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Quick Tip: Working With PUL (Polyurethane Laminate)

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What is soft, pliable, and waterproof; can withstand fairly high temperatures; and holds up to a lot of use? Like me, your first guess might have been those dang swimming pool noodles you always buy too many of and then never know what to do with once summer is over. But... the real answer is: PUL, polyurethane laminate if you wish to be formal. The broad category refers to any fabric with a polyurethane laminated to a base fabric. Most common is a polyester knit fabric laminated to a thin waterproof, non-breathable polyurethane backing. Originally developed for use in the medical industry, it's very durable and very popular right now for folks making diapers, diaper covers, changing pads, bibs, training pants, and outside the world of babies, it's often used to create reusable sandwich, snack and lunch bags. As with most man-made fabrics, there are some tips and techniques that make sewing with PUL easier.

We chose the thin, 1.33 mm PUL knit as a waterproof lining for our Baby Gifts: Pretty Bird Quick Trip Diaper Bag. It worked great. There are double laminates out there as well, which are usually the waterproof polyurethane sandwiched between two layers of polyester knit.

We've also used the popular cotton laminates, such as Heather Bailey's Nicey Jane cotton laminate, which we used for our Retro Fun: Toddler's Laminated Project Apron. Though different from PUL, because it's bonded to a natural cotton fabric (it is not waterproof - just water resistant), several of the pinning and sewing tips are applicable to this type of fabric as well.

Needles and pins

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Unlike the forgiving fibers of natural cotton weaves, when you make a hole in PUL, it's there for good. Because of this, the fewer pins the better. The more holes you make, the less waterproof a project can become. Many people are against ever using pins on PUL, but I'm not that rigid. If your project is a simple one without a lot of complex interlocking seams, you should try to avoid pins. You can substitute paperclips, hair clips, fusible seam tape, or a glue stick (Pritt Stick is a good one for fabric and it washes out with the first laundering). For more complicated projects, sometimes you just gotta use pins. In that case, try to keep your pinning within the seam allowance. Also, this is a funny tip, but try to avoid mistakes. Because if you have to rip out a seam, the holes will remain.

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The thickness of laminate you are using will determine the type of needle to use. A denim or jeans needle is a good choice for thicker laminates in a No. 14 to No. 16. For the thinner laminates, a ball point needle is a good choice in a No. 9 or No. 11. Always test first on a scrap.



Laminate can be 'sticky' going through your sewing machine. That great laminated surface, which is what makes it waterproof or water resistant, tends to want to stick to your presser foot. There are several ways to combat this:

  1. Use a Teflon® or Ultraglide foot. These feet have a special coating on the bottom, which allows them to move smoothly over difficult fabrics like PUL and vinyl.
  2. Use a Walking Foot, which has feed dogs incorporated into the foot itself. These feed dogs work in conjunction with the machine's feed dogs to feed fabric layers evenly.
  3. When possible, sew with the laminate side down against the feed dogs and the fabric side against your presser foot.
  4. Use a baker's paper or wax paper over the top of the laminate. The presser foot moves across the paper easily, and these papers are translucent so you can still see where you're going. Simply tear it away from the finished seam when done. It's most efficient to work with strips of paper just in the area where you're stitching.
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Use a high quality, 100% polyester thread rather than a cotton thread. A cotton thread can wick moisture to the outside.

Stitch selection

There are folks in both the zig zag camp and the straight stitch camp. I've found either stitch works fine. The key seems to be to lengthen your stitch. You might also want to loosen your tension slightly. Test your stitch on a scrap before you begin your project! This is always a good rule of thumb, but is especially important when working with difficult fabrics.

Laundering and other care issues

Because PUL fabric was originally developed to withstand the intense heat of sanitizing washers and dryers used in hospitals, it will certainly hold up in your home washer and dryer. In fact, washing and drying with HIGH heat can help to seal up needle holes and seams.

  1. Use mild detergent
  2. Do NOT use fabric softeners, chemical stain lifters or bleach
  3. Do NOT iron
  4. If you use PUL for a project that stays wet for extended periods (such as with diapers), you can add a ½ cup of baking soda to the wash cycle to prevent odor build up.



