The Ultimate Guide to Candle Making in Chicago

Get ready to unleash your creativity and explore the world of candle making in the vibrant city of Chicago! This ultimate guide will take you on a journey through the best candle making workshops, where you’ll learn the art of crafting beautiful and fragrant candles. From the charming neighborhoods of Lincoln Park to the bustling streets of the Loop, Chicago offers a plethora of opportunities for you to immerse yourself in this delightful craft. So grab your apron and get ready to discover the enchanting world of candle making in the Windy City!

The Ultimate Guide to Candle Making in Chicago

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History of Candle Making in Chicago

Chicago has a rich history when it comes to candle making. The origins of this craft can be traced back to the early days of the city’s settlement. As pioneers and settlers made their way to the booming metropolis in the late 19th century, candle making became a necessary skill for survival in the harsh winters of the Midwest.

Origins of Candle Making in Chicago

The early candle makers in Chicago relied on locally available resources to create their candles. Animal fats, such as tallow, were commonly used as the main ingredient. These fats were rendered down and mixed with other natural ingredients to create a substance that could be molded and burned as a reliable source of light.

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Evolution of Candle Making Techniques in Chicago

As time went on, candle making techniques in Chicago evolved to adapt to the changing times. With the advent of electricity, the demand for candles as a primary source of light diminished. However, candles found a new role in the realm of ambiance and decoration. This led to the development of new techniques and materials to create candles that were not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing.

Popular Candle Making Techniques in Chicago

In modern-day Chicago, there is a wide variety of candle making techniques that have gained popularity among craft enthusiasts. These techniques include:

Soy Wax Candle Making

Soy wax has become a popular choice for candle makers in Chicago due to its eco-friendly and sustainable nature. Soy candles are known for their clean burn and ability to hold fragrance well.

Beeswax Candle Making

Beeswax candles have been treasured for centuries for their natural golden color and subtle honey-like scent. Beeswax is known for its long burn time and ability to purify the air when burned.

Paraffin Wax Candle Making

Paraffin wax is a versatile and affordable option for candle making. It is commonly used in the production of pillar candles, votives, and tealights. Paraffin candles can be easily colored and scented to suit any preference.

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Gel Wax Candle Making

Gel wax candles offer a unique and translucent appearance. They can be infused with color and decorative objects to create stunning visual effects. Gel wax candles are often used for decorative purposes and make great gifts.

The Ultimate Guide to Candle Making in Chicago

Essential Equipment for Candle Making

To embark on your candle making journey in Chicago, there are several essential tools and equipment that you will need. These include:

Double Boiler or Wax Melter

A double boiler or wax melter is used to heat the wax gently and prevent it from scorching. It consists of a pot filled with water and another pot or container that holds the wax.


A thermometer is crucial for monitoring the temperature of the wax. Different types of wax require specific temperature ranges for optimum pouring and fragrance retention.

Pouring Pitcher

A pouring pitcher with a spout is used to transfer melted wax into molds or containers. It allows for controlled pouring and minimizes mess.

Wicks and Wick Holders

Wicks are the backbone of any candle. They come in various sizes and types, depending on the desired burn time and candle size. Wick holders keep the wick centered during the pouring process.

Molds or Containers

Molds or containers are used to shape and hold the melted wax as it cools and solidifies. There are a wide variety of options available, including silicone molds and glass containers.

Colorants and Fragrances

Colorants and fragrances add a personal touch to your candles. They come in liquid or powder form and can be mixed to create unique combinations.

Heat Source

A heat source such as a stove, hot plate, or electric wax melter is needed to melt the wax. It is important to follow safety guidelines and ensure that the heat source is stable and away from flammable materials.

Choosing the Right Wax for Candle Making

The choice of wax is crucial in candle making, as it determines the performance and characteristics of the final product. In Chicago, candle makers have a variety of wax options to choose from:

Soy Wax

Soy wax is derived from soybean oil and is a renewable and eco-friendly option. It has a low melting point, which promotes a longer burn time and better scent throw.


Beeswax is a natural wax produced by bees. It has a beautiful golden color and a subtle honey fragrance. Beeswax candles burn slowly and cleanly, making them a popular choice for those seeking a natural and sustainable option.

