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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.

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Comments (103)

Luzmina said:
Luzmina's picture

Hola Alma!

Las telas utilizadas son algodón 100%, del tipo americano estampado y el vinilo o papel plástico es especial para adherirlo a las telas de algodón con la ayuda de la plancha. ;)

Creo que al final del artículo, aparece el nombre del vinilo. 

Saludos

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

@ Alma Alvarez - I'm sorry, but we are unable to effectively translate your question in order to provide an answer.

ELicia said:
ELicia's picture

Google translator:

#1 Hello could inform me as they call fabrics and rubber ?

 

#2 Hello Soul! The fabrics used are 100% cotton , American style print and vinyl or plastic wrap is special to adhere it to cotton fabrics with the help of the iron. ; ) I think at the end of the article , the name appears vinyl . regards

DianneJYC said:
DianneJYC's picture

I just finished using this to laminate the inside of a diaper bag.  I have to say--NEVER AGAIN.  It was easy to apply and sew, however, when it got to the point where I had to turn the bag inside out--the laminate cracked, wrinkled and tore.  !!!  I was able to fix most of it with the iron, but was very disappointed.  Next time, I'll just insist that the friend I'm making if for pick laminated fabric.  It is disappointing to see the expensive fabric ruined.  When I spend such a long time on a project, I want the right tools and quality fabrics.

rebekah said:
rebekah's picture

I had this same issue!! =(  I will use PUL next time!! =) this is good for like small things not anything that needs to be turned inside out!! =(

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

@ DianneJYC - sorry to hear about that. We had no problems with it, but we did not test it on a complex shape that needed to be turned. Perhaps this is best for smaller, flat projects. A laminate or PUL - which is what we've lined our diaper bags with - would probably be a more flexible alternative. Below is a link to our diaper bag from this same Oh Baby series:

http://www.sew4home.com/projects/storage-solutions/oh-baby-fabriccom-bea...

liannemclaughlin said:
liannemclaughlin's picture

What are you ironing on?  The Therm O Web vinyl directions say you have to use firm surface.  When I try ironing on my iron board, the vinyl wrinkles.  What surface do you iron on?

Thanks for the great tutorial.

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

@ liannemclaughlin - we used our smooth painted wood work surface. If you have a particularly "cushy" ironing board pad, maybe you could try slipping a thin board in between the layers of the cover to add a little stability. 

Trecia Swan said:
Trecia Swan's picture

I am from South Africa and would like to purchase this product. I am really at my witts end because nobody cn seem to help me. would be much appreciated, I am looking for a distributor in south Africa or either buy from the supplier.

Christi said:
Christi's picture

I am also from SA and having the same problem as you (Tercia Swan).  Have you been able to find the product or something similar here?

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

@ Trecia Swan - sorry you are frustrated. Sew4Home doesn't sell any products directly. Your best bet is to contact Therm O Web directly to ask about distribution. Here is a link to their website: http://www.thermowebonline.com

ani said:
ani's picture

oh and if its ok for 400/+ thread count cotton sheets and or blends in gen? cheers

ani said:
ani's picture

know where any good pictures online/safe links are of what the MATTE finish looks like to see before buying, and if it'll work the same over photos printed or transferred to the normally ok plain cotton fabric, ta?

Sophiewife said:
Sophiewife's picture

Hi all, I am new to this fabric - can this be washed once completed? Will the bond hold? Thank you!

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

@ Sophiewife - It is dependent on what fabric you are using as a base, if it is washable, you should be able to wash the finished item on gentle, however, they do say its best for creating a wipe clean surface. Here are the tips directly from Therm O Web:

Tips:

  • Pre-wash all materials (without fabric softener) you will be using prior to fusing. Pre-test adhesive on materials prior to fusing.
  • Do not touch iron directly to the Vinyl. Always cover Vinyl with protective sheet or parchment paper before ironing. Do not iron directly to your ironing board.
  • Wipe clean with damp cloth. If washing is a must, wash on gentle cycle and line dry. If any peeling or crinkling occurs, cover the vinyl with parchment paper and reiron.
Brigid said:
Brigid's picture

Has anyone used this on a canvas bag that's already been sewn together? I have a monogrammed canvas diaper bag that I would love to protect, but I wasn't sure how well this product would turn out if I ironed it on over seams or a monogram.

Max said:
Max's picture

Did you ever try it on a purchased bag. I want to do that but am afraid of taking the bag apart with all the horror stories of cracking when you invert 

thanks max

Allison said:
Allison's picture

Do you have any suggestions on how to make larger projects?  I want to make something that is wider than 17"  Do you just fuse the 2 together?

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

@ Allison - here's what we said above about that:

"The only real draw back is width. On a pre-packaged roll or on a bolt, the widest available option is 17". 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."

