Sewing With Rainwear Fabrics: Let's Get Started!

Hi Everyone! Let’s talk about Rainwear Fabrics! You know, those lightweight, waterproof, crisp and sometimes rubbery fabrics that are used to make things like raincoats, ponchos, and windbreaker jackets?  Ripstop, laminated cotton, polyurethane and Gore-Tex® to name a few. Although the end result is great, the thought of sewing with these types of fabrics may seem a little bit intimidating, am I right? Well, we’ve got you covered!

Over this 4-part series, we’ll share with you the tips and tricks for sewing with these fabrics while demonstrating using the adorable Pepper Hill Raincoat pattern.

  • In Part 1, we’ll walk you through an in-depth look at the various types of fabrics available, how to store, cut, and sew with them.
  • In Part 2, we’ll show you how to create your very own custom vinyl coated fabric. It’s super easy to do and this option really opens up a whole world of possibilities for some seriously cute raincoats because you have a much wider choice pf properly scaled prints!
  • In Part 3 we’ll help you get started sewing the Pepper Hill Raincoat.
  • Then in Part 4 we wrap it up with the finishing details!

This topic is going to be a great resource for the longterm, filled with tips and trick for sewing a variety of rainwear fabrics to help you achieve great results every time! You can follow along as we teach each part, practice what you’re learning while sewing a few projects and then keep it to refer back to at any time in the future!

Are you ready to jump in and get started? Let's do this!

To begin we are going to take a look at the various types of fabrics, the tips and tricks to sewing with them successfully, and how to choose the best interfacing for this project.

I encourage you to take your time here, download and read through the Pepper Hill Raincoat pattern, watch each video, choose your fabrics (maybe it's time to do a little shopping!), and gather up all the necessary supplies. The sew-along will begin in Part 3, the first two installments will cover all the prep related to choosing fabrics, cutting the pieces out, and applying the fusible  interfacing.

The Pepper Hill Raincoat pattern is available in two sizes, 18-inch and 14.5-15 inch. The coupon code for the free pattern for September can be found in the SWC Bonuses section. If you haven't downloaded the pattern yet I encourage you to do that!



Sewing With Ripstop Fabric 

Ripstop fabric is a lightweight tightly woven polyester or nylon fabric. The most prominent distinguishing feature is the weave which results in a grid on the fabric. It comes in a variety of weights which are water resistant, and can be coated in a polyurethane which makes them heavier and waterproof. For the doll scale Pepper Hill Raincoat we will be focusing on the lighter-weight water-resistant varieties. You can purchase ripstop at a variety of stores, we got ours at JoAnn Fabrics. Both the blue and yellow are in the same product listing, but the weight is much different.

10 Tips for Successful Sewing with Ripstop Fabric

  1. Make sure you are using a new, sharp Universal or Microtex 70/10 Needle. The ripstop fabric will dull your needle pretty quickly, if you notice skipped stitches, it’s time to change your needle!
  2. Choose an all purpose polyester or nylon thread. You may prefer to match the thread the the fabric. Nylon to nylon, polyester to polyester, but in a pinch all purpose thread will work well too.
  3. Pinning, clipping, or taping? Some ripstop is slippery than others.  An easy way to hold your seams in place so you don’t have to pin through your ripstop is to use double sided quilters tape. If you need to pin, pin into the seam allowance only. Or small clips can be used.
  4. Choosing a Pressor Foot. Although a standard presser foot may work fine, a Roller foot or walking foot may help to reduce the slippage between the two layers on a very slick fabric.
  5. Cut and Sew Straight. Use the grid lines on the ripstop to help align the grain and to sew straight seams. The pattern pieces can be placed in either direction if your fabric doesn’t have a directional print on it. Ripstop typically stretches on the diagonal.
  6. Use a rotary cutter with a fresh blade or sharp fabric scissors for clean straight edges. Once you cut out your pieces, it’s ideal to sew them up immediately.  Alternately, you can apply fray check to the edges of the pieces. Serging the larger edges prior to sewing can also be done, but sone this coat is lined, the seam sealant is my preference.
  7. Check your stitch length. If your stitch length is too small it will cause problems; it can weaken your seams by basically perforating a line down your fabric that will pull apart easily over time. It can also just make the fabric bunch up, so try for around 10 stitches per inch.
  8. Reinforce those seams. Reinforce your seams with a topstitch. It will make your seams stronger and, if done well, will make the final project look much more professional.
  9. Ripstop nylon is best stored rolled, not folded, to prevent creasing. However, once the wrinkles are there, most can be ironed away. If you cannot locate the proper pressing instructions, err on the side of caution and use a low heat iron and pressing cloth. Be especially cautious when pressing coated ripstop, this like the vinyl coated fabric will melt right to the surface of your iron
  10. Upcycling ideas: Looking for items that can provide you with fabric for your project? Try upcycling a drawstring backpacks, umbrellas, kites, reusable bags, flags, camping chair cover bag, and more.


Sewing With Laminated Cotton or Vinyl Coated Fabric

Laminated Cotton is exactly what it sounds like! It’s a cotton fabric that has a thin layer of vinyl coating applied to the right side of the fabric. It’s a great choice for sewing raincoats,  windbreakers, rainbows, backpacks, and more. The real challenge with this type of fabric is that the choices may seem very limited when it comes to sewing things at the scaled down size. Luckily there is a product available so you can create your own custom laminated fabric. You can find that tutorial in a separate video (in Part 2) and once you create your fabric you’ll follow these tips for sewing with laminated fabric.

