Saturday 21 September 2013

Sewing with oilcloth

When my mum first asked me if I would make her a bag from oilcloth, I was a little bit dubious. Having never sewn anything with oilcloth before, I wasn't sure how to go about it. I had read that I might need a special foot, tissue paper, and all sorts of other complicated bits and bobs. However, in the end it turns out oilcloth is not really that scary. Fiddly yes, but scary no. 

A bit of research lead me to Norfolk Textiles, who have a huge range of oilcloth in many many different patterns. I wasn't sure what to expect but I took advantage of the free swatches they offer to order some samples and let my mum pick her favourite. She also chose a simple canvas tote bag pattern from Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts (it's the bag on the front of cover in fact) as a basis for the bag. I ended up making a few adjustments, including chopping about three inches off the top and attaching the straps to the inside of the bag rather than the outside.

Since this was my first time sewing oilcloth, I had a bit of a practice run on a small strip of oilcloth first until I was happy with how the material was moving through the machine.

So how was sewing oilcloth any different to sewing with other fabrics? Here are a few pointers:
  • I covered my standard sewing machine foot with masking tape to stop it sticking. I tried attaching masking tape to the feeder plate too but that really didn't work (note to self, if you cover up the teeth that feed the fabric through the machine, it won't move through properly. Duh)
  • I used a denim needle
  • I found it helpful to pull the cloth through the machine slightly to make sure it fed through smoothly
Other than that, it was pretty much business as usual.


To make the straps, I folded the oilcloth and sewed down the raw edge. The great thing about oilcloth is that it does not fray, which means there is no need to finish the seams. It is not advisable to use pins with oilcloth because they leave a mark, so instead I marked the position of the straps with a felt tip pen and placed the straps in position when I sewed the top of the bag down. I then sewed around the straps in a box shape to add a bit of strength.  


Sewing this bag was a bit of a learning curve but I'm pleased with how it turned out - and hopefully my mum will be too! The whole bag was made from half a metre of oilcloth, which makes it a pretty cheap make. I also bought another half metre in a different pattern for myself, so there may well be some more oilcloth sewing happening in the future. 

In other news, we signed the contracts for our new house yesterday and hope to move in during the second week of October. Not long to go! I'm very excited about the move but not so excited about the packing - eep! We really need to get cracking. However today I took a little break from packing to head to Birmingham for the day. I was on a very strict budget due to the house move (plus new purchases equals more to move!) and I think I was quite restrained. I limited myself to two lengths of fabric from the wonderful Barry's - predictably some owl fabric perfect for pyjamas, as well as some dinosaur fabric which is destined to be pyjamas for the boy, who has been requesting dinosaur pyjamas for quite some time. This fabric was perfect so I had to snap it up!

What's on your sewing table at the moment? Have you ever sewn with oilcloth and do you have any top tips?
K xx


  1. Congratulations on the house and also the restraint in Birmingham! I've never sewn with oilcloth so will bear your experience in mind should I ever wrangling that type of fabric!

  2. Love the bag! Looks great. Your mum is a very lucky lady indeed! :-)

  3. Very cute bag - I'm sure your mum will love it. Thanks for the tip about using a denim needle. I have some oilcloth languishing in my stash and will give it a go.

  4. What a great bag! I can see how oil cloth would be tricky to work with, I haven't tried it myself. Good luck with the move!

  5. Half a metre!! That's amazing. Sure your mum will love it :-)

  6. That is a really nice bag - how satisfying! I've made aprons for the kids from oilcloth, but I didn't feel like I knew what I was doing, so no top tips sorry!

    Congratulations on your new house; hope the move goes really smoothly.

  7. hi, how do I find your recipe for diy beach glass bottles? I am new to this pinterest and blogging business, and love the look. thank you.

  8. How bizarre! Am too making an oil cloth bag for my mum and came across your blog, thank you for the tips! Looks fab by the way :-)

  9. I've made lots of little purses and bags with oilcloth, I love it. That's a great idea about putting masking tape on the foot. All I do is use a little oil (cooking oil!) on the fabric where I am about to sew, to help the foot slide over it. Works really well and you can just wipe it off afterwards.

  10. Hi i find when making bags the handles have torn away from the bag can you help

  11. this is truely important to privy to fundamental processional techniques related to wring. here i am going to noted about paper wring talent as a part of writing interest. This weblog moreover helped me to get some new techniques.



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