Using Scrap Fabric – Making Beeswax Wraps

Clearing out a large, overflowing box of scrap fabric earlier this week, I decided enough was enough.  Wasn’t this the box that I’d swore to empty by Christmas??  Yeah right!  All I’ve managed to do since coming home from holiday in May is to carry on filling it!  This box will never empty itself – I need to commit!  Soooooo

I started with a few things, mentioned in the last post, like making bunting and some sort of patchwork piece.  I still am not sure of what direction that’s going to take, but I’ll get there.  I also unearthed a load of pretty cottons that would make perfect beeswax wraps.  So I decided to get on with it and stop procrastinating.  Down they went to the sewing room and I cut a load of 30x30cm squares (perfect for sandwiches) 20x20cm squares (perfect for covering bowls or halved avos or the cheesy part of an Edam cheese), and a couple of 40x40cm squares which is the perfect size for wrapping my bread made in the breadmaker.  Then I went looking for the beeswax – and found it wrapped in 20 or more pre-cut pretty cotton squares – of different sizes!  Oh dear!!

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Different sized cotton squares and beeswax bars from the local beekeeper’s association

I decided to start with some of those.  Now, there are loads of tutorials for beeswax wraps online, you just need to pick the one that you think will work for you, and the same here.  I’ll show you how I make mine, and it’s up to you to give this method a try and see if it works and you’re happy.  I’ll be honest and say I tweak the “recipe” each time, still looking for the “perfect” result.  The fabric needs to be 100% cotton, and please pre-wash it, the wax will not penetrate the fibres properly otherwise.

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Sandwiches wrapped up and in the bamboo lunchbox!

 

Now, where to get the stuff, and what stuff to get?!  I use beeswax and coconut oil.  Some say to use pine resin, but all I find that stuff does is leave a sticky, gungy plug at the bottom of the tin, and it’s nasty.  It doesn’t seem to mix in with the wax and oil.  It’s supposed to help make the wrap slightly sticky so it sticks to itself or the edge of bowls, but I can’t say it’s worked for me so far.  My current recipe is to use 100g of wax and about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil.  The coconut oil is easy to get hold of, I use the one from Aldi, it’s cheap and comes in a glass jar.  Beeswax you can get online, Amazon do a roaring trade, you can also get from The Soap Kitchen, who also do a vegan substitute.  They will send everything out wrapped in nice big thick plastic bags, so if that’s not your thing, you might want to go elsewhere.  They do, however, have the largest stock I’ve seen.  I am now buying the wax bars from the local beekeeper’s association, I like that it’s local and supporting local people and trades/hobbies!  You can find your local beekeepers on this site, UK only.  The normal beeswax will make white areas of fabric go a yellow shade, so if you want to keep the fabric white, look for the white wax pellets.

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My little double boiler system, small saucepan and old tomato tin

Right, you’ve got your stuff, now you need to melt it.  The double boiler system is needed.  I use an old tomato tin (because it gets all waxy and gungy) for the wax and oil, and a small saucepan with about 3-4 cm of water in it.  Get the water in the saucepan and start the water boiling.  Meanwhile, measure out the wax and put that in the tin, followed by the coconut oil, or the other way around.  It takes a while for the wax to melt, it has a high melting point, so if you’re using pellets, bonus, this will go quickly.  If you have the bars, get a large chopping knife and a chopping board and make those bars smaller!  Then put the kettle on, have a cuppa and get the rest of the stuff ready.  (DO NOT BE TEMPTED MELT THE WAX IN THE MICROWAVE!)

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Wax is ready!!

You’ll need two large-ish baking trays and at least three pieces of BAKING PARCHMENT – works way better that greaseproof paper, the paper needs to be bigger than the trays.  You don’t want the wax getting on your baking trays.  You’ll also need an old paintbrush that will only ever be used for this purpose from now on, or a silicone pastry brush, the wide flat ones are better.  I also have a wooden kebab stick that I use to poke the wax and stir the goo in the tin.  Also grab a pair of tongs, a clothes horse or trouser coathangers – the kind you get from the dry-cleaners, and a cooling tray.  And the fabric.