Paraffin Wax

Paraffin wax is a petroleum-based wax that is widely used in candle making. It is affordable, easy to work with, and offers a wide range of color and scent options. However, it is not as environmentally friendly as other wax options.

Gel Wax

Gel wax is a transparent and versatile wax that can be used to create visually stunning candles. It is made from a mixture of mineral oil and polymer resin. Gel wax candles can be infused with decorative elements, such as seashells or botanicals, to create unique designs.

Step-by-Step Candle Making Process

To create your own candles in Chicago, follow these step-by-step instructions:

Preparing the Workspace

Set up a clean and organized workspace, ensuring that all necessary equipment and materials are within reach. Cover your work surface with newspaper or a protective cloth to catch any spills or drips.

Measuring Wax and Preparing the Double Boiler

Measure the desired amount of wax using a kitchen scale and transfer it to a double boiler or wax melter. Heat the water in the bottom pot to a steady simmer and place the wax container into it.

Adding Colorants and Fragrances

Once the wax has reached an appropriate temperature, add colorants and fragrances according to your preference. Stir gently to ensure even distribution.

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Melting and Pouring the Wax

Continue to heat the wax until it has fully melted, stirring occasionally. When the wax reaches the recommended pouring temperature, carefully transfer it into molds or containers. Take care not to overfill or spill.

Inserting and Securing the Wick

While the wax is still liquid, insert the wick into the center of the candle. Use wick holders or other methods to keep the wick in place and centered. Allow the wax to cool and harden completely.

Allowing Candles to Cool and Set

Once the candles are poured, allow them to cool and set undisturbed. This process can take several hours, depending on the size of the candle and the ambient temperature.

Trimming and Finishing Touches

Once the candles have fully cooled and hardened, trim the wick to the desired length. You can also add finishing touches, such as decorative labels or packaging, to enhance the aesthetic appeal of your candles.

Troubleshooting Common Candle Making Issues

While candle making can be a rewarding hobby, it is not without its challenges. Here are some common issues that candle makers in Chicago might encounter:

Sinking or Tunneling

Sinking or tunneling occurs when the wax burns unevenly, leaving a hole or tunnel in the center of the candle. This can be caused by using the wrong wick size or not allowing the candle to burn for long enough during the initial burn.

Uneven Burning

Uneven burning can be caused by a variety of factors, including uneven distribution of fragrance or colorants, improperly centered wicks, or drafty environments. To prevent uneven burning, ensure that the wick is properly centered and that the candle is placed in a draft-free area.

Poor Scent Throw

Poor scent throw refers to candles that do not release a strong or noticeable fragrance when burned. This can occur if the fragrance oil is not properly mixed into the wax or if the fragrance oil used has a weak scent. Experimenting with different fragrance oils and ensuring proper mixing can help improve scent throw.

Wick Issues

Wick issues are common in candle making and can include problems such as mushrooming (excessive carbon buildup at the tip of the wick), curling or leaning wicks, or wicks that are too long or too short. Choosing the correct wick size and properly trimming the wick before each use can help prevent these problems.


Frosting is a natural occurrence in soy wax candles and appears as a white, powdery film on the surface. While it does not affect the performance of the candle, some candle makers prefer to minimize frosting by using additives or choosing a different wax.

Dipping Issues

Dipping issues can occur when attempting to create dipped candles. Common problems include uneven layers, drips, or a lack of adhesion between layers. Properly heating and cooling the wax and ensuring that each dip is fully cooled before adding another layer can help prevent these issues.

Decorative Candle Making Techniques

For those looking to take their candle making skills to the next level, there are various decorative techniques that can be explored. These techniques allow you to create candles that are not only functional but also visually stunning. Some popular decorative techniques include:

Layered Candles

Layered candles involve pouring multiple layers of different colored wax to create a beautiful gradient effect. By carefully pouring each layer at the correct temperature and allowing them to cool between pours, you can achieve stunning layered candles.

Marbled Candles

Marbled candles are created by swirling different colored or scented waxes together. This technique creates a unique and visually captivating pattern on the surface of the candle.

Embedded Objects

Embedded object candles involve placing decorative objects, such as flowers, shells, or beads, into the candle while it is still in its liquid state. As the wax cools and solidifies, the objects become trapped within the candle, resulting in a stunning and personalized design.

