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Waterproof Fabric Guide

Waterproof fabric guide UK

This waterproof fabric guide was kindly provided by Kellie Rose.

Do you get confused by all the diferent types of waterproof fabrics?  Do you wonder which waterproof fabrics to use for your projects?  Luckily Kellie Rose guides us through the different types and what projects they are best for. 

Oil Cloth

Probably one of the best known types of waterproof fabric. Made from 100% vinyl it is completely waterproof.  It is shiny, durable and quite thick so isn’t as pliable and easy to work with as some of the other waterproof fabrics.  However it doesn’t fray when cut.  The patterned side is the right side of the fabric.

Suggested uses: As oil cloth contains phthalates it isn’t intended for projects for children under 12.  It is however great for table cloths and protectors, bags, pencil cases, book covers, aprons, coin purses, place mats, floor mats, totes, drawer liners, place mats, garden caddies.

polyurethane laminate
Image (c) Michael Miller Fabrics

PUL, or polyurethane laminate

PUL fabric is a special fabric because not only is it waterproof but it is also breathable.  This means that heat can escape through the fabric so you can wear it without getting all sweaty!

PUL has 2 sides to it, one side is made from a polyester knit which means it has a slight stretch which is great for clothing as you get a bit of “give”, important when you’re moving around as there’s less chance of a seam giving way under stress.

One side of the polyester knit has a laminate coating applied so it’s slippery and shiny; this is the waterproof layer. The fabric will be waterproof no matter which side is on the outside.  However given that the laminate side is a shiney it is best to have this side away from the skin.

PUL is a soft flexible fabric which doesn’t really crease and it air dries in super quick time and it doesn’t fray when cut.  Using a walking foot or teflon foot will make it easier to sew.

Laminated fabrics from Michael Miller
Image (c) Michael Miller

TIP – Sewing will leave little holes in the fabric which water can escape through.  However if you pop it in the tumble dryer for 20 mins on a low heat the holes will seal.


Sandwich PUL

Sandwich PUL has an additional layer of knit fabric sandwiching the laminate fabric so either side can go against the knit.  It is also stronger so if you are applying fastenings like KAM snaps you won’t need to reinforce around the fastenings.

Use for PUL fabrics include Cloth nappies and wraps, anoraks, waterproof trousers, wet bags, swim bags, changing mats, changing bags, mattress protectors, pillow protectors, baby bibs, picnic blankets, incontinence products, anywhere you need a waterproof, breathable layer.

What to sew with ripstop

Rip Stop Fabric

Ripstop fabric is a tough waterproof fabric, characterised by the box design on the front of it. It’s a nylon threaded material that is pretty resistant to tearing or ripping. It’s so tough and strong it’s used a lot in camping equipment such as tents but it’s also used in things like hang glider wings and hot air balloons.

It is also good for outdoor makes like garden furniture and it’s more economical to buy than most other waterproof fabrics.  Bear in mind ripstop isn’t completely waterproof, it’s better than laminated cotton but if wet items are left sitting on it for a long period the wet will seep through.

It’s not a breathable fabric and it doesn’t have any stretch. It doesn’t really fray when cut.  It can be used for Boot bags, wet bags (although I believe PUL or ProCare perform much better for this application), rain coats, waterproof trousers, ruck sacks, wash bags, pencil cases, kites, wind breaks, shower curtains, splash mats, table cloths, peg bags, tote bags, changing bags, outdoor bunting, outdoor furniture covering, nappy wallets.

Laminated Fabrics

Laminated cotton isn’t  completely waterproof, but more water resistant so it’s probably not the best choice for a cloth nappy or for something like a wet bag. People lean towards laminated cotton when they’d like to have a natural fibre on one side of the laminated fabric, it’s also thinner and more pliable than PUL. Because it’s a natural fibre that’s BPA free it’s also considered safe to use for foody makes such as lunch bags and sandwich pouches.

Laminated cotton is made from 2 layers of fabric, a layer of cotton with a film of laminate applied to one side. The laminate is applied to the right side of the fabric so the side against the skin is cotton.  It is PVC-free, and BPA-free and as such is often a fabric of choice when making items for under 12s or food related. It is also pretty and pliable with a nice hang and drapes well, making it ideal for garments and a plethora of other fabulous items.

You can use laminated cotton for children’s wear, rain coats, bags, baby bibs, play mats, changing bags, place mats, table cloths, sandwich bags, lunch bags, craft aprons, purses, pencil cases.

Pro care waterproof fabric
Image (c) She Plays With String


ProCare is a durable completely waterproof fabric which is also food safe making it ideal for lining sandwich bags like the one pictured above.  The tutorial for the reusable sandwich bag pictured can be found here.

It is more functional than pretty, normally available in just plain colour.  ProCare also meets duty, laundering and material safety standards for use in medical and institutional products. ProCare is not breathable.

ProCare is 25% polyester and 75% vinyl. It has no real stretch and does not shrink. It can be seam welded with an impulse sealer. It’s free of lead,  phthalates, BPS or brominates and is FDA GRAS compliant for contact with foods.

You can use either side as the right side of the fabric, it will not affect the functional.  However you will find one side is a little more functional than the other.


Where to buy waterproof fabrics

Sewing Bee Fabrics

Fabric UK

Little Legs Fabrics

Bobbins and Buttons

Now you know how to sew with waterproof fabrics why not try our waterproof bike bag project