Monday, March 22, 2010

Collapsible Oilcloth Bowl

Today's project came about because I have a box of oilcloth sitting in my craft closet. 

I ordered the oilcloth about a year ago from Mendel's, but haven't made the time to do anything with all of the fun patterns and colors. We've been traveling a lot recently. Most women understand my dilemma when I describe taking off your earrings at night, setting them on the hotel room desk and finding one has rolled off and under the bed in the morning. I needed something that could solve this problem.

I'll admit, I didn't create the initial concept.  One late night while surfing Etsy, I found this seller who has all kinds of cute vinyl/oilcloth trays.  I looked at these pictures and adapted the design to meet my own needs. I've created a collapsible bowl using my beloved oilcloth and in a form that can lie flat and slide into any carry-on bag I have with me.

If you'd like to make something similar, just follow the instructions below.  First, take a look at the pattern:
You can click here to download the PDF of this file.  Print it off on 8.5"x11" paper.

Choose two oilcloth patterns that complement one another.  I picked black and white dots and a black and white toile pattern.  Most likely, your oilcloth will be wrinkled if it was shipped to you.  Don't worry.  Despite what many people think, you CAN iron oilcloth.  There are a few important things to remember:
  1. Set your iron on the lowest setting.  I use setting 1 for acrylic and set near the halfway point.  So I guess it's actually the .5 setting.
  2. ALWAYS iron on the "wrong" side of the oilcloth.  The iron will stick to the patterned side, but will work perfectly on the "wrong" side.
  3. Use lots of pressure and move the iron very slowly.  As the oilcloth heats up, it will become more pliable and the wrinkles will disappear.
Once you have your oil cloth ironed, pull out your scissors - or better yet, pull out your rotary cutter and your self-healing cutting mat.  My rotary cutter and cutting mat are both made by Fiskars.  You'll see my bright yellowish-green mat appear in many of my posts.  I use it to cut paper, oilcloth and fabric.  The combination of these tools saves A LOT of time on cutting in DIY projects.

Cut out the pattern on the solid "Outer Trim Line" and trim your oilcloth to match.  Trace the rounded corners with a ball point pen on the "wrong" side of the oilcloth and trim these with a pair of sharp scissors.

You will end up with two matching pieces of oilcloth.  Now you're ready to sew.

In most sewing projects, you would pin your pieces together, but pins are not your friend when it comes to oilcloth.  I've discovered that mini binder clips do the trick.  They don't hold quite as securely as straight pins, but they won't leave permanent holes in your project.

Put the "wrong" sides of the oilcloth together and run a stitch all the way around the piece.  Try to keep the stitch 1/8" from the edge.  Don't worry about the thread color - this will be hidden inside your bias tape.

Take your time on the corners.  Rounded corners are tricky.  I often stitch these by hand - turning the wheel one stitch at a time as I pivot the project under the pressure foot.  This is what it will look like when you're finished:

Now it's time for the bias tape to trim out the project.  I'm a sucker for bias tape.  A beautiful finished edge to cover all of the raw edges is heaven for me.  You can buy pre-made bias tape at any fabric store in many different colors.  I like to make my own because I can pick whatever color or pattern I want.  Bias tape is exactly what it sounds like - a strip of fabric that is cut on the bias (or at 45 degrees to the fabric's thread grid).  Line up your fabric's threads with the grid on your cutting mat.  You can often use the selvage edge to make sure your project is lined up correctly.  In this case, my fabric didn't have a selvage edge.  I picked up this red bed sheet at a yard sale for pennies.  Bed sheets make great bias tape because the fabric is thin, they come in all kinds of fun patterns, and you have A LOT of real estate to work with when you're cutting your strips.

Line up your straight edge at a 45-degree angle and make a long cut.  Once you have your first cut, you can turn the fabric 45 degrees and line the edge up with the north-south line on your cutting board.  Cut 1-inch strips of the fabric. You will need approximately 30 inches for this projects.  Don't worry if you can't cut a full 30-inch strip.  We'll talk about how to splice them together next.

To sew two pieces together, line up the strips perpendicularly to one another.  Sew across this.  Visit this website for great graphics that will show exactly how to splice together.  You could sew them end-to-end, but sewing them on an angle makes your seam virtually invisible.

