Laminated Cotton Sewing Tips

There’s been a parade of laminated cottons making their way into the shop over the last month. Anna Maria Horner, Amy Butler, Kaffe Fasset and more to come! Each arrival sends my brain into idea overload. I took some time this past weekend to experiment, play and sew!

What is laminated cotton? I will speak to the fabrics manufactured by Westminster Fibers/Free Spirit Fabrics. At the base of these fabrics is a regular quilting cotton weight cloth. The current crop of fabrics from this manufacturer are all 54″ wide. The wrong side of the fabric is the base quilting cotton. The right side of the fabric is laminated with a polyurethane coating (Anna Maria Horner recently shared this info on her blog! thank you because I’ve been getting this question alot!). Anna Maria also states that Westminster responded the coating does not contain Phthalates and they are not made with vinyl or PVC (polyvinyl chloride).

What is oilcloth? Original oilcloth was canvas fabric treated with a coating based on linseed oil. The current textiles we see referred to as ‘oilcloth’ are actually PVC-coated woven cotton fabric. For more information on the history you can read this very good article from eBay seller Lulus Dress Shop. I made a pet food mat and a cutting table cover using this textile. It is fairly rigid and works great for what I would call ‘flat’ projects. I would never use it to make clothes because it’s just too darn stiff.

What is the laminated cotton hand like? The fabric has a fair amount of drape and was very easy to sew with. In general, it sews just like any other cotton fabric. There are a few quirks I’ll go into detail on below.

Can it be laundered? I put two pieces into the washing machine and ran a ‘hand washing’ cycle with cold water and my favorite delicate soap crystals. I hung the first piece on a hanger and allowed it to drip dry (photo above). The second piece I put into the dryer. I’ll be honest. Both looked exactly the same after they dried. Absolutely no difference. No shrinking (I measured). Both were slightly wrinkled but in exactly the same way. The heat of the dryer appeared to have no effect on the fabric at all.

What about those wrinkles?! I stacked the Merck Manual and the Rodale Synonym Finder on top of a folded up piece of laminated cotton for 5 days. Crease city (image above)! Probably what it looks like after being stuffed into a flat rate envelope and shipped halfway around the world.

I’ve read lots of advice that says to use a hair dryer to remove the wrinkles. This did not work for me. I tried it in a number of ways and for very long durations, it didn’t do one darn thing toward removing the creases.

I threw it in the dryer for 10 minutes. Nothing. No discernible effect whatsoever.

I then returned to my first love, a hot iron!

I placed the laminated cotton face down on the ironing board, covered it with a cotton pressing cloth, spritzed the pressing cloth with water, and pressed with a hot iron (yes, HOT iron, the cotton setting). I tried a lower iron setting and it didn’t remove the creases. The iron did not melt anything through the pressing cloth. The edge curled up rather fiercely when I nicked it directly with the edge of the iron!

I also ironed with steam on and steam off. The steam on seemed to create a certain amount of condensation on the laminate side of the fabric. It wasn’t really helping with the wrinkles so I left it off moving forward.

Sewing Tips:

- Pins leave holes. I quickly learned to stick my pins within the seam allowance.

- Use a walking foot. It kept the laminated side of the fabric moving smoothly through the machine. I read several articles recommending painter’s tape on the bed of the machine and the use of a teflon foot. I did not need these solutions.

- I used a regular sewing machine needle. I used my favorite #100 topstitching needle for exterior stitching which is what I would use for any topstitching.

- Thread was cotton/polyester.

- Not really a tip but an observation: sewn seams don’t lay flat, even when covered with a pressing cloth and ironed. It didn’t cause problems but it made me aware that I’ll never get a nice creased edge on project components using laminated cotton. More of a design consideration than anything else.

What are your tips for sewing with laminated cotton?

Tomorrow:  I’ll share two projects using laminated cotton.

11/20/09: links to laminated cotton tote bag project + laminated cotton tablecloth project

pink chalk fabrics ~*~ new arrivals ~*~ free patterns ~*~ on sale
pink chalk fabrics ~*~ new arrivals ~*~ free patterns ~*~ on sale
87 Responses to Laminated Cotton Sewing Tips
  1. Little Munchkins
    November 19, 2009 | 3:06 am

    Thanks for sharing that Kathy. I have often wondered about how to ‘handle’ them.

  2. Kathi D
    November 19, 2009 | 3:20 am

    Thanks! Perfect timing for me, as I am looking at this luscious piece of Kaffe Fassett that you sent and wondering just what I’m going to do with it!

