I may be a little biased, but I think luminarias are magical. If you’re not familiar with them, luminarias are a Christmas Eve tradition here in New Mexico. Sometimes called farolitos, they have their roots in ancient Spanish culture. They traditionally consist of paper bags with a bit of sand in the bottom for weight, and a candle lit inside, which doesn’t sound very exciting, but somehow in the dark of Christmas Eve, they become a symbol of light and love.
The first year of our marriage, and our first Christmas in our new house, we suffered not a snow storm, but a terrible sandstorm. It carried mounds of sand from the neighboring lots where houses were still in the early stages of construction and had no vegetation, right into our front yard and deposited it in our newly planted landscaping. It was a Christmas that Charlie Brown would have been proud of. But not to be deterred from my enthusiasm for making our first little house a home, I went out and bought a package of lunch bags, and a 50-pack of candles, and I spent the day shoveling that sand into luminaria bags. When I was done, the effect was enchanting and I felt a teeny bit better about the sand dunes in our front yard.
I know not everyone has that much sand available to them (consider yourself lucky), so today I’m bringing you a fun craft that involves no sand but plenty of magical candlelight. These are etched glass luminarias, or candle holders.
If etching your own glass project sounds intimidating, don’t worry. That’s what I thought too. Slinging liquid acid around didn’t sound like a smart craft project to attempt with my children. So I’ve always wanted to do something like this, but never could quite bring myself to try it. Then DecoArt sent me a bottle of Easy Etch to try. (Thanks DecoArt!) This stuff is different because it’s a cream application, rather than liguid. So it’s easy to control, which makes it safer, and is even reusable. To be clear, this is still not a craft I’d want to take on with small children, much to my adventurous young crafters’ dismay.
- Glass containers. (I’d been saving these from who-knows-where, but you can find square ones similar to this at the dollar store.)
- Easy Etch by DecoArt
- Rubber gloves
- Rubbing Alcohol
- Paper Towel
- Stickers or adhesive stencils
Note: Be sure the stickers have the right outline that you want. Some stickers have a print on them that looks like what you want, but the outline is larger and less defined. What matters is the outside shape, so keep that in mind while you’re shopping. Also, I used foam stickers, but I wouldn’t recommend that because it’s hard to get the cream into all the nooks and crannies. Next time I’ll make sure to get flat ones.
Here’s the etching process:
- First, clean your glass containers. Then swipe them all over with a paper towel and rubbing alcohol. This will remove any unseen residue that might interfere with your stickers or the cream.
- Position your stickers or stencil as you like and press down carefully. (If you want to tape off any areas not to be etched, blue painters tape works great.) On these, we are going to etch everywhere except the snowflake stickers.
- Put on your gloves and apron, and use them throughout this process whenever you handle the etching cream. Cover your work space.
- Using a palette knife (or in my case a plastic knife left over from a birthday party), scoop out some of the etching cream and apply a think coat to the glass. Be sure to carefully push the cream into all the nooks and crannies on the snowflake stickers. Look from the inside if possible, to make sure the etching cream is covering everything evenly and completely.
- Let it sit for 15 minutes. You can work on multiple jars at once, while the first one is sitting. I found that a 2 oz. bottle of Easy Etch was enough to do this whole set of three jars, but not all at one time.
- Use your knife to scrape off as much of the cream as possible and return it to the bottle, to be used another time.
- Rinse the glass under running water. Then remove the stickers and rinse and wash thoroughly. Easy Etch can etch glass and ceramic, so they recommend rinsing in a stainless steel or fiberglass sink, and then flush the sink thoroughly afterwards. I don’t have either fiberglass or stainless steel, so I picked the sink in the bathroom that I’m most urgently hoping to renovate soon, hoping it would finish off the sink and I’d suddenly have a good excuse to get a new one. No such luck. My sink is fine, so the reno project will have to wait…
That’s it! Allow the glass to dry, then you can add a little votive or tea light candle and you have a beautiful snowy candle holder. For an even snowier effect, I put epsom salt in the bottom of these. It reminds me of the sand in the bottom of my luminarias.By the way, don’t worry if your etching pattern doesn’t show up while you’re rinsing the glass. I thought I had done the first one completely wrong, but as the glass dried, the etched part showed up beautifully.
This was such a fun and easy project, and now my whole family is brainstorming what we can etch next.