For most of us the word ‘oilcloth‘ brings to mind the image of plastic gingham stapled to a deteriorating picnic table or a shiny upholstered tabletop in our grandmother’s kitchen. Often covered with funky vintage florals, stripes, or chevrons, oilcloth – a retro poly-cotton treated with waterproof coating – speaks of a bygone era rather than the here and now.
Oilcloth, A (Short) History.
First created in the early 18th Century by coating linseed oil onto stretched canvas, oilcloth was an ideal water-resistant, leather-substitute for the working class because manufacturing it was inexpensive. (Oilcloth International, 2008) By the 1950’s, oilcloth’s popularity skyrocketed as suburban America began to embrace it for the versatile and handy fabric that it is. In the decades to come, the invention of non-cracking plastics and high quality polyester, shifted the public gaze away from oilcloth, but we are here to return it to the spotlight!
While it certainly makes an easy, durable and long-lasting tablecloth (there’s a reason we continue to beautify our moldering picnic tables with it), it has the potential to be used for so much more! 1950’s America knew this – they upholstered everything from their kitchen furniture to their bathroom counters with oilcloth. It’s time that we got creative and remembered why this fabric was so popular in the first place.
Tips and Tricks
For many the stiff texture of oilcloth is discouraging. It’s certainly less flexible than a laminated cotton, and the thought of attempting a major or intricate project with it is nerve-wracking! In reality, oilcloth is super sewing machine-friendly, but – like many fabrics – it has it’s own special quirks. For tips on the best way to tackle an oilcloth sewing project, I checked out a few websites like SewMamaSew.com, and asked the ever knowledgeable Kate. Here’s what I found out!
- A Size 16 or a Denim sewing machine needle is the most effective.
- Using a longer stitch length for seams, thereby avoiding unnecessary perforations, is a good idea!
- At the same time, decreasing stitch-length around curves helps with reinforcement.
- Your favorite poly/cotton thread will work just fine!
- To avoid your presser foot sticking to the shiny side of your oilcloth, you can try a teflon or roller presser foot, or try sticking some masking tape to the bottom of your usual foot for a better glide!
I found these tips to be not only insightful but heartening. Armed with the right information, tackling an oilcloth project seems amazingly do-able! But, now that we have all this knowledge, what are we going to make with it?!
Now for the Fun Part
The Confident Stitch just received a dozen new and beautiful rolls of Freckled Sage Genuine Oilcloth, and, upon opening the shipment, I felt a bizarre combined rush of excitement and bafflement. The many colors and patterns were speaking to me but my creative brain was jammed! What besides a tablecloth could I make?? Lucky for me, in this age of information, it takes all of thirty seconds to rustle up some new inspiration. Within ten minutes I managed to compile a list of over 60 amazing, creative and downright entertaining project ideas!
The Top Eight
Long Story Short
We love oilcloth! We love its history, its functionality, its colors, its patterns both vintage and modern, and – most of all – we love its many many uses! Check out our beautiful oilcloth selection and feel inspired to make something beautiful today.