Tuesday, 22 February 2011

My Love Affair With Oilcloth - How It All Began (Part 1 of 2)

When the girls were younger, on the way to their Saturday morning swim lessons, I used to walk past this little shop in town which stock lovely oilcloths. The designs and colours never failed to cheer me up, never mind if the day was grim or the girls were misbehaving.  However, I never thought of any other use for them other than as table covering. 

Then, I saw one of Cath Kidston’s oilcloth creations for the first time and I was instantly smitten! Still, I was reluctant to use oilcloth thinking it would be hard to work with on a domestic sewing machine. 

This all changed in September last year when I joined a local sewing group. I made a couple of small bags out of cotton fabric. Sarah saw them and immediately begged me to make a bigger one for her. She gave a long list of her preferences and requirements, the main ones being:
Large enough for books, gym shoes, sports clothes, recorder and wellies
Waterproof (The Dinosaur spilled a bottle of drink on her old canvas bag)
Bright and cheerful colours
and the list went on and on ...
Basically, she needed a tardis!
We settled on using Laura Ashley’s cupcakes oilcloth because it was on sale, Sarah loved the colours/design and it’s thinner compared to other oilcloths I’ve seen, therefore hopefully easier to sew. 

I chose a simple construction, just two pieces of rectangles with the bottom corners squared off to give a flat bottom. It was lined with white water-repellant lining and interlined with compressed fleece. Turned out huge! Had to put in extra magnetic snaps to the side so it wouldn't look bigger than the owner.

Thank goodness the photo quality's not that good. The top-stitching left a lot to be desired!

Finished just in time for the snow days
I’ll be honest with you, I didn't find it easy! If I had a swear jar, it would have been full by the time I finished the bag. However, the problems were not the ones I had expected. I was afraid of the material being too tough on my not-so-new Toyota and even got myself a leather needle. Nope, no problems there. The needle went through the fabric so easily that I switched back to my normal needles because the leather one was making huge holes in the fabric. 

The problem was, oilcloth stuck to either the foot or the base of the sewing machine, therefore wouldn’t move forward without me pulling and pushing. This produced uneven drunken stitches, some long,some short. Bleurghhh !!! I was in danger of falling out of love...
(Find out how I tackled this problem in part 2)


  1. Dont know if it helps but did read once someone who was sewing oilcloth recommended using a plastic foot to stop it sticking.
    Can't remember where read it but remember thinking that's handy to know.

    Can't wait for part 2. The bag looks great,

    {Dab and a dash.}

  2. Thanks Lorna :). It's one of the tips I've included in part two! x