DIY: Christmas Lights in a Bottle

bottle christmas lights twinkle DIY - Christmas Lights in a Bottle tutorial featured by popular lifestyle blogger, Design Mom

bottle christmas lights twinkle DIY - Christmas Lights in a Bottle tutorial featured by popular lifestyle blogger, Design Mom

The other day, I wrote about attempting to drill through glass and I finished up the project this weekend. I think it turned out beautifully — I love the idea of bottled light thanks to Christmas Lights in a bottle!

These would be pretty by a wintery window or under an entry table. I like the way the gold paint makes the bottom of the bottles look misty and glow-y, even during the daytime.

bottle christmas lights twinkle DIY - Christmas Lights in a Bottle tutorial featured by popular lifestyle blogger, Design Mom

I’ve got a ton of images and DIY instructions below if you’d like to try this too.

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS IN A BOTTLE TUTORIAL

I started with these apple juice bottles. I have long admired these bottles — I love the contrast of the big round barrel and the teeny little handle — and was glad to finally come up with a project where I could use them. The juice is good too! I got impatient waiting for the family to finish up the contents, so I had my oldest son pour what was left into another pitcher, then I washed out the inside.

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Next, for my Christmas lights in a bottle project, I used my handy mini scraper tool to take off the label. This tool is basically a straight edge razor blade with a handle. When you’re done using it, you can flip the blade upside down so the sharp part is hidden in the handle. Such a useful tool! I use it to take sticky things off windows and other glass — no chemicals required.

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Once the bottle was clean and label free, it was time to drill through the glass. We used a 3/8″ drill bit designed for glass and tile. The drilling takes a little while — maybe 20 minutes — because you can’t go too fast. The drilling will create white dust (I guess it’s technically sand) and as the hole gets bigger, it will smoke a bit from the heat.

[UPDATE: Hah! Apparently I did it all wrong. Lots of readers are chiming in with suggestions for safer and easier and faster ways to do this. Among other things, suggestions include wearing a mask, drilling while using water to cool the bit, and using other tools entirely.]

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Next we painted. I experimented with some old jam jars and baby food jars first to try different techniques — like paint dripped from plastic spoons. But the kids voted and liked the sponged look best, so that’s what we did for the final project.

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I used a disposable sponge brush and Liquid Leaf paint — but any metallic enamel paint should work. The paint is not water-cleanup, so a disposable brush is great for this project. I only needed a little bit of paint to get the coverage I wanted. Instead of brushing the paint on, I was mostly “patting” into place.

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Once the paint was dry (it dries very quickly), we started stuffing our Christmas lights in the bottle. You’ll need a 50 light string that is not made to connect end-to-end. We had the hardest time finding lights like this. We went to 4 stores, but they all carried only end-to-end lights (which are the kind I prefer for my Christmas tree). Finally, I tried to think of who might carry old-school Christmas lights and Big Lots came to mind — because they often carry items from last season. Hooray! They had just what we needed.

bottle christmas lights twinkle DIY - Christmas Lights in a Bottle tutorial featured by popular lifestyle blogger, Design Mom

The lights fit through one at a time, but it was a bit tight — I would recommend using a slightly larger drill bit and the light stuffing would go much faster. Oscar and Maude loved this part the best. Stuff every light on the string in, and the plug will dangle out the back, ready to find an outlet.

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And that’s it! The Christmas lights in a bottle are a very satisfying project and a fun addition to our holiday decor. Though really, these don’t have to be holiday at all. We could use these for any sort of event where we want a little glow-y light happening. Maybe we need to have a party where bottled light is the theme. : )

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340 thoughts on “DIY: Christmas Lights in a Bottle”

    1. Be aware that the “white powder” is NOT sand. It is tiny shards of glass. It is NOT something you want to accidentally inhale, ingest or get into your eyes (or those of your children/loved ones). Consider using protective goggles and a dust mask. Gloves would not be a bad idea either in case the glass suddenly shatters.

      Great project, but SAFETY FIRST!

      1. Totally agree!! You were actually VERY lucky the bottle didn’t break since you had no means to cool the glass or drill. A safer way would be to take this outside and have a small but steady stream of cool (it doesn’t have to be cold, just not hot) water over the place you are drilling. Also, goggles and a mask are a MUST! Gloves are a good idea.

