Candy Wrapper Desk Lantern

The Inspiration

The initial idea for my up cycling project started with the currently trendy bucket hat. Although the bucket has long been the functional choice of fisherman and children while outdoors, it has recently caught on as a street wear fashion accessory. The current trend is a really unique aesthetic that is created by the fabric that is used, rather than by the hat style itself. These fabrics are usually bold, have contrasting colors, and often repeat a pattern of a small image. This can include are range of things like floral patterns, space/galaxy imagery, tie-dye, and word graphics. I thought that it would be fun to try and replicate this look by creating my own fabric pattern. While thinking about what recycled materials had bizarre colorful imagery,  I was reminded of those once-popular purses made from recycled candy wrappers (an aesthetic in itself). The candy wrappers naturally provide the repeating imagery and are made in attractive colors that kids can’t resist. Now that I had a material and an idea, I just hat to figure out how to actually make a bucket hat.

Bucket Hat

Interesting bucket hat patterns

Candy Wrapper Purse

Purse made from recycled Tootsie Pop wrappers

Initial Process

My plan for execution on this project was to begin by figuring out how much fabric I needed.  After doing some browsing on the internet, I combined a couple of different approaches [1, 2] to make my pattern. Using a ruler, I measured out rough dimensions onto some recycled Amazon cardboard boxes, and cut out each of the pieces to use as a stencil.


I next needed to create the individual fabric sheets to cut the pattern out of. I took a trip to Target and settled on using Starburst wrappers, Super Bubble gum wrappers, and Capri Sun juice pouches due to their bright and contrasting colors. After carefully unwrapping the candy pieces, I ironed each wrapper piece flat underneath a cloth. The heat had to be high enough to remove the wrinkles, but low enough to not remelt the wax.

Ironed Wrappers

I then experimented to find the best way to connect each of the wrappers. I found the it worked well to use a binder clip to hold two wrappers aligned back to back, and then stitch along the seam. I made sure to reverse stitch at the beginning and end of each wrapper in order to lock the stitch in place. This took a while to figure out the tricks, but I was eventually able to get the hang of it.


After creating a bunch a sections of two, I sewed multiple sections together to create a column. Using the same binder clip technique, I was then able to sew multiple columns together to create a full sheet. Between each of these steps I had to repeatedly iron the sheets in order to accurately align them to each other. After many hours, I ended up with the really unique sheets below.



While talking about my thoughts and progress of my project with my team, I explained how the wrapper sheets turned out to be a far cooler material than I was expecting. I told my team that I was concerned that the material might not be strong enough to be made into and worn as a hat, but that I still wanted to incorporate them into my project somehow. My team member Jason suggested that I could instead use the paper material to create a lantern by stitching together wedges to make a sphere. It was a great suggestion, and I decided to rethink my ideal of creating a bucket hat.

New Vision – The Actual Process

Although it is always tempting to think that design is an idealized linear process compromised of a little planning, defining, perfect execution, and celebratory drinks, this rarely happens. Despite knowing this, I still naively thought that this would be the case for my relatively small project of making an up cycled bucket hat. The process actually turned out to be far closer to the design process that our group discussed in class. Our group chose to graphically represent the process as a cycle that resides inside of a continually converging and diverging path. As the process develops, the path ultimately converges on the final product. This portrayal does a good job representing that the design process starts out very broadly. After some consideration and exploring, you can begin to specifically define the problem or product of interest. The next step is to expand on possible solutions to the identified issue, which in turn re-opens up possibilities. This second brainstorm hopefully results in more concrete ideas and provides what will be executed in the process. After the execution, there will be troubleshooting and revisions, which will eventually lead to a polished design.


Talking about my progress and challenges with my team expanded possible ideas about my project, which helped me to redefine the idea to make a lantern out of the material I had already created. Some additional exploring on the internet gave me a ton of new ideas that presented the new aesthetic of Chinese paper lanterns. This aesthetic still heavily uses bold colors, and the materials have a similar wrinkly look to the candy wrapper fabrics that I had made. The particular design that grabbed my attention was the folded slit lanterns. I was hoping that this would be a nice way to show off the interesting candy wrapper fabric that I had created.


Sometimes pictures are word a thousand words

New Vision

With my new realized idea, I took a trip to Home Depot to find a lamp base. For a $1.57, a found a no-frill ceramic bulb base. The base did not come with a cord, so I sacrificed an extension cord that I had lying around at home. I cut off the reciprocal of the extension cord, stripped the wire, and attached the ends to the screw terminals on the base. Before putting in a bulb, I used a multi meter to verify that I had the correct polarity from the outlet.

