Sewing with waterproof fabrics
By Kellie Rose from Plush Addict
Types of waterproof fabric
PUL – PolyUrethane Laminate
PUL is a special waterproof fabric as it is completely waterproof and breathable, making it a fantastic choice for clothing and baby items such as cloth nappies. Many waterproof fabrics do not let moisture evaporate which can make garments clammy but PUL has a microporous coating and the tiny pores are small enough to allow water vapour to pass out, but they prevent larger water droplets from coming in – clever!You can use PUL in all sorts of projects from raincoats, anoraks, modern cloth nappies, hats, gloves, aprons, waterproof wet bags, changing bags and mats, swimming bags, bibs and mattress protectors, to name but a few.These adorable 'Puddle Pants' from 'My Little Patch' are lined with very thin microfleece and the outer layer is a contemporary PUL print from Michael Miller. These are ideal winter weather trousers that are both very warm and waterproof, but aren’t bulky or stiff.
The right side of PUL is a polyester knit and the wrong side is the laminate which is smooth and shiny. It doesn’t really matter which side of PUL you use as far as its waterproof properties go, but often the polyester knit side is used as the right side showing the pattern. It’s a good idea to line any clothes made with PUL so the laminate isn’t against the skin.We also stock Sandwich PUL which has the same properties as PUL but has an extra layer of fabric. The layer of laminate is sandwiched in between two layers of knit fabric. This is especially helpful if you don’t want to have the shiny laminate side against the skin as it’s hidden away between the knit layers.
PUL launders well and dries almost instantly and it’s wrinkle free so there’s no need to get the iron out (in fact it’s not recommended, you don’t want to melt it!) It doesn’t need pre-washing, the fabric frays very little so it’s very easy care.
Similar to oil cloth, laminated cotton differs because the base cloth is quilt weight cotton whereas in oil cloth it’s a heavier upholstery weight. We stock 'Slicker' from Robert Kaufman, which is water-resistant.
As ‘Slicker’ is lighter weight it’s very suitable for clothing makes. It’s flexible and pliable with a nice drape. Because one side is cotton it’s possible to wear this unlined comfortably against the skin (although you may want to line it for aesthetic reasons). Katie from 'Bamboo Hearts' has made this fantastic children’s rain coat from Robert Kaufman’s 'Slicker' and it’s been lined with very thin microfleece to add some warmth, making it suitable for colder weather clothing.
Laminated cotton is a two-layer fabric where a high quality 100% cotton sheeting has a film of laminate applied to the right side of the fabric. This fabric doesn’t have any stretch and is favoured when you want a natural fibre as part of your garment rather than polyester. It doesn’t fray when cut. This kind of laminate differs from oil cloth because it’s PVC-free, and BPA-free and is often a fabric of choice when making items for under 12s or food related projects. It’s advised as a wipe clean only fabric but I have several clothing items made from it that regularly go in to the washing machine on a gentle wash. Tumble drying isn’t recommended and only iron on the the non-laminated side to avoid a sticky mess!
Ripstop is a lightweight, wind-resistant nylon, which is also water repellent. It’s an incredibly durable fabric, which is resistant to ripping or tearing. It’s so tough it’s used in hang glider wings and hot air balloons! I can’t imagine you’ll be knocking up a hang glider this side of Christmas but ripstop is still a very useful fabric when you need some moisture protection and durability. It’s ideal for applications like outdoor cushions and BBQ covers. It can be used in clothing but do bear in mind it’s not breathable. It’s a popular choice for items like swim bags and lining cosmetic purses and wash bags, but is not completely waterproof. Ripstop is very economical too when compared with some of the laminated products.
Ripstop is made by weaving nylon threads together through a base material. It has an interlocking weave which gives it a distinct raised box pattern on the fabric and it’s because of this weave that it’s difficult to tear. It doesn’t have any stretch and it doesn’t fray when cut. It’s a bit noisier than some of the other fabrics in this genre and has that familiar rustle sound!
Ripstop’s hero properties really are in its durability. We’ve recommended it in all sorts of applications from a bed for a Great Dane through to outdoor cushions to shower curtains.
Once upon a time oil cloth was actually a closely woven cotton cloth covered in boiled linseed oil to give it waterproof properties - times have changed and things are a little less messy with today’s oil cloth.
Sometimes PVC fabrics are also referred to as oil cloth but the oilcloth used most commonly is 100% heavy weight cotton with a PVC coating. Probably the most common use for oil cloth is for a table cover but it’s great stuff for items such as bags and aprons. These cute messenger bags are an easy project and very versatile.
- Top tips for sewing waterproof fabrics
- 1 Use a Teflon or walking foot with a sharps needle.
- 2 Lengthen your stitches to minimize the number of holes made in the fabric.
- 3 Pin in the seam allowance or use Wonder Clips to reduce holes. Alternatively, use fabric weights for cutting out pieces.
- 4 To finish seams on PUL you can press them open and finish with seam sealant tape.