  3. Kathi D
    November 19, 2009 | 3:23 am

    I did use my steam iron to take out the creases. I set it at about 2/3 heat and ironed on the back side. It ironed nicely and didn’t melt anything.

  4. Stephanie
    November 19, 2009 | 3:41 am

    I’m so excited about these laminated cottons. I’ve attempted to sew with oil cloth and there was lots of swearing, especially with it sticking to the base of the sewing machine. Thank you for the terrific review and tips.

  5. Bloom
    November 19, 2009 | 5:15 am

    Thanks so much Kathy for such a brilliantly helpful post. I have been scared off by these fabrics & the cost of a teflon foot. I’m now feeling more brave to give them a go.

  6. Debbie
    November 19, 2009 | 5:35 am

    Thanks for all this wonderful information!

  7. Adrienne
    November 19, 2009 | 5:39 am

    I LOVE THIS!!!!!!

  8. Cheryl Jaeger
    November 19, 2009 | 5:56 am

    Thanks for the info. Have you tried the laminate that you can add to your own fabrics? I have a roll ready to try.

  9. Mama Urchin
    November 19, 2009 | 6:51 am

    Wow thanks for all the info. I’ve wondered about the new breed of laminated cottons.

  10. Karen
    November 19, 2009 | 6:58 am

    Thanks for the tips… I’ve been eyeing that KF laminated cotton!

  11. Sarah Jackson
    November 19, 2009 | 8:00 am

    Very nice explanation! I love laminated cotton. I keep big pieces of it around for when the kids want to paint, or use clay, or do other messy activities. I’m eyeing that new Anna Maria Horner one with the houses now. It’s the cutest thing I’ve seen in a long time.

  12. Cristie
    November 19, 2009 | 8:21 am

    Thanks for this info! I just made a fitted (so it doesn’t slip of) table cloth for my kids craft table out of laminated cotton. LOVE IT!! Even got marker on it and gently got it off with some magic eraser! Can’t wait to see what other fabrics are coming out in it!

  13. jen duncan
    November 19, 2009 | 8:22 am

    Good tips Kathy! Thanks for putting this together. I look forward to seeing what projects you made. :-)

  14. Em
    November 19, 2009 | 8:34 am

    Thanks for all the info. I look forward to seeing your projects.

  15. Ann Marie
    November 19, 2009 | 9:17 am

    Thank you! I’ve been curious about these fabrics and wondering what I can do with them.

  16. Cristin
    November 19, 2009 | 9:19 am

    Great info! Now… how do I decide which lamianted cottons to buy? ;-)
    I love them all!

  17. Melanie
    November 19, 2009 | 9:22 am

    Always a font of information and inspiration, thanks!!! My fabric order arrived yesterday, I love it all, thanks for the amazing customer service you always provide! Looking forward to seeing the next two projects.

  18. Jenny
    November 19, 2009 | 9:27 am

    Kathy, thank you for this info — I’d been wondering about this and held off from buying. The plastics info is especially great to know, since the biggest need for plastic-treated fabric is for mats, etc. for my eat-everything baby boy.

    I recently bought some of the absolutely gorgeous printed double-gauze cottons you carry, but now hesitate to cut into them because I don’t really know how they’ll handle when quilted, washed, etc. Would you consider doing a similar run-through for that fabric?

  19. Susanne
    November 19, 2009 | 10:20 am

    What a wonderful resource this is. I am eager to start experimenting with these fabrics and so thankful that you saved me some time with all of your tips.
    Thanks!

  20. Live a Colorful Life
    November 19, 2009 | 10:29 am

    I made a little “art” apron for my granddaughter’s birthday and was nervous about sewing the laminated cotton. It sewed like butter. I used my regular sewing foot, regular thread, needle, regular everything, and it turned out perfectly! Now she has an apron to wear that is easy to wipe off when her art projects get a little messy.

  21. Margie
    November 19, 2009 | 10:49 am

    Oh, so helpful. Thank you so much for taking the time to explain all this.

  22. Amber
    November 19, 2009 | 11:14 am

    Thanks so much for this Kathy – great info…especially about the dryer – I was sure it would melt it! Now to decide which fabric I want for a tablecloth!

