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How To Turn Any Fabric Into A Laminate With Iron-On Vinyl

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Today's popular laminated cottons start out as basic woven 100% cottons, which are then coated with a Phthalate-free laminate. They're ideal for any project where you want some waterproofing or the ability to wipe the finished item clean with a damp cloth. Think baby bibs, changing pads, raincoats, outdoor tablecloths, reusable shopping bags, and more. Many of your favorite fabric designers are adding laminate choices to their collections, giving you dozens and dozens of very pretty options to choose from. But sometimes, there's a specific print you can't find as a laminate; such as when you're using a very specific set of fabrics and want everything to match exactly. There's an easy way to make your own laminated fabric with iron-on vinyl. The most widely used product of this type, and the one we're using for today's tutorial, is Heat 'n' Bond by Therm O Web

Iron-on vinyl comes in thin sheets with peel-away backing paper. You can usually find it in two finishes: gloss and matte. It's similar to the clear vinyl contact paper you use for laminating paper items or lining shelves. But because you adhere the Heat 'n' Bond product with your iron, it's actually easier to use than contact paper.

Choosing a fabric to laminate

Heat 'n' Bond is designed for use on all fabrics, and if you use basic pre-washed cottons, you're going to be fine. Where you might find some challenges are with very thin fabric, material that doesn't iron out flat, fabric that melts if you iron it, or fabric with a nap or deep texture. The laminate has to be able to make contact with the entire surface of your material or you'll get bubbling.

This is what makes a basic cotton print ideal. You can iron it very flat at a high heat and it has enough bulk to support the layer of laminate.

The only real draw back is width. On a pre-packaged roll or on a bolt, the widest available option we found is 24". This makes it best for projects that work within this size, however, you can butt together two pieces or even overlap them slightly. In either case, the resulting "seam" almost (but never completely) disappears. 

We researched what safety studies had been done and found that Therm O Web (the makers of of Heat 'n' Bond) had tested their product for full compatibility with government safety regulations. Their testing showed the Heat 'n' Bond Iron-On Vinyl contained no BPA or lead content. However, it does utilize a plasticizer, DIDP, and even though this Phthalate is not banned by the government, as a precaution, the company does suggest iron-on vinyl not be used on items that are specifically meant to be chewed on or sucked on by children.

Getting ready to laminate your fabric

You should iron the Heat 'n Bond onto your fabric before you cut it out. Begin with a piece of fabric big enough to cut out your pattern piece(s). As with most projects, the material should be pre-washed so it doesn't shrink. However, if you're using an outdoor fabric with sizing and/or you know you're never going to wash the project you are starting, you are off-the-hook.

Ironing on the vinyl

  1. Lay your fabric right side up and flat on your work surface. With your iron set to a medium-wool setting, iron the fabric completely flat. It's important there are no wrinkles.
  2. Cut out a piece of Heat 'n' Bond large enough to cover the fabric piece(s) you'll be cutting out. The backing paper has a grid on it, which is a helpful cutting guide.
  3. Peel the backing away from the vinyl. I was pleased to see that peeling apart the two layers was easy. Many of these kind of products can be sooooooo hard to get started, I often lose patience with this very first step. But with the Heat 'n' Bond, just pick at the corner with your fingernail, and the two layers separate right away. 
  4. Don't toss the paper. You use it in the ironing process.
  5. Place the vinyl sticky-side-down on the right side of your ironed fabric.
  6. The laminate is only a little bit sticky; you can still easily move it around until it's in exactly in the right position.
  7. Place the backing paper you just removed over the vinyl. Iron the entire piece with medium pressure. The heat of the iron is activating the fabric glue in the Heat 'n' Bond. You don't want to melt the vinyl itself, so keep the iron moving.
  8. Take away the backing paper and flip your fabric over. Iron from the wrong side.
  9. Ta-da: your very own laminated fabric.
  10. You can now cut out your pattern piece and sew with it just like any other laminated fabric.
  11. Modern laminates are not at all difficult to work with; they are quite soft and pliable. Again, take a minute to check out our tutorial:
    Successful Sewing With Laminated Cottons (And Other Sticky Stuff) for more more tips on sewing, finishing, and caring for laminates.