Comments (46)

BKM said:
BKM's picture

This may be a real strange question. I really don't know what PUL feels like but I was searching for waterproof fabric to make rain covers for my leather motorcycle saddle bags. Would these fabrics work? I see some has stretch. That would be awesome. Is it really completely waterproof?

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

@BKM - I"m afraid I can't guarantee this fabric is completely waterproof. It is stretchy though, which would make it a good choice for a bag cover, and eople use it all the take to make diaper covers - so they obviously rely on it being pretty dang reliable - but it really isn't designed for heavy outdoor use. As an alternative, you might check the options at The Rainshed (link below). They specialize in outdoor gear and so their "waterproof fabric" will likely be more heavy duty. 


Giovanna said:
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Hi, I was wondering if PUL fabric can stand a molding machine like the ones we use to mold bra cups. Any idea?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
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@ Giovanna - sorry, that's not something we have experience with - unfortunately, no idea.

Kathy Green said:
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Just FYI... I found a great website for PUL by the yard.  Solid colors are 7.90/yard and they have a huge variety of prints.  Not just baby prints, either.  I am making rain ponchos out of PUL for my grandsons for Christmas.  The website is naturesfabrics.com

margor said:
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I bought some pul fabric and was wondering I can make pullover bibs with this fabric.

AnastasiaDe said:
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i have trouble when sewing two layers pul on the bottom sticky part towarde the feed dogs and polyester fleece on top. The problem is the thread from the bobbin is not catching at all or bunches up. As a result top thread rips. I switched to denim needle even though it's thin pul. It made it better for a little and then same problem again. I played around with tension A LOT,cleaned the ling switched needles Re threaded again everything - doesn't help for long. worked on the scrap fabric and then again not cathing the thread and bunching and ripping on my project.

LI was going t get a walking foot but I have a slant shank singer and I didnt find compatible one yet:(

anu suggestions on on thread not catching properly? Thanks!  

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

@ AnastasiaDe - it's hard to tell long distance but it sounds like the PUL is just not feeding correctly across the plate. Since you don't have a walking foot, you can try slipping a piece of wax paper or parchment paper under the PUL. You just need a strip wide enough to cover the feed dogs. Stitch as normal. The paper should allow the feed dogs to move better. When done, the paper can be gently torn away. 

Mimiofsi said:
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Can I use 100% cotton fabric to bind a bib made with Babyville PUL?

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

@ Mimiofsi - There should be no problem with binding the PUL with cotton. However, if you want to make double-sure, you could direct your question right to the experts at Babyville: http://www.babyvilleboutique.com

Susan F said:
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Any tips on joining the PUL to plain knit?  I plan to make a fitted sheet with a PUL deck and knit sides.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
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@ Susan F - I don't have anything in addition to what you see above. You may want to visit our friends at Babyville Boutique - they are the PUL experts as far as I'm concerned: http://www.babyvilleboutique.com

Anne S said:
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I'm a bit confused about PUL because I often see recommendations, like you posted here, that it can be dried with high heat to "seal" the needle holes and seams. But none of the diaper covers I've bought have ever required sealing, nor have the diaper manufacturers recommended it. Is it only home-sewn PUL that needs sealing? And if so, why? Thanks!

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

@ Anne S -- commerical items are always manufacturer differently than homemade items. We are not the be-all-end-all experts on PUL, but you know who is? The folks at Babyville Boutique. I would check out their resources and perhaps direct your question to them. Their products are some of our faves.  http://www.babyvilleboutique.com

Anne S said:
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Hi Liz! Thank you for the quick reply! I did check with Babyville and they responded this way:

"If you are purchasing premade PUL diapers and any other items, I would hope they have been pre-sealed."


Valarie D Nelson said:
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I bought the PUL fabric at www.sewingwithnancy.com. They sell kits to make diaper covers ect. They had the colored Velcro, colored snaps and the colored binding.  At the time the kits were on sell but they also sell the PUL by the yard. There is a book that comes with kit. It contains the patterns and directions to make several styles. Also in the book it says that you can put the finished item in the dryer for 20 minutes and the holes from the sewing needles will close.

Danette said:
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When I worked with PUL, I found that the only needles that worked for me were Schmetz Stretch needles. All other needles skipped stiches.

