Bread Bag Tutorial

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.

Bread Bag

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:

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In which I talk about cats but not food

I was reprimanded for not having enough cat pictures lately … sorry.

I’ve just been so busy! But then I realized I had a bunch of pictures on my iPhone I’d been saving to share with you, all of cats. In fact, there were so many I’m going to make them their own post. Rest assured that I plan to have a food post for you later tonight or tomorrow, though, so if you aren’t among the cat lovers out there, you can sign off now and come back tomorrow for the food!

I took this series of pictures of Brachtune on my phone shortly after Mark’s birthday, when I was enjoying a slice of his birthday cake for dessert one evening. Brachtune was dining with me:

Suddenly, she approaches:

When she thought I wasn’t looking, she had a little snoot of the cake to see if it smelled like tuna:

And finally attacks!

I eat a lot of meals looking at this view, by the way:

In other cat news, this is the cat I’m going to have one day very soon:

His name is Nakata. I love him.

And okay, I’m not sure how soon I’m really going to have him because I must come up with an elaborate, foolproof plan for stealing him from my friends Dale and Nona, to whom he doesn’t even actually belong. They are long-term cat sitting him and another cat for a military friend of theirs. And his name isn’t actually Nakata. But get this: I fell in love with him on sight the first time I met him and immediately re-named him Nakata (from Bogey), which has been on my list of possible cat names ever since I read Kafka on the Shore. I thought the name sounded neat for a cat, especially since it’s the name of a character who can communicate with cats. Cool, huh? And I instantly decided that The Cat Formerly Known As Bogey looked like a Nakata. What I didn’t know at the time I issued this new name is that Nakata is actually from Japan! Nona’s friend rescued him when she was stationed there. Nakata is Japanese, like his name! NAKATA SHALL ALSO BE MINE. I feel I have a special bond with Nakata. He comes over to me and lies his tiny little head (actually, it’s quite large; he’s a substantially sized kitty) on my lap every time I am there! My heart, it melts.

This is the cat that really belongs to Dale and Nona, Pot Pie. She’s also super cute and I love her, but I’m not planning to steal her.

Finally, this picture is a year and a half old, but I mentioned in one of my recent San Francisco posts that I go looking for and chase around random and stray cats when I’m traveling because I really miss having a cat around to pet, and it reminded me of this cat I found at the beach last summer, lounging on a Harley. I really want to know if the bike belongs to the cat’s human:

There was also the time in New Orleans when Pig found a Siamese in a bookstore (you have no idea how much I love bookstores that have cats, by the way). Ended badly for Pig:

(You’d think I’d get kicked out of bookstores more often than I do…)

Finally, when I searched my galleries for those older pictures, I came across this picture, which made me mist up a bit:

I miss my handsome orange boy.

Right, well, time to hit Wegmans, make dinner, and make a post that’s actually about eating food, not terrorizing or stealing cats.

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Koala Park

I don’t patronize zoos. I think it is inherently wrong for humans to cage and gawk at animals, and when I find myself in situations where I see a caged animal, I get rather upset. I either have to hold back tears, or I get very angry. So a zoo would be a bad place for me even if I were willing to give them my money. Smucky, however, confronted me with the fact that the only place I was going to see a kangaroo while in Australia was in a zoo. This despite the fact that nearly every Australian I talked to spent about 15 minutes telling me what a horrible problem all the rampant kangaroos are and how they need to be culled (“culled” here is a euphemism for “killed”). And also despite the story Smucky told me last year about the night he and his friends were at a beach house (not Smucky’s family’s in Mollymook) when they heard what they thought was a burglar on the front porch, only to be very surprised to find themselves face to face with a prowling kangaroo when they opened the door. So you’d think I’d be bumping into them everywhere!

But I guess I can’t realistically expect to find kangaroos hopping around the streets of Sydney. Smuck suggested we visit Koala Park, where I could not only see but pet a kangaroo, instead of a regular zoo. I liked that Koala Park doesn’t have any non-native animals, so the animals are in their normal environment. And I liked that they do koala rescue. And I liked that some of the animals – including all of the koalas – are allowed to roam the entire park at their will: none of the koalas are kept in cages. So I agreed to go. I’ll be honest though: I was a bit torn about this. I still have major issues with even a place like Koala Park. Some of the animals were in cages. And even the animals that weren’t are still kept within the confines of the park (although the koalas could probably escape through the tree tops if they wanted, though I doubt it’d be a good idea on their part). And although I confess I really did want to pat a koala pretty badly, I do not agree with humans patting koalas for kicks. So it is with some amount of guilt and a large feeling of hypocrisy that I present these photos. I am glad I had a chance to interact with a koala and some kangaroos, but at the same time, I think it is wrong. I’m planning to donate some money to an Australian animal welfare site to help offset my sin, though I also don’t think that throwing money at your wrongs is the answer either.

But on with the photos! One of the first animals we saw as the wombat. I thought wombats were much smaller than this!

We also saw a wallaby, which looks like a small kangaroo:

Smucky’s been trying to tell me for years that they have penguins in Australia, which I thought was crazy talk. “You mean Antartica,” I’d say. “No, they are Australian,” he’d insist. Turns out he wasn’t lying! These are called “little penguins” and apparently Tux the Linux mascot is in fact an Australian penguin.

Smucky had also been warning me about the cassowary for quite some time. He described it as “prehistoric-looking and very scary”. He got the prehistoric-looking part right, but I thought he was a pretty charming guy!