Comments (103)

Sophie Gudmundson said:
Sophie Gudmundson's picture

Hello, thank you for this article. Could I ask you whether the matte version is more pliable than the gloss one? I'd like to use the matte and was wondering a couple of things. It would be for a lunch bag for the kids and all their food is in safe containers. The project I have in mind has to be reversed and I wondered if in the process of putting the bag inside out the vinyl wrinkles or not. Also, would it peel if the seams are not encased? Thank you

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Sophie - As you can see by the date above, it's been awhile since we did this product review, so our experience isn't recent. In general, I don't remember there being any difference between the matte and the gloss in terms of pliability. We did not test it on a project that had a lot of manipulation - ie. turning right side out after stitching. It would likely depend on how well you fused the vinyl to the fabric. We did use it on a fold-up changing mat and there wasn't any wrinkling when folding and unfolding. Regarding peeling, that is a problem with any type of fusible product. If the edges are raw, there is always a chance it could come up a bit along that edge... kind of like a pice of tape. 

Davida Fernandez said:
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I've been printing my own fabric pieces on inkjet fabric. It says that the final product should be washed carefully, by hand, and not too many times because it won't withstand multiple washings. Do you think if I laminate it, will it make the print last longer? 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Davida - We haven't done anything with inkjet printed fabric so I don't have a specific suggestion. If you laminate, it means you will only be able to wipe clean the surface. The other concern I wonder about is if the heat of fusing the laminate in place might reverse the affect of the inkjetting and possibly cause the image to smear. Your best bet would likely be to try a small test and see what happens. 

Kathleen B said:
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I'd like to make a bag with musical fabric for my daughter to carry her music in. I have some left over fabric from her quilt. I'd like to know how well this laminate would cover over seams in a pieced together fabric. 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Kathleen - As you can see from the date above, this article was done quite awhile ago, and at that time, we didn't test using it over a seam, so we can't give you a guarantee. That said, as long as you firmly adhere the vinyl, it should work. You might consider testing it with a few small scraps stitched together before making your entire bag. In addition, it might be good to add a layer of fusible interfacing on the wrong side of your pieced panel(s) in order to achieve as flat a surface as possible prior to layering the vinyl.

Rebecca M said:
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For children's products I make, I like to use the thermoweb ultra heat n bond. I was able to get a SDS sheet from the company which seemed to indicate harmful substances are not an issue, but no luck with actual lead free or phthalate free test results. Have you been able to access this info and if so, could you point me the right direction. Thanks so much!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Rebecca - So sorry; this is a rather old article, and we haven't received any new information recently. Your best bet would indeed be to go directly to Therm-o-Web. 

Helen mckinnon said:
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I am a Swedish weaver.  The fabric I use is monks cloth  which is cotton, my warn is not wool.  My hope is to laminate panels for the front of purses.  will your product suit my application?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Helen - This is not a product we did extensive testing with, so we can't give you a guarantee of what will work and what won't. From what you describe, it sounds like it could certainly be an option for your purses. You could try reaching out directly to the manufacturer to see if they have additional (or newer) information: http://www.thermowebonline.com/

Xeonni said:
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I am wanting to make pie covers and bowl covers but wanted them washable/wipeable .... Would this work? Also would it work for lunch bags/ reusable snack,sandwich bags?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
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@Xeonni - Yes, this product could certainly work in ether of those situations, however, it's not necessarily strictly listed as food safe. That said, we've seen a lot of tutorials on line that use it for wraps such as you describe. Here is what is stated on their site: Therm O Web tested our Iron-On Vinyl product for full compatibility with new government regulations. Our testing found that Iron-On Vinyl contains no BPA or lead content. However, Iron-On Vinyl does utilize a plasticizer, DIDP, and even though this Phthalate is not banned by the government, as a precaution we would suggest that Iron-On Vinyl not be used on items that are meant to be chewed on or sucked on by children.

Samantha said:
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Hi how does your sewing machine react to sewing the laminated material or the heat n bonded material? Are tbere any tricks to sewing with heat n bonded material? My sewing machine keeps getting sticky stuff on the needle and making the machine not sew right. Any tips i can use?

Lamp Lady said:
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Hello, I was wondering if I could use iron on laminate in place of styrene for a lamp shade I will be making...? Is it safe to do this? Are they the same thing? How do they differ, if not the same? Thanks!!!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Lamp Lady - I'm sorry but we are not familiar with working with styrene so we can't give you an informed comparison. We also haven't done any tests with the iron on vinyl to see how it would perform with the continuous heat of a lightbulb. The smaller packages are not very expensive; it would probably be best to get a little bit and test on a prototype shade to see if it gives you the results you want. 

