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Snapdragon blog

Things you should know about candles - wax and fragrance.

autumn candle

Autumn is here and with it the drive to snuggle up, hunker down, get the jumpers and cosy blankets out and light a few candles.

That early part of autumn, all woodsmoke and conkers, is one of my favourite times of year and I used to go overboard with cheap Ikea candles all along the windowsills and tea lights everywhere.

It was full on Hygge at my place.

Then I read about what chemicals are actually given off by paraffin wax candles and I stopped all that.

Instead I did what I am trying to do with everything in my life, I slowed down, I paid attention and I changed my habits.

Instead of burning cheap, disposable, chemically candles I bought high quality soy wax candles - they burned more cleanly. Instead of fragrance oils I chose ones with high quality essential oils only.

If I'm going to burn candles next to my bed, or in the bathroom, or snuggled up reading a book then I want them to be adding to my wellbeing - not clogging up my lungs!

What is the difference between soy wax and paraffin wax?

  • Soy wax is a vegetable wax whereas paraffin wax is derived from petro-chemicals.
  • Soy wax burns cleanly, paraffin wax gives off a sooty residue along with air borne chemicals which have been categorised as carcinogenic by many countries.
  • Soy wax is bio-degradable, paraffin wax is not - you can clean out the container of a soy wax candle by washing it in hot water, you don't need to chip out the wax. In the same way spills are easily cleaned up with soap and hot water.
  • Soy wax burns for longer than paraffin wax and also releases fragrances more easily so is better value.
  • Soy wax can only be used easily for poured candles - such as our copper lidded pots - it doesn't work for pillar candles.
  • Soy wax is more expensive to buy.

autumn candle

What is the difference between essential oils and fragrance oils?

  • Essential oils are created by steam distilling plant matter - flowers, bark, plants etc. - they are 100% pure and related to the natural world. Fragrance oils are synthetically created to smell 'like' certain things like 'chocolate' or 'fresh linen' - most of them are derived from petrochemicals.
  • Essential oils contain the plant compounds which create beneficial effects - lavender is calming, lemongrass energising. Fragrance oils simply smell nice, they will not have a positive physical effect.
  • Essential oils are very expensive due to the process, fragrance oils are much cheaper.
  • Essential oils are natural and tolerated well, fragrance oils are not natural and can aggravate asthma and other lung problems.

So when I decided to create a range of candles for Snapdragon it made sense to have ones which I would happily burn in my own home.

That is why I decided to collaborate with Julie from The Melt Pool - an artisan candle company based in Glasgow - who uses only the best quality soy wax and 100% essential oils.

If you care about what you are breathing in - especially if you or anyone in your home is at all asthmatic - I would say always double check what is in the ingredients of any candles you light around your home.

I was quite shocked when I looked into the ingredients of many of the incredibly expensive branded candles I had been burning in my bedroom - they may have looked swish and smelled lovely but they were sending a streak of chemical soot right up my wall.

You can find out more about the subject here

The candle here is our Autumn Meadow candle, now available over here either as a one off purchase or as part of a yearly subscrition (4 candles)

