Laminated Cotton Sewing Tips

on Nov 18, 2009 in Sewing | 70 comments

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