Making waxed linen wraps has been on the “list” for many years so imagine our excitement when we finally decided to just jump in and do the experiment. Here, in the following photos and explanations, I will share our process, what we discovered, and how everything turned out.
I chose to use up some all-purpose linen purchased years ago. Originally, this fabric was Pepto pink. I removed the colour using a box colour remover only to discover that there were blotches. I then washed the fabric with a bit of bleach…didn’t help. So, I had a small stash of linen that was not good for making clothes. I tucked it away for this experiment. I took out some of my favourite bowls and glass baking pans to get an idea of what sizes we needed. Up to now, I have been using tinfoil to cover leftovers or made ahead meals that were going to be kept in the refrigerator. All cut out! We ended up with 2 rectangles at 23 X 13 inches, 1 rectangle at 17 X 12 inches, one rectangle at 15.5 X12 inches, 3 squares at 13 X13 inches, 2 rectangles at 10 X 8 inches, and 4 rectangles at 8.5 X 7 inches. The leftover fabric bits that will probably end up in a fire bowl experiment… As you can see, here are the measurements and the first and second recipes used to make the wraps. The first mixture was too gummy, so not quite enough beeswax. After doing some playing around with the mixture, we re-soaked the test piece of fabric in the preferred mixture. I like to pour freshly processed beeswax into one-ounce (it’s actually a silicone mini muffin tray) pucks for easy measuring and they are about the right size to use for sewing. We save and use bacon fat for lots of purposes. Once the bacon is cooked, we then pour it through a coffee filter and store it in a jar on the counter. Nope, it does not go bad… The ice tongs were purchased at a yard sale for super cheap. Large paintbrushes can also be purchased at a reasonable price. I like to buy natural fibre brushes for this kind of work but obviously not the expert artist type because those are expensive. I started by melting the beeswax in a double broiler kind of method. The pots, again, were a cheap yard sale find and are only used for processing and melting beeswax. The bottom pot has about 2 inches of water in the bottom which ensures that the wax will not suddenly catch on fire. Remember to never allow it to reach its flash point of 400 °F ( 204 °C) for your own safety. There is no point in waiting for the beeswax to completely melt before adding the bacon fat. It all has to blend in together anyway. Bacon fat added, stir it in and watch the melting process. Never leave the mixture on the stove melting unattended!! As soon as the beeswax and bacon fat are melted… you can start adding the linen. Adding the fabric will change the temperature mildly so give it all a few minutes to get warm again and ensure that the linen is completely soaked. Carefully remove linen using tongs, it’s hot! We used the paintbrush to move the mixture around making sure that the fabric was completely soaked and even. After a few tries of trying to get excess beeswax and bacon fat removed, I decided to squeeze it off using a silicon shark mitt which sort of worked. I had to move quickly to get the mixture spread around evenly Cooling happened rather quickly probably due to the marble countertop. We discovered that the linen held a lot of the beeswax and bacon fat mixture…too much. I let the excess drip off “Oh, that looks stiff!” Penda, came up with the idea of scraping off the excess. This seemed to work pretty good although we needed to be careful not to scrape so much that the fabric ripped. Time for testing! I scrunched it up in my hands and unfolded the fabric a few times in order to get a feeling for how the mixture would work. Next, we put some water in a pottery bowl and covered the bowl with the waxed wrap I was happy with how the wrap was clinging to the bowl. I then made sure that the wrap was clinging everywhere on the bowl. Here I am seeing if the wax wrap will hold in liquid… Completely upside down for several minutes and not a drop was spilled. As you can see, there is still quite a bit of mixture stuck to the bowl. Happy with the results, we pushed forward. I recruited Penda to come in and do the scraping. He was successful with getting more of the mixture removed to something reasonable. Happy! We kept adding the scrapings back into the pot being careful not to waste any of it. We set up a makeshift clothesline to allow the wraps to finish cooling This is what one wrap looks like after being used a few times and is now wrapped around a piece of cabbage. This is how it looks on the folded side. And this is how a wrap looks, close up, after several uses. We roll our wraps for easy storage. In this photo, you can see larger wax granules. This wrap has been used several times and was washed in hot water which caused the beeswax to separate from the fabric. It is still useable just need to rinse with cooler water to remove wax particles.
This experiment was fun and only took one afternoon, approximately three hours, from start to finish. We are happy with the results especially because this means we can stop using so much tin foil and plastic wrap. Obviously, we will still need to use tin foil for cooking.
Some things to note are that with each use you can feel small particles of beeswax rubbing off. This also occurs with the more modern beeswax wraps that are made using resin. When washing these wraps it is important to gently rinse using warm water and a bit of dish soap if needed. Washing with hot water will remove more of the wax and cause waxy lumps to rub off, prematurely “ageing” the life of the wraps. The wraps also cling better if they are slightly warm. You can warm them up a bit just by holding them in your hands first before wrapping.
Wax wraps do wear out after several uses. There are, however, a couple of things you can do to further use your used-up wraps. If the fabric still looks good you could treat them again in the beeswax mixture. If the fabric is kind of done looking then they can be cut into strips and made into candle wicks.