Make linen bread bags in just 15 minutes – no more moldy bread! 26


By Chris Dalziel, contributing writer

Get rid of plastic bread bags

My family doesn’t go through bread very fast. I bake 2 loaves of challah each week, and inevitably more than half the second loaf is wasted due to moldy bread. Up until now we stored our bread in plastic bags. So not only is the bread wasted, but the plastic bread bags are sent to the landfill, too. Once there is mold in the bag you can’t clean it out.

There’s too much plastic waste in the world already and I didn’t want to be responsible for creating more. I’ve been on a zero-waste mission this year, so I was serious about solving this problem.

Did you know that storing bread in a linen bag can make it last longer? Here's how to make one in 15 minutes! Bonus: You'll eliminate some plastic bags from the landfill.

 

I had a wooden bread box, but that wasn’t a good solution. The bread box takes up too much room on the kitchen counter.

After searching for a few years I think I’ve finally found the solution to my moldy bread problem. And I found it at the thrift store for under a dollar.

My local thrift stores often have 100% linen napkins for sale. Linen is the perfect fabric for storing bread. The French have known this for centuries. After all, that’s what they used to store bread in before plastic bags came along.

Check out this post to know if your treasure is linen or cotton.

 

Benefits of linen bread bags:

Linen is the ideal fabric for storing bread. Linen is:

  • Breathable
  • Keeps the bread in the dark
  • Bread bag can be hung on a hook off the counter
  • Washable
  • Keeps bread from drying out
  • Linen naturally attracts moisture
  • You can hang your bread with the drawstring so you won’t lose it under armloads of produce.

Common sizes of linen bread bags

Here are the finished sizes of common linen bread bags:

Baguettes and Challah – 17″ x 11″ (Use a 22″ x 22″ napkin for this size)

Boules – 12″ x 12″

Sandwich loaves – 15″ x 12″

Make a linen bread bag from upcycled linen dinner napkins

Skill level: Beginner

Time: 15 minutes

Tools needed:

  • Sewing machine with straight stitch
  • Scissors or a way to cut the thread

Supplies:

  • Thread to match your napkin fabric
  • 1 – 100% linen dinner napkin — square with a plain edge.  Choose a heavier linen fabric over a fine linen fabric. I used a 22″ x 22″ napkin.
  • 27″ length of ½” ribbon, braided seine twine, heavy jute string, or fancy kumihimo braid

I found two beautiful, never used, double damask linen dinner napkins at the thrift store for $1.50 (for both!). These were 24″ x 24″ before washing and ironing. They shrunk down to 22″ x 22″, the perfect size for a long artisan loaf of bread. The finished bread bag will be 21 inches long and 11 inches wide – ample for baguettes, challah, and other long artisan loaves.

If the finished bread bag seems too roomy for smaller loaves, simply secure it closer to the loaf.

Tutorial:

Prepare the fabric

Wash and iron the dinner napkin before you begin. This cleans and preshrinks the fabric and makes it easier to work with.

Decide on which is the right side of your napkin. With some woven designs like double damask it may be hard to determine which side is the right side. Check which way the hem is folded. That may give you a hint.

Did you know that storing bread in a linen bag can make it last longer? Here's how to make one in 15 minutes! Bonus: You'll eliminate some plastic bags from the landfill.

Make the string casing

With the wrong side of the napkin facing you, fold over the top edge of the napkin toward you, three-quarters of an inch. Pin in place and press. Stitch close to the edge of the napkin, away from the fold, to make a ¾” casing for the string. Leave the ends open.

Did you know that storing bread in a linen bag can make it last longer? Here's how to make one in 15 minutes! Bonus: You'll eliminate some plastic bags from the landfill.

Stitch the bottom and side seams

Fold the napkin right sides together, with the stitched casing at the top. Pin the bottom edge and the open side edge together. Begin at the bottom corner, at the fold line. Stitch along the bottom edge allowing ¼ inch seam. Turn the work and continue stitching up the open side, stopping just before the casing.

Turn right side out

Open the napkin-bag right side out and steam press the seams

Trim any lose threads. Use a pin to pull out the corner edge to make crisp corners. Press the corners.

Topstitch the edges

Topstitch on the right side, ¼” from the finished edge. Begin on the folded edge, just after the casing. Top stitch around the bag, across the bottom and on the stitched side, stopping just before the casing starts. Leave the casing free of stitching.

Did you know that storing bread in a linen bag can make it last longer? Here's how to make one in 15 minutes! Bonus: You'll eliminate some plastic bags from the landfill.

