Waxed Cotton. A Tutorial.

waxed cotton

I recently got myself a new e-reader.  Hooray!  All that’s missing is a case to protect my take along library.

There has been a trend to oilcloth over the last while, which I do love the look of, but another look I really like is waxed cotton.  It can take on a old rugged vibe and still gives you a level of water resistance like oilcloth.

With some leftover cotton canvas on hand, I decided  this was the perfect excuse opportunity to make some waxed cotton for my little project.

In a washed and dried apple juice can,  add in 4 parts unscented paraffin wax to 1 part beeswax.  Put some water in a shallow pan and set the can of wax on a rack / trivet, so the can sits just above the water line.

Let the water come to a simmer over medium heat, topping up with water as needed until the wax has completely melted.  Do not leave the melting wax unattended.

Protect your work surface.  I laid out an old vinyl table cloth from the dollarstore.  Lay out your fabric.  I had smaller pieces cut out already for my projects, but you could do this on one big section of fabric as well.  The graphic was one I printed onto the cotton canvas using my inkjet printer, which I then set with a hot iron.  You can find instructions for printing onto fabric with your inkjet printer here.

Remove the can of wax from the stove and take it to your work surface.  With a new (doesn’t have to be expensive) paintbrush, brush the melted wax onto the fabric so the the surface is covered.

Lay your now wax coated fabric over an old rag and using a hair dryer on the hottest setting, heat all of the wax so that it melts into the fibers of the cotton.  Excess should absorb into the rag underneath.  The difference between the one that has been heated with the hair dryer (on the left) is quite apparent to the unheated (on the right).

You should notice the fabric feels quite stiff.  Next, crumple the fabric up into a ball.   Un-crumple it,  rub the fabric into itself etc, rubbing off any excess wax.  If any wax flakes up, brush it off.

Lay out the fabric onto the rag and hit it with the blow dryer on hot once again, blot the top of the fabric with another rag if you find it excessively waxy.  It will flatten out more then shown in the above picture.

Another option instead of using the blow dryer again is to use an iron (I like this method).  Make a sandwich on your ironing board of parchment paper or similar, a lint free cotton rag, a piece of the waxed cotton, another cotton rag and another piece of parchment paper to complete the sandwich.  Run the iron over the entire surface until the excess wax has absorbed into the rags.  The parchment will protect your iron and ironing board.

At this point, if you feel the fabric, you should be able to tell it’s waxed, without if feeling waxy or transferring that waxy feel to your hands.  If it still makes your hands feel waxy, then there is still too much wax left in the fabric.  If that’s the case, heat it again.

Here is my finished pouch for my e-reader.  I went for a raw, sort of unfinished look.  The inside is lined with a soft felt.

You can see that the waxed cotton gives it quite a water resistant finish.  Obviously my pouch isn’t waterproof because of the way I’ve sewn it and it’s open at the end, but waxing the cotton also made it quite durable and resistant to tearing and snags.

And if you are wondering, it sews up nicely on the sewing machine, just use quality thread.  Hand stitching it was also a breeze.

I’ve read another tutorial for doing waxed cotton which involved using a household clothing dryer like you would have in your own laundry room.  I cannot recommend this method and will not try this method for these two reasons; one, it will leave wax in your dryer, two, can you say fire hazard?

I’m sure there is a ‘safer’ method of doing the fabric in a dryer or some sort of hot drum for those that mass produce waxed cotton, but this method I’m sharing is for those that want to make a little for a few projects .  And yes, you could apply this wax treatment to an existing canvas hat, jacket, shoes, backpack etc to give it a more water resistant finish.

Keep an eye out… there will be more fabric treatment tutorials in the near future

Enjoy!

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Comments

  1. says

    I had a large piece of waxed cotton canvas that was my grandfather;s, but have used it all up, I did not know how he made it or if he bought it. Thanks for this wonderful tutorial! I am pinning and bookmarking to make double sure I will be able to come back.

  2. Christine says

    Oh my WORD!!! This is AMAZING!!!

    Thanks so much for sharing this at The DIY Dreamer… From Dream To Reality last week!!!

  3. Susie Reinsberg says

    You can also iron the waxed fabric between sheets of newsprint – the plain kind that come as packaging sometimes – absorbs great! I’ve used it for batiked fabric..

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