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Candle Carving

Candle carving is a technique that involves shaping and carving intricate designs into the surface of the candle. This can be done using specialized tools or even household items such as toothpicks or knives.

Textured Candles

Textured candles are created by adding texture to the surface of the candle. This can be achieved by pressing various objects, such as lace, leaves, or even bubble wrap, onto the surface of the candle while it is still warm.

Custom Labels and Packaging

Adding custom labels and packaging to your candles can elevate their overall presentation. Personalized labels can be designed and printed at home or ordered from a professional printing service. Packaging options can include boxes, bags, or even reusable containers.

Candle Making Classes in Chicago

For those interested in learning the art of candle making or refining their skills, Chicago offers a variety of candle making classes and workshops. These classes provide hands-on experience and expert guidance to help you master the craft. Some options include:

Specialized Candle Making Workshops

Specialized candle making workshops cater to specific techniques or themes, allowing participants to delve deep into a particular aspect of candle making. These workshops may focus on advanced techniques, such as carving or marbling, or explore specific types of candles, such as aromatherapy or holiday-themed candles.

Reputable Candle Making Studios

Reputable candle making studios in Chicago offer comprehensive courses for beginners and experienced candle makers alike. These studios provide a structured learning environment with experienced instructors who can guide you through the entire candle making process.

Online Candle Making Courses

Online candle making courses provide the convenience of learning from the comfort of your own home. These courses typically include instructional videos, step-by-step guides, and helpful resources to support your learning journey.

Exploring Chicago’s Candle Shops and Supplies

Chicago is home to a vibrant community of candle makers and enthusiasts. Whether you are in need of supplies or simply want to browse and be inspired, there are several places to explore:

Top Candle Shops in Chicago

Chicago is dotted with a variety of specialty candle shops that offer a wide selection of unique and handcrafted candles. These shops often feature local artisans and carry a diverse range of candle styles and scents.

Local Suppliers of Candle Making Materials

For those looking to stock up on candle making materials and supplies, Chicago has numerous local suppliers to choose from. These suppliers offer a wide range of waxes, fragrances, molds, and other essential equipment.

Specialty Fragrance Stores

The fragrance of a candle is just as important as its appearance. Specialty fragrance stores in Chicago offer a vast array of scents, allowing you to create truly custom and unique candles. These stores often carry a wide selection of fragrance oils, essential oils, and other scenting options.

Safety Tips for Candle Making in Chicago

While candle making is a fun and rewarding activity, it is important to prioritize safety. Follow these safety tips to ensure a safe candle making experience:

Setting Up a Safe Workspace

Designate a specific area for candle making that is well-ventilated and away from flammable materials. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and ensure that all necessary safety equipment, such as gloves and safety glasses, are readily available.

Proper Handling of Wax and Equipment

Take care when handling hot wax and equipment. Use heat-resistant gloves or mitts to protect your hands and avoid spills or splatters. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for operating and maintaining your equipment.

Fire Safety Precautions

Never leave a burning candle unattended and keep candles away from flammable materials, such as curtains or furniture. Trim wicks to a recommended length to prevent excessive flame height. Always extinguish candles before leaving the room or going to bed.

First Aid for Candle Making Accidents

In the event of a burn or other candle-making-related injury, immediately flush the affected area with cool water. For severe burns or allergic reactions, seek medical attention. Familiarize yourself with basic first aid techniques, such as treating minor cuts or burns, to be prepared for any accidents that may occur during candle making.

By following these safety precautions and guidelines, you can enjoy the art of candle making in Chicago without compromising your well-being.

In conclusion, candle making in Chicago has a rich history and continues to thrive as a popular hobby and craft. From its humble origins to the diverse range of techniques and styles available today, candle making offers a creative outlet for residents and visitors alike. By understanding the essential equipment, choosing the right wax, and following step-by-step instructions, you can create beautiful candles that add warmth and ambiance to any space. Whether you prefer simple and rustic candles or elaborate decorative designs, Chicago’s candle making community and resources provide endless possibilities for your creative journey. So, gather your supplies, ignite your creativity, and let the flickering glow of handmade candles illuminate your world.

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