Fold the strip in half and iron it flat.  Fold one side in all the way to the center and iron flat.  Fold the other side in halfway to the center and iron flat.  You strip will look like this when you're finished:

Open the ironed tape and lay it flat.  Line up the edge of the "shorter" side - the side that you folded all the way to the center of the strip - with the edge of the "right" side of your project. At this point, you will need to determine a "right" and "wrong" side.  The polka dots were the "right" side in my project. Start sewing 1/2" from the end of the tape - you will see more below on this. Sew the tape all the way around. You can sew on the fold that you just created, so it will be easy to line up. Once again, take the corners slow and line up the tape as you curve around the rounded portions. Revisit this link for more advice on sewing with bias tape.

Once you've sewn all the way around, you will need to match up the ends of the bias tape.  Stop sewing.  Fold down that 1/2" tail that you left when you started sewing.  Fold it in approximately 1/4".  Then lay the end of the bias tape down on top of the fold and continue sewing until the tape makes a complete "circle."

Now fold the bias tape up and over the edge of the project. This is sort of like turning your project inside out. If necessary, you can trim 1/8" off of the oilcloth to make the corners fit into the bias tape more smoothly.  The project will look like this once you've folded the tape over to the "wrong" side:

Fold the raw edges under on the "wrong" side, and flip the project back to the "right" side.  Run a top stitch 1/8" from the line you just sewed. Your previous sewing will now be folded inside of the bias tape, but run the stitch 1/8" from the inner edge of the strip.  Check periodically to ensure that the raw edges on the "wrong" side are still folded under. Your top stitch will catch the edge of the bias tape on the "wrong" side resulting in a finished product. The "right" side will look like the top part of the photo and the "wrong" side will look like the bottom part of the photo:

It's time to put the snaps on the project.  Grab your pattern and use your seam ripper or another sharp object to punch holes in the black dots on the pattern.  Line the pattern up on your finished piece and use a ball point pen to draw dots indicating the location of each snap's center:

I used 5/8" snaps on this project. You will need a crimper for 5/8" snaps as well.  I purchased both of these at Hobby Lobby when I needed to put a new snap on my son's pants.  These snaps come in silver, gold and black enamel finish.  Google "enamel snaps" online, and you will find these in multiple colors on Ebay and Etsy. If you buy a package like the one below, make sure to purchase two.  The snaps are packaged in sets of 7.  You will need 8 sets for this project - 2 for each corner.

Each snap set has four different parts.  Sort these into four piles.  We will only use three of the four parts for this project, because we want to have a finished look on the outside of the project. Follow the instructions on the crimp package.  The only change you will make is to ensure that you use the "finished" (black) snap on both outer sides of each snap.

Push hard when you're crimping.  The snaps need to fold over on each other tightly.  Your project will look like this on the outside when you're finished. You can see what I mean about the "finished" snaps on the outside.

Once the snaps are secure, snap them together, smooth out the center of your bowl and you're finished.  I use it for jewelry, but it would also make a great business card holder on your desk. I'm sure you can think of many others uses, too. To take it on the road, unsnap the corners and smooth it out flat again.

Hope you enjoy. Send me pictures of your completed project to sara(at)thehandyhausfrau(dot)com.

DIY Day @ ASPTLPhotobucket


  1. Finally! This is what I'm going to use to make the kids trays! I'm a Montessori teacher & I hate plastic and can't afford to buy enough wooden trays. I've been looking for a great alternative & this is it! I took the "Craft from my Stash" pledge & that means I can't buy any new stuffs. So, what do you do when you have no oilcloth but lots of fabric?! Make your own! I found a tut at So now I can use all my fabrics to make trays/baskets for the kids works. They'll be waterproof, easy to clean & I think I'll insert some cardboard in the middle to give it some extra body/stiffness. Now I can have LOTS of trays, they'll take up hardly any room since they will fold flat & I do seasonal, theme, what ever to match the subject. Thanks so much for sharing!!! ;)

    When Mon(tessori)(Wal)dorf(Attach)ment parenting meet in our home.

  2. Sending this post to my daughter.. she lives in Guam and homeschools.. she is needing some kind of trays and this would be so perfect.. thank you

  3. Great idea!
    Beckie in Brentwood, TN

  4. I love it. Gotta find some oil cloth right away. Thanks. Laura @ the mansion

  5. What a smart idea!! Thanks for linking @Creative Itch's "Sew Cute Tuesday"!!

  6. What a great idea! I love the way it turned out!

  7. This is a fabulous project! I am sooo happy to include it in the Project: Library! Send me more...more...more... xx rayan


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