I’m really getting into crafty things, so decided to make homemade candles for DIY christmas gifts with a personal touch. I picked candles as they were something I hadn’t made before and was interested in learning. I am a big fan of candles, my favourite being Circa Home’s Vanilla Bean & Allspice – delicious!
I decided I would make candles in jars rather than try pillar candles – 1) as I prefer jar candles and 2) I assumed they would be easier for a beginner to learn. I decided to fully document my process to show how I created great DIY homemade Christmas gifts (complete with packaging).
Making the Candles
I first, researched many sources online to find out how to make candles and picked an Australian website, Natural Candle Supply, to buy the following:
1. Soy wax
I opted for soy wax over paraffin wax as it’s vegetable-based and doesn’t release black soot into the air like petroleum oil-based paraffin wax. See Household Tips for 5 reasons why soy candles are better than paraffin candles.
I opted to try tins as I thought they were quirky and the silver colour appropriate for Christmas – I bought the 4oz (118ml) silver tins. From what I’ve read, you should only use materials that can hold boiling liquid – therefore glass and tin are usually safe. Do not use plastic jars as they will melt when you pour in the boiling wax. I also imagine using super thin glass may be a problem (heat may cause delicate glass to crack/shatter).
3. Wick stickums
As I read, these aren’t a necessity as there are multiple ways to stick wicks to jars, but I liked the ease of wick stickums. They are essentially a double-sided sticker used to secure the wick to the bottom of the jar – super easy and stress-free for beginners!
4. Wick holders
From what I read these also aren’t a necessity, as you can use a wide range of objects to ensure your wicks stay centred while your wax cools.
As I discovered, choosing the right wick for your jar/tin is very important. I watched the CandleScience tutorial on the effects of choosing a wick too small or too big for your candle/jar size (think terms such as ‘tunnelling’ or ‘drowning’ the candle) – I highly recommend their video! I also came across Rustic Escentuals wick chart, which really helped me match wick size to jar size. I chose High Temperature Paper (HTP) wicks and with my tins being medium (between 2.5″-2.75″ diameter), opted for the HTP-73 size as per the chart – which turned out to be perfect (no tunnelling or drowning here).
6. Fragrance oils
I used fragrance oils as essential oils are flammable and I didn’t want to risk adding too much and creating a candle that caught fire. With that being said, fragrance oils are synthetic (aren’t of a plant-based origin). To read more, see Natural Candle Supply’s general information on candle fragrance. I bought the fragrance oil Mistletoe & Ivy for my Christmas candles.
Even though I knew my tins were 4oz (118ml), I wanted to double-check the volume. You should usually leave the wick at least 8mm long (to be safe) to ensure the candle doesn’t tunnel – this can happen when the flame doesn’t have enough of a chance to burn and you end up with a narrow hole in the wax so deep that the flame extinguishes. Therefore, to ensure I could have an 8mm long wick with the lid on, I decided I would only fill the candle to the inside line. I measured this with water and it was under the 125ml line on my measuring cup so I assumed it was approximately 118ml (talk about accurate)!
Another thing to think about first – make sure your jars/tins are clean (no residue) and are 100% dry. Water and wax do not mix, so you don’t want water in your jars when the wax goes in. To reuse the jars of old candles, let the jar sit in boiling water for a few minutes. Any wax left should loosen up and you should be able to scrub it clean again (with soap).
I stuck the wick stickums to the base of my wicks (both 15mm diameter) and stuck them in the centre of my tins. I then used the wick holders to ensure the wick stood centred and upright.
When you’re measuring out your wax flakes, you want to use double the amount of the volume of your jars. As my tins were (let’s round it up to) 120ml, I want to use 120ml x2 = 240ml of wax flakes for each candle. As 1 cup = 250ml, I just used 1 cup of wax flakes. As I was making 4 candles, I used 4 cups of wax flakes. Also remember, use a glass or stainless steel bowl to put the wax into, as this will become boiling hot and you don’t want the bowl to melt!
Create a double boiler to melt the wax. Fill a saucepan with water and place the bowl on top.
