To Rosin, or not to Rosin?
I made beeswax wraps for the second time recently. I made them for the first time about a year ago and, they have gotten a fair bit of use. I had decluttered my fabric scrap basket by cutting squares and rectangles of various sizes (depending on the size of the scrap) for the project; many of which were given to friends and neighbors. This time I decided circles would be more functional.
This time, I wanted to make wraps of specific sizes to fit my plates, bowls and bakeware. I started by sourcing fabric, and while there were many options at the thrift store and the fabric store, after rummaging in the bag of Goodwill donations in my truck, I decided to repurpose an old dress shirt. I loved the print of the fabric, but I didn’t want to take the time to alter it to fit.
I began by tracing the outline of the container (plate, bowl, bakeware…) on the fabric. It is best to deconstruct the garment at the seams before tracing. You will want to leave an inch or two of fabric around the shape of the container, so cutting the garment at the seams will allow better placement with adequate space for expansion. With any leftover fabric, trace small circles for produce wax wraps.
Once the outline of the shape has been traced on the fabric, expand the shape by measuring one to two inches from the perimeter and connecting the marks. You will want an overlap of fabric to allow the wrap to adhere to the container. My pieces were cut with 1″ overhang for plates and 2″ for bakeware, but do whatever works for your situation. Measure from the tracing line and create a mark every few inches. Connect the marks. Be aware the pencil marks may be visible on the finished project. This wasn’t a deterrent for me, so I left the pencil marks in place. An alternative would be to wash the fabric before waxing, to get rid of the markings.
The pieces I measured were then cut with a pinking blade. If you do not have one of these, you can use a pinking shear, or cut with a regular pair of scissors. The zigzag of the pinking prevents the fabric from fraying at the edges, but so does the melted wax. If you don’t have a way to pink the edges, just cut it with regular scissors; it will work just fine.
The big deviation in recipes that I found online was the addition of pine rosin and other essential oils. When I made the beeswax wraps last year, I used jojoba oil and tea tree oil in addition to the pine rosin. While the wraps worked fine, I thought I would go with less ingredients this time and see if there was a difference in the quality of the wrap. In particular, I wanted to see if pine rosin made any difference.
So, I made two batches of wraps: one with pine rosin and one without. I used a 1 to 3 ratio with the rosin recipe. While both recipes worked just fine, the one with the rosin had noticeably more tackiness, and adhered to produce much better than the batch with just wax. It was also much more difficult to melt and clean up the rosin. It never quite melted into the wax, leaving a sticky glob in the double boiler. The pine rosin melted onto the bottom of my glass bowl and had to be chiseled out with a flathead screwdriver, then scoured with steel wool – and there is still a residue. Long story short, be careful with the rosin.
Regardless, the wax leaves a huge mess and I recommend not using your everyday cookware to prepare these wraps. A great alternative would be to hit up the local thrift store or Dollar Tree for a paintbrush and cookie sheet. It’s worth the extra few dollars to save a few hours of cleaning. The use of parchment paper was also dubious, as the wax leached onto the baking sheet anyway, and created a mess. I would suggest using a retired cookie sheet, and a designated paintbrush.
Beeswax is widely available and can be bought in blocks and pellets (among other forms). There are endless instructions online for making beeswax wraps that include ironing and sprinkling fabric with wax. I prefer to melt the wax and brush it onto the fabric. To do this, I began by shaving about an ounce of wax from a block.
The wax should be melted in a double boiler over simmering heat. Do not have a rapid boil, as it may scorch the pine rosin. Melt slowly. During this phase, I did like the smell of the melting pine rosin. I am not a fan of the smell of beeswax (it’s probably psychosomatic that it smells like vomit to me), so the smell of pine was welcome.
As I mentioned, I did use parchment paper for this part, but it wasn’t really necessary. If you choose to use it, it is available at the DollarTtree. On the parchment, I placed my cut fabric pieces and brushed them with the melted wax, or wax/rosin mixture. After they were covered with the beeswax, I put the sheet into the oven at 200F for 3 minutes or so. This allows the wax to permeate the entire fabric pieces evenly.
When the wraps are removed from the oven, they will drip just a little wax. Lift the wrap and allow the excess wax to drip onto the pan. Gently fold one edge of the wrap on a clothes hanger to dry. I place a hanger on the knob of my cabinet to cool the wraps. The wrap will dry and cool quickly – about the time it takes to make another wrap. Remove from the hanger and fold; store in the same drawer as tea towels and potholders, or put in an air tight container to prevent drying.
One of the questions I had when using beeswax wraps was how to wash them. It turns out it is pretty easy! Rinse and or wipe the wrap in cool water and reuse. Over time, the wrap will get white creases and look aged; crusty. The fix is to reheat the wrap in a 200F oven, and, optionally, brush with freshly melted wax. Voila! New beeswax wraps.