Special Note - Laminated Cotton is very different that PUL (polyurethane laminated knit or polyester fabric). The PUL is often used to make reusable baby diapers, it is soft, a bit stretchy, and thick. It's not something I would recommend for this pattern design. If shopping online, Laminated Cotton is more similar to Oilcloth fabric.

10 Tips For Sewing With Laminated Cotton Fabric:

  1. First things first, store fabric rolled not folded. Use a wrapping paper tube or ask your fabric store for empty bolts to store your fabric at home. If you have a smaller piece, you can hang it from clips to keep it wrinkle free!
  2. If your fabric gets dirty, clean with a damp cloth, and air dry. Once coated this fabric is not machine washable.
  3. Similar to ripstop, you’ll only want to use pins within the seam allowance of your pattern pieces because the holes that are created from using pins in laminated fabrics will be permanent. Pattern weights or magnets on a magnetic cutting mat and a rotary cutter are a great option.
  4. If you fabric is solid or you don’t have a directional print, you can place your pieces in either direction because the vinyl coating prevents the fabric from shifting or stretching.
  5. You can iron on laminated fabrics, but ONLY on the wrong side of the fabric on a dry/low setting and with a press cloth. Finger pressing the seam allowances works great as you sew.
  6. Use a new, sharp Universal or Microtex needle size 80/12 or 90/14.
  7. Presser feet: Laminated cotton can be slightly sticky on the right side of the fabric, making it difficult for your foot to slide across the surface as the fabric passes underneath. Use a non-stick presser foot, Walking Foot, teflon coated foot. The laminated cotton I used had a matte finish to it, so I didn’t have an issues  If using a glossy finish which is more sticky on the right side, I would suggest using the Zig Zag Foot with non-stick sole. Alternatively, if you don’t wish to buy a Teflon foot you can try taking a piece of tissue paper and sandwiching it in between both the feed dogs and the fabric and the presser foot and the fabric to keep things moving along.
  8. Use a slightly longer stitch length of 3.0 or 3.5 when working with this fabric. Shorter stitch lengths create too many holes and can weaken the seam.
  9. Clips instead of pins or double-sided quilters tape to hold seams in place and hems folded while sewing. Use rubbing alcohol to keep your needle clean if you happen to sew through the tape and get a sticky residue on the needle.
  10. Edges don’t fray, if unlined, use pinking shears for a neat look, or serge prior to sewing but be careful not to reduce the seam allowances or your project might sew up too small!


Choosing The Appropriate Fusible Interfacing

In this video I’m going to show you how to choose and apply interfacing to your chosen fabric.

There are a few things to consider when choosing a fusible interfacing.

  • The weight - The interfacing should be the same or lightweight than the fabric. It will provide support for shaping the hood and for adding the finishing closures, in this case buttons over snaps.
  • The application - Ripstop comes in a variety of weights, but is generally pretty lightweight. I recommend testing a swatch to see if the interfacing will fuse without puckering.  It's best to work with an interfacing that can be fused at a lower temperature. Be patient and test to make sure you end up with a finished product that will look great!

For the ripstop fabrics we used a medium weight fusible interfacing for the medium weight blue fabric and a lightweight fusible for the lightweight yellow fabric. If the interfacing applies smoothly, then you can go ahead and follow the primary version 1 instructions. If you notice some puckering on the fabric test, you'll want to apply the interfacing to the Hood Facing and interior side of the Front Placket as shown in the alternate Version 2

For a twill, or heavier weight woven fabric, you could apply the fusible as instructed in the pattern. Just match the weight of the interfacing to the fabric, a medium weight fusible works great.

Laminated fabric or custom vinyl coated fabric could be sewn without the interfacing. The vinyl layer is basically adding that structure to your fabric on the outside! Although, I still recommend using a piece on the Front Placket to help add support to the snaps.

Part 1 Assignment

Wow! That was a lot of information! I hope this gives you the confidence to move forward with this project.

  • Get the Pepper Hill Raincoat pattern
  • Choose your fabric, thread, and buttons
  • Cut out all the pieces 
  • Apply the interfacing 

Prepare for Part 2

  • If you're interested in creating your own custom laminated cotton fabric, we will show you how to do that in Part 2. To get ready, you'll want to choose your woven cotton fabric and pick up the Iron-On Vinyl product. There are a few types available, I used the Heat 'N Bond Matte product, but the Pellon brand works great too. You can find it online at AMAZON or JOANN FABRICS.



February 01, 2022

What about a pattern for the Care Bear? My daughter was crazy about her Care Bears. She is 40 now. Still has her Bears!


October 15, 2021

I was wondering if the lining fabric could be used as ripstop fabric?

Maria L
Maria L

September 22, 2021

Kathy m, look at this pattern for the rainboots: Spring Shower Rain Boots 18" Doll Shoes


September 08, 2021

A word of caution using about using a wool pressing mat. I am a quilter besides being a seamstress. I love my wool pressing mat and also my self-healing ‘vinyl’ cutting mats. Instructions came with my wool pressing mat cautioning not to use it with a vinyl cutting mat underneath it as these cutting mats are very sensitive to heat. I use my wool mat with a regular ironing surface underneath. Using heat and/or steam can warp a cutting mat (mine did) and ruin a wooden surface.


September 08, 2021

Look up Rain boots and there is a pattern but I’d much rather buy them as they are rather difficult


September 08, 2021

Any tips for fabric shopping in Europe we just moved and it’s been a struggle finding fabric and buying to the fact that most people don’t speak English but also because they don’t have the same names or types. Thanks 😊

kathy m
kathy m

September 07, 2021

??a pattern for rainboots ?

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