Probably my least favorite part of Koala Park was the dingo cage. I didn’t feel the dingos had nearly enough room, especially as they were all very frisky. I thought they were quite cute and looked friendly, although you have no idea how many times I heard “the dingo got your baby” when I was near their cage. One of the park employees had a big jeep in the cage at one point as he was doing some yard work or something and the dingos were all running around and jumping on it and all over it. I felt very sad that these poor animals were contained the way they were.

Echnidas look like large hedgehogs with anteater snouts and they waddle around in a most delightful manner.

As we were walking by, this little guy started shouting demands our way! “Got a cracker? Got a cracker?” he kept repeating, until Luke gave him some leftover ‘roo food to shut him up.

Smucky said that the emus were usually allowed to roam freely in the kangaroo petting area, but they were behind bars the day we were there, which seemed just as well with Smucky who finds them a little nerve-wracking. Since they were in a cage, I was unable to recreate my family’s famous “Carol Amongst Emus” photo: a shot of my mom surrounded by emus at the Catoctin Petting Zoo, which we visited when I was young. Maybe mum will post it for you when she sees this post.

Pig managed to get in on some emu action, however.

Now the part you’ve all been waiting for, maybe….the koalas! The park has 3 koala feeding times during which visitors can pat – if they are lucky – a koala. Koalas are nocturnal animals and as they are given free range of the park, most of them were actually asleep high in the trees above our heads and invisible to us, however, they select a few to hang out in an enclosure during feeding time. Here are some of the sleepyheads:

The park employee selects one koala to wake up and feed, although visitors are told that if the koala hops down and runs off or if he climbs back up in the tree, they are not to follow him or try to pat him. You’re only allowed to pat him if he feels like cooperating. Fortunately, our koala decided an extra serving of eucalyptus was worth being manhandled by about 20 children and tourists.

Koalas sure love eucalyptus. It’s the only food they consume, and their only source of water. We were told if you want to give a koala a treat, you give him more eucalyptus.

He was so soft! His fur isn’t silky like a cat, rather more fluffy like a sheep, but oh my god, he seems so cuddly! I just wanted to hug him and ran off with him!

I mean, who can resist this face?!

Next it was time for the kangaroos. They are in a large gated area into which you can freely walk, and you can purchase kangaroo food to hand-feed them. Kangaroo food appears to be Cheerios. Not sure how natural that is.

What I found very interesting was there were no employees in the kangaroo enclosure, so they must really trust both their kangaroos and the visitors! I’d think in America they’d be so worried someone would get bitten and sue that someone would be on-hand at all times to supervise, but this place was very laid back. You just wander in and start patting ‘roos.

Having watched a lot of Bugs Bunny cartoons as a kid, I was under the impression that all kangaroos bounce up and down constantly and box people. Turns out they are pretty lazy.

(I gave this one a lot of food for being such a good sport about Pig’s antics.)

A few did get up and hop around a bit.

But probably the best one was the mum and joey. Awwww!

And that was the last day of my trip! The following morning Luke and I began our 30-hour journey back home (which oddly ended just 5 hours after it began…) I have to give a shout-out to Qantas. I was very worried that the 14-hour flights to and from Sydney were going to be utter hell, and that I’d start to feel confined and that they’d mess up my meals and I wouldn’t be able to eat…and if I don’t eat every few hours, I get nasty. Qantas, however, is the ONLY airline that has managed to serve me an entirely vegan meal every time. British Airways usually does okay, but always manages to give me butter or non-vegan salad dressing. All four meals Qantas served were entirely vegan and actually edible! And I got served first! And booze was free! Plus I took a sleeping pill that knocked me out for almost the whole trip. Though it was two and a half times longer than the United flights to and from DC, the Qantas Sydney flights were actually much better. Which is great because I definitely plan to visit Australia again!

Funny story about coming home, though: since we switched airlines in LAX, Luke and I had to collect our luggage there and turn it back in for our next flight. As we are waiting for our bags to come out, a TSA employee with a sniffer dog approached us. The dog was all over my carry-on bag. “Do you have any fruit in your bag?” The TSA guy asked me. “No,” I replied, then, “oh, wait, I have a fruit cup!” I had purchased a fruit cup in the Sydney airport to eat on the plane, but then Qantas served me fruit and I never ate it. The TSA guy inspected my fruit cup, returned it, marked something on my landing card, and went away. Five minutes later the dog returns and is all over my bag again. “Do you have fruit in your bag?” the guy asked me again. “Uh, the same fruit I had last time,” I said. It seems he had forgotten he’d already found my illicit fruit. After I went through Customs, because I was branded a fruit smuggler, I had to go through extra security, whereupon my fruit cup was confiscated and I was reprimanded. WHO KNEW THEY HAD FRUIT-SNIFFING DOGS AT LAX? THEN they threw away the bottle of water I ALSO forgot I had. Frankly, I can see the fruit thing, sort of, but these liquid restrictions are really getting on my nerves. I’m pretty sure it’s just a way to increase bottled water sales in airports.

Once your favorite fruit smuggler was allowed on the United flight, we were delayed for FOUR HOURS – on the plane – for various mechanical and missing-pilot reasons. The final hour was because – and I’m not making this up – the IT department at LAX could not fix a broken printer and the pilot wasn’t allowed to take off until they had a printed copy of the repair documents. I happened to be seated behind Michael Chertoff, the ex-secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. I never would have recognized him, but Luke did. I kicked him. It was an accident but I didn’t feel bad about it. Take that, Homeland Security!

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