Vanessa G. said:
Vanessa G.'s picture

I guess I didn't ask the right question.  Which vinyl did you use in the bib you made?  Flex vinyl matte or Iron vinyl matte?  I want to purchase the right vinyl.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Vanessa -  As I mentioned above, we haven't used it on any of our bib projects. The sample in the pictures above is from our little pacifier pouch. And in the top photo, that folded item in part of a travel changing pad. For the bibs we've done on the site, we haven't used this product. In the photos above, that is the iron-on vinyl in a matte finish. The matte and gloss versions both perform in the same way; it's really more about what you'd like your finished bib to look like. 

Carol S said:
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Would this work well to coat the top (or bottom) piece of fabric used in making coasters?  I was planning to use the vinyl cotton, a batting, and then a cotton as the three layers.  I'm thinking that instead of sewing it so that I have to turn the piece after sewing, I would contruct the coasters so that I just have to pink the edges of the fabrics instead.  

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Carol - That sounds like a good use for this product. The only thing we've not tested is pinking the edges after adhering the vinyl. You might want to test that on some scraps to make sure the clipped edge doesn't make the vinyl want to curl up. Not saying it will - just that it would be something to test before making a bunch. 

grandma Jean said:
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Hi, I have made the diaper covers with the pricey stuff and am interested in making my own waterproofing fabric, but am faced with which Heat 'n' bond weight to get Heavy, lite or ultra lite... which one would be best for making the water proof cover for cloth diapers... thank you in advance for your answer

Dbai said:
Dbai's picture

Grandma Jean,

I make cloth diapers to sell (and for my own baby) and I tried laminating some of my own fabrics with all different kinds of iron-on vinyls.  They simply are NOT the same as Polyurethane laminate (PUL) or TPU! Trust me: the little bit you *may* save in laminating your own fabrics will not be worth the difference in both the finished product, the suitability for the purpose and how long it will last. You simply cannot wash covers made with vinyl over and over as you need to for diapers or covers (or a waterproof layer of a diaper).  Plus, it will never have the flexibility of PUL or TPU.  These fabrics do not have vinyl, but rather polyurethane (a different kind of plastic) laminated to them in a professional process that is much more uniform and secure than ironing-on.  That said: Have you checked Etsy? You can get great PUL and/or TPU fabrics there in relatively small quantities for great prices! Good luck!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ grandma Jean -- we haven't tested this product for diaper covers, so can't give you a definitive answer. In general, we'd guess lite or ultra lite as you would need some flexibility in the covers. That said, we'd recommend jumping on to one of the many, many diaper making sites and forums to ask your question. There will be folks there I'm sure who have tried this exact thing. Try a simple web search, using the term "DIY Diaper Covers" or similar. 

Pam said:
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I want to use vinyl fuse on a bag I already own. I need to know if the vinyl will fuse to its self as there may be overlap? 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
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@ Pam - yes, it will fuse to itself - remember to use a pressing cloth.

Babz said:
Babz's picture

I'm wondering if I can use this on the inside on my son's pocket diapers. They're leaking & I've stripped them thinking there was some sort of build up. If anything I'm hoping to reinforce the PUL in his cloth diapers, preventing leaks altogether! 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Babz - We're not experts in the baby diaper biz, but I don't think I'd recommend this for use against a baby's skin. Maybe just another layer of the PUL? There are also tons of diaper forums out there with moms who may have some more specific ideas.

MommaNWife said:
MommaNWife's picture

I cant see why this couldnt be used, you do realized that this is the exact same thing they use for PUL?? PUL is basically vinyl. Besides it wouldnt be touching the babies skin if its in a pocket.

DBai said:
DBai's picture

MommaNWife: This is NOT the same thing they use for PUL or TPU! Vinyl is one kind of plastic (-CH=CH2), while Polyurethane is another. Totally different chemical compounds!  And part of why it couldn't be used effectively is because even the lightest vinyl simply doesn't have the flexibility of polyurethane. The diaper would be stiff and uncomfortable. Not to mention, to make it leak proof (assuming the PUL is the problem rather than, say, the elastic which is more likely), the new plastic coating would need to reach all the way into the seams. If someone is going to go to THAT much trouble to try to make a diaper waterproof again (taking it completely apart), then it makes MUCH more sense to just.... change out or add a layer of PUL or TPU.  The iron-on vinyl idea would cost more money, be more trouble and be less suited to the task.