autumn candle

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I spent a lot of the weekend in the studio - sorting more, painting more, gently transforming it into what will be a light-filled  creative space. ⁠⠀
Part of that is getting all my fabrics out of the boxes in the shed/garage/attic where they were banished while the space was a production workshop.⁠⠀
⁠⠀ I was wondering whether you would be interested in seeing it as a work in progress, in all its unfinished mess? ⁠⠀
Or whether you like to just see the pretty finished, tidied, end result?
A couple of years ago at a festival, I was chatting to someone about food and he told me that his family had recently decided to eat meat only at weekends. 
It seemed such a sensible solution, so civilised and doable - to move from the tokenism of ‘meat free Mondays’ to tip the balance the other way. 
Since then that’s pretty much what we’ve done too. 
As my personal meat consumption has gone down the opportunities to  buy carefully reared local meat direct from the farmer have increased and now, as well as an excellent local butcher in Drymen, we can buy beef from our immediate neighbours @duncan.family.farms, slow reared pork from Craigievern farm across the road.  I get amazing hogget from my friend Sarah @mogwaii_design who sends it by Royal Mail from Lismore and goat from my friend @katgoldin in Port of Menteith. 
I say hello to this bull most days as we walk past - he usually stares back for a few seconds and then returns to gazing out over the hills, part of the landscape.
Do you have a favourite door, or is it just me? ⁠⠀
I see this door most days - it is on a neighbour's disused barn, the door from the barnyard out onto the farm road.⁠⠀
It seems perfect to me - just enough weathering, just the right colour.  It always makes me smile as I pass.⁠⠀
There is a weather warning out for the weekend - gales and rain are forecast. ⠀
Today I will be doing 2 things. ⠀
I shall be bringing some snowdrops into the house to appreciate them in the dry. ⠀
I shall be taking a flask of soup⠀
On a long walk at lunchtime. ⠀
What are you doing today?
Simplicity is what I'm craving this week - how about you?⁠⠀
I feel like that springy pause on the ball of a foot before jumping.⁠⠀
Green glass and white flowers in low spring light.
Do you remember the flower fairies? Cicely Mary Barker’s floral figures, each with a poem?  The snowdrop one was called Fair Maids of February. 
My Mum was very into the flower fairies, a bathroom was wallpapered with them, the painted walls hung with decorated flower fairy plates. For a lot of my childhood she was working on a cross stitch of the ‘bramble fairy’. Decades later I saw a beautiful blotchy lithograph in a friend’s kitchen - also called Fair Maids of February- by the early C20th artist Lily Blatherwick which I found via google images last night. 
At the moment my snowdrops certainly look more like her hail blasted ones than the demure fairy.
What do you have planned for February? ⠀
I said at the beginning of the year that February was going to be my January this year. I knew by then that January was going to be an emotional month, a cluttered month, a bit brain foggy as I tried to work my way through shrinking Snapdragon down to its core. ⠀
And I was right. I’m typing this sitting in a hotel bed in London after an amazingly restorative couple of days with Euan and my girls, listening to music, meeting friends, seeing art and eating so, so well. It took me right away from all the stuff in my head. ⠀
Sitting here with my coffee, I am completely clear headed and can exactly see where I’m going. And it is exciting. It is very exciting. ⠀
The photo is of my reclaimed machine embroidery threads newly sorted into old wooden seed trays - for years they had been jumbled and tangled into random boxes unusable, unseen. ⠀
This weekend I head down to London - to see my girls and to watch the inspirational @marychapincarpenter sing at The Cadogan hall.⁠⠀
On our hall wall we have written in big block letters her words - 'Why Walk When You Can Fly?'. ⁠⠀
It is what I see as I head out for the day. ⠀
The word I have chosen for the year is 'Soar'. ⁠This morning things feel scary but also as though they are coming together in some way. ⁠⠀
It has been a weird month, it has been a weird year if I'm honest. My ears are ringing. ⁠⠀
Things changed a bit at work yesterday and now I am back to being a Company of One.⁠⠀
I am cool with that. I'm refusing to see it as a diminishing.  I feel that I'm doing my best work ever - bigger is rarely best. ⠀
Snapdragon Life continues - just with fewer coffee cups on the rack.⁠⠀
I wrote about the story of Snapdragon for a newsletter that goes out this morning and now I'm packing up my train snacks, walking the dog and am headed off to spend time with the people I love best in the world.⁠⠀
(you can also catch a lot of the story in an episode of @me_and_orla's Hashtag Authentic podcast that was broadcast last year)⁠⠀

About Snapdragon

At Snapdragon we gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

Through our communities, both free and paid for, through Jane's writing on the blog, through carefully hand crafted gifts and activity kits, and through our online and in-person workshops we aim to bring people back in touch with the rhythms of a seasonal life.

Learn more about why here