Place the draw string

Cut a ribbon or thick piece of seine twine, or a fancy braid, 27″ long. Using a large safety pin, pull the twine, braid, or ribbon through the casing at the top of the linen bag. Stop before you’ve pulled it all the way out. You’ll have two ends with the middle part inside the casing. Take the two ends of the twine and tie them with an overhand knot. Viola! Your bread bag is complete.

Embellish it if you like:

This is a quick tutorial, but you can exercise your creativity on the finished bread bag with embroidery, stenciling, or fabric paint. Avoid beading. Beads can make the linen more difficult to iron.

Your bread bags are ready for your homemade bread!

Questions:

How can I tell if the napkin is linen?

See my post on distinguishing vintage linen fabrics from cotton or synthetic fabrics.

Can I use a linen tea towel instead of a napkin to make bread bags

Did you know that storing bread in a linen bag can make it last longer? Here's how to make one in 15 minutes! Bonus: You'll eliminate some plastic bags from the landfill. I'm thinking these would make great gifts, too, if you accompany a set with a fresh loaf of bread.
Yes. Linen tea towels are usually of a coarser and looser weave than linen dinner napkins, and so the seams may ravel if you need to cut them to make the bag fit. Try to avoid cutting the fabric. The average pure linen tea towel is 17″ wide by 27″ long – long enough for a classic French Baguette, without cutting. Using this method, the finished baguette bag will be 8″ wide and 25″ long.

How long will my linen bags keep homemade bread fresh?

About two days for that fresh baked texture, depending on the humidity and temperature of your house. Another three to four days, as it begins to get progressively drier on the ends. If you need to keep your fresh bread longer than five days, I suggest freezing it. Once you bring it out of the freezer, unwrap it to keep it from getting soggy and place it in the linen bag to thaw.

You’ll still need to use plastic, foil, or wax paper to wrap the bread before you put it in the freezer.

I get my bread from the bakery in paper sacks. Can I put the paper sack in the linen bread bags?

Yes, that’s a good way to keep the linen bread bag cleaner and to keep your bread fresher just a little longer. The paper lets the bread breathe, while slowing the moisture loss.

How do I take care of the linen bread bag after use?

Wash it with your whites. Hang to dry or put in the dryer. Take it out while it’s still a bit damp and iron it with a steam iron. The linen will shine after ironing. If the linen gets too dry to iron easily, use this lavender linen spray to make ironing linen easier.

The essential oil scent is brief and won’t affect the flavor of your bread.

About Chris Dalziel

Chris Dalziel of Joybilee FarmChris is a teacher, author, gardener, and community herbalist with 30+ years of growing herbs and formulating herbal remedies, skin care products, soaps, and candles. She teaches workshops and writes extensively about gardening, crafts, and medicinal herbs on her blog at JoybileeFarm.com. Chris is the author of The Beginner’s Book of Essential Oils, Learning to Use Your First 10 Essential Oils with Confidence and Homegrown Healing, From Seed to Apothecary. Chris’ latest project focuses on beeswax crafts.

Chris lives with her husband Robin in the mountains of British Columbia on a 140 acre ranch, with sheep, dairy goats, llamas, and a few retired chickens. They have 3 adult children and 3 granddaughters. All photos courtesy of Chris unless otherwise noted.


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26 thoughts on “Make linen bread bags in just 15 minutes – no more moldy bread!

  • Kris

    Would I be able to use 100% unbleached muslin instead of a linen napkin?

    • Chris

      100% muslim is cotton and cotton doesn’t have the same antibacterial, moisture absorbing capacity as linen. Linen is the idea fiber for bread bags. With cotton, while you can make a bag, it won’t prevent the bread from drying out in the same way that linen does.

      It will probably work though for storing bread for 48 hours. So if you go through bread quickly it might be fine in your situation.

      I hope this helps.

  • Teresa

    I am also a re-user, re-cycler. re-purpose person. I try to prevent waste. Thank you for this tutorial I appreciate it and you.

  • Deanna

    Just saw this on Facebook & I’m thrilled. I make Sour Dough Bread often & can’t wait to try this. Will also give website to a friend of mine who also makes Sour Dough Bread. (I gave her the starter.)

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      Oh, this made me just think that a couple of bags like this with a sourdough starter would be a GREAT gift!

    • Chris

      I think that’s a great gift idea, too, with a hand written recipe, a jar of sourdough starter, and a loaf of sourdough bread. This is genius!

