Oilcloth vs Cotton Laminates

Yesterday was my first day to really get to work with the new cotton laminates. Even though it’s gaining popularity, I think that a lot of people hesitate trying it because they’re unsure what to use it with or how it will perform so I thought today’s post might be a good opportunity to share some thoughts:

When most people think of waterproof material the image of rain slickers or grandma’s kitchen table cover comes to mind. Oilcloth is still available in many markets (it’s much easier to find online than in stores), but the way this material is produced is much different than the 30’s. Today’s oilcloth is a canvas coated vinyl – it is not food safe (so it’s not ideal if you’re looking to make sandwich wraps or snack bags), but when lined with a cotton or other ‘food safe fabric’ it makes a great lunch bag! I like to think of oilcloth as a temperamental fabric. You’ll need to carefully mark the material (even water soluble markers can soak through – ask me, I know!) with a pencil, fingerpress and avoid irons (it can melt the material, however, if you are really, really careful and use a low temperature setting and a presscloth, you might be able to get away with it), and never pin (or make a mistake, because pins will leave permanent holes in your fabric). Because oilcloth is so hefty, you’ll use a larger size needle and machine stitch, otherwise you risk shredding your material. On the upside, you never have to hem oilcloth! Other vinyls (like rain slicker material) behaves very similarly although you may have more difficulty running it through your machine because most have a rubbery backing.

Cotton laminates are a fairly new fabric. The base for this material is a cotton print covered in a BPA free vinyl. Not only does this make for a fabric with a great drape (so it’s less bulky than oilcloths) many of these are considered food safe (of course, always check with the manufacturer before using it around your food). Cotton laminates are also much more user friendly – not only can you iron on this material (always use a presscloth), but believe it or not, you can pin it as well. Yes, pins will leave little marks on your laminate, but they are so tiny, they aren’t really noticeable! The drawback to this fabric, is running it though your machine. I found that it sticks to the foot like crazy so you’ll either need a Teflon foot or use a bit of machine oil on foot to help it glide through.

Any more thoughts? Be sure to leave a comment below and share your tips, tricks, comments, or questions!

14 thoughts on “Oilcloth vs Cotton Laminates

  1. Jessi

    Thanks for the review of cotton laminates.

    I got the book “Lunch Bags” and the snack wrap I wanted to make called for Oilcloth. I was so mad when a)I found out it wasn’t food safe and b)if I had understood there was a difference, despite the supply list calling for oil cloth, the designer actually was suggesting using a cotton laminate. Why would they put a non-food safe product in the supply list?

    So now I have a half yard each of two different oil cloths in my stash. I guess I could make lunch bags that are lined, but I don’t really have need for them…

    1. Stacy

      Could you line then with a cotton laminate? That way you can wipe it down and it’s food safe?

      I recently went to a Christmas type show and saw a whole booth of oilcloth – they had some really cute aprons and cosmetic pouches made from oilcloth. Maybe you could use them for something like that?

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  3. melissa

    Thanks for explaining the difference! I wasn’t sure if the laminates were something new, or just a new term for oilcloths. It’s great to hear they drape AND are food safe!

    1. Stacy

      They really are pretty user friendly – except it really did stick to my machine foot unlike the other fabrics (so you may have to get a Teflon or roller foot or use a little machine oil under your foot to help it glide through).

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