FYI: I make and sell cloth diapers and have tried iron-on vinyl for fun. It's just not suited to the task.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ MommaNWife - Thanks for your input! As I mentioned in the comment above, we certainly do not consider ourselves to be diaper-making experts, but there are many, many forums out there who do. The "pocket diaper" is a specialty project, and as you mentioned, adding a layer of the iron-on vinyl between the layers may indeed be an option. We haven't delved into any diaper projects, and so always defer to those more experienced.

Sherry Kelly said:
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I want to make reusable coloring placemats. Do you know if markers or crayons can be used on this and then wiped off?

Sherry Kelly said:
Sherry Kelly's picture

Thank you so much for your prompt response! I saw the chalk cloth placemats (great idea!) but I'm looking for a way for kids to be able to draw clothing onto animals, dolls that are printed on fabric. Any ideas? Maybe just quilt it and use washable markers? Thanks for any thoughts!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Sherry Kelly - sounds like a cute idea. I'm afraid I don't have any additional tricks. I haven't worked much with the washable markers and so am not sure how "washable" they really are. I always thought that meant washable off your hands but not necessarily off fabirc. Maybe a craft vinyl. So you could have the fabric and then cover it with a craft vinyl. They could see the fabric through the vinyl but the vinyl would be good to draw onto. Maybe buy a small square and test it with markers and crayons. We used it recently for our see-through ribbon pouches: http://www.sew4home.com/projects/storage-solutions/zippered-see-through-...

Sherry Kelly said:
Sherry Kelly's picture

Washable markers do wash out of fabric, I've even seen them used for marking quilts lately! But the vinyl's a good idea. I could just put it on top of the fabric and sew a binding around the edge. I have some, I'll have to check and see how well it works for coloring. Thanks for your help!

MrWilson said:
MrWilson's picture

I am wanting to make some lamp shades, would this be Ok... it is the heat resistant part I am thinking about, although most light globes are around 40 - 75 watts and on not think there is enough heat to effect the fabric.

LizCrafting said:
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If you're really worried about heat, you could also use a compact flourescent light bulb instead of a regular bulb - the 70 watt equivilants are like 13 watts and barely hot at all!

MrWilson said:
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Thanks kindly for your quick response ! 

You have a great informative website..keep up the good work.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ MrWilson - I don't think you'll have a problem with just the heat from a simple light bulb.. My only caution with this type of overlay is stated in the article - the sheets aren't super big so you are likely to have a seam to try to hide.

sally thompson said:
sally thompson's picture

I would like to use this product to laminate some fabric to slipcover chairs my dogs sit in in our bedroom . Do you think this would work?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ sally thompson - this type of laminate is best for small items - I think doing a whole slipcover would be way to time consuming. It would probably be easier and less expensive to buy a laminated fabric and make the slipcovers from that. There are lots of great options in laminates, from cotton laminates to oil cloth to vinyl, and they are super wide. Fabric.com has a great selection: https://www.fabric.com/home-decor-fabric-vinyl-fabric.aspx?Source=Header

Susan M. said:
Susan M.'s picture

I too had the vinyl tear on the outer part of a lunch bag I made for my sister just two months.   Prior to that I made several diaper bags as gifts and I'm hoping the vinyl I used for the inside of the bags has held up.  Otherwise that will be quite embarassing.  The fabric I use for these bags isn't cheap so I will no longer use the vinyl.  It's a great idea but needs to be perfected.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
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@ Susan M -- PUL is a good option for the inside of bags or anything that needs to be sewn and then turned. 

Susan M. said:
Susan M.'s picture

Thank you Liz.  I have a diaper bag to make for a baby shower  in February and I'll try it with PUL.  By the way, two of the diaper bags I made was the Oh Baby Beautiful Diaper Bag and they came out great!  I tweaked the pattern a bit and added pockets on both sides of the bag, on the back and also changed the pockets on the inside.  Can't have enough storage!  Love all the project sew4home offers

rebekah said:
rebekah's picture

I had the same problem with using it with making a diaper bag i ended up having to take off all the lamanate and it ended up tearing my diaper bag!! =(  I did not see ur tutorial before hand but needless to say I will be remaking the bag with ur AMAZING tutroial u have on here for a diaper bag!! I will use PUL on the inside and I use it to make diapers so it will be easy for me to work with!! =) Thanks for All your great tutorials!! I am going to have a ton of fun!! =)

Alma Alvarez said:
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Hola me podrian informar  como se llaman las telas  y el  hule??