        I’m glad you didn’t get hurt, and what you made is really cute, but please please please amend your post to include these safety precautions!

          1. I drilled holes in wine bottles. , you need a diamond drill bit. I out my bottles in a metal cake pan ( oblong)
            And used a old rag or hand towel to keep it from sliding around d. I kept a bottle of water and used water to cool the bottle and bit. Just go back and forth with drilling and water. I also used sandpaper to smooth out the edges of the hole so it would t be so sharp. You can still get cut on the sharp edge

      2. Ana is correct. It is glass dust which can cause silicosis. It is a good idea to wear goggles, a dust mask, and ear plugs. You can also lay the jar on its side in a bucket. Fill the bucket with enough water to cover the area your going to drill. The glass dust will collect in the water instead of the air, plus your drill bit will last longer.

        1. Make sure if you are drilling into a bucket of water that you are not using an old drill with a cord that plugs in…it mifght seem obvious to not electrocute yourself but we all have ditsy days!

      3. I agree. I tried to cut a wine bottle with my dremel with a diamond blade. It worked, but I had shards of glass in my arms. Thank Goodness I had on eye protection. Glass is very unstable, and can break or split at any time.

        1. Vi nos comentários que você conseguiu perfurar uma garrafa de vinho com a dremel. Qual broca usou? Qual a rotação (5, 10, 15)? Como fez para que o vidro não quebrasse? Eu tenho uma dremel 4000 e quando começo a perfurar o vidro, ele se quebra. Agradeço se me informar

          Att

          Joelma

          1. Joelma voce ja consegiu a perfurar a garrafa? Voce esta em brasil?,Portugal talvez? Use agua e mais importante, fora disso nem sei pode usar uma vice para segurar com um velho toalha para que nao fractura a garrafa.

        2. Dremel does ok, just take your time. Ilike to use drill press and carbide bits myself. Another way to protect your bit and keep down heat is to make a ring around hole location, using grout or caulk. Fill area with oil or water , then drill thru liquid! Tada, no shatter glass, no smoke!

        3. You can make a well with a bit of plumbers puddy, the size of and quarter or so.. and put it over where you mark your hole to be drilled…make sure it is sealed all ther way around… put a few drops of water in the well, and drill thru the water, it keeps the bit and the glass cool and lets you go thru it safely, make sure you control your arm so when it drops thru the drill does not hit the bottls breaking it…

      1. You can actualy use vegetable oil to remove it too. Just put some on a paper towel and rub and it comes off almost any surface! Works magic and doesn’t take as long as heating it up with a hair dryer (sometimes hair dryers dont work to take all the sticky stuff off either) i did this when i had 10 glass vases i had to take huge stickers off of and it was so easy and fast! Loved it

      2. Just made about 30 candles out of wine bottles for the holidays. Get some baking soda and fill a sink or bucket with water and a fair amount of soda and let them soak for an hour or more. Most labels will peel right off. Some require a little extra soaking and work.

        1. Any tips on making those candles? My own keep getting suffocated, and I was just wondering how you went about making yours

          1. The blog I found for those candles used little clear furniture padding (those little clear dots you stick to the bottom of chair legs to protect the floors) to promote air flow into the bottle :)

          2. The key is the proper size wick . Your local candle making store should have the proper size for the container you will be using.

      3. Actually, I have removed a fair amount of labels from glass (and plastic) jars, vases, etc. All I have really ever needed was a wet dishcloth or towel (depending on the size, of course) and time. Most labels just lift right off. Once the label is saturated and loose, just grab the corner and pull. Wash the jar and dry. No scraping required and no accidentally scratching the glass! =D

      4. A really easy way is to put water in the jar and heat it in the microwave. The heat softens the glue and the label peels rift off hot water and a brush cleans up the rest of the glue.

    2. We’ve been doing this for years, except we use hollow glass blocks. We also put ribbons around the block to give it more personality. You can also use colored Christmas lights. They make a beautiful Christmas decoration.

  1. Nice! Great job.
    I was just talking to my hubs this weekend about drilling through glass- I have never tried it before and am a bit scared- I want to drill through a mirror- have you ever tried drilling through a mirror?
    I love keeping pretty glass jars/jugs for the PERFECT project.