Power Cord

After I was confident, I screwed in an LED bulb that I had salvaged  from the bathroom before moving out of my apartment last year (I replaced it with an incandescent bulb). I was initially concerned that the bulb may generate enough heat to catch the paper on fire, so I left the bulb on to see how hot it got. After a couple of hours it was still cool to the touch, so I knew that it wouldn’t be an issue. The bulb base is supposed to be mounted to a flat surface, so I now needed to figure out a way to close off the exposed electrical wires below. I chose to laser cut a few pieces of acrylic, and mount them to existing holes on the base using a couple of screws that I borrowed (stole) from work. I also found some rubber hose gaskets in the ITLL project depot that I epoxied to the base to act as non-slip feet.

Laser Cut

I now got started on converting the sheets into the lantern shade. I began by cutting the pieces to the desired size (17″ x 13 and 17 x 11″). I then sewed channels on the top and bottom long edge of the bigger piece. This allowed me to feed wire through so I could eventually give the lantern a stiff shape.


After finishing the edges on the smaller piece, I laser cut strips along the short length that will create the paper arcs when folded into a cylinder. I then sewed both of the sheets together along the long edges. After shaping it into a cylinder and pining it in place, I hand stitched the short edges together to create the final shape. I finished but adding some securing forward and reverse stitches along the top and bottom.



For a shade holder, I used a cordless drill to tightly spin some electrical wire together. I then bend the twisted pair into a 4 prong holder. It doesn’t do a very good job of supporting the shade, so I plan to revisit this in near future. However, I do like that the colors perfectly match the Chinese lantern aesthetic that I am aiming for.


End Result


I am somewhat happy with the final result of this project. The material that was created from connecting a bunch of small colored pieces of waxy paper together was definitely more interesting than I was anticipating. Given the absurd amount of laborious hours it took to sew together all of the pieces (the entire time I was regretting trying to learn to sew together paper before fabric), I feel like the final product fails to show off the beautiful stitching and mesmerizing repetition of each of the individual created sheets.  I also don’t particularly like the busy and non-uniform outer paper arcs that hide the sheet below. The paper arcs aren’t structural enough to hold themselves and tend to sag over time. If I were to revisit this project, I would make a set of three lanterns that were each just a simple cylinder. Each of the three lanterns could be made from a different type of wrapper, which would better provide the contrast that I was going for. Overall this was an interesting experiment in up cycling, and I am glad that I went through the process. Although my final product leaves something to be desired, I now have some great ideas for future projects. With the 20 Capri Sun pouches that I never ended up using, I plan to create a nostalgic lunch pouch. If I finish it before the end of the semester, I will be sure to post some images on the blog.

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37 Comments. Leave new

  • The originality of the material chosen really makes the piece. If someone were to tell me they made a lantern out of candy wrappers, I wouldn’t have any idea of what they were talking about haha. I like how the light shines through the wrappers, bringing out the elements of each.

  • Anfal Abdulrahman
    February 13, 2016 10:50 pm

    I think the material looks cool and it does have some special touch to it and the lighting especially look really nice. Nice work!

  • Nice job! Way to go with the flow and change your project as you needed to. I didn’t realize your base wasn’t just part of the socket! Good work integrating everything together on the base.

  • Very colorful. Did you use the same candy wrappers. Yes sowing paper is super hard. This might have durability issues while being heated. Otherwise looks great, good job!

  • I love the form and colors. In the future, it might be helpful to double the layer of the candy wrappers to help it hold the form better.

  • This is a thing of true beauty! Really! It’s so unlikely, sewing together what looks like hundreds of candy wrappers to make a very delicate Chinese lantern looking thing. The symmetry is spot on, the lighting is very uniform and warmly colored. So from that point of view, it is a genuinely good lantern. As icing on the cake, it’s absolutely hilarious that you made it out of gum wrappers. Do you really chew that much gum, or do you have a stash somewhere?

  • It may not look professional, but the candy wrappers make for the ultimate fun aesthetic! I can see it being put to use inside a child’s room.

  • Very cool aesthetic. I like the bright candy wrapper look; you’re right, it’s not incredibly professional but it looks really fun and appealing.

  • Has a great carnival feel, like the use of paper, sewing it together must have taken forever. Would the material adhere with just wax? Great glow to the finished product.

  • Awesome idea. Great looking lamp

  • Samantha Maierhofer
    February 10, 2016 11:47 pm

    Great work! How long did sewing all of that take? The end design turned out really well. Is there any issues with heat from the bulb effecting the wax on the wrappers?

