Oilcloth Tips

on January 22 | in Sewing + Quilting Tips, Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 14 Comments

Our selection of oilcloth is always growing and changing.  We’re no longer carrying oilcloth, but we hope you’ll be able to use these tips.

Oilcloth, Chalk Cloth or Vinyl-Coated Fabric?
To be accurate, none of the products we sell is actually oilcloth. Oilcloth used to be made by treating canvas fabric with multiple coats of linseed oil. Although the companies manufacturing “oilcloth” today are using many original designs, the material is very different.

  • Oilcloth (what we call it today anyway) is vinyl on a cotton mesh base. The design is printed on the top of the vinyl. The back is somewhat rough and canvas-like. Most styles are 47″ wide, but the medallion prints are 54″.
  • Vinyl-Coated Cotton is regular cotton fabric that has been laminated with clear vinyl. As the base is actual cotton fabric, it is more supple than oilcloth, and a little easier to sew. The back is just like the back of printed cotton. The manufacturing process is more expensive. Aside from these minor differences, assume that all the following suggestions that apply to oilcloth also apply to vinyl-coated cotton. Some styles are 44″, while some are 54″.
  • Chalk Cloth is like oilcloth with a matte finish. Usually black or green, you can write on it with chalk and wipe it clean! Sew with it, roll it and fold it just like oilcloth. Chalk Coth is 48″ wide.

Oilcloth Applications
Not sure what to do with oilcloth? Try some of these ideas.

  • Baby bib
  • Apron
  • Splat mat or mess mat
  • Place mats
  • Book covers
  • Pen or crayon case
  • Shelf or drawer liner
  • Pillow (envelope style works well)
  • Kitchen or outdoor chair seat cover
  • Tablecloth
  • Lunch sack
  • Tote bag, purse, or diaper bag
  • Shopping cart seat cover
  • Kitchen canister covers (secure with hot glue gun)

Please comment with your ideas!

Getting the Wrinkles Out
When you get your oilcloth out of the box, it will be extremely creased from being folded and shipped. Before you begin working with it, you should give these wrinkles a chance to work themselves out. Fortunately, all you need to do is to lay it flat in a warm room for a few hours. Lay it out in the sun if possible.

General Machine Sewing Suggestions

  • Use a size 16 needle, especially if you’re sewing oilcloth to oilcloth. (The package might say DENIM needles.)
  • Your favorite poly/cotton thread will do.
  • Use a long stitch length for seams so you don’t perforate the oilcloth too much and have it tear apart on you. You might, however, decrease the stitch length for curves.

Note: Someone reported good results machine-embroidering onto oilcloth. Give it a try!

Getting the Presser Foot to Glide
Oilcloth is actually vinyl on a webbing of sorts. If you sew on the back of the oilcloth, you usually can sail right along. When you try to sew on the right side (printed side), however, your presser foot might stick, which makes a mess of your project and will frustrate you. Here are some suggestions that have been sent to us:

  • Use a teflon presser foot.
  • Use a roller presser foot.
  • Place tissue paper between presser foot and oilcloth.
  • Put masking tape on bottom of your presser foot.
  • Put masking tape on the oilcloth itself. (Least preferred because it can be tricky to get it off.)

Again, comment with your experience. Has anyone tried a walking foot?

Finishing the Edges
Oilcloth will not fray, so you don’t have to hem or finish the edges if you don’t want to. You can, for example, cut a tablecloth to size and be done. If, however, you want something prettier on an apron or a bib, you can try one of the following.

  • Use decorative edge scissors or pinking shears.
  • Sew double-fold bias tape around the edges.
  • Serge the edges.
  • Turn a hem (on a straight edge)

Have fun working with oilcloth! Let us know how it turns out.

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14 Responses to Oilcloth Tips

  1. kirsten says:

    I use a hairdryer to get wrinkles out. It works great for me. While I was in fashion school (FIT) I was taught to use a little bit of rubber cement instead of pins to hold pieces together while sewing. It rubs right off! We also used rubber cement on leather, it was a requirement!

  2. Sarhu says:

    Thanks for the tip about the masking tape on the bottom of the foot. It made all the difference!

  3. Lori says:

    With all of the lead recall scares on items, including vinyl wipeable bibs, is there any way to determine which oilcloth fabrics are American made or if there is even a risk at all? I would like to give some bibs as gifts, but don’t want to endanger the precious ones I’m giving them to.

  4. Joyce Akins says:

    Can anyone direct me to a source for vinyl coated fabrics–I am not looking for outdoor fabrics like duck, etc. I am looking for prints that come coated on both sides.

  5. A few helpful tips:
    Purchase a teflon foot for your machine, it will help the oilcloth glide smoother.
    If you need to seam a tablecloth: I always topstich the seam. It will lie nice and flat.
    I offer over 75 fun oilcloth prints by the yard, take a look at my website!

  6. Irene says:

    I want to make a round oilcloth tablecloth for a 42 in.round table. Will the seams lie flat if I piece the oilcloth?

  7. POG says:

    What seam do you recommend for sewing an oilcloth tablecloth doing double-duty to protect a pine table that will stay out all summer? I don’t want moisture seeping in through the wholes on a straight seam. I was thinking flat feld. A french seam seems a little fiddly.

  8. robyn says:

    I actually use a walking foot 100% of the time while sewing with oilcloth and vinyl-coated cotton. I find that it’s the easiest approach for getting even stitches, regardless of whether it is vinyl/oilcloth side out or in. Though strangely enough, if I’m sewing just vinyl alone, it’s teflon-foot-only territory, no exceptions!

  9. Blossom Bug says:

    I have used a walking foot on vinyl, with the vinyl facing down. I taped down the machine base w/tissue paper so it wouldn’t stick to the surface of my machine and it worked great! Just remember to cut a hole out for the foot/needle plate.

  10. Alice says:

    Thanks for getting the fabric here so quickly! I have never sewn on oilcloth before.I just made my first cushion cover and wondered how to turn the fabric right side out and get nice pointed corners. I used the hairdryer for a few quick seconds to soften the fabric…made it real easy to get those nice corners!

  11. tracy says:

    i am finding this after the fact! love your oilcloth selection – and have enjoyed working with it! thanks for the tips

  12. Janice says:

    Just wondering if you have any direction to point me for good EASY patterns to make oilcloth tote bags, bibs, splats, and aprons??

  13. Karen says:

    I also found you while looking for oilcloth. I live in the north east and my studio is in my basement. While it isn’t freezing it’s not very warm and I can be too impatient to wait for a warm room to take away wrinkles . I use a low iron on the back side to remove wrinkles from olicloth, chalkcloth and the vinyl coated fabric. Just be sure to keep it moving at all times and it will be soft and flexible in no time.

  14. Jennier says:

    Thanks for these oilcloth tips! I will try them out. Lots of great oilcloth prints in the shops here, but I am always intimidated. 🙂 Until now!

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