Just thought someone else might find this useful if all other needles aren't working for you.
freckleface78 said:
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@mje : try http://www.diapersewingsupplies.com/ Their PUL is 1mm and very soft and flexible. I bought the diaper fabric at Joann's for my first round of diapers and this time I tried something different. I love all the choices of colors and prints at diaper sewing supplies! I'm sewing some right now, actually. I just came to look up a question I had. My favorite has to be the girly skulls. smilies/cheesy.gif
Kristine said:
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I just bought laminated diaper fabric at Joannes.  I am having a TERRIBLE time stitching.  I am only getting a few threads to catch. The needle pierces the 2 layers but the tread does not catch.   What type needle and thread are you using and what is your tension and stitch lenght?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
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@ Kristine - above we mention the following: "The thickness of laminate you are using will determine the type of needle to use. A denim or jeans needle is a good choice for thicker laminates in a No. 14 to No. 16. For the thinner laminates, a ball point needle is a good choice in a No. 9 or No. 11. Always test first on a scrap." You also need a Teflon® type presser foot or a strip of wax or parchment paper in between. If your presser foot isn't moving smoothly it can cause thread problems. 

mje said:
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I have been looking for 1mm PUL and can't find it. I bought some at Joann's but it was 2mm and seemed to ridgid. I would like to find something to use for a gathered apron. Any suggestions?
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ PhyllisH - your question is beyond my expertise with PUL. We haven't launched into the diaper-making arena, but - as you mentioned in your post below - they are a LOT of sites and blogs online about just that topic. I think your question would be better answered by one of these more-experienced sources.
PhyllisH said:
PhyllisH's picture
Now I have a question..

I have been wanting to make some diapers out of our old tshirts (for decor purposes.. we have some neat old shirts we've collected) but obviously it would have to either be made into Laminate (expensive process) or require a cover.. Can I put a layer of Tshirt/Jersey outside a layer of PUL? Does it change any of the waterproofing/breathability options? I haven't decided on lining yet but I'd like to have the whole thing (AIO/AI2/Pockets whatever) made from almost all reused materials with the exception of a layer of PUL for waterproofing.. Thoughts?
Hannahtjie said:
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You can put a layer of t-shirt outside of the PUL, but unless it is a polyester t-shirt, I wouldn't recommend it.  For the simple reason that once the diaper inside is wet, the moisture will wick through the sides a bit.  I won't be soaking wet, but a bit damp, pee damp, which I personally think smells horrid.  What you can do if the t-shirt is cotton, is to cut part of the t-shirt design you like out of the t-shirt, and applique it to the outer PUL cover.  Then, as you assemble your diaper, you add a second layer of PULL across the width where you put the applique.  It will prevent any possible wicking.  I don't do it throughout the diaper, just the butt area where I usually add my appliques.  Here are some photos that might help a bit: http://www.theprofessionalbaby.com/?p=387  You can ignore the part about the fleece edges if you don't plan on doing that.  Hope this helps!

Granny Zann said:
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Hi Phyllis, I have not made diapers using PUL however, I have used it for training pants and I did use cute tshirt type fabric as my outer layer and then the PUL next to that and then flannel as the layer closest to the skin. I would think you could do the same for diapers except of course you would be using thicker soaker materials or more of it than I did for the trainers which my little grand daughter just adores. Hope you had great luck with your diapers.