    1. I’ve never drilled a mirror, but wanted to attach stained glass as a frame. I discussed it with my stained glass teacher & was told once mirrors are cut they lose the mirrored effect. I saw one at Value City & they had stained glass connecting with leading.

      1. I think the “teacher” was a phoney. Mirrors only lose their reflective qualities when the silvering comes off the back or the ftont gets badly scratched and grazed.

        1. I was wondering how to fix old mirrors cheaply. I found some being thrown out and would love to make them new again they have a cloudy spooky look. Some are very large.

      2. thats impossible, a mirror is nothing but a painted piece of glass. unless you scratch ALL the silvering off of the back of it, nothing is going to happen. it isn’t magic. if you shatter a mirror on the floor, its still going to be a mirror, just tiny pieces. i think your teacher was testing your gullability.

        1. The flux used for the soldering process dissolves the reflective silver backing. I found sealing the back and sides of the mirror with several layers of polyurethane prior to soldering prevented the flux intrusion more often than not. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that the sealing is 100% effective until after the project is finished. And definitely wash the area immediately after the area has cooled. Also, it works better using copper foil method rather than lead came. I guess the stickiness of the copper foil acts as a barrier against flux intrusion too.

      3. I also think your teacher doesn’t know what he is talking about. Think about it…when a mirror breaks…all those tiny pieces are still reflective.

  2. i’ve wondered how to do this for years. great, like i need another project to obsess about in december. maybe i’ll scrap the holiday cards for this project–cause i can wear goggles doing this one. i have my own drill and goggles. did you wear goggles? i think you probably should have. i’m quite the safety girl. i’m sure true value sells goggles. :)

  3. great project! I might try it myself! I’m always saving old jars and things thinking I can use them, but I never do. This would be perfect. A helpful hint on drilling the glass – if you take a little sponge and get it wet, hold it near the spot where you are drilling and every so often squeeze it to let a little water run down on the hole, the water will help the bit and the glass not get so hot and it’ll keep that dreaded dust from rising. =)

  4. this is fantastic. I am going to book mark it. I don’t think this is the year but at some point I will do this. I actually think they could just be a cool installation in a room too–bottle with fuchsia light sitting on a side table. oooooo0000!

  5. HI,

    it looks really great, and I hat to come here making remarks, but I just want you, and all your readers, to be aware that you need to be causious when you don’t “unwind” electrical lighting like this – cords are normally always supposed to be somewhat stretched, and not curled up in a ball.

    Unwinded cables can, worst case scenario, cause hasard through fires.

    Again, I don’t want to come here and take all the fun out of your project, but it could be dangerous.

    i.e. this item http://granit.se/?id=3761 clearly states on the box in comes in that you can not connect it to electricity with the item still in the container due to electrical hasard.

    Regards

    1. I can see how the more traditional lights (incandescent?) would be a fire hazard. My mom actually melted a spot of her carpet because one bulb was touching the floor! I assume, however, that fluorescent bulbs would be safe to use for this project as they don’t generate nearly so much heat. Thoughts?

  6. I love them! Love how you put it all together and with such fantastic bottles. And yes, wouldn’t they be lovely on the deck for a summer dinner party too! Charming! Love how handy and courageous you are.

  7. my mom and i have made something similar with glass blocks (the large ones used for shower walls). fill with lights and tie up with a bow like a package. the ones we have purchased have been open on the bottom so no drilling is required.

    just search “glass block lights” for lots of ideas.

  8. beautiful! i think it might be fun to empty out wine bottles {i’m just sayin…} and do this. there are several varieties with clear bottles… but i’ve seen the others used to and the pretty ambers and greens are really nice in the fall!
    love the project. i’m gonna bookmark this to use next year as i’m already perfecting my holiday lamaze breathing. i’m already lightheaded! ; )

  9. Gorgeous!!! I am making a special trip to Whole Foods tomorrow! Good to know their apple juice is 100% pasturized too as I am expecting. Did you get the liquid leaf paint from True Value? Thanks for the post Gabby!!!

  10. I love these so much that I did this tonight. I had a glass drill bit from a project several years ago I did with shells, and so my six kids gathered around and watched while I drilled through a wine bottle and then threaded lights through. I love the finished product, but might sponge on some silvery paint for added holiday cheer!

    1. To anyone trying this – please, please read the comments on the glass dust and the risks of the bottle breaking.

      If you do do it, please do it with safety equipment not just for yourself, but for anyone else around in the room, so that they don’t get injured or breathe in the dust.

