Bread is sort of my “thing”. I think I’m invited to some parties just because it’s assumed I’ll bring homemade bread. When I go to friends’ houses, I’m often bearing the gift of bread. As I like to give away bread, I bought special paper bread bags from King Arthur Flour a few years ago, to have something to transport the loaves in. They were good bags, with tiny holes to allow air circulation, which is good for crusty breads, and they came in packs of 100. I realized the other day that I was just about out of the paper bags so I went to King Arthur to order some more and was dismayed to find they no longer sell them. Thus began the great hunt for paper bread bags. I can’t find them anywhere in packs of less than 500, and even when I thought maybe I’d just buy 500 and sell half of them on eBay, none of them seemed as good as the kind I had. I was beginning to get very annoyed.
My googling for paper bread bags gave me the idea, however, to make cloth bags. Since I’m already making cloth gift bags, I don’t know why this thought didn’t occur to me earlier. The best part about this idea is the fact that linen tea towels are the perfect size for making bread bags. That’s my favorite part because it means no cutting – I can’t cut in a straight line even with a rotary cutter – and no finishing seams! AND I get to shop for vintage tea towels, which is fun!
This is a very quick, easy, inexpensive, and useful craft item. If you don’t bake your own bread, these bags are good storage for artisan breads you buy in a bakery as well. As I’ve said before, I’m AWFUL at sewing, so if I can do this, you can too.
1 linen tea towel (14″ – 18″ wide by 30″ – 36″ tall)
string or ribbon
large safety pin
To determine how much string you need for a regular artisan loaf bag, multiply the width of the towel by two and add 10″. So if your towel is 16″ wide, multiply 16 x 2 to get 32, then add 10 to get 42″. If you are making a baguette bag, just add 10″ to the width of the towel, so for a 16″ wide towel, cut 26″ string.
Wash and iron your tea towel. Now, ironing is something I never do. I don’t even know where this iron came from; I found it in the laundry room and I think it’s the landlord’s. But some of my towels were pretty wrinkled and I have a hard enough time trying to sew in a straight line on smooth fabric, so I figured I’d better iron them.
Unfortunately, I made a horrible mistake in deciding to iron on the dining room table (I put a bath towel on it)…when I picked up the bath towel, I discovered I’d done THIS to the table:
Which is bad news because Fortinbras bought and refinished that table for me as a gift. I asked him what I should do and he said, “buy an ironing board like every other American; what’s wrong with you?!” He also said he’d look at the photo I sent him and call me back with advice but I haven’t head from him since so I think he’s plotting ways to strangle me. (Actually, F-dog is extremely busy right now and I shouldn’t have been bothering him in the first place.) So, um, iron your towel some different way than what I did. As for me, I’ve learned my lesson and will never iron anything ever again.
So anyway, here’s my ironed tea towel. This tutorial is for a regular bread bag. I’ll explain the how to make a baguette bag at the end (it’s actually even easier).
Fold the top and bottom edges over (wrong sides together), by about an inch (depending on how wide your string is), and pin. Note that the top of some tea towels is already folded over like this so you can insert a dowel for hanging. If your towel is like this, half your work is done for you: just pin the bottom edge.
Sew close to the original edge.
When you’ve done both the top and the bottom, fold the towel in half, top to bottom, right sides together, and pin.
Sew these two seams, being very careful to start at your first seam, that is, don’t sew the loop you created above closed. Look where my needle is in the picture and start sewing there.
Here is the bag with both sides sewn up:
Here’s a closeup of the top edge, you can see where my side seams start below the top hem:
Stick a large safety pin through one end of your string. It may help to put a bit of tape on the end of the string first so it doesn’t unravel.
Insert the safety pin into one of of the top hems.
Holding the safety pin through the fabric in one hand, scrunch the fabric onto the pin, then pull the pin through a bit.
Keep going until the safety pin comes out the other side.
Then stick it in the other hem and repeat the process.
Pull the string so the ends are even and knot the ends.
Turn the bag right side out, and you’re done!
To close, just pull the strings.
To make a baguette bag, hem just the top of the towel as described above, then fold the towel in half lengthwise (right sides together) and sew the side and the bottom. Insert the string in the same fashion. These bags won’t be long enough for a real French baguette, but they are long enough for baguettes made in most home ovens, and they’d probably be plenty big enough for storing leftovers of store-bought baguettes.
Here are all the bags I made today. My favorite towels are the souvenir travel towels. I just got two map of Scotland towels today, too, that I’m excited to turn into bags.
Here are some loaves of Hamelman’s pain au levain (which is fancy French for sourdough) I baked today:
I finally got an oval brotform:
Let bread cool completely before storing if you can, although linen will breath enough that I’ll feel confident slipping hot loaves in when I’m in a hurry to get somewhere with them, which is often.
Now, my theory of these bags is this: I’ve bought (and am still buying) a bunch of old tea towels for a couple of bucks each, which I’m going to make into bags in batches as I have a chance. I can probably make 5 or 6 in an hour. I plan to make an initial stash of 25 to 30 bags, a few of which I’ll keep for my own use, but most of which I’ll use for transporting bread to other people. The first time I take a bread bag to someone, it will be a gift: they keep it and use it (I hope). There are some people that routinely get bread from me; these people would eventually end up with more bread bags than they can use, so they can just start returning the extras to me to be refilled. Most of the bags will just be given away, though, which is good, because making these bags is the perfect craft for me: it’s cheap, it’s quick, and although it involves the sewing machine (usually a huge no-no in Renae crafts), it’s kind of foolproof. So I’ll just keep an eye out for cute vintage towels, buy them as I see them, and periodically make a bunch of new bags.
I used my two Australia bags today in honor of the fact that one year ago today, I was in Australia.
I think I might also branch out and make potato and onion bags as well.
Bonus Brachtune picture: