October 20, 2014

How To: Inexpensive DIY Candles

Like most ladies of my particular age, I have a fascination with candles (can I get a Fall inspired hallelujah for pumpkin spice?). I've always liked them, but I am particularly fond of the ambiance. There is something I find truly spectacular about the glow of a candle in the evening; that despite the fact that they give off minimal heat, the room is warmer for having them there.

But holy Vanilla Cupcake Scent, Batman, are they expensive!

A few weekends ago, I went to the beach with my HLP (hetero-life-partner), Juliana. It had rained all week and I thought a nice trip to the coast for some sun was in order. Naturally, as is my luck, it rained at the beach all weekend and was sunny and warm at home.

That didn't stop us from having a good time, however, so on Saturday we went for a walk around one of the local outlet malls for some intense window shopping. One of the stores that I begged to stop at was the Yankee Candle. I had a coupon with the offer to buy 2 large candles, get 2 free that I was desperately hoping to take advantage of. I love the scents that Yankee candle has and with their new Fall line out I was eager to sniff out some new favorites. 

But color me flabbergasted when the jars cost $27 EACH. I recently paid that price for some work slacks from Target and could barely prevent my inner cheapskate from freaking out and exiting the store in a very spastic, unladylike manner. Money has been especially tight for me lately, as I am still catching up from my summer travels and unforeseen expenses have been popping up left and right. I could not reasonably justify spending nearly $60 on candles, regardless of how many "free" ones I was getting.

But that doesn't stop me from wanting them and so with frugality and DIYing in mind, I thought I would share with you how ridiculously easy it is to make candles. They're much cheaper than the store-bought counter parts, only require a few materials and some cost upfront, and make great gifts. Not only that, but you can be creative with the scents and colors. [Note: apparently apple and berry scents go well together, but berry and pumpkin do not. You've been warned.] Since Christmas is only 65 days away as someone so kindly reminded me on Facebook the other day, this is a great project to get a jump on in time for the holidays! Here's what you need:

What You Need
  • Plain, white, unscented candle wax - So far, I have only used this 2lb creme wax made by Country Lane from Hobby Lobby but it is much more cost effective to get the 10lb version of the General Purpose wax off Amazon. Regardless, you may use whichever type (soy? beeswax?) or brand you like. 
  • Scents - Your preference. Sometimes I buy the sample packs like this one or sometimes I use wax tarts because they are often stronger smelling and I can make candles with scents I may not be able to recreate myself. The drawback to the tarts is that they're typically pre-dyed. This obviously skews your color options a little.
  • Wicks - If you're a beginner, I recommend buying the pre-waxed wicks with the tabs already on the bottom (something like this) but make sure that you're buying wicks that will stand several inches above your wax once the candle is set. So for example, if you're making small 3-4" candles, I recommend using 6" wicks. This are super user friendly.
  • Tabs - If you're money conscious and want to get the best bang for your buck, you can buy a roll of un-waxed wick along with wick tabs. However, you will want to wax your wicks before you can use them in your candles, which requires an extra step.
  • Jars/teacups/mugs/ceramics - aka a container for your candle
  • Hot glue gun
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Sauce pan
  • A few clean aluminum cans (I use old soup and vegetable cans with the paper labels peeled off)
  • Newspaper
  • Tongs
  • Potholders
  • Pan with ice water (filled about an 1")
  • Fork and a sharp knife you don't mind getting wax on

What You Do

1. Set your newspaper up on the counter to catch any potential spills or droplets of wax. If you make a boo-boo and get some on the counter, it's okay. It comes up. This just makes clean up much easier!

2. Heat up and inch of two of water in your saucepan on medium. If you're reusing candle jars, as I did, you need to get all the wax, wick, tab and soot out of the jar before hand. 

3. Cut and wax your wicks. If you bought the un-waxed wicks that I mentioned above, I suggest you wax your wicks before you get started. - To do this, melt a little plain wax in the aluminum can by putting in a few chips of wax and melting it to liquid form. Attach a tab to the end of your wick and make a knot on the flat side to keep the wick from going through. You can also use needle nose pliers to bend the tab around the wick. Dip your cut-wicks in the wax and let them absorb the wax for a minute or two. Remove them from the wax, let the excess drip off into the can and let them dry on the newspaper or a piece of wax paper. If you bought pre-waxed wicks, you can skip this step.

4. Begin melting your wax. Honestly, I estimate the amount simply by eyeballing it. If it's too much, I make two candles! If you don't have enough, just add the wax back to the can and melt a bit more. I cut the plain wax into cubes, add a scent and sometimes a little food coloring. In this case, I used a wax tart labeled "pumpkin spice" and simply melted it in with my plain wax. For a stronger scent, you can use more than one. I prefer to stretch my stock. I added a few drops of red and yellow food coloring to give it a subtle orange hue. 

5. While your wax melts, if you're reusing the jars, make sure they are clean and cool. Using a little hot glue, attach the tab of the wick you're going to use to the bottom of the glass. Make sure it cools completely before adding the wax.

6. Once your wax is completely melted, carefully pour it into the jar. I use a fork to help balance and center my wick while the candle cools. For quicker cooling, because I'm impatient, I place the jar in a pan with ice water. This helps set the bottom of the candle faster, which aids in stabilizing the wick.

7. After you candle has cooled, cut the wick down to 1/8th inch - now your candles are ready to burn! 

I'll admit that I have probably spent upwards of $50 on candle making materials. However, I have made more than a dozen candles from one package of wax. I tend to reuse candle wax, mixing them and melting older candles down. With all the materials I have on hand, I could make dozens more. And good thing, too. Like I said - only not enough 65 days left until Christmas.

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