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Large baking tray with baking paper and fabric square

Once the wax has melted you can begin.  Put the oven on to 100C, place a piece of paper onto a tray and grab a square of fabric.  Pop the brush into the tin and start spreading the melted wax onto the fabric.  It will not go far at first.  The fabric will soak it up, and the wax will start to set as soon as it’s removed from the heat so work quickly.  You’ll find as you make more that it gets easier to spread.  That’s because the paper will have residue wax on it from previous squares, the tray is still hot, and you’ve got used to how it all works!  So, spread quickly, but don’t stress if every millimetre of fabric isn’t covered.  Now put the brush in the tin and put the tray with fabric into the oven for 1 minute.

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This is my first square of the day, the wax cooled quickly on the cool fabric and tray, and the fabric is the quilting cotton kind.
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You can see the wax cooling & setting before I’ve got a chance to spread it too far

Remove from the oven and place on the cooling tray, check to see if the wax has spread over all the fabric.  This is when you can to a little top up with the brush if you need to.  Then, with the tongs, lift the square of fabric and drape over the clothes horse, or clothes hanger to dry.  Then make your next square.  I start the next one as soon as I get one in the oven, it won’t kill anything if they’re in the oven for more than a minute, promise.  The quicker you can work, the more get done and you can move away from the hot stove and hob!  You’ll find that thinner cotton fabric like lawn doesn’t need as much wax and oil as the thicker quilting cottons do.  So if you have a pile of quilting cotton squares waiting, the 100g of wax might only do 10 or so squares.

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Lift the slightly cooled square with the tongs and place on the hangers or clotheshorse to cool and set

If you’re making a wrap with a piece of fabric that’s bigger than your baking tray, brush wax on about half of the piece, then fold the fabric in half, or quarters, and brush the unwaxed areas with a bit more wax.  Pop it in the oven, and when you take it out, cover with a piece of baking parchment and get your oven gloves on.  Rub over the paper, pushing down on the waxwrap to encourage the wax to get absorbed through the layers.  Open it all up and check that the wax has gone everywhere.  Any areas that are still dry can quickly be filled in with your brush.

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This is a large, 40x40cm square, folded in quarters before placing in the oven

Once on the clotheshorse, or hangers, the wax wraps dry and set quickly, so you don’t need loads of space.  They can be removed as soon as they’re set and cool, making room for more.  If you’ve been heavy handed with the wax, don’t stress.  Wait for the squares to cool, then heat up an iron, place a piece of paper, either greaseproof or baking parchment on the ironing board, then the overly waxed square on top, and put an un-waxed piece of fabric on top of that, covering with another layer of paper.  Heat the iron to high and iron the layers.  The excess wax will penetrate the unwaxed fabric, and you might get two for the price of one!  Or you might need to repeat the process with another overly waxed square.  The point is, you can’t make that much of a boob here, too much wax can be used on another square, a square with too little wax can be topped up in the same way.

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All the pretty wraps, cooling on my old clotheshorse.

You can use these wraps to cover just about any food, but not on meat, raw fish or chicken, etc.  Washing is easy, put some cool-cold water and a little dish washing soap in the sink and wash them as you would a plate, rinse with cold water and drape on the drying rack to drip dry.  Don’t leave the wraps folded up in lunch boxes or on the side of the sink to wash up, this becomes a breeding ground for mould.  Open them up, dust out crumbs and wash as soon as you can.

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Today’s 120g of wax and 3 tablespoons of coconut oil made 9 20x20cm squares, one large 40×40, 4 30×30 sandwich wraps and 3 25×25 squares.

 

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Folded up and ready to use. I sense a theme with today’s effort…

The wraps can be topped-up by placing them in a 100C oven for a minute or two, or sandwiching between two layers of baking parchment and heating with a hot iron.  If you have managed to grow mould on your wraps, pop them into your council green waste bin, and they’ll decompose in the heat of the council composting process.

