Miniature Dollhouse Candles made from String Lights and Straws
Sometimes when you can't find the exact thing you need, you just have to make it yourself! With spooky season approaching I've brought my Halloween dollhouse down from the attic, and I've been outfitting the interior with some fun, tiny details. This summer at a vintage street fair I bought some good dollhouse miniatures and small furniture pieces including a wooden Shackman organ. The general theme of my dollhouse is 'haunted chateau,' so I thought this piece worked well. I envisioned a sort of Phantom of the Opera scene with the organ and some drippy candles, but how fun would it be if the candles could actually glow? I wanted a set of working dollhouse candles, approximately 1:12 scale, that would actually light up. Time to get crafty.
For these dollhouse candles I am using a set of led string lights with the very small and flat coin style battery pack. The idea is to bundle up the cord underneath a rumpled tablecloth, so that the final display can be moved around and has no protruding cords. The miniature candles themselves are made out of white paper straws, and I found the perfect ones at IKEA. These straws are sturdy, petite, and bright white.
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- IKEA white paper straws
- Coin battery LED string lights in warm white
- Low temp hot glue gun, glue sticks
- Utility knife
- Ivory craft paint, paintbrushes, toothpicks
- Elmer's glue
- Masking tape
- Scrap fabric
- Large cup sequins
Here's the process for making light up dollhouse candles from straws and string lights:
Cut a piece of thin scrap cardboard. If you're making a display for a table or a sideboard, cut it to fit the furniture piece. I cut my rectangle to fit on top of my miniature organ. Use an awl or other pointy tool to poke holes in the cardboard, one for every candle. I am making my display with 8 candles, so I poked 8 holes.
Create the 'tablecloth.' Cut a rectangle of fabric larger than the cardboard piece, and affix it to the top with hot glue. Add wrinkles and folds to create texture, and allow the edges of the fabric to extend past the cardboard to disguise it. Use the awl to re-poke the holes through the fabric layer.
Cut the candles. I cut the paper straws at varying lengths with scissors, giving them a flat cut at the bottom, and an angled cut at the top. The pointed tips got rounded off.
Make candle holders. You could get very elaborate with the design of candle holders, making them out of beads or clay. I decided to keep my design simpler by creating little brass 'plates' out of gold cup sequins. To do this I needed to cut an X in the centers of the sequins so that the light string could pass through, so I used an xacto blade to slice a couple lines across the centers of each. Once I had these all cut, I glued the candles to the sequins, being mindful to not get glue in the centers. The hot glue should just be applied to the lower rim of the candle, leaving the center open.
Attach the candles to the display. The idea is for the light wires to pass through the cardboard, the sequin, and the candle, all in a straight line. So to keep all these items lined up, I first poked the awl through the cardboard from the bottom, then applied hot glue to the underside of a candle plate, and pressed it down over the point of the awl. I held in place until the glue set, then removed the awl from underneath.
Painting and adding drips. I first gave the candles an all-over coat of ivory paint. Then, I made a 50/50 mix of paint and white glue. Using a toothpick, I applied this to the top edge of each candle. As it began to dry, I used the toothpick to draw the drips down the sides of the candles. Once fully dry I repeated this process to add a second layer of drips.
Inserting the light string. First I needed to do a little prep work with my lights. My light string had more lights than I needed, so I cut off the remaining lights from the string. This type of light string can be cut to length and will still work. Then, I bundled the excess power cord against the battery pack with masking tape. Finally, I bent the cord against itself at each light and gave a very gentle twist so that the lights could be fed through the display. One thing I did that was ultimately unnecessary, was I added a dot of black paint beneath each light. I had envisioned this looking like candle wick, but in the end, most of my lights I positioned inside the straws rather than poking out of the straws, so this feature was not really visible. I just loved how the paper straws allowed for a cozy glow when the lights were inside, which was a nice surprise!
So once the string of lights was prepped, I started at one end, feeding the first light up through the candle. Once in position I bent the splayed the wires out underneath the cardboard to hold the position, and added a dot of hot glue to secure it. A second dot of hot glue at the top of the candle holds the light bulb in place.
I found that as I added each light I could press the wire against the bottom of the cardboard and keep everything fairly compact. For some candles I placed the light toward the top, and some I left halfway up to glow from within.
Once all the candles were lit I pressed the battery pack against the underside of the display and taped it in place.
'Wax' coating. At this point I could still see the spiral texture of the straws, so I gave the candles a good thick all-over coat of white glue. This provided just the right texture and gave the candles a wax-like appearance.
And there you have it! A tiny display of miniature candles that really work, illuminating a tiny spooky room in a haunted dollhouse.