  • Your lamp turned out great! The candy wrapper shade creates a nice glow. Did you eat all that candy for this project??

  • Nicholas Flood
    February 10, 2016 8:18 pm

    This is a really fun aesthetic with the candy wrappers. The wrappers work surprisingly well to diffuse the light. Nice job!

  • Brittany Warly
    February 10, 2016 7:30 pm

    You’re final project turned out really well. Great job problem solving and I like the aesthetic you went for. The bright colors make for a happy design.

  • Ashley Zimmerer
    February 10, 2016 5:03 pm

    I like the lamp! I think it might look a bit classier without the loop things, but with them it had a bit of a carnival aesthetic. I wouldn’t have thought of sewing the paper, it looks really great with the seams, much better than glue would have looked. I like the colors of the starburst wrappers combined with the gum wrappers. It’s bright and fun and would make a perfect centerpiece, as well as an interesting light fixture. I like the twisted wire stand, also.

  • I really like the look of it when the lantern is lit up but I was definitely questioning the overall look when it wasn’t lit up.

  • I love the colors and pattern of the light when its turned on! Also very cool you learned how to sew just for this.

  • I really like the idea of creating a desk lantern.. especially using the process of sewing to combine materials. I can see the potential for many more alterations of this design using different candy wrappers, marvel comic books, etc.. Great job!

  • Good work! I bet the sewing was definitely a pain…are the caprisun pouches easier to sew at all?

  • Really looks nice lit up. Yes, it is a bit of rough finish but might work well in a kid’s room.

  • I can’t believe you were able to sew that fabric. Very impressive! I agree that it would look better without the outside frills. Maybe you could make the base spin? With the repeating pattern I think it would look really nice slowly rotating.

  • Sreyas Krishnan
    February 10, 2016 12:53 pm

    That thing lights up really well! Great lamp shade. I think it’s better than you’re giving it credit for. It looks great lit up.

  • This is a really neat idea. I really like how excited you are about the gum wrapper material. The lamp looks awesome when turned on. Great work!

  • I really enjoy the child-like-wonder aesthetic of the gum wrappers. If you wanted to make a more durable lamp with the same aesthetic, I would recommend lamination or using thicker material. Overall I thought the lamp looks great!

  • Nice job sewing all the wrappers together! The lamp really glows well when it’s on.

  • I like how you used similar wrappers for each part of the project. The paper lantern idea is neat. I think it would be cool if you covered the lamp base with wrappers as well. It looks much better when lit up.

  • Rachel Grosskrueger
    February 10, 2016 12:52 pm

    Really cool design idea! You must really love starbursts in order to have that many wrappers (unless you just like to collect them)! It looks beautiful when it is lit up!

  • The aesthetic behind your design is really interesting. I remember the craze of making things out of capri sun pouches. Your lantern looks really clean, in that there aren’t a lot of wrinkles or other distractions like that in your design. It’s a good thing to use an LED bulb just to avoid any risk of heat build up.

  • I like how you took the idea of a stereotypical lantern form and created it with candy wrappers. I think it is really cool and produces a really neat light effect. I love it!

  • Jacob McCormick
    February 10, 2016 12:52 pm

    It turned out really good! It looks like the sewing part took a lot of time.

  • Joseph Yoshimura
    February 10, 2016 12:52 pm

    You did a great job sticking to the aesthetic you were going for! When I first saw it, my first thought was that it looked like a chinese paper lamp. Also, very impressive that you were able to stitch paper!

  • Peter Brunsgaard
    February 10, 2016 12:52 pm

    The lantern looks really good! The base really cleans up the aesthetic.

  • Great construction! The elements are consistent and colorful.

  • Great choice going for a lantern rather than a bucket hat. I think lots of people would like this in there home. Whereas, not so many people would wear a capri-sun bucket hat. This was a great pivot in the design process.
    It turned out great!

  • Meridith Richter
    February 10, 2016 12:50 pm

    Really fun, kid-friendly, happy looking lamp. Nicely done.

  • Christopher Coffman
    February 10, 2016 12:33 pm

    Great description of the design process. Looks just like an outdoor lantern, great aesthetic.

  • I am really impressed by your original concept and final product. Your description of the ideal (fantasy) design process was spot on. As you said above, things often don’t go entirely as planned, but you can up with solutions that are visually interesting and a clever use of materials. I like that you sewed the pieces together to create a fabric out of the candy wrappers. The lantern reminds me of the outdoor ones you frequently see hanging on patios or at parties. You might be able to find or make a wire frame that fits inside and maintains the lantern shape. Wherever you decide to put it on display, it will certainly add visual interest and spark some interesting conversations!


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