Friday, July 23, 2010

sewing: linen bread bag & french seams

This tutorial is for a linen bread bag (but of course you can choose another fabric) with a drawstring closure and french seams on the inside. It keeps my bread in the dark and hung away from any possible little critters (my block was built around the 1850s, guys). The bread is local and fresh from When Pigs Fly - I've talked about them before but I will again because they're great! What follows is a photo-heavy tutorial on making the bag, complete with the smell of fresh bread while you read (the last half is a lie). There is also an enormous opportunity here to add some fantastic embroidery, perhaps a monogram or sashiko.

What you'll need:
  • 2 pieces of fabric 12" x 16.5"
  • thread, scissors, sewing machine, disappearing ink pen, iron & board
  • yard of 1" twill tape
  • embroidery floss (for an optional detail) and needle
Plug in your iron and get it cranking. If you plan on embroidering, do so now with larger fabric than you'll cut. Though the opportunity will not be completely lost once it's finished, doing it now is the easiest.

To get started, cut your fabric. Two pieces 12" x 16.5". Along one short end of each piece mark half an in from each side. Fold your fabric in at this line and press. You don't need to press the entire length of the piece, just about 3 inches or so. You're creating the edge of your drawstring tubing here, you want it to end up flush with your two quarter inch seams and I think you should always air on the larger than half inch mark rather than the shorter when making your fold.

Next, make another mark on each of these folds 1.5" down from the top (where the fold begins). Fold you the raw edge in about a quarter of an inch and press. Next, fold that edge in at the 1.5" mark you've made and again, press. Pin in place and stitch along the bottom side of your tube.

Use your scissors to snip the folded fabric just under the tubing so that it will lay back flat and press. Align your two pieces wrong sides together (right side facing you) (key move in making French seams, I'm so use to putting right sides together, this is where I often trip up) and pin.

Stitch the three raw edge sides of the bag a quarter inch in from the raw edge. Trim off half of the  seam allowance.

Flip the bag inside out and press, then pin. Now your bag is inside out. Stitch again the three sides at a quarter of an inch from the outside.

Flip the bag right side out again and press. You now have nice non-raw edges on the inside of your bag and your outside edge should be flush with the ends of your tubing.

Using embroidery floss or in my case, crochet thread, pull the needle from the inside of the bag to the outside from just under the bottom of the tubing. I did this to create a stronger intersection at this point of the bag. Go around the edge a few times, tie off on the inside and hide the end of the thread within the seam. Repeat on the other side.

Mark your bag from the bottom up to either 3 or 4 inches, depending on how tall you want your back and how wide you want the bottom (you know your bread best!). Thread the needle again and pull the thread out from the inside at each bottom corner of the bag. Bring the needle back through at the point you marked. Do this a couple of times and you can choose to keep this thread hidden or exposed and treat it like the detail you just created at the top. I kept it hidden. When done, tie off on the inside and hide the tail of the thread.

To finish, attach a safety pin to one end of your twill tape and feed it through your tubing.


  1. I can't wait to make this gorgeous, simple, perfect bag. Thanks so much for the excellent tutorial.

  2. this post makes me a little furious bc you make sewing beautiful things look so easy. so wonderful- thanks jessica!

  3. You guys make me blush; and how little you realize that I'm always crossing my fingers, holding my breath that a project turns out!

    I love you JP!

  4. Ive always want to try a bread bag! The linen you have used is beautiful! Im assuming it keeps your bread fresh??

  5. Actually, Leah, I've been keeping the bread in the plastic bag it comes in, inside of the linen bag. Like I mentioned, my building is from the 1850's and they are currently remodeling half of the units - I'm being uber paranoid about leaving anything out that any little critter may smell!

  6. Does anyone know if this works in the South? I'm from NE myself and I'm moving down permanently to Arkansas in the next week (eek!) but when I was there in college, I learned that bread gets mold very quickly there (oh, half-uneaten loaves :( ).

    Our new apartment is near a nice bakery that's similar to When Pigs Fly and I want to be able to keep bread handy without it dying too quickly. Any thoughts? Does a bread bag make a difference?

  7. To get the longest life out of fresh bread the basics are to keep it out of sunlight, keep it fairly cool and let the bread breathe a little. A bread bag is great for this because it keeps the light out and lets the bread breathe only leaving you to try and keep it in a fairly cool place -though a cool place may be hard to come by in Arkansas (the extra heat may be what was causing your bread to go bad so quickly in Arkansas).

    A bread bag that you can hang like this also keeps it away from critters, a benefit of using bread boxes. The plastic bags bread often come in actually trap moisture inside the bag and can make it soggy (the supermarket bread has so many preservatives for shelf life that the plastic they come in is pretty ineffectual). The bread I get is pretty tough and I don't have a problem with this, and like I said I keep the plastic bag on solely because in my head critters can't smell it. Refrigerators will keep bread from growing mold for longer but they suck out moisture and make it tough and stale.

    Sadly, fresh bread just doesn't have a long shelf life, that's the nature of it. It's hard to make it last longer than it should but doing some of these things can make it last as long as it should.

    Personally, I keep it in the bag for about 4 or 5 days and cherish each crunchy, springy fresh moment of it. Then when it's been 4 or 5 days I move it to the fridge. I'm just one person and even though I eat eggs on toast often for 2 meals a day it's still hard to use up a loaf quick enough.

    Hope that helps!


    here is the one I made using your tutorial!! Thanks!!

  9. So many searches to find a simple french seam drawstring bag tutorial! At last one that sorts the drawstring bit out first :-)
    im starting again! thanks so much x x (ps its christmas sacks im making) x x

  10. Excellent, thank you.
    Regards, Keith.

  11. Thank you for the great instructions and I love the idea of a bread bag instead of plastic. BUT, the bread bags do not work here in the deep south. The bread, both store-bought and home-made becomes stale very quickly.

  12. I did not find the instructions descriptive enough. I made a couple of mistakes and had to redo a few things. I suggest more pictures.