Beeswax cloths are a really simple way of storing food or a picnic snack during your historical event, and they are also nice to cover bowls and jugs!
After this year’s Double Wars event when our encampments got overrun with aphids/lice, I really had it and promised myself to make some protective cloths for next year. And here they are! It was so easy and practical so we use them as everyday items at home, too.
To make some for yourself, start with measuring the sizes you want to have; I made two for covering jugs, a couple for bowls and some bigger ones for wrapping cheese in. I prewashed the linen fabric, cut it in squares, and hemmed the edges with linenthread and a whipstitch before waxing. (To be fair, I used scraps from earlier projects.)
You can wax cloths in different ways; by melting beeswax in a pot and scooping it over the cloths, or by distributing small pieces of wax on the cloth and then melting it in your oven or with an iron. The important thing to know is that beeswax tends to get sticky and may be hard to remove from your favourite pot, oven tray etc. Use baking sheets to protect your kitchen as well as your oven and iron. An apron might be good too, it is hard to get beeswax stains off your clothes.
I chose to melt the wax in a pot that I have already used for beeswax, this was quicker and allowed me to just dump in a big block of beeswax at once. I melted the vax on low heat and scooped it from the pot over the cloths with a spoon.
To save time, I stacked all the cloths on top of each other, poured over a generous amount of wax, and then covered everything with a baking sheet and used an iron on middle heat to help distribute the wax over and through all the cloths.
As soon as the wax is melted into the fabric your first layer is ready- remove it, put it on a baking sheet to cool, and continue down through your stack. You can do this task on your oven too, just make sure you protect surfaces with baking sheets. The cloths gets darker with the wax on, and while they are hot they look shiny and smell nice!
Don’t use too much heat- you want a generous layer of wax to remain in your cloth rather than soak through. Too much heat or too much time in the oven/under the iron will not give you enough wax in your cloth. If this happens, the waxed cloth will look uneven, and won’t stay in shape after cooling down (try to fold it or make a shape with the cloth, it should stay in place and stick to itself). If this happens, just repeat the procedure; pour on more wax and melt it down.
If you have to low temperature, the wax will not melt in properly but lay in cakes/lumps on your fabric. Try to add a little more heat! Beeswax is nice to work with because nothing gets destroyed if you don’t get it perfect the first time, it will just take a bit longer time.
I calculated 2-3 tablespoons of melted beeswax for a 40*40 cm cloth, but this depends on the thickness/weight of the cloth. In retrospect, I would have liked my fabric to be a bit thicker (around 180-250 grams/meter) than this 120 grams/meter linen. It was so fine it had problems holding enough beeswax, but turned out ok for this round of cloths. Next time, I will make them from other scraps.
If you want to make lids for jars, jugs etc. from leather you could also use this process much the same way. Make sure your leather piece is vegetable-tanned and undyed, and get some extra wax since it often takes more to wax a leather piece than a fabric piece of the same size.