Ideas for Oilcloth Projects

Written by karens
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Ideas for Oilcloth Projects
Modern oilcloth is made of cotton fabric coated with a thin layer of vinyl. (Christmas Cloth image by Julie F from

Housewives, seamen, and campers once covered heavy cotton with thick layers of linseed oil to make a novel waterproof fabric called "oilcloth." Some of the items made with yesterday's oil-covered fabric included gingham tablecloths, tents, hats, and jackets. Early oilcloth was not completely waterproof, however, took a long time to make and had a strong odour. In the late 1950s, manufacturers created today's version of oilcloth by applying a thin layer of polyvinyl to cotton flannel. The fabrics, often printed in colourful patterns, were a hit and have been used for projects including tote bags, tablecloths, and collapsible pet water bowls ever since.

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Tote Bag

Oilcloth works well for tote bags because it is durable and versatile. Create a cute oilcloth tote out of a variety of bright solid or patterned oilcloth fabrics available at most craft and fabric stores. Combine two or more fabrics to create a personal look, and embellish with buttons. When making a tote bag be sure to add a webbing shoulder strap to keep you comfortable. Also add a strong rectangle of material such as cardboard to the bottom of the bag to help keep its form and enhance its sturdiness. Use the fewest number of pins possible when sewing oilcloth, however--the holes where they poke through the fabric will be permanent. Oilcloth tote bags are great for carrying to the beach or market, and also make handy craft bags or large lunch bags.


An oilcloth tablecloth is a stylish way to protect your table from daily use. This durable fabric cover turns a table into a protected work space, children's play station or informal dinner spot. Run a simple straight hem around your tablecloth or create a scalloped edge for extra interest.

Pet Water Bowl

Oilcloth collapses easily and holds water, making it a good candidate fabric to use in the creation of a collapsible travel dish for thirsty pets to drink from. These portable, lightweight dishes come in especially handy on long hikes and trips. Oilcloth containers will not leak and fit neatly in a backpack or bag. The dish can be constructed using a basic origami technique, as described on Check the oilcloth's label or ask the store's proprietor to make certain oilcloth that will be used to drink from is nontoxic.

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