Introduction: Turn Beer Cans Into an Anthropologie-Inspired Lantern Garland

This is a look-for-less craft for a cute garland. The craftosphere is full of Anthropologie copycat DIYs, so please enjoy another one that also incorporates a bit of recycling.

I saw this beautiful lantern garland in my last Anthropologie catalog, and though I have not had the pleasure of seeing it in person, I thought $58 was a little steep (and now it's sold out, so I guess plenty of people thought it was a steal). I was thinking about how I would DIY it, and soda cans came to mind to make the metal lanterns.

I did a little googling, and found out that hill-billy lanterns are a well established craft. I probably should have remembered that from my formative years in rural Michigan, but all that sticks out in my mind are pop can and bottle ash trays. I tried to make the lanterns a little less hill-billy, and a little more Anthro-inspired / bohemian, but this is a very versatile project, and I could see taking it to a more rustic or industrial place.

This instructable outlines the basic idea, but I wanted my lanterns to look a little less pop can-ish. Also, as soon as I started experimenting, I learned that a can is difficult to cut nicely. This helpful site, dollar-store crafts, had the solution: fill the cans with water and freeze them before trying to cut into them - genius! I may apply this method to other future projects.

The materials and tools needed are as follows:


  • Rope of some sort, I bought 10' and then had to buy 5' more due to where I wanted to hang the garland
  • Embroidery thread, masonry line, or cord
  • 14 gauge wire
  • Beer or pop cans - I chose Coors cans because they were taller, not because of that cool Rocky taste.
  • Tea lights - I used the LED versions, but you can put real ones in. The Citronella kind might be nice if you are going to hang this outside.


  • Tap water and freezer
  • Box cutter or similar cutter
  • Multi-material snips (optional)
  • Hammer and nail
  • Pliers
  • Cardstock
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue

You will also need to decide where you want to hang your garland, so you can add hooks if necessary, and buy the right amount of rope, cord, and gather the correct number of cans.

Step 1: Freeze Those Cans

This title sounds self-explanatory, but be warned, one does not simply fill a can with water and pop it in the freezer. If you do this, your cans will split open. The thin aluminum cannot handle the expansion of the water as it freezes.

Instead, you will have to add about an inch of water at a time, and freeze the cans in layers. I know this sounds tedious, but it is not bad, you can do most of the next steps while you are waiting!

Step 2: Make Your Cutting Template

Measure one of your can's circumferences and the height of the main cylinder part. Then translate those measurements into a rectangle on plain paper. Next, mark off the distance you want the slits to stop from the top and the bottom of the cylinder. Then, cover the whole sheet with packaging tape. This is to make it water tight. Find the width for your slit spaces - this should go into your circumference a whole number of times, and cut the slits out with your Xacto knife. I used 1/2" slits and stopped the slits at 1/2" from the top and bottom of the rectangle.

Tape the template together so it is cylindrical. Remember to leave a slit at the seam, as shown.

If you have cans of various sizes, make as many templates as necessary.

Step 3: Make Your Tassels

I was hoping I could just buy some tassels at the craft or fabric store, but the only ones I saw were for curtain tie backs, and not really the style or color I wanted.

To make my tassels, I bought embroidery thread in my desired colors. There are a lot of tutorials for tassels online, but basically you just need a piece of cardstock or cardboard (I used a business card I didn't need) cut to the height you want. I folded my business card so that the height was about 1 3/4". Set aside about 8" in of the thread. Then you wrap the thread or floss around the piece of stock as many times as you decide looks good (I did 30 wraps), and cut through all of the thread at the bottom edge of the cardboard. Make sure you hold the bundle of thread! Fold the 8" piece of thread you set aside in half. Lay the bundle of threads over the 8" piece, so they make a cross. Put the ends of the 8" piece over the bundle, and through the loop. Pull the loop of the 8" piece over the bundles as you bend them in half. Pull the whole thing tight. It's the same idea as attaching two rubber bands. If your bundle isn't even, either make peace with that, or use scissors to give it a hair cut. You will get better at this as you go.

This is the best way I can explain it, but you might find it works better if you hold all the thread while you do this. Or watch a video. This instructable wasn't even suppose to be about tassel-making. I'll leave that to someone else.

Step 4: Ready Your Rope

Decide how many lanterns you want on one garland. You will need to make one loop per lantern, plus one loop at each end. I used 6" of rope to make my loops, and spaced the lanterns out by 14". The end lanterns are only about 8" from the end loops in my design. Do whatever you want here, obviously!

