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!!
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.