  23. Pumpkinbear
    November 19, 2009 | 11:45 am

    Those of us who do cloth diapering, especially those of us who make our own cloth diapers, have known about PUL fabric for a looooooooong time, so it’s fun to see it going “mainstream” now. For more sewing tips, I’d definitely suggest checking out some of the cloth diapering sites or forums out there–they can all answer pretty much right off the bat questions you might have about laundry or other care concerns.

  24. Jennie
    November 19, 2009 | 1:22 pm

    I was wondering about the coating, and I’m so happy to find out they are phthalate and PVC free. I hadn’t had a chance to call Free Spirit yet, and now I don’t have too. I’m planning on making a raincoat for my daughter soon, so all your tips will come in handy.

  25. Liza
    November 19, 2009 | 3:38 pm

    Hi Kathy,
    I loathe working with my walking foot, so in order to use my regular sewing foot, I put strips of tissue paper on the plastic (when it needed to be sewn right side up) and just sewed thru the paper. It ripped off very easily.
    Liza

  26. Linda
    November 19, 2009 | 10:22 pm

    Great post, Kathy! An option for keeping the seams allowances flat is to stitch them down. When I made a diaper bag using laminated cotton I stitched the seam allowances open. I liked how I could see the topstitching on the right side.

  27. Marilyn
    November 19, 2009 | 11:05 pm

    Great post. I have been going to try this new fabric and have hesitated. Think I will jump in with both feet.

  28. katrin
    November 20, 2009 | 3:51 am

    already laminated cotton-fabric! woo-hoo!
    finally I won’t need to iron-on a layer of plastic-something to my tablecloth, spending *hours* for “laminating” the fabric(s)! ^-^

  29. Ann
    November 20, 2009 | 6:56 am

    I’ve discovered that fusing interfacing to these laminated cottons IS possible. I was scared to try it, but it worked without ruining the precious (and expensive) cloth. Here’s how I did it: 1) put the cloth laminated side down on ironing board; 2) cover with damp pressing cloth; 3) use a medium hot (I didn’t put it all the way to cotton setting) iron with steam and move the iron around over the surface…not staying in one place for more than a second or so. I kept doing this until all the interfacing was adhered. Try it on a tiny piece first. My impetus for trying this was that I wanted to use a laminated cotton on the exterior of Anna Maria’s multi-tasker tote, and that pattern piece calls for fusible interfacing.

  30. Heather
    November 20, 2009 | 8:36 am

    Good info. I have been tossing thoughts around about using this type fabric for a padded headboard. My daughter has allergies and a fabric headboard was out of the questions, but I think this will work because I can wipe it down w/ a damp cloth

  31. jaybird
    November 20, 2009 | 2:07 pm

    thanks for the tips!! i bought a yard and hadn’t done anything with it yet.. now i know what i can & can’t do!

  32. Janine
    November 20, 2009 | 3:24 pm

    I love laminated fabrics so many uses i use a silicone release agent lightly spray machine foot and around throat plate and just repeat when it starts to stick and it wont interfer with your machine .

  33. Terri G
    November 21, 2009 | 12:43 am

    Great Kathy! You did a fantastic job!

    Hey, for garment construction and those seams that won’t lie flat, what about doing a flat felled seam on the outside???

    Anxious to get sewing and experiment with the fabric now!

    Hugs,
    Terri G in Oregon

  34. Sondra
    November 21, 2009 | 8:49 am

    Dear Kathy,
    Thank you so much for this post. You answered many of the questions that I had also. Excellent information from you and all.
    I wondered what the distinction was between the two and especially seeing the Amy Butler laminated used in a variety of ways. Great products.
    Thanks again for the resources,
    Sondra

  35. Sherri
    November 21, 2009 | 4:28 pm

    Thank you so much for this info and tips, Kathy…and I can’t wait to see the projects~!

  36. Kathy
    November 21, 2009 | 4:40 pm

    I have made rain hats out of the laminated cotton fabrics. The stiffness varies greatly depending on the manufacturer. Moda laminates are very stiff, Michael Miller laminates are a medium stiffnes, Anna Maria Horner and Kaffe Fassett laminates are butterly soft, and sew like regular fabric. I have used a simple “bucket” hat pattern for the rain hats. There are curved seams in the six crown sections, and a long curved seam around the brim and the lining. (I use the same laminate fabric for the brim lining.) The first thing to realize is that you cannot iron the seams. So, clip the curves, then top stitch with a narrow width. The topstitched seams hold the curves beaufifully. For the long brim seam, I clip the curve, then understitch close to the seam. It allows the turned seam to lie very nicely. I line the crown with regular cotton. I don’t attempt to handstitch, but top stitch. The result is very, very cute. I have given these as gifts and sold some. And I agree that ironing from the back using a pressing cloth works quite well.

