Introduction: Make Your Own Oil Cloth | DIY Waterproof Outdoor Bunting

About: Multi-crafter, jewellery maker, card designer and frequent procrastinator.

I wanted to make some bunting that was suitable for keeping outside, and during my research I came across a way of making your own traditional oil cloth using boiled linseed oil.

The advantage of this over the modern plastic-based version of oil cloth is that it doesn't look and feel like plastic and keeps the flexibility of the fabric.

Usually oil cloth is used for waterproof bags, clothing, luggage, tents and so on.

Not many ingredients are required, and it's a very simple process, so I hope you'll give it a go!

Step 1: What You Will Need

The main ingredients for making oil cloth are boiled linseed oil and mineral spirits; the oil is what makes the fabric waterproof, and the mineral spirits are required to make the oil dry out (otherwise it would stay wet/sticky).

Boiled linseed oil is usually used as a finish for wood projects.

For the amount of bunting I made, I required no more than 50ml of each of these liquids. I also chose to use the odourless version of mineral spirits to make it more pleasant for me!

I also used the following items:

- Breathing mask, gloves, ventilation etc for safety when mixing the liquids.

- Fabric; You need to use a sturdy woven fabric (not stretchy) for this. I used a cotton canvas. (Close weave) linen is also an option.

- Oil paints; If you wish to paint a design on the fabric. You can also use oil dyes.

- Paintbrush

- If you wish to potato print a pattern, you will need a potato, a knife and a cutting mat.

- Some kind of inking/painting tray that's big enough for your fabric pieces to go in and has a lip around the outside. If the fabric you want to turn into oil cloth is too big or you don't have a tray (or suitable plastic packaging) you can just use a wide paint brush to paint on the oil mixture whilst the fabric is on a protective drop cloth or similar.

- Measuring cup; I used a disposable paint mixing cup.

- Sealable glass or metal container; I used a glass jar with a lid.

- Pegs & a washing line

- Pinking shears; To cut out the fabric pieces with, to help prevent fraying. You could instead choose to hem the bunting with a sewing machine if you wish, but that would be time consuming.

- String/twine; I used a jute twine. You could instead use fabric such as bias binding (which you could also waterproof if you wished).

- Super glue or a sewing machine & thread; You can use glue or a sewing machine to attach the bunting to the string. I used an all-purpose (UHU) adhesive.

- Ruler

- Fabric pen or sewing pins

- Scissors

- Pen/pencil

- Piece of paper

Step 2: Make the Template

For my bunting, I decided I wanted the triangles to be around 5" x 7" in size, but I needed an extra 1" of length to fold over the string at the top. So I measured out 5" x 8" on a sheet of paper and cut that rectangle out.

I then folded this rectangle vertically down the centre (so the fold was at the 2.5" halfway point).

I could then, whilst keeping the paper folded, cut a single line, corner to corner, to produce a symmetrical triangle.

Then finally, on the top 1" of the triangle, I cut off the corners. This is so that when this 1" of fabric is folded over later, it won't be seen from the front.

Step 3: Cutting Out the Fabric

The photos show 2 ways of doing this, depending on if you have a 'magic/disappearing' fabric pen or just sewing pins:

1) Just draw around the paper template using a ruler and fabric pen, then cut the shape out with pinking shears.


2)Pin the template to the fabric and cut around the shape with pinking shears.

Try and minimise the wastage of fabric when doing this by cutting the shapes out close together.

I cut out 7 triangle shapes in total.

Step 4: Printing & Painting

It's completely optional to paint the fabric, or indeed potato print it, particularly as potato printing is not an accurate means of painting (!). Using oil dyes are also an option as a means of decoration.

To make my printing pattern, I first cut a simple line shape in the potato, and put some white oil paint in the inking tray. I used a cheap paintbrush to apply the paint to the potato to print with it, and also to paint directly onto the fabric.

Remember to protect your work surface from the paint during this stage.

Oil paint takes a long while to dry (anywhere from 24 hours to weeks depending on the paint brand, the temperature, humidity etc). So just leave your fabric until the paint is touch dry before continuing to the next stage.

Step 5: Turning the Fabric Into Oil Cloth

I used a breathing mask and gloves during this step, and also did it outside for best ventilation.

I placed a fabric piece on my inking tray, and then measured out the liquids.

The key is to mix equal parts mineral spirits and boiled linseed oil. I used 100ml of each (using my disposable measuring cup to measure them out), but this turned out to be at least twice as much as I needed. So start with a smaller amount, because you can always mix more later.

I poured the 100ml of each into a glass jar and mixed thoroughly with a lollipop stick. The reason for putting it in a sealable glass or metal container is so that you can then keep and store any remainder inside this container. You shouldn't store it in a plastic container. Always read the instructions on the packaging for more info about safety.

Then pour some of the mix into the inking tray, onto the fabric piece. The fabric should soak the liquid up. I tilted the tray back and forth until all of the fabric was saturated, and then I hung the piece up on the washing line.

Do this for every piece.

If you don't have a lipped tray (or a big enough tray), you can instead spread the fabric out on a drop cloth and paint the liquid onto it with a wide, flat paintbrush.

Then just leave the fabric to dry thoroughly outside. This could take anywhere from a day or two, to a couple of weeks, depending on weather and fabric used.

Step 6: An Important Safety Note

Boiled linseed oil heats up as it dries, and particularly if it's on a piece of material that has been crumpled up/folded, or put in an enclosed space, the heating can be intense. This causes fires so please be very careful!

So the important things to do are:

- Let the fabric dry outside, and make sure the fabric is laid out (or hung) flat, not folded or crumpled up.

- Dry any other items that have had linseed oil on them outside too, before washing them or disposing of them. This includes paper towel, fabric rags, drop cloths etc.

- Store any remaining liquids in their original containers or in a metal (or glass) container.

- Always read the instructions on the packaging.

- Keep items with linseed oil on away from anything flammable until fully dry.

- If it starts raining so you can't store the fabric outside, lay the fabric out flat on a non-flammable surface in a cool room, with ventilation, until completely dry.

Thanks :)

Step 7: Assembling the Bunting

From the first photo, you can see that water now doesn't get absorbed into the fabric. Success!

I then used super glue to fold over and secure the top section of each triangle of fabric, so that it covered the twine, but allowed the twine to still move through the fabric.

Leave to dry.

Step 8: Finished!

You can now display your bunting in pride of place in your garden!

I hope you enjoyed this Instructable, and thanks for reading :)

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