While new technical fabrics are being made all the time to contend with harsh weather conditions, oilskin cloth still holds a place as the original – and perhaps most versatile. It also happens to be one of our favourites.
Oilskin fabric was first made in the 15th century when Scottish fishermen discovered that their canvas sails caught the wind more efficiently when impregnated with linseed oil. And when the sail would come to the end of its life, they would recycle it into weather-resistant garments to wear while at sea.
Eventually, the practice became more widespread and the proofing perfected. Today, the best oilskin is still made in the UK – which is where our range is produced. We work closely with our supplier to offer the very best, in a range of colours and finishes. We currently have three ranges in our collection, Organic Oilskin, Organic Dry Oilskin and Organic Beeswax. And then we also carry Barrier Lining in two colours which is also produced by the same mill, more about these two linings further on.
ORGANIC COTTON OILSKIN
Our organic cotton oilskin cloth is the most traditional of all our oilskins, often referred to as waxed cotton. It’s made with GOTS cotton from Turkey that’s spun in Pakistan. The cloth is densely woven and processed to make it thirsty for the coating, and then submerged into a bath of petroleum-based wax. The oilskin is made water resistant from the coating itself, naturally repelling water.
Over time and use, the fabric develops a history of its own. It marks easily – crackling and creasing to give the cloth a more casual look, completely unique to how you wear it in.
ORGANIC COTTON DRY OILSKIN
The main differences between our traditional oilskin and dry oilskin come down to its look and handle. Dry oilskin has a more matte, crispier appearance that doesn’t scuff or crease. The cloth won’t really change or wear over time.
The dry oilskin base uses the same GOTS organic cotton base as our traditional cloth – but is instead coated with an emulsified wax that is sprayed and cured onto the fabric. The result? A fabric that’s equally water resistant to our traditional range.
We advise that you do not wash dry oilskin. However it can be washed by hand, you’ll just need to reproof the cloth afterwards as it will loose its water-repellent finish.
ORGANIC BEESWAX OILSKIN
Our beeswax oilskin is our newest addition to the range. An organic greige fabric is coated with natural beeswax (which you can even smell when you handle the cloth). Like waxed paper, the cloth has a crisp, dry handle which will give your makes a unique leathery look over time. Out of all our oilskins, the beeswax will crisp and marble the most.
The beeswax oilskin is also the most lightweight – it’s actually slightly translucent so you may choose choose to line your beeswax cloth depending on what you’re making.
Apart from jackets and bagmaking, the beeswax cloth can also be used to wrap food, similar to beeswax paper.
OILKIN LINING OPTIONS
While you don’t need to line oilskin, this will ultimately depend on the pattern and your personal preference. If you do decide to line your make, we carry a Barrier Lining (in Tan and Black) specifically made to be used with our oilskin range, with a water repellent fluorocarbon finish. It works great as the lining for coats like The September or TN31 Parka. Our Duck Canvas cloth is also naturally repellent and has a very fine weave, making it a great choice to line your bags, like The Jack Tar or The Factotum. The Duck Canvas is quite heavy-weight, which gives bags a professional finish.
TIPS FOR SEWING WITH OILSKIN
I’m a beginner sewer. Is working with oilskin difficult?
While customers are often hesitant to work with oilskin – it’s a very stable fabric which makes it great for beginner sewists.
What size needle should I use with oilskin?
This will depend on what you’re making and how many layers of cloth you’re sewing. We generally would recommend a size 14 sewing needle for our oilskin and dry oilskin fabrics if you’re sewing through one layer of cloth and we would then move up to a 16 if you’re sewing through multiple layers.
As our beeswax oilskin is more lightweight, we’d start with a size 12 sewing needle and move up to a size 14 if you’re making something like The Landgate jacket.
Should I iron my oilskin?
Don’t iron oilskin, as it will remove the oil barrier from your cloth. To “press” your seams, use the blunt side of your scissors, a Bamboo Point Turner, or even press open with your thumb and index finger.
My pins and sewing needle have left puncture holes in my oilskin. What do I do?
Pin holes or etchings will puncture the fabric, so be careful to place pins within your seam allowance so the holes get lost in the stitching. If you need to unpick an area of stitching, rub the oilskin between your fingers to get rid of needle holes.
Should I use interfacing with my oilskin?
You won’t need to use interfacing on oilskin as it’s already got all the structure it needs.
My oilskin has arrived folded, which has creased the cloth. What do I do?
Our traditional oilskin will easily crease and wear over time adding to the overall look and feel of the cloth, so you really won’t notice these fold lines once you start to work with it. You can use a hair dryer to remove creases before working with the fabric if you want to.
How should I care for my finished oilskin makes?
Do not wash our traditional oilskin or beeswax oilskins. You can gently sponge dirty areas with a damp cloth. Our dry oilcloth can be hand washed, but it will need to be reproofed afterwards with our reproofing spray. Washing dry oilskin can change the surface of the cloth, so we still would avoid washing if you can.