PhyllisH said:
PhyllisH's picture
PUL has been a recent addition to our Joanns and not all employees knew about it.. ask specifically for Babyville/Cloth diaper and PUL and it might trigger a section for them. Our local Joanns (both stores) have a Babyville section. Typically $12.99 a yard. I found a yard here, yard there in the remnants section over the last few weeks to start my stash. The free diaper pattern I got shows you can make up to 12 newborn OR 8 Medium OR 6 large out of a yard of PUL (not including lining, soakers, etc obviously.. just as far as the amount of PUL goes). This changed the game for me so I've been buying remnants by the yard since they sell at 50% off. I have found them atabout $7.50/yd online sometimes but thats plus shipping as well. There are some great websites out there..
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
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@ noa - I don't know about using a shower curtain lining. I have never tried it myself and so would be unable to tell you if it would work. I would suggest searching online through some the the sites that focus on diaper making. Also - take a look at the links below about the new Babyville PUL products -- very cool and easy to find.
noa said:
noa's picture
can i use thin layer shower curtain as a diaper outside liner. please help me with it
zai said:
zai's picture
i couldnt find pul for diapers any idea if it is used on any other product so i can reuse the material. thanks
AGriffey said:
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To Mama2Eleven - Our Joann's store does carry PUL. They don't have a large selection of it yet but it becoming more in demand so watch your store if it doesn't have it - they may have it soon. they also now carry fold over elastic. They will be getting make at home cloth diaper kits also - my sister works at our local store and keeps me filled in on all the new stuff. smilies/smiley.gif
Martyann said:
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Just an old tip I used many years ago when we didn't have as many useful tools available to make our sewing projects easier. When making tote bags using vinyl I discovered if I used waxpaper on the top of the vinyl while sewing the pressure foot would glide over with no sticking. Works in a pinch and it just tears away when you are done.
Mama2Eleven said:
Mama2Eleven's picture
I am getting ready to make my first PUL diaper covers. Before doing so I have been doing a lot of online research. I decided on All-in-Twos so I have already made Velcro fitted flannel pocket diapers. For the waterproof diaper covers (mine will be ONE layer of PUL so they can be wiped clean at some diaper changes) the best tip I read was to put a lining layer behind the velcro that will cover the needle holes with an un-pierced layer of PUL.
ALSO - I went to JoAnn's after confirming they had PUL and they did not. They said OIL CLOTH canvas was the same and I did buy some of that. It is heavier than the PUL I found at Hancock fabrics. But my best selection and price was found through www.wahmsupply.com smilies/wink.gif
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
Hi Snowbaby313 -- I haven't run into a "sticky" issue with laminate. I did a quick search online and didn't find any discussions about it either. Perhaps another sew4home friend will pick up this thread and help you out. If you are our Facebook friend, you might try posting a question about it on our wall. Maybe someone there will have run into this problem.

You can find our facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/sew4home
Snowbaby313 said:
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I have a PU laminate jacket that has become very sticky. any solutions to get rid of that tacky feel ?
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
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Hi Cody, I'm not a diaper sewing expert, but most folks I talk with do try to avoid extra needle holes in the PUL. So, I'd say stitch to the outer flannel layer only. For the same reason, a lot of folks choose snaps over Velcro. This is a great site for all things diaper: http://www.diapersewing.com/
Cody said:
Cody's picture
I am using PUL for diaper covers and I am wondering if I can sew the velcro directly to the PUL or should I sew it only to the outer flannel layer. I think by sewing it to both layers the velcro would hold up better but on the other hand will the sewing needle holes damage the integrity of the PUL?
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
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Hi Corky -- We're so happy to help. Bibs and lunch bags would be perfect projects for your PUL scraps.
Corky said:
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thanks for the great tips, Liz. I bought a scrap bag of pieces of PUL and haven't a clue what to make with it now that I have it, but now I feel comfortable to make a little lunch bag or bibs.
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
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Hi Brittney, ordering online might be a better option for you. Because PUL is very popular right now, it can be difficult to find. We actually did purchase ours at a local Joann Fabrics, so perhaps your local store was out of stock. You can find it online at

fabric.com: http://www.fabric.com/ProductD...40323f5290

and online at Joann Fabrics: http://www.joann.com/joann/cat...mmc=Google Base-_-Comparison-_-Website-_-PUL WHITE&utm_source=PUL WHITE&utm_medium=Comparison&utm_content=Website&utm_campaign=Google Base
Brittney said:
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Love this material but where can you find it. I've looked at Jo-anns, Hobby Lobby and a few local shops but am not having any luck finding any of this. Please help! Thanks for the ideas!!
Edna said:
Edna's picture
You are showing spools of Polyneon thread which is an embroidery thread, not strong enough for sewing construction. They are indeed pretty, shiny and decorative, but with repeated washings or stress, this type of thread will eventually break or fray. There are several sewing threads that are made of Polyester, such as Mettler Metrosene, Gutermann all purpose thread. NAYY with either company, just an observation.
Jessi said:
Jessi's picture
Has anyone ever used an iron-on vinyl product to make their own water resisant fabric? I'm considering making a Halloween bag for a few mommy friends of mine and had thought about using this product on the inside to help with bottle spills and such.
Dani said:
Dani's picture
I have made a couple of lunch bags with this and I had some issues. Thank you so much for you tips, they will certainly help me do the others.