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I wrap my baby courgettes in the beeswax wraps to keep them fresh longer if the fridge
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Also good for storing allotment grown lettuce!

 

Esenciales

A little sewing procrastination happened after that mad “help me” post from a couple of weeks ago.  In order for me to get all my thoughts in order and ducks in a row, I decided a quick detour would be a good idea.  I had a piece of red and white viscose crepe left over from a blouse I’d made in January for the Burdachallege 2018.  I also had a pattern I’d traced 106 from April 2013 Burda, it’s only got 4 pieces, quick and easy!  I’d rather liked the look in the magazine when it first came out, but never really got round to making it.

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Top 106 April 2013

This year, while I was tracing a pair of shorts from the same magazine for Daughter No2, I remembered this top and traced that too.  A quick toile revealed it was too long for me (5cm) but didn’t need anything else, no FBA! Yippee!  Now one thing to remember, if I were to go by measurements, the 44 would not fit me.  In order for the top to look on my the way it does on the model, I’d need to go up 2-3 sizes.  But there’s no way I’d want to wear it like that!  All I want is a loose-fitting top with a bit of ease – not a tent!  So bear that in mind when judging how tops look on me, compared to someone who’d normally fit into any size bracket.

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The pattern pieces fitted on the remains of the fabric easily, neck facings were interfaced with fine sheer fusible from Gill Arnold.  You could, if you preferred, use self-bias binding for the neck edges instead of the facings.  The style is a loose fitting top with pleats at the front neckline with slight drop shoulder and no sleeves.  The pleats were basted in place and steamed to hold the shape until I sewed on the facing.

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I used French seams throughout and double turned the hem edges on the sleeve openings and the hem of the garment.  It’s turned out really nicely and I like that I have another red top for the summer!  I have worn the original red top from January loads of times, it gets compliments all the time.  So now I have a summer one!  Thankfully the shape is great for the current weather, and now I want another.  I’m sure I have some small pieces of fabric lurking in the stash that I could use in this pattern, but first….

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I must get on with reducing the piles of fabric and pagazines/patterns on the table in my sewing room and covering the bed in the guest room!  I can say that I have made one of the items I rambled about last time, that inky blue linen/cupro blend.  And it’s made fabulous cropped trousers!  Will be showing those off soon…

 

Small Things

Thanks to everyone who commented on the last post, I really do love that top – and the colour!  It has made me re-think the colours I wear.  Oh dear!  I’m not giving up my nice, safe, easily matchable neutrals just yet, but I don’t see why a spot of red here and there would do any harm.

So, on to the latest stuff!  I saw over last weekend, lots of Acacia Knickers being made and shown off on Instagram.  It’s the latest pattern by Megan Nielsen and, if you sign up to her newsletter, it’s free!  In my current eco-warrior, save the planet with reusing & recycling mode, I signed up and downloaded.  I had to wait a few days for hubby to print it out for me.  In the mean time I dug out all those small pieces of jersey from the boxes (and bags) in the stash cupboard.  You’re always left with bits, the real scrap goes in the scrap bin for recycling, but what to do with the rest?

I had in mind to make more patch tee shirts like this one, but I’ve just not got there.  So I decided I’d make knickers instead!  Unfortunately, most of the leftover bits weren’t suitable for knickers.  Too stretchy, too thin, not enough recovery, not suitable fibre content.  But there was enough for me to cut out 10 pairs!  I traced the XS, S and M seperately so I could place as many as possible in one go.

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Hardly anything left from this fabric!

I also managed to find a fair bit of picot elastic in my lingerie goodies box, as well as several metres of fold over elastic – which I didn’t even know I had!!  However, there wasn’t enough in the stash for all the pants I cut out…  Knickers might not use much in the way of fabric, but they’re elastic gobblers!  So I’ve got some finished, some halfway.  I’ve not been partucularly fussy about the mixing and matching of the elastic either.  If this is a stashbusting exercise, I’m doing a proper job!