  37. Karen
    November 21, 2009 | 4:58 pm

    So glad to stumble across this post – lots of great tips!

    Thanks for being the guniea pig!!

  38. sharon
    November 21, 2009 | 8:55 pm

    Perfect timing — thank you so much!

  39. Sharon
    November 21, 2009 | 11:04 pm

    thanks so much — perfect timing

  40. Lynn
    November 22, 2009 | 7:31 am

    Thanks so much for the tips. I too had wondered how to handle this lovely “new” fabric. Lynn

  41. Linda
    November 22, 2009 | 8:45 am

    Thanks for the great FYI on the laminated cotton. Was recently in London and visited a Cath Kidston store where everything is made up from this…bags, bibs, bookcovers, placemats, etc. Am definitely going to try making a bag as it will take a lot of abuse (I think) and wipe off easily.
    Linda G

  42. Jona
    November 23, 2009 | 9:28 am

    Wow Kathy! That was so interesting and really cleared up a lot of my “fear of laminate”. I love the new, soft laminates so maybe I’ll try something now! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!! xoxo

  43. Grace
    November 30, 2009 | 9:47 pm

    Kathy, you have no idea how helpful this was to me. Thank you so much!

  44. Josie
    December 25, 2009 | 9:59 pm

    I simply adore Amy Butler’s fabrics! Thanks for the review on how laminated cotton holds up. Just found someone who does splat mats in these new Amy Butler laminates and thought I’d share. Baby’s Indulgence at http://www.babysindulgence.etsy.com

  45. Judy Sebastian
    December 29, 2009 | 6:04 pm

    I realize I am coming to this discussion a little late, but I just finished making cosmetic bags with two types of “oilcloth”. The more expensive cloth created by a Japanese designer was stiffer and well worth the extra money. The Kaffe Fasset and Anna M. Horner I used was less expensive but thinner with more of a drape or flop to the fabric. I found if I used regular tape to hold my edges together it was easy to remove after sewing, and a great way to match my seams. Be careful sewing for if you need to rip out stitches you can not hide the holes. I used my walking foot with no problem, and a topstitch 100 with ease.

  46. Cheryl
    January 11, 2010 | 10:55 pm

    I am helping a friend with her kitchen chairs. They came with rush seating which has broken. She is ordering wood inserts for the seats. What do you think of covering them in laminated cotton, padded with batting and stapled to the back?

  47. Erin
    March 8, 2010 | 6:49 pm

    I really want to get some Heather Bailey Laminate from her Nicey Jane line. I was wondering if the fabric you washed in the machine was still water proof after being washed???? I want to make baby bibs and be able to throw it in the wash. Any help or advice??? Thanks

    • Kathy
      March 8, 2010 | 7:51 pm

      Yes, the coating was completely in tact after the washing. The water was rolling off the surface when it came out of the machine. I think it would work really well with bibs. We just received 4 of the Nicey Jane laminates today, they’re gorgeous!

  48. Jennifer
    March 8, 2010 | 11:02 pm

    Just made laminated cotton car organizers to hang on the back of car seats. I monogrammed the kids’ initials on each one and it came out really well. Actually, used a hot iron to fuse velcro onto the laminated cotton fabric to create a place to store headphones! Love your website!

    • kathy
      March 9, 2010 | 12:09 am

      What a great use of the laminated cotton! It’s amazing that you can iron this stuff!

  49. Kim
    March 16, 2010 | 5:39 am

    This post is PERFECT! I can finally see what these fabrics look like since nobody locally sells them. BUT…do you think I could use them to reupholster a vintage kitchen stool? It’s one of those metal stools where the steps glide out with a seat cushion and upholstered back. It is currently covered in a thick vinyl.

    THANK YOU!

    • Kathy
      March 19, 2010 | 8:32 am

      I’ve been debating on this one. I have some kitchen stools that sound similar. I’m a little concerned that the laminated cottons might be a bit thin to swap out with the original vinyl one for one. It would probably have to be backed with a layer of batting to give it some structure. Traditional heavy vinyl has that by default whereas the laminated cottons have a lot of drape and are thinner. I’m also a little concerned about how they’ll wear with kids in my house.

      That probably doesn’t answer your question but hopefully gives you some things to consider.

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