While you’re waiting for the wax to melt, put the prepared jars/tins and a pouring jug in a tray and fill the tray with hot water (doesn’t have to be boiling but should be hotter than warm). This is to heat them up so they aren’t stone cold when you need to pour the wax in – this is so your candles can cool gradually and can avoid glass cracking if you’re using glass jars.
Make sure the wax flakes melt completely before you turn the heat off. Use a metal spoon to stir when required. The wax may look yellow-toned depending on which wax you’re using, but it does cool a white colour (so fear not)!
Once you’ve turned the heat off, add the fragrance oil. From what I’ve read, depending on how strong you want your candles to be scented, you usually add between 8-10% of the candle volume of fragrance oil. 10% of my 118ml candles would be 11.8ml. As my candles were quite small, I wanted them to be strong, so I added roughly 15ml of fragrance oil per candle. I used a 15ml tablespoon to measure it out and as I was making 4 candles, I added 4 tablespoons (total of 60ml of fragrance oil). Stir the fragrance oil in with the metal spoon.
Note: a few things I’ve read discussed heating the wax to 70 degrees Celsius and waiting for the wax to cool to 60 degrees Celsius before adding the fragrance oil, but I found this a little difficult to coordinate (even with a thermometer), so didn’t bother. I’m sure if you wanted to become more of a professional candle-maker you could start looking into this, but otherwise my method does the trick well enough for me.
Once you’ve stirred in the fragrance oil, remove the pouring jug from the tray of hot water and pour the melted wax (with fragrance oil added) into the pouring jug.
Pour the wax into the jars/tins sitting in the hot water. Be careful not to fill the jars too full, as you need to leave at least 8mm for the wick (above the wax line).
Carefully transfer the candles to a level towel/tea towel and reposition the wicks/wick holders if required. The towel will ensure the wax doesn’t cool too quickly – if it does cool too quickly you can get cracks in the wax. For other candle problems and fixes, see Candle Cauldron’s Troubleshooting Guide.
When the wax has solidified, you can remove the wick holders and trim the wicks. I used regular scissors but you can get special wick trimmers. As you can see, the wax has ridden up around the wick slightly, you can fix this by melting the top layer of wax with a hair dryer – I didn’t bother as it didn’t bother me.
These are my candles ready to go! I created my own stickers in Adobe Illustrator and got them printed at my local Officeworks. I cut them out myself, so they’re not perfect, but I kind of like their imperfectness. Now for the packaging…
Making the Packaging
So I decided to make a ‘box’ for the candles and was inspired by this design on Pinterest. I like the way it displays the object rather than encapsulate it in a box.
Image credit: Pinterest
To start with, I went to my local art and craft store, Eckersley’s and my local two dollar shop and got:
- 600gsm cardboard
- Double-sided contact (adhesive sheet)
- Brown paper
- Thin red ribbon
Things you will also need are:
- Stanley knife (box cutter)
- Steel ruler
- Cutting mat
You’ll need to measure the height, width and depth of the jar/tin to work out the sizings for the box. Remember as you’re working with 600gsm cardboard you’ll lose some length when you fold it, so add in an extra 1-2mm for each measurement.
I used an A4 piece of card here and could fit 3 boxes onto one sheet.
Using the cutting mat, Stanley knife and steel ruler, cut out the 3 conjoined box shapes. On the reverse side (without the pencilled box measurements), adhere the double-sided contact. Peel away the other side of the double-sided contact and stick the brown paper to it.
Flip it back over and cut out the 3 box shapes.
For each individual box shape, use the Stanley knife with a light hand to score the cardboard so it can fold nicely. Be careful, if you actually cut the whole way through you’ve ruined your box and will need to do another one!
Once the cardboard has been scored, you can fold the edges. Place the candle in and seal it with your choice of sticker (make sure the sticker is heavy duty enough to hold the box closed).
Tie the twine tightly around the box with a bow on the top and decorate with as much or as little red ribbon as you like. Repeat as required for all your candles.
And that’s it, you’re finished! You now have pretty, homemade Christmas candles to give to your loved ones, friends or colleagues as a personalised gift.
As I’m a first time candle-maker, I’d be interested to hear how you make your candles – any tips or tricks are always welcome. Thanks for reading and happy candle making!