Cooking fuel economy

I took down my post on how to make a wonderbag yesterday in response to a comment that it surely infringed intellectual property. I don’t know if it did or not. When I posted about this it was in response to a request by someone who wanted to make one of these for someone in difficult circumstances. There did not at that time appear to be worldwide selling of these by the company making them in South Africa, but yesterday, I looked again and I see that it grew. I checked Pinterest today, and found that lots of people pinned and repinned my photos and many people looked at the post here, presumably to get information about how to make one.

They’re available worldwide as a commercial item now for sure, though the price would put them outside the budget of families on benefits or other low income. The idea is as old as the hills – a heated pot will stay warm and continue cooking if placed in an insulated container – so, hole in the ground, box stuffed with hay, several blankets, bag or box filled with polystyrene is the modern incarnation. The commenter suggested I direct people to the company to buy one, but I’m not here to advertise stuff. Melissa pretty much summed up how I feel about home dec sewing, may I quote her latest post

“To me, home dec sewing is the worst – lots of boring rectangles and straight lines, measuring, unexciting fabrics, and then you don’t even get to wear it in the end!”

So, if you’re thinking of making one of these rather than buying one its probably not because of the thrill of sewing simple shapes and messing about filling them with polystyrene, and spending a few happy hours vacuuming the stuff out of every nook and cranny. (By the way, pick a fine day and do the filling in the garden, on the beach or in the local park.)

My home made one used the basic idea, but had removable bags of polystyrene beads to make it more laundry friendly in this part of  the world. This also helped avoid polystyrene jamming itself in the feed dogs.   My friend’s idea was for making the ties at the top easier for people with limited strength in their hands, so a separate piece added as a channel and four openings in it. Both of these adaptations are worth pondering over if you do plan to make your own.  I made mine in some cheap cotton I had lying around and an old sheet, but anything cotton or linen or with a high content of these or similarly heat tolerant fibres will do for the inner, and anything for the outer –  patched up of old scraps is fine for the budget version, as is scrap polystyrene as opposed to beads. The original is cut as a circle, as you can find out from the articles on it – you can change the size to suit your favourite pot of you make your own.  I apologise to searchers arriving here and finding the instructions are no longer available from me.

You could make a pot container in a different way which would work just as well. For example cutting a circle for the bottom and adding straight panels for the sides, either filled with polystyrene beads or scrap polystyrene, and then having a separate circle for the top.

In case your wondering the jacket is limping along. Just shoulder pads and finishing stitching the lining in to do. Very busy with non sewing related tasks I’m afraid.


About jay

I design and draft patterns
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21 Responses to Cooking fuel economy

  1. I wish I saw the post, what kind of bag is it if it is protected by copyright law? I know that design features and symbols, colours, etc can be copyrighted, but not the bag?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pella says:

    Hi Lena, not so much a bag really as a wrap filled with insulating material to put a pot in, along the lines of a haybox.


  3. Barbara says:

    Thanks for the useful, if oblique, info. I’ve been trying unsucessfully to find a price for a
    “Wonderbag” in South Africa but they only seem to be available online in the UK – so am now going to try and make one myself.


    • Pella says:

      Not difficult if you can sew and think three dimensionally. I’ll do a pattern for a version completely different to the commercialised one when I have the time. Its rather surprising that they should not be available online in South Africa isn’t it?


  4. Sally says:

    Hi, I’m looking for instructions on how to make ‘an insulated bag to keep my cooking pot in’ – are you able to PM me how you created yours? It would be much appreciated!!!! Thanks


  5. I think it is entirely fine for you to post your version, since the Wonderbag is a very slickly marketed item. Just so your version is original and called something else, based on the original hay basket/hay box, you should be fine. Personally I’d like to see someone come up with a pot cozy, a version I could put over a pot and leave it right on the ceramic cooktop.


  6. PS I am writing a book on 100 tools/technology to help impoverished women work more effectively. I will be including thermal cookers, and mentioning this one and any others. If you do post a pattern, I would love to link it for a DIY option. I hate how much they are charging for the Wonderpot.


  7. Since you are moderating these, you can delete them if you don’t want them on your blog – but here is interesting background info.


  8. Pella says:

    Hi Betsy, in the strict letter of the law I probably did nothing wrong in my original post, but I am not here to annoy or upset people trying to get their business going or keep it going, so I took it down. Those who sew, in all honesty, could take one look at a photo of either the original or mine and run one up – its basic sewing. I posted details for the sake of a few hints and variations I and others made along the way, and for those who have never sewn but wanted to try. I think a pot cozy would be fine if the ceramic hob was either off or very very low – though in the latter case there could be a fire risk so I wouldn’t stick my neck out and suggest a pattern to make something you could use like this. Quite a lot of heat escapes from the bottom of a pot, so in the wonderbag type of slow cooker, and the old fashioned haybox, you have an insulation layer there.


    • Carol says:

      I am so disappointed your instructions are no longer available. I belong to a group called Grannies a Gogo. We do fundraising in many ways, including making crafts and selling them locally to support a group of Grandmothers in South Africa raising their orphaned grandchildren due to the Aids pandemic. It would have been so nice to do this and also maybe supply them with the actual bags as well to help cut down their living costs. Is there any other source for the pattern? Any information would be appreciated.


  9. can you send me your email? If I had it, I lost it. betsy @
    here is the post I put up about haybaskets et al:


  10. C Lucas says:

    There are plenty of people that will continue to bu y them, because they can’t sew. Anyone that can sew can figure it out. You did nothing wrong. That is like saying we can’t have patterns for iPads, or Kindles or ironing board covers the list goes on forever. If something is different that is not on the one for sale then it is your pattern, don’t think it is an infringement.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agee.. IF THEY had posted a Pattern & she rewrote the pattern & CALLED it her own.. then that is infringing.. BUT Every seamstress can look at sometime & come up with her own pattern…… LOL.. that company doesn’t’ have the rights to slow /covered cooking.. LOL


  11. ann wolweski says:

    i agree. the first thing i thought about when i read about the patent infringement were those hot pads that were all the rage a few years ago that were filled with dried lavender. i saw these at one of those pricey gift boutiques. would this idea be infringement? hope not because i made up quite a few for presents.


  12. Vicki says:

    Thank you for your information! I am nobody, but someone who would like one of those alternative cooking items to help reduce the costs here at my home. I am online only to see if someone else has a pattern for them already. I can sew and I can probably figure out how to make one. I honestly feel you have done nothing at all wrong. Please continue sharing what you can and sharing what you can. We need each other. We need to help each other. I will continue to visit this site! thank you again!


  13. Bweez Brooks says:

    Hi! I was wondering if you could use one of those silver survival blankets? They’re called Emergency Space blankets. They’re made of Mylar and the melting point is 495 degrees F. I had to put one on the console between my seats in our old Toyota van because the transmission was there and it got hot enough to burn my arm. Anyhow, just a suggestion. Would it be even easier to remove for washing? Anyhow, I’m going to show these to my sewing friend and see if she’ll make one for me. Thx for showing us that we can do it! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Nancy says:

    I have a question. What it you rewrote your article
    about constructing the bag and called it a “bag oven” instead of what the company in S. Africa is calling it. I can imagine that the name they use is copywrited. The concept has been around for a long time, I understand, so actually trying to keep a lid on that could be a challenge for any company. Sorry, I missed the instructions.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. laurabruno says:

    You can read about a Wonder Oven on this blog post, and if you contact the author, she will send you a free pattern in the mail. The style is a little different than the Wonderpot, but it’s the same concept. It will also keep cold food cold. I just started making mine today.


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