The pattern only takes 6 A4 pages, so it’s a doddle to print and stick together.  If you want to save the planet by not printing out the instructions you’ll manage just fine with them on your phone, tablet or laptop.  As I said, I traced the sizes I wanted seperately using scraps of pattern paper from other projects.  There are only 3 pieces, the gusset you cut twice.  I had fun squeezing as many out of the fabric I had, and am considering using mis-matched fabric for those bits that there wasn’t enough for whole pants.

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Sewing wise, they’re easy, but surprisingly time consuming.  I didn’t use the overlocker, just set my machine to a slight zig zag stitch (it doesn’t have a stretch stitch setting – way to old for that!!)  The gusset is sewn, then the side seams, then you attach the elastic.  Quartering the waist for the pants and elastic works well, and simply, but for the legs I took it further.  The first one I quartered, but found with the curved shapes that I didn’t have enough control.  So I marked the leg opening and the corresponding elastic with eighths.  It takes longer to do, but it’s worth it for me!

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Marking eighths for the leg elastic

I will have to buy more knicker elastic to finish off what I’ve cut, and I am seriously considering making many, many more.  There must be tee shirts in the cupboards that I can cut up, right?  Something with a little hole in it, or a stain that won’t go away.  Or tees that no longer fit…  I was also thinking of doing the rounds of the local charity shops for tees that they can’t sell (holes and stains), making more knickers and donating them.  I know women’s shelters are always looking for all sorts of clothing.  Then again, refugee centres and those collecting clothing to send to war zones and refugee camps could also do with donations of knickers!

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Liberty print Cotton jersey from the deepest part of the stash, with mix and match elastic!

What better way to use a free pattern than donating what you make??

Shout to the Top

Take a bag of fabric scraps and a simple pattern, no small amount of time and fiddling and you’re rewarded with a pretty unique item of clothing.  I’d wanted to make a tee from the different white and blue pieces of jersey in the scrapbag for ages, inspired by a tee from a Burda magazine from a couple of years ago.

I decided to make the Lark Tee, traced the 4 with slightly widened shoulders, moving to the 2 at the waist and then out to the 6 for the hip.  This was to be for a friend.  I started by tracing the outline of the tee from the pattern art/line drawings and playing around with placement of the different prints.

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Trying out different pattern placements

It needed to be done hand in hand with checking the actual amounts of the different fabrics, no point in deciding to do a large panel and finding out later there was only enough for a neckband!  Once I decided I’d have enough of each of the pieces to do the required panels, I started blocking off the traced pattern, making sure each piece had a grainline and was labelled with the intended fabric.  I also marked the top and bottom of each piece.  The fronts and backs were cut separately.  There were two types of blue and white stripe, a solid navy blue and a piece of navy blue with randomly placed white blocks.  As each piece was cut I pinned and sewed, making a full front and back.

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On the left are the pieces for the back, front pieces on the right with the sleeve in the middle and the neckband on the top front panel

I’d have liked to have been able to have more of the solid blue, but as I told myself I was only using what I had this is the result.  I’m pretty chuffed with it, for a pretty much free tee, can it get better?  Afterall, I’ve used the narrow stripe on 3 other tees, and the solid  blue on two.  That pile of stuff on the right of the above photo is what was left once I’d finished cutting!  Not too shabby!!

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The finished tee, modeled by Betty.

I haven’t been able to persuade my friend to show it off herself yet, so Betty will have to do.  It’s a little baggy on her as she hasn’t the same shape.

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Neckline detail
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Left side with the wide stripes running round from front to back
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Right side with narrow stripes matching
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Last, but not least, the back!

Now that this has turned out so well, I’m keen to make another – but for me this time!  It’ll join the sewing queue, so it might be a while before I’m showing it off! I have just finished my Morgan Jeans today, so perhaps their blog post will be ready mid September…

What’s on your sewing table for the weekend?