Oilcloth, My Latest Obsession – Part 2 (finally)

Okay, so I want to thank all of you who have been waiting patiently for me to reveal my tips on working with oilcloth. It has been a crazy week of soccer, school and mayhem here at my house, but I think I found a quiet moment to type this all out. So,without further ado, my oilcloth tips!

Tip #1 – Trace your pattern on the back of the oilcloth.

This is a must when working with oilcloth. You can’t pin your pattern down to the oilcloth (I’ll cover that in a moment), and holding your pattern as you cut will just make your piece all wonky. I suggest drafting your pattern pieces (or tracing a pre-exsisting pattern) onto a lightweight cardboard, such as a cereal box. That way it won’t wrinkle or tear after a few uses.

Once you’ve made your pattern, use a ball point pen to trace your pattern on to the back of the oilcloth.

My traced pattern, on the back of the oilcloth.

My traced pattern, on the back of the oilcloth.

 Tip #2 – Never use pins on your oilcloth.

Oilcloth is just like leather, vinyl, etc… Inserting a pin will leave a permanent hole. When you want to sew two pieces of material together, I suggest using paper clips or, my personal favorite, good ol’ clothespins. These will keep your pieces together, without moving, and they won’t leave any personal marks on your oilcloth. *NOTE* There is one time when using pins is okay. If you decide to cut out your pattern using a lot of extra room, like in the photo below, you can always pin your oilcloth together on the excess material. Make sense? Probably not, so be sure to study the photo to see what I mean.

My beloved clothespins, and the one exception to the 'no pin' rule.

My beloved clothespins, and the 'no pin' exception

 Tip #3 – When sewing oilcloth, lower your presser foot tension.

Whether you’re sewing on the right side or the wrong side of the oilcloth, it’s always helpful to lower your presser foot tension. I usually set mine between1.5 and 3.

Tip #4 – You may want to use a bigger sewing machine needle.

This is not a hard and fast rule. I usually switch my universal needle for something a bit more sturdy, like the leather needle (90/14), but I’ve forgotten at times, and it really doesn’t seem to matter that much. I think it helps your stitches to be a bit more consistent, but it’s not so that you would notice. This one is really up to you. Try it both ways and see what you like.

Tip #5 – When sewing on the right side of oilcloth, use a Teflon foot.

I can’t stress this tip enough. Being a natural born tightwad, I tried to scrimp and save by not purchasing this essential foot. Don’t be penny pinching here! Buy this foot! I think I paid $25 for mine, and it was worth every single penny that I paid.  It glides on your oilcloth beautifully, while your regular machine foot will stick like crazy. Then you will end up fighting your fabric by pulling and pushing it through the machine. All that will get you is sloppy stitches, a messy project and a migraine. Trust me when I say, invest in a Teflon foot. You’ll be glad you did. *NOTE* If you are sewing on the wrong side of the oilcloth, you can use your regular machine foot, but still lower your presser foot tension.

The one, the only, TEFLON FOOT!!!

The one, the only, TEFLON FOOT!!!

The slick backside of the Teflon foot.

The slick backside of the Teflon foot.

Well, that’s about it. Thanks for letting me share what’s worked for me. Hopefully, these little pointers can be helpful to you, too! Oilcloth can be tricky, but if you use these tips and just keep practicing, you’ll be an oilcloth pro in no time!

I’ll be showing off some of my oilcloth projects in my next and final oilcloth post. I’d love to get feedback from you guys and hear what you all are making. Have fun and be creative!


September 25, 2008. Tags: , , , , , , , . Hands Full Creations, Uncategorized.


  1. Barb replied:

    Thanks! I can’t wait to try it!

  2. backwoodsophisticate replied:

    Awesome suggestions. I have done some work with clear vinyl, and I bet all these suggestions would work great there too. I especially think that teflon foot would have saved me a lot of headaches.

  3. Dani replied:

    Wow, I had no idea you had a blog now! Very cool, I can’t wait to read more.

  4. Buy Sewing Supplies replied:

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

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