Crafting · crafts · DIY · Sewing

Sewing A Bread Bag

When I was younger I sewed constantly. I went from sewing tops I sold on Shakedown Street at Grateful Dead shows in the early 90’s as a reaction to Grunge music, to creating Medieval and Renaissance outfits where a dress could be 15 yards of fabric, custom sewn. Then it went in to backpacking and hiking gear, and I invented the cloth FBC Cozy. I sold thousands upon thousands of those. I let another lady take over the company after I had the younger boys. I just didn’t have the time to keep up with commercial sewing in those years. And then I basically walked away from sewing. I was burnt out. You’d not think it would happen, but it just does. I used to sew so much. But recently I hauled everything out. It was time again. It will give me something to do while I homeschool with my youngest.

At our local grange hall we can offer up classes we’d like to teach (I’ve taught canning), and one that has been super popular this year was making sourdough bread. They hosted it twice! One of the ladies often offers up her sourdough rounds for a donation (and it’s FABULOUS bread). She was mentioning the other week how it pains her to use plastic and I asked if she had a bread bag. A what? Thanks for the segue, where I can drone on and on about making “green” sacks for your bread. Most times if you can find a fabric bag for bread it’s boring cotton muslin. Bland and boring. And you’ll pay a fortune for this lumpy sack. Like $15 to 20!

You can make one however for a low investment (OK, besides your time, but whatever….I like sewing).  And you can customize the bag to be you – pick a fabric you love. And the size you need. You don’t need super sewing skills either. If you know how to run a sewing machine, you can make this simple sack.

And…what is a “bread bag” you ask? It’s a reusable, durable way to store fresh baked bread. Be it from the bakery, a friend, or from your oven…once the bread is cooled, pop it in the back, do the drawstring, and fold the excess fabric under. It lets your bread breathe, so it doesn’t get soggy (which plastic wrap and bags can do). The crust stays crisp/chewy, the inside as it should be. Bread that is freshly baked should be eaten up within 2 days for best taste/texture. It’s best for artisanal baking, where the bread has no preservatives added.

How To Make A Bread Bag:

When you buy fabric, look on the selvedge and often it is marked where it was produced. USA fabrics do exist, especially in cotton, because of quilting. In fact, check out quilting shops for wide selections (although they tend to be super snobby which is a down side if you mention you sew clothing, but that’s a story for another day). Otherwise, cotton fabric comes from India.

For a large bread bag you will need 1/3 of a yard, or 12″ inches, cut. Make sure that the person cutting it is doing it right….especially if you are standing in Walmart. People without experience cutting tend to cut going downhill, just like writing on unlined paper….. Which is awful in general, but means your grain is wonky and patterns look off. I unwrap fabric off the bolt a bit to look at how straight the previous cut was.

Now then….a few places (including Walmart) offer 1 yard pieces, all nicely cut for you, and packaged up, in a wide array of colors, for less than $4. No searching for someone to hack, er, cut your fabric and you can make 3 bags out of it.

You’ll also need a package of bias tape or rope, for the drawstring, and a spool of matching thread. Years ago I went to 2 choices: white and black. Makes life a lot simpler.

Once you pick your fabric, take it home, shake it out and wash in warm water in your machine. You MUST wash the fabric. Fabric is loaded with stabilizers and starches. It also will shrink. Once your fabric is washed and dried, spread it out and iron it on cotton with steam to make it smooth.

Fold it in half, selvedge to selvedge. Typically cotton fabric is 44 to 45″ wide, so 22″ when folded across.

On the folded side measure 12″ inches down. To make it easy I use a measuring tape or ruler to make markings along and then draw a line. Easy to cut across. At this point you will have the fold on the left side, 12″ tall and going across will be 22″ or so.

Now you will want to measure going across, from the fold, 17″ inches. Again make a line, going up and down, to make cutting easy. Cut the fabric.

You will have a folded piece of fabric that is 12″ high by 17″ wide.

On each side, sew a  ½” straight seam, back stitching on each end. Then sew a zig zag seam, having the foot follow along the straight stitching. That is ¼” seam.

Once the sides are sewn, fold over the open top 1″ inch down. Make sure the seams are facing the same direction when you fold it over. I often use a simple sliding gauge to do this. I inherited this tool from my Mom, and have used it for the past 40 years of my life (My Mom dumped all her sewing stuff on me as a child, because she saw I could sew…and she couldn’t).

Go press the top gently with your iron, to make a crease.

Fold under to the crease, and pin in place. This will make the drawstring casing for the bias tape or rope. By folding under the 1″ becomes ½” and the inside is finished.

Once all folded under and pinned, position the foot on the edge and sew a straight stitch, backstitching the start and end, leaving a thumb width open (you can see it in the photo below.

Using a bodkin or large safety pin, drag the bias tape or rope thru the opening and gently work it thru, till it comes out. Smooth it out and trim the tape, leaving a generous amount hanging out. Knot the ends.

And there you have it…a bread bag. Simple as can be. And functional. Yet pleasant to the eyes.