For my loops, I folded a 6" section back onto itself and connected it with a 1" bead of hot glue, leaving a 2" loop. Then I wrapped the 1" glued section with masonry line. I love the neon pink color. It's so much better than rustic twine. Mason jars are over people! For the end loops, I glued a couple of my tassels in before wrapping with the masonry line. The Anthro design used 3, but 2 was all I could spare, because of course, JoAnn's ran out of the navy I was using in the right finish. I got the same color in a thicker, less shiny thread, but wanted to be consistent. My shiny navy tassels are on the end.

If you are still waiting for cans, you can tie the between-the-lantern tassels on. I just wrapped both tails around the rope a couples times and made a square knot. Don't for get to clip those sloppy ends!

Step 5: Bend Your Wire to Hang Lanterns

Grab one of your cans, either one still sealed with your beverage of choice inside, or even better, one full of ice. Bend some 14 gauge wire around the can so that you have a horseshoe shape with ends that are maybe an inch apart. Use pliers to bend the ends into small U shapes as shown.

Step 6: Make the Lanterns

Wow, you've made it to this step? Are you beginning to think you should have just spent the $58? Nah.

So, the first part of this step may be unnecessary. I did not have time to do any diligence, and for that I am sorry, but I have read that you cannot spray paint pop cans unless you sand them first. Whether this is true for all cans, and / or true for spray primer, I do not know, but I did not have time to take the chance. Finding days dry enough to spray paint is hard enough on the east coast in the summer. Plus, even with primer, I was worried about those rocky mountains showing through.

So, grab an old towel, an icy can, 120 grit sand paper, and get comfy in front of the TV. In hindsight, Coors cans are a poor choice when you have to sand, because it is harder to know if you have sanded enough on the silver parts. However, you will soon learn to identify the sanded vs. un-sanded part by the texture.

After 120, I also hit the cans with 180 grit. I was worried about all the obvious scratch marks, but I don't think the 180 made a big difference, and the clean metal primer covered the scratches right up.

Once you have finished sanding a can, you might want to pop it back in the freezer and start on another one instead of going right in to cutting, since your hands probably melted some of the inside.

When you have a frozen, sanded can all ready to go, towel it off a bit and slide your template on. Try to tape the template to the can if you can. Carefully, and with a very fresh, sharp razor blade in the box-cutter, slice the can along your slit guides. Remove the template and even the slit ends out if necessary. Use a hammer and nail to pierce two holes in the bottom, and two evenly spaced holes in the top of the can, as shown.

Use your sharp box-cutter to take the lid off as shown. When the lid is finally off, use the snips or other cutting tool to cut slits up to the can's knuckle, as shown. At the nail holes, cut a triangle, like in the picture. Fold these new tabs down.

Insert a flat-head screw driver into the slits in the can at the ends and bend the new slats away from the can. Hopefully you have small hands like me, and you can get your fingers in to further bend these slats away from the can. Feels like a raccoon trap, be careful! I also used the handle of my handle to dent the bottom of the cans outward, so they would better accept the tea lights.

Now you're ready to prime and paint. I did the wire hangers too. Note: I plan to have 5 lanterns, but I only had 3 ready for paint when I read that Sunday was going to be the last low humidity day for at least a week, so I decided 3 would be good for now.

Pat yourself on the back, this was the longest step.

Step 7: Put It All Together and Hang It Up!

I used painters tape to hold my rope up where I thought I wanted the garland. Luckily, the lanterns are so light, I was able to leave it like this until I was ready to permanently install the hooks.

Insert the ends of your lantern tassels into the two holes you made in the bottom of the can, and tie them together. The lanterns should flatten out a little to accommodate your hands, it's pretty convenient. I tried to get the lengths close on each lantern, but it's easier said than done.

Insert one end of a wire hanger into the lantern, but the hanger through a loop in the rope, and into the other lantern hole. Fair warning, you might have to stretch the nail holes out a little bit, you don't want to scrape the spray paint off the wire, or worse, split the can, that aluminum is very thin (I speak from experience).

If you haven't already, tie your other tassels to the rope. I had to add another section of rope to connect my garland to my ceiling on one end. I used LED tea lights, and put three small balls of modeling clay on each of their bottoms to stick them into the lanterns. I may add a cut out to the bottom of the cans for the on/off switches.

If you are using real tea lights, I suggest securing them with modeling clay or hot glue, and using a wand lighter.

Stand back and enjoy your thriftiness and new use for beer and pop cans.

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