I do forget that some activities I do are not obvious to others. E and I had to devise a five minute teaching exercise recently, for one of her university interviews. It had to be suitable for five to seven year olds but be taught to other interviewees. We settled upon the tissue paper and pipe cleaner poppies that we have made at various times over the years. Firstly when E was about six or seven and most recently for M’s sister who has a learning disability. It requires folding a square piece of tissue paper into a quarter of its size and then cutting an arc so that when it is unfolded it’s a circle shape. The exercise for the interview went well but one girl of eighteen could not get her head round the cutting despite five others showing her. We had both taken for granted that it was obvious how to cut a circle from a square.
It didn’t spoil the five minute lesson for E. The most important part of the exercise was to self analyse afterwards which E was more than capable of doing. If she needs another five minute lesson she plans to do a non creative exercise!
So, candles. I thought I’d just do a post to show a bit more of what you might need if you want to have a go at recycling old bits of leftover candles. There are a couple of things I use now that make life so much easier…
I used to use candle wick that comes like plaited string. In my local craft store it’s a fiver for a quantity of this and it works best if you dip it in wax and leave to cool, you can then anchor it to the bottom of the container with blue or white tac. However, you can now buy pre cut, anchored and waxed wicks. This packet contains ten and cost £1.15.
Underneath these wicks in the top photo is a packet of sticky dots; these are so useful to have around. They are not always sold as photographic sticky dots, any sticky dots will do. Choose a packet with a dot size of roughly 5mm diameter. One sticky dot on the bottom of the small metal disk on the cut wicks will stick it nicely to the bottom of a glass container. You can see how I’ve done this in the photo. I’ve kept it upright with coffee stirring sticks. If it slumps at all just bend over the top few millimetres of wick and rest it on top of one of the sticks.
Glass containers; I use the small glass containers that came with bought candles or small jam jars. It’s good to recycle but you can buy them new too. With the old ones I put them through the dishwasher and they come up sparkling clean. I scrape out old wax with a knife but even so it’s probably not that good for my dishwasher! You need to make sure that the wicks are long enough for the containers, ideally about a centimetre of spare wick above the height of glass is good.
The actual melting of the wax and pouring is the tricky part, but it’s still fairly simple. Use a double pan system so that the wax isn’t directly on the heat. I tend to group similar colours together from my discarded candles. I never worry about mixing the scented ones. They all smell good however they are mixed up! It’s guess work with quantities but you can sometimes judge by the size of the pile of wax bits you have. Once the water has reached the gently bubbling stage turn it down to simmer. It helps if your wax pan has a pouring spout, mine didn’t and it was a little messy. When you make the first pour do not fill it up to the top! In fact leave a good inch or two for further pourings. This is where the patience comes in. It’s best to leave it to cool as much as possible in between pourings. You’ll notice that the middle, where the wick is, dips as it cools. This is why it needs to be topped up a few times. I tend to pour just a small layer of half a centimetre or so every time I top up, don’t just top up the dip, top up a whole layer.
You can turn off the heat while you are waiting for candles to cool between layers. If the wax goes solid in your pan it can be reheated to liquid just as you did the first time. If you’ve got bits of old wick floating around in your mixture just fish them out with a wooden spoon, bearing in mind that melted wax is very hot!
Once the candles have set overnight in a cool place you can trim the wick if necessary. If you aren’t sure how much to leave, try lighting it. If the flame is high it needs trimming.
One other thing to note. All of my recycled candles are wax. I haven’t tried it but I don’t think it would be wise to mix wax with soy wax candle leftovers. They are quite different substances.
I didn’t have any rustic raffia in my box of leftover ribbons and string so I’ve chosen a length of ribbon which is held in place with a sticky dot or two. Likewise the wooden Christmas shapes are held on by a sticky dot too and can easily be re-used.
I store the wicks, wax, sticks, dots and small jars in an old ikea tin about the size of a shoe box. It lives at the back of a kitchen cupboard so that I can easily add bits of wax throughout the year. The double pan lives on top. It takes up so little space and even though it’s a bit of a stop start activity it doesn’t take up too much time to produce a batch of candles. Somehow this always comes to mind in December. You could just as easily buy new supplies and make them as gifts. You can buy white wax beads, wax colouring, essential oils, small tins, even soy wax. I made some candles in tea cups once, small espresso cups are quite abundant in charity shops and would be ideal containers!