking straw (the way I did) to encase the part of the cord that will rest inside the jar/bottle. I doubt any of the objects I put in there would conduct electricity, but I like the neater, concealed look. Your lamp components are going to be intertwined with the lid of the jar if done correctly. It should just unscrew on and off fairly easily. When you have this part complete get a standard light bulb and make certain it works. I’ve found that you can use the newer energy-saving model as well with this kit.

The fun part will be filling up your lamp, if you have chosen a Mason jar. If you are going with a bottle you may be limited to smaller, fine particle items like acrylic stone d├ęcor (such as that used for floral arrangements) as you will be hard pressed to fit anything through that narrow neck. With a wide mouth jar the sky is the limit. Seashells, sand, Legos, colorful spools of thread, candy, toys… You should see my own lamp: it is filled to the brim with every little miniature vintage toy or trinket I ever owned! I treasure my lamp to this day; because it contains personal mementos of the past. You should have an inch of space at the top between your trinkets and the lid. Now screw it on tightly; lastly you will need to attach your lampshade and the finial. Plain lampshades complement your jar art well; try to choose a smaller size lampshade that really sets your lamp off when it is switched on.

If you really want to take the shortcut in some of this there may be “fill a jar lamp” kits for sale on e-commerce websites; however in my experience, finding one of those empty lamps that all you have to do is just open and fill, is not easy. I have seen a few but they will cost you much more than a simple lamp kit and a Mason jar is easier to find in your stash somewhere, or you might want to check with local flea markets or thrift stores. Remember, the process is always about having fun making your lamp before you plug it in and see it light up your room!

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How to Choose Yarn for Your Next Project

How to choose yarn for your next project, whether for knitting or crocheting, can be an overwhelming task. Your local yarn shop has a vast array of colors and textures. There must be a logical way to narrow down the choices. Focus on your particular yarn project or pattern and its function. Yarn shop staff should be able to direct you to the best yarn for what you are trying to do. But you might want to figure out for yourself how to choose yarn for your next project and here are some ideas that may help.

yarn

Is safety an issue? If you’re going to do a hot pad as a beginning fiber artist, then you want to avoid acrylics, which will catch fire. If you are making a baby blanket, the roughness of hemp and itchiness of some wools is not such a great idea for either your hands or the baby. And if you are making stuffed animals or using a knobby or beaded yarn, make sure there are no choking hazards that may come off with vigorous use.

Is your item going to be used seasonally? That is, is this a summer frock or a heavy-duty winter item like a scarf, blanket or mittens? This will tell you whether or not you need a light weight or heavy weight yarn. Another factor to consider is whether the yarn wicks away moisture like wool or absorbs it like silk. Although acrylic is warm enough for winter wear, it’s not very warm when it gets wet, and it doesn’t breath or wick away moisture.

Clothes require other considerations, like those time consuming laundry concerns. Even though wool and cotton hold their shape well, they both shrink and wool can felt into a solid piece of fabric. Over time cotton has a tendency to stretch out. Acrylic is perhaps your best bet for washing and drying. Most of the other yarns will take a little more work, especially in the drying department.

Even what you would think is an easy decision – that of color – seems overwhelming with all the choices. Remember that a multi-colored variegated yarn will not show your difficult or dimensional stitches at all. If you want to do cables, then a solid, lighter color is best. Fancy yarns with lots of texture are also difficult for showing off your fancy stitches, not to mention they are challenging to work into a piece. Yarn that is not consistent in its thickness will cause fancy stitches to disappear and will be difficult to pull out if you make an error.

Many of us are impatient and want to see the end results of a project. If you are making a blanket or rug, then consider using a bulky or chunky yarn. Yes, it goes fast, but it adds the inches quite quickly and you can use more open stitches and a larger needle or hook compared to a simple stockinette or single crochet. The thickness of the yarn and the openness of your stitches help you see your amazing progress.

Don’t be surprised if your yarn shop recommends a blend of synthetic, durable, easy-care yarns like nylon or acrylic, with the breathability of natural yarns like wool or cotton. This is especially true for socks, which need nylon (20-25%) to add strength in an area of constant abrasion. Socks must also breath and wick the perspiration from your feet, so a wool and nylon combination makes for a good fit.

It is very likely that you will come up with the same yarn that was first recommended by the yarn store expert. That tells you they not only know what they are doing, but that you are now knowledgeable enough to know how they came to the same conclusion as you have. That’s a win-win situation. Next time you will know how to choose yarn for your next project, and you can shop with a lot less anxiety.

One final decision in how to choose yarn comes if you are making items to sell at craft shows. Do you ever wonder why there is such a large variance in prices? Perhaps the crafter wants to keep his or her item inexpensive and so uses the 100% acrylic or polyester yarns sold in discount stores. On the more expensive side, maybe the crafter believes in using only natural fibers and they cost more and so the crafter passes that expense on to you. Either way the crafter is often trying to please both the cost conscious, bargain hunting shopper and the handmade quality conscious buyer. It is not always an easy compromise. The good news is that either way, you’ll end up with a uniquely handmade item that was made just for you.

Copyright 2015 by Linda K Murdock. Linda Murdock owns her own business, has written 4 books and blogs about Colorado and its crafty people. To find more tips on how to choose yarn for a project, read her full article at http://lindakmurdock.com/

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