Tips for sewing with laminated fabrics.

Tips for sewing with laminated fabrics.

Written by Louise Ambrosi of Sew Sofia

 I first discovered laminated cotton fabrics back in 2012. I was in the early stages of setting up my sewing business and developing my product line for kids. With two young children of my own I wanted to make items that were fun and also wipe clean to last longer.

Originally I used oilcloth to make aprons, tote bags and art caddies. I found my machine struggled to sew this thicker, stickier fabric, frequently breaking needles and skipping stitches. So when reputable fabric manufacturers like Riley Blake, Free Spirit and Robert Kaufmann started producing a few laminated versions of their cotton prints, (often known as “Slicker” for it’s glossy surface). I felt compelled to give this new fabric a go.  In recent years, a newer, matte version of laminated cotton has appeared from Cloud 9 and Splash Fabrics in the US, which is even easier to sew than it’s shiny counterparts.

tips for sewing laminated fabric from Bobbins and Buttons

Saddle bag in glossy laminated cotton.

What is laminated cotton?

Laminated cotton is a cotton fabric with a thin polyurethane film laminated to the print side. It does not contain phthalates, harmful dyes, or any other toxic substances that are present in PVC coated laminates such as traditional oilcloth or thicker coated cottons.

Its lightweight, can be washed in the same way as ordinary cotton and can also be ironed on the back. Meaning you can fuse certain interfacings such as woven cotton interfacing or fusible fleece to laminated cotton. This is useful for adding more structure to your project, which is particularly useful for bagmaking.

tips for sewing laminated fabric from Bobbins and Buttons

Laminated cotton inside and out for a completely wipe clean lunch bag.

 What can laminated cotton be used for?

A soft, durable and flexible fabric, laminated cotton can be used for wearable items such a raincoats, rain hats, shower caps, dog coats, dog collars, aprons, craft smocks and bibs. It can be used for all types of bags and accessories from make-up bags and lunch bags to larger totes and backpacks.

It is also great for everyday items like baby changing mats, appliance covers, storage baskets, roll up placemats, splash mats, tablecloths, seat pad covers and umbrellas. To give you an idea of the fabric weight, laminated cotton is the equivalent of ordinary cotton but with a layer of interfacing.

tips for sewing laminated fabric from Bobbins and Buttons

Wipe clean travel baby changing mat and storage bag

tips for sewing laminated fabric from Bobbins and Buttons

Laminated cotton is perfect for anything with a wet use like this swim kit bag

Tips for cutting

Before cutting out your pattern, lightly iron any creases on the cotton side of the laminate on a cool iron setting, or use a blast of steam.

Trace on the back of the fabric with a pencil, invisible pen or tailor’s chalk. If you are using pattern pieces, avoid using pins if you can. These will leave permanent holes in the fabric – so either use fewer pins in the seam allowance or use little weights to hold the fabric in place while you cut.

If you do make a mistake, sometimes rubbing your finger over a hole or ironing on the back can make it less visible.

Tips for sewing

A new, sharp size 14-16 denim needle is recommended. Needles should be changed regularly as they can become blunt quicker when sewing with laminated cotton.

Use wonder clips, bulldog clips or little pegs to hold fabric pieces together instead of pins.

tips for sewing laminated fabric from Bobbins and Buttons

Wonder clips and a Teflon foot make for easier sewing.

A narrow double-sided tape can be very helpful for holding pockets or hook and loop tape in place before stitching by centring the tape within a seam allowance.

An ordinary presser foot can be used on the cotton side of laminated cotton. Do not iron on the coated side! Instead, finger press any seams and use wonder clips to hold in place before top-stitching.

Tips for top-stitching:

For top-stitching, a roller foot or Teflon foot can help prevent the foot from dragging or sticking to laminated side of the fabric. Although an ordinary foot copes well with matte laminates. If you’re sewing through multiple layers, a walking foot can be useful. If you don’t have a special foot, try using a small strip of tape (e.g. masking or washi tape) on the underside of your machine’s ordinary foot. It’s always best to try out a small piece on your machine before starting a project. Top-stitch using a longer stitch, e.g. 3.0 and go slow on the pedal for more even stitching.

An easy way to avoid top-stitching laminated cotton is to use piping to finish off an edge of a bag flap or pocket.

tips for sewing laminated fabric from Bobbins and Buttons

Piping is one solution to avoid top-stitching laminated cotton and gives a professional finish.

Bias binding can be used to enclose raw edges and avoid top-stitching.

tips for sewing laminated fabric from Bobbins and Buttons

Bias binding on craft smock

Laminated cotton has less ‘give’ than ordinary cotton but will also not fray. This means you can trim down seam allowances to ¼” to reduce bulky seams. If sewing on a curve, it can help to make tiny cuts within the seam allowance before finger pressing the seam to ease out the curve.

Back-stitching is especially important when sewing with laminated cotton to ensure that the stitches do not unravel. This just means stitching in reverse over the same set of stitches at the start and finish of a stitching line to ‘lock’ the stitches in place.

I hope these tips encourage you to try out this versatile fabric in your next sewing project!

tips for sewing laminated fabric from Bobbins and Buttons

wipe clean wristlet pouches

Sew Sofia

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Julia Claridge

I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had my first go on a sewing machine, it was an old hand crank machine that my mum used with her patients, she was an occupational therapist. I still vividly remember watching with amazement as the tiny perfectly formed stitches were created as I turned the handle. I Grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when buying clothes was less affordable and dressmaking was an answer to updating your wardrobe more regularly. My own mother was a talented dressmaker who made most of my clothes and my sisters clothes as well as a many for herself. I soon got involved with making my clothes, I loved the whole experience of picking out fabrics, trims and a pattern to create a new outfit, then going home to make a new garment or outfit. When it came to leaving school I visited a careers advisor who asked what I wanted to do next. My answer was ..Sew! Read more...

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