I have to confess, and I hope my mother-in-law is not reading this, but I never use my iron to actually iron clothes! Seriously. I don’t enjoy it and honestly who has the time? If something needs to be ironed I probably don’t own it. And if it’s my husband’s school clothes, well those just go to the dry cleaner. Mama ain’t got time for that!
Now with sewing and quilting, that’s quite a different story. When I first started sewing I took short cuts, and (not) ironing was always one of them. My crafting time was hard to come by and I wasn’t going to waste it ironing! Well, let me tell you, big mistake. The time it takes to iron and press my fabric before I sew actually saves me time later because it helps me get it right the first time.
Recently I discovered another use for my iron. We will get to that in a minute but first, if you want to know more about waxing canvas, how it’s done and why you would do it – because it looks awesome, duh! – check out my post on waxing canvas here.
I have really uncovered a passion for making reusable wax canvas market totes. I use heavyweight duck canvas, reinforce the seams with cotton webbing, and have been using up scrap leather for handles. I love the rustic look and the fact that they are durable, water repellent, look cool and are a economical alternative to plastic grocery store bags.
The best water repelling coverage is obtained by melting your wax and applying it with a paint brush. I use a combination of Otter Wax with 100% pure beeswax. I melt my wax in a fancy double boiler – an old tin can in a pan of water.
Reserve all tools for waxing purposes only. You won’t be able to use them for much else once they dry and have wax on them. You can, however, reuse the tools many times since the wax can remelt.
Let me explain that after you melt your wax and apply it to canvas with a paintbrush, it looks like this:
The wax is thick and white in areas, pretty uneven coverage. Not mention, flaking everywhere. There are several ways to set or cure your wax.
You can use a heat gun (or regular hair dryer), but this takes a long time and you really have to hold the heat over one section at a time to melt the wax into the fabric. It takes a while and I don’t know about your but my hair dryer gets really hot and I’ve burned myself on it more than once.
This next step I tried just once. And it worked. Kind-of. But I’m not sold on it. And it’s by far the riskiest of all the techniques. The waxed item is put in a pillow case (or two, for extra insurance!) and tumbled in the clothes dryer. The one time I tried this I literally checked my waxed bag after ONE MINUTE! Yea, nothing had happened. And actually after 40 minutes I still didn’t have the coverage I wanted. Seemed like a lot of wasted energy of running the dryer and risk of getting wax inside my dryer. Happy to report my dryer was just fine but I was still left with a bag with thick wax still visible in areas.
Enter the iron! The easiest and fastest (don’t you love when the fastest is the easiest?!) is setting the wax with an iron. So simple! Just layer two pieces of aluminum foil together and press with a hot iron, moving around the surface slowly. You’ll see the waxing melting and settling into the fabric.
Make sure your surface is adequately protected. I lay down several pieces of newspaper and a pizza box lid on top of that. Do NOT iron on top of newsprint or you will end up with the news on your bag.
The time it takes to iron-cure the wax depends on the size of you bag. It takes me about 20 minutes to do one of my large market totes. Less time than in the dryer and less wear on my hair dryer. I also reuse the aluminum foil. I have used the same two pieces for three bags now. Just make sure to press the iron on different sections of the foil so you don’t wear one spot and risk it tearing. I still have not gotten wax on my iron! I really don’t know what to do if you do. So let me know if that happens to you!
Your bag or piece of fabric will be stiff after this process. Now is the time to make your creases and folds into the bag shape and allow to dry for an hour or so. Once it’s completely dry, I crinkle the bag to get that vintage, worn look.
Now the only question is, which color should I make next?!
I hope you try out this technique and if you do, I’d love to hear from you!