  • Katie

    Thanks for this post. I have been sewing and baking for most of my life and never thought there would be a difference between cotton and linen. It feels wrong to make a super healthy loaf of bread and then drop it in a plastic bag. I wash them out once or twice if they don’t have meat in them, and i save some old ones to store craft supplies in, but most end up in the landfill. Thanks!

  • Katie

    PS…most people in my family bake, so this will be a great Christmas present if I start now!

  • Linda Mercer

    Thank you so much. I enjoyed your article about the Linen Bread Bags. I would really like if you made the article Printable. I like to save articles for future reference. Thank you.

  • Kathryn Grace

    Love this idea! Thank you for an excellent tutorial. I will watch for organic linen so I can make these bags. We eat only home baked bread these days. Like you, we can’t eat it before it begins to dry out. Thankfully, we haven’t had a mold problem, probably because I bake wild yeast sourdough bread, and it doesn’t mold as quickly, but it does get dry.

    I did not know linen is antimicrobial. Does it keep that quality after whatever processing the fabric manufacturer has done and many washings?

  • Ellen K

    You’ve talked about homemade or freshly bought – will these bags work for regular bought bagged sandwich bread, rolls?

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      I don’t see why not, but maybe Chris will chime in, too!

    • Chris

      My personal experience with these is that the sliced sandwhich bread from the store doesn’t do well in the linen bags. Once the bread is sliced it dries out very quickly. I’d be inclined though to try the beeswax wraps for sliced bread: http://www.attainable-sustainable.net/zero-waste-kitchen/

      But if you buy the artisan bread from the store, the kind with the chewy crust that is unsliced, that works well in the linen bread bags and doesn’t dry out as fast. However, you’d still want to limit the storage time to 3 or 4 days, depending on your humidity. After that the crust dries out too much. (I live in a low humidity area.)

  • Catherine

    I had no idea about linen bread bags! Thank you so much.

    However, this is almost the exact procedure for making gift bags from fabric remnants. I’ve made all the Christmas gift-wrapping bags we’ll ever need, including extras to rotate with family we mail gifts to, and I had the whole process down to 5 minutes per bag.(it takes me longer than that to wrap a package in paper).

    I`m sure a lot of people will benefit from your clear and concise instructions.

    • Chris

      It is just a basic draw string bag. But don’t use regular cotton fabric for this. You won’t be happy with the results. Linen absorbs moisture from the air and that’s what keeps the bread fresher longer.

  • Karlyn Fike

    Thank you. Living in a 1 person household I don’t use bread as fast so I lose most of it to mold. I have linen napkins and a sewing machine and am going to try this method. It makes a lot of sense,

  • Mardee Dowdy

    Enjoyed your post here about linen bread bags and will likely make some! Thank you. Since you make challah so often, I’m betting you have a killer recipe – and is that recipe one that you’ll share? I’ve tried several different recipes, but have yet to find one that suits me as a go-to. Thanks for this as well.

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      The link to Chris’s challah bread recipe is in the first sentence, dark black. Maybe black isn’t obvious enough!

  • Patty

    I made the linen bread bag. My hubby only like store bought white bread. To store this type of bread do I take it out of the plastic wrapper then put in linen bag or take out of plastic and store? thanks

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      The idea is to store without the plastic bag.

  • dawn van hoogevest

    I bake 4 fresh ground flour breads a week. I have been wondering about a better way to store bread other than plastic…would love to not use plastic bags. I would be very happy to buy four or five bags if ever you make too many and want to sell some. Love your blogs. cheers

  • Julie

    Hello, I have been using plastic bread bags to store my homemade bread and was so excited to find out about linen bread bags. However, upon my first use of linen, my loaf of bread became hard and stale in just two or three days. Within a couple more days the only part that was soft was a small inner section. Can anyone tell me what I am doing wrong? I want to reduce the use of plastic in my kitchen but the bread was actually keeping longer for me in plastic as long as I would set it in the fridge.

    • Kathy

      That is interesting. I have also wanted to try cloth/linen bags but was skeptical how this could be. Perhaps it has to do with the humidity of the area you live in?

    • Chris

      Julie, you may live where the humidity is too low. My area has medium humidity — not desert, but not “humid”, and my loaf lasts 3 or 4 days. It is very dry in a week if I leave it in the bag.

      You may want to try the beeswax wraps for your bread rather than the linen bag. http://www.attainable-sustainable.net/zero-waste-kitchen/ These work better in low humidity areas.

  • Donna

    Would you be interested in making me 30 of these bread bags for my bread shop that I am opening soon? I don’t sew but I love the idea! Neutral colors are fine. If so, email me and we can discuss price.

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      I bet you can find someone right in your community who could make these for you. It’s not something I can take on!