Caitlin said:
Caitlin's picture

I hate to naysay, especially since this technique opens up a world of possibilities (!!!) but for those who are concerned about chemicals such as BPA, PVC and phthalates, especially for little babes - Heat-n-bond is not safe, correct? Are there any methods to accomplish a laminated fabric, without using such chemicals?

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

@ Caitlin - See our note above reagarding this particular project: Since this is a baby series, 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.

Because you must apply some type of plastic based surface to achieve a laminated effect, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to find one that is completely chemical free.You might look at the Babyville products as an alternative, however, you would have to use their fabric options - you couldn't create your own. Here is their main site: http://www.babyvilleboutique.com

bellsam said:
bellsam's picture

This is really easy. I thought you could only do this with fabric that was purchased prelaminated. this really increases the possibilites of style and design

Dona4ky said:
Dona4ky's picture

This tutorial is the best! I am thinking of getting the iron on vinyl to have on hand for crafting!

Dona4ky said:
Dona4ky's picture

You make this so easy to understand! I love the iorn on vinly! This makes it seem effortless.

teagster said:
teagster's picture

Very helpful! With this product I can make use of some of the fun prints in my stash.

melissas said:
melissas's picture

Thank you for the information on Heat'n'Bond, I was trying to find out about it a couple months ago, I wanted to make something with laminated fabric but decided not to. I'll give this a try though! 

Sewinbear said:
Sewinbear's picture

Awesome! thanks sooooo much for this info!! Will have to try!  :)

Allison C said:
Allison C's picture

Love this stuff, but it is hard to find locally.  I didn't know fabric.com carried it so I'm pretty excited to add that to my next order. 

SewLindaAnn said:
SewLindaAnn's picture

I have been trying to find this product locally and noone knew what I was talking about! So great to know that Fabric.com has it. I have their site bookmarked to check out their daily deals, right now I'm loving the linen. Mixed with a cute print, or even a classic design working with the vinyl would be perfect. I'd love to have some new ideas on game and toy carry pouches for kids. Something that you could put mulitple things in and not be too bulky to carry themselves.

kittyannart said:
kittyannart's picture

I've had a roll for awhile, too scared to use it. This info will spur me onto making something laminated, maybe a sandwich bag for work. Thanks. 

Anonymous said:
Anonymous's picture

I've had a roll for awhile, too scared to use it. This info will spur me onto making something laminated, maybe a sandwich bag for work. Thanks. 

Lisa Marie said:
Lisa Marie's picture

I've seen this vinyl at the store.  Might have to give it a try!

Laura Adams said:
Laura Adams's picture

This would make adorable placemats, too. One for Christmas or Easter, one for a birthday ("You Are Special!"), some out of their favorite animals or cartoon characters. Wonderful fun.

gaylemn said:
gaylemn's picture

what a neat idea. i wonder if this would work to make a cover for a cushion that my friend who is in a wheel chair needs for his shower, any ideas anybody?

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

@ gaylemn - I would not promise that this would be waterPROOF -- water resistant, yes, but probably not enough to cover a shower cushion. I would recommend something like PUL or even repurposing a shower curtain. Then, the insert would also need to be water resistant/proof, such as a dense foam. You might even check with a marine store to inquire what they recommend for boat cushions. 

Sabine said:
Sabine's picture

Thank you for this! I think I gonna make my own placemats with this and these pretty fabrics.

RedHairedLady said:
RedHairedLady's picture

I love this! Laminate is so expensive, and comes in limited designs, so being able to turn any fabric into a laminate is awesome!

Barbara B said:
Barbara B's picture

What a great  idea, ANY fabric can be laminated. Can't wait to try this

Kimberly N said:
Kimberly N's picture

This is fabulous! I've never even heard of making your own laminate, but oh the cute projects you could do!!

aslbrat said:
aslbrat's picture

I've been wondering how to make my own vinyl for an outdoor table clothe and a beach blanket.

dmarie006 said:
dmarie006's picture

Thank-you for this.  It shows you can make any cotton a vinyl and don't have to just settle for a vinyl print. 

The fabric that I like the most is Riley Blake Zoofari.  It can be used for a lot of different things.  After seeing this tutorial, I think a neat pattern would be for a high chair and use this method of making your own vinyl print.

Crisa said:
Crisa's picture

I can't wait to try the iron on vinyl. I love the Animal Parade fabric by Ana Davis at fabric.com! I would like to learn how to make a highchair cover.

chrissherman said:
chrissherman's picture

Thanks so much for this. I've been wondering if I could make my own somehow!

SewChem said:
SewChem's picture

I used the iron-on vinyl with the Robert Kaufman Organic Airplane in White to make a lunch bag for my son.  Really easy and it came out perfect!  My next plan is to use it to recover our card table.

Claudia C said:
Claudia C's picture

What a great product!  This is something with so many applications! 

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