  11. this is a great project! I love the idea of doing a bunch for the holidays in different sizes- not being a fan of “scrapbook” decor- these are grown-up but whimsical. Thanks for sharing:)

  12. Beautiful! I wonder, if you capped the bottle and used outdoor lights, if you could somehow use these outside lining a sidewalk or driveway like luminaries? So much potential!

    Also, I wanted to share a variation of this project…A few years ago my mom bought a glass block stuffed with lights at a craft fair. The crafter had “wrapped” the glass block with a lovely Christmas ribbon and my mom usually puts it under her Christmas tree, among other gifts. It is lovely!

  13. This is so good, i wouldnt even mind going out and buying a drill, cos you will always use it anyhow. You think you could spray paint the lights too?So cute!Just found your blog, its great!!

    1. I would be afraid the paint would cause a fire, because paint IS flammable. If you look up craft lights on-line, you can order all colors..

  14. Thanks for the inspiration! I have a gallon pickle jar that my aunt used for tea – it has “unsweet” in her handwriting on the lid – and I’ve been keeping baking soda in it though it wants for a better use! I’ll be storing this idea away to make me a “nana lamp”

  15. Hi The bottle is very nice; I also have drilled out wine bottles, you can also use a Diamond drill hole bit for cutting holes in Glass bottles and blocks, this is what we use to drill the holes! for the wine bottles and glass blocks I use strands of 20 lights in them!

  16. This looks like so much fun! Maybe even a heat-resistant paint for the cables to brighten up that green would be a sweet touch, too

  17. My dad helped me with a project much like this last year. I asked him to drill a hole in Bud Light and Coors Light amber colored beer bottles. We put a 20 strand of lights in them and I gave “LIGHT BEER” as gifts to some friends. Then, one night, wanting to display a beautiful strand of white lights without the ugly cords showing, I put them, randomly, in a basket filled with pine cones. It created a lovely effect.
    Love your website!

  18. Found your photo on pinterest and followed it to your blog. I shared the blog post on my fb page too. Love this!! It’s so magical. Will be attempting ;) Thanks for the great idea =)))

  19. I often wondered how you got the cord to come out the bottom of the hole in the bottle…now I know…you stuff the lights in…
    I have done these but never had the cord come out the bottom…looks much nicer…I want to do some glass blocks like this too…thank you for this tutorial…
    I do love your website…have bookmarked it..!

  20. Hi, you really should be dripping a bit of water over the drill bit to keep it cool while drilling..as for the mirror, the silver will chip off some but it’s about the same as the glass bottles..love this idea too!!

    1. Cynthia McAlpine

      Don’t use water……that will break it. You need to build a dam around where you want the hole, with clay, and put some oil, (cooking , motor, olive), in the dam before starting to drill. The oil helps cool the drill. That is the way my husband has drilled all my blocks. Diamond tipped drills are not inexpensive, but that is what you need.

      1. Antifreeze works great to put in the well you make with the clay or window putty works great for making the dam to keep the drill bit cool.

      2. Laura Ogershok

        As someone who works a lot with glass (stained glass) I use a diamond coated drill bit and water to drill holes in the glass and it has never broken and is much less messy that oil. The trick is to drill slowly and drill a little at a time and lift up so whatever coolant you use gets into the hole to cool it. It works best with a drill press but use whatever you can. The clay idea is great but you can use it with water as well as oil.

      3. Oil is the last thing you should use when drilling- it will set alight!
        Building a dam means that any liquid in there can squirt into your face by the centrifugal force of the drill bit.
        The correct way is to embed the piece of glass in a bucket of sand and use a hosepipe to gently trickle water over the glass. I also keep a bowl of water nearby and dip the drill bit in every minute.

  21. Cool info! I saw these at a local craft show with wine bottles and was wondering how I could make them myself! I’ll be trying it this weekend!

  22. You could also bend a hanger tight enough to fit thru top. Catch some of the lights bring to top of bottle and use a little hot glue to hold the lights in place then the whole bottle glows.

  23. This is so neat! I dis it with a wine bottle along with printing black and white pictures of family and friends! You seal the pictures on the outside of the bottle with the lights on the inside of the bottle! It us a orerty cool thing

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