House Beautiful

Ball Jars, I love ya!

…so much, in fact, that I cannot stop buying you, no matter how many of you I have piled up everywhere.

My affinity for Ball Jars is rooted in their unprentious, simple beauty and seemingly ENDLESS utility.  But it’s also rooted in my roots:  Karrie and I grew up in Muncie, Indiana…  the Midwestern town where Ball Corporation was headquartered from 1887 to 1998.

My grandmother, mother, father, and just about everyone else in town worked at Ball Corp, and I have vivid memories of bee-bopping down the halls of those offices as a kid, and saying hello to all my parents’ friends.

Everyone I know was born at Ball Hospital.  Our tiny K-12 school was on Ball State campus.  My grandparents still have renderings of Ball canning jars on their walls.  My parents met at Ball Corp.  I played my high school volleyball games at Ball Gym.  You get the idea.  Ball everything runs rampant in our small town; as a result of which, these sparkly wonders have become woven into the fabric of my existence.

When I was a kid, my mom and I would curl up in a big afghan on Sunday afternoons, watch movies, and drink milk out of frosty Ball jugs.  Wassup, Jayne!

My dad’s side of the family, who live up in the mountains of North Carolina, can more homegrown fruits & veggies every year than Heinz has pickles.  My grandmother’s basement in Asheville is lined with walls and walls… and more walls… of homegrown goodies, encased in Ball jars.

And no.  That ruffled retro lady above isn’t my canning Nanny.  But this is.  She’s just about the cutest, funniest little person that ever lived.

My dad (aka Stevie B…  otherwise known as Big Pimpin in this picture) plants a huuuuugge garden every year…

….and at the end of the summer, cans enough raspberry jam and green beans to feed a small country.

When I went off to college, I packed up a few picture frames, some butt-ugly clothes I wouldn’t be caught dead in today, and naturally, a few glistening, blue Ball Jars to remind me of home.  For the last 10 years, those jars have made every move with me, because somehow, they always manage to put themselves to good use, and they always look pretty doing it.

How can you use them in YOUR house?  Oh, Honey.  Let me count the ways…

1.  First off, they’re made for canning.  Duh.

2.  As previously mentioned on about 105 different occasions, they’re dee-lightful to drink out of.

Sidenote:  You could even sit out {a little carafe (filled with water) + wide mouth Ball Jar combo} on a tray, on a bedside table, for overnight guests.  Like ah-ZEESE (!)

3.  They’re GUH-GUH-GORGEOUS as votives…  especially when you use oodles of them in various shapes and sizes…  light ’em at night, or hang ’em from the trees, and you’re in biz-nass.

PS: my cousin Jill went to a wedding recently, and said they had about 250 of the QUILTED jelly jars below lit up with votives, and lining the path to the reception…  Which is exceptionally awesome, because the textured glass reflects the candlelight.  Yummy.  Jill also loves these little guys as wine glasses around the house.

4.  For some very clever indoor lighting, click here for archival Design*Sponge instructions on how to make this glorious chandelier.

5.  You can fill ’em with sweet stuff, and put ’em on your entry table…  or, for those of you who occasionally wake up with cookie dough in your hair like I do, you can also sit ’em on your bedside table.  Whatever floats your boat.

6.  You could make like my college boyfriend – who was always doing something rotten enough to get himself busted – and fill ’em with flowers.  EVERYTHING looks pretty against that aqua glass.

7.  Use ’em as dirt squirts.  I saw these soap dispensers recently on Etsy.  I would SO stick these in the bathrooms of my lake house, cabin, farmhouse or country house.  You know, the one I don’t have yet.

8.  For all you crafty folk, your knitting needles just found a home…  If you’re not a knitter, don’t make that face.  Knitting is so back in action these days.  Or, just pretend those are pens & pencils, and put them on your desk.

9.  Entertaining buffet style?  Put all your smallish fixins in these little guys…  Shaved almonds, sesame seeds, sea salt, fresh herbs…

10.  Last but not least, stash all the dough you just saved by repurposing your old canning jars in…  you guessed it!  A piggy bank.

Finding a new use for an old thing – especially one dripping with nostalgia – is my idea of a bang-up time.  So if you’ve got ’em lying around in storage, dust ’em off.  And if you’re on the hunt, keep the following things in mind:

1.  Wide mouth jars are easiest to drink out of (top left).  I would not spend more than $1 each for these.

2.  For the aqua ones that are in good shape (bottom left) – twist off lid or no lid – I wouldn’t spend more than $5-$6 a piece.  The ones with the glass lids (top right) will be closer to $10.  In any case, the ones with lids make good bathroom containers for cotton balls, Q-tips, etc.

3.  Any abnormal colors, like the grassy green ones (bottom right in the frame above), or amber-toned ones, will cost a smidge more.  If I remember correctly, the funky-colored ones were either limited editions, or just beautiful mistakes.  I saw a REALLY unusual green one recently for $75.  Similarly, this one below is $45 on Ebay.  Gitty up.

4.  But, beware of the technicolor “coated & baked” ones.  You can’t put anything fun inside them, and they’re not dishwasher safe.  Homey don’t play dat.


17 Responses to “Ball Jars, I love ya!”

  • Love this Steph! You’re so clever!

  • Totally doing Ball jar votives on shepherd’s hooks for the wedding this fall. I wish I had an awesome collection like yours!

  • love this post. my dad still works for ball and we had ball jars all over the place at our wedding. flower arrangements were in them, all the guests drank their beer and liquor out of them, and candles were in them. i just ordered the soap dispenser off of etsy–couldn’t help myself! 🙂

  • years ago I found at an antique store Ball jars with handles that are about 32 oz. They are the only thing my ex-husband took when he left… I haven’t found anything like that in 8 years. Do you have any sources?

    • I have some of the big guys that look like lemonade or tea jars with a wire bail on top. I’m not particularly attached to them, and would love to get one or two to you, if your heart needs them. Drop me a note! I’m not trying to sell them but would be happy to share. Gwen

  • Hi Denise!! Do you mean these?

    That’s a 16-oz (we have a few of those lying around the house and they’re not that rare), but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the 32-oz big guys! My dad has a HUGE one (like, 12 inches tall) with a handle that he uses as a crock in the kitchen. I’ll ask him where he got it. Otherwise, my best guess would be hitting the antique circuit. Hope this helps!

  • Oh my goodness! I love your entry. All the pictures are amazing. I had just found the canning jar lights and put them on my blog today and needed a track back and found you. LOOOOOOVE it. Thanks for the wonderful vintage photos and jars…

  • lovely web page. I am going to share with my sisters, also fruit jar-aphiles! Gorgeous pictures. thanks for sharing!!

  • Love this! I’ve been canning all my life and love my jar mugs too but I must admit I’m not biased I like Kerr too!! I’m definately going to use some of these ideas!

  • I enjoyed your history of the Mason jar! I bought 39 quart blue mason jars some with glass lids some not and 2 pint blue jars last night at an auction for $27.00. Love a deal.

  • I have a really weird ball jar with a channel up the center the would hold something like pinapple rings. Any ideas or interest?

  • I just bought a bunch of the blue ones, quart size with the zinc lids. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Thought you might think the cuppow is awesome too. Its a drink lid for a mason jar!

Leave a Reply