Vol.2, No.1

Use leaves in a pillar candle

Decorating with leaves is a fun way to personalize your candles.

Small pillar candle with embedded plant
Photo Credit: Rose Hayes

Pillar Candles

Using leaves to decorate pillar candles is a great craft project that the whole family can participate in. Leaves are a fun way of personalizing pillar candles and preserving the beautiful fall colors that some leaves have.

Start by either making your own pillar candle or buying one. A pillar candle is a thick candle at least 3 inches in diameter. The shortest pillar candles are 3 inches tall, but are too short to decorate with leaves. The next size up is 6 inches tall, and is the minimum height you should use. If you plan to burn the candle, use one that is larger than 3 inches in diameter in order to keep the flame away from the leaves decorating the outside of the candle.

The best colors to use are white, cream, or other pale colors. You can also use fall colors such as yellows, oranges, and reds as long as they provide enough contrast with the colors of the leaves you are using. For example, try using red leaves with an orange candle.

Leaves

Depending on the season, you can either use real leaves that you find on the ground during the fall, or artificial leaves that are sold at the craft store. Fresh green leaves should not be used because they will die and turn brown making an unattractive candle decoration.

Different types of trees have different types of leaves. Ginkgo, for example has beautiful yellow colored leaves in the shape of a fan. Red maple leaves are usually brilliant shades of red and orange. Choose intact leaves with no brown spots in several colors, sizes, and shapes. Smaller or medium sized leaves are better than a single large one that wraps around the candle.

Once you have collected the leaves, press them flat in a heavy book or wax them. You can wax leaves by pressing between two sheets of waxed paper and using an iron set on low. You can preserve leaves in glycerin, which will also make them more pliable. Or, if you are starting your project immediately, you can always use leaves that have just dropped to the ground.

Attaching Leaves to the Candle

Melt a large block of clear paraffin wax in a double boiler that is large enough to accommodate the size of your pillar candle, or use an old pot that you don’t need for cooking. You can also buy a large pot to use specifically for melting wax.

Fill the kitchen sink with cold water. Then place a dab of glue on the vertical side of the candle. Attach the leaf and then brush over it with a thin layer of wax using a small synthetic bristle brush. When the wax has hardened, use a pair of tongs and dip the entire candle in the hot melted wax. Proceed slowly to avoid drips and bumps. Submerge the candle in the cold water in the sink to harden the wax quickly.

An alternative method to dipping the candle into the wax is to paint the entire candle with wax. You may have to “paint” on several coats to get the wax smooth. Cool at room temperature for 24 hours.

A word of caution: Do not overheat the wax or leave the room while wax is melting, as it may catch on fire. If it does, extinguish the fire with baking soda or use a fire extinguisher.



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