Top Tip Tuesday: Sewing with oilcloth

Oilcloth is a type of fabric which has been backed with oil-based plastic. It’s most commonly found as a plasticky table-top cover, but it can be useful for all sorts of craft projects, especially those with a practical wipe-clean purpose. I bought this oil cloth from the Saturday market in St Albans over the summer but it’s available from many fabric shops and stalls and in many colours and patterns.

Oilcloth apron 1

I had originally bought my oilcloth to make a sandwich bag but that hadn’t yet got off the ‘to do’ list when I thought of an alternative: baking/painting aprons for my small nephew and niece for Christmas.

Little girl's tabard. You can't see it very well here but there are three pockets on the front. The edging is done with bias binding, and it's fastened with a ribbon at the back

I had assumed that it would be a nightmare to sew the oilcloth using a machine as the foot would stick to it. In fact, it wasn’t too bad – but you can also get round the problem by placing a bit of tissue paper in between the foot and the material. This will also stop any grime on the bottom of the foot from marking the fabric. I didn’t get round to trying this tip, but my main advice would be to sew slowly, and to keep a firm hold on the fabric that’s already been fed through the needle to keep it going. This can get tricky when you’re also trying to lower the foot or position the needle, but on the whole it was easier to deal with than I had anticipated.

Oilcloth apron 2

The fancy detailing was originally to cover up the needle track marks left when I had to unpick the seam!

Another tip: oilcloth marks easily when you pin it, so I used small bulldog clips and even clothespegs to hold things in place. I also haven’t yet found a way to press my finished projects – an experimental go with a scrap showed that the oilcloth goes very soft and floppy when ironed even through a teatowel, so my finished aprons are a bit creased! I had my iron on the coolest setting but perhaps you need to use it even before it’s heated properly at all.

Oilcloth apron 3

Apron in bag-mode

Both of my apron patterns were from ‘Sew a Metre’ – a book I’ve reviewed here before. They were both pretty easy and I was very pleased with the results. The larger apron can be folded into the pocket to make a bag but the extra handles (which tuck into the pockets when it’s in apron form) are rather bulky in oilcloth. I left them on anyway as a novelty but they weren’t really necessary. I’m going to be wrapping them up with a children’s cookbook and a recycled jar filled with the dry ingredients for one of the cookie recipes. Luckily I’ve made my sister a repurposed apron as well – I’m going to be well out of there by the time the flour starts flying!

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2 responses to “Top Tip Tuesday: Sewing with oilcloth

  1. Pingback: Zoë: Weekend Bag « sew make believe·

  2. Hi! This post could not be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

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