Please Pass the Bag Armor!


You might remember from a recent post, that I accidentally ordered some PVC coated cotton from Marimekko. Well, I was SO upset with myself because first-off, this fabric was supposed to serve as a replacement for some earlier yardage that I totally ruined by making a stupid mistake and secondly because BOTH pieces were rediculously expensive!

Marimekko describes their PVC-coated cottons as having, “a soil- and water-repellent surface that’s easy to wipe clean with a damp cloth”. They also compare their coated cottons to “Oilcloth, Oil Cloth or PVC-coated Oilcloth”. Now I don’t know about you, but when I think of oil cloth, I think of those el cheapo plastic table cloths that have flannel on the underside and that is NOT what this fabric looked like.

Since this product is pretty much new to me, I did a little research into what exactly it is, and how it differs from laminated cottons, (which you might recall we experimented with last fall in our Purse Inserts), and here’s what I found out.

Laminated Cotton

has a thin layer of polyurethane film adhered to the right side of the fabric. It’s soft, drapes very nicely and it even does gathers well! It’s PVC-free, BPA-free, lead-free and depending on what product you use, has a slight or a HIGH sheen.  It’s easy to clean & pretty easy to sew with and the edges do not fray.

PVC-Coated Cotton

has a thick layer of PVC on top of the cotton fabric. While it is very thin, it does give more heft to the fabric than the laminate does and I wouldn’t recommend it for items with gathers. It’s stronger and more durable than laminated cotton. But because the PVC contains phthalates it is not intended for use in baby items or for projects for kids under the age of 12. You’ll want to substitute laminated cotton for those projects. It’s also easy to clean & pretty easy to sew with and the edges don’t fray.


So… back to this project… PVC-coated cotton has a “lux” look about it. As you can see in the picture above, it’s smooth and supple… almost in an expensive, leathery kind of a way. It has a knit-like nylon backing similar to Soft & Stable and has “heft” without being thick and bulky… and the coating doesn’t lend shine to the fabric (in the way that the shiny laminates do), nor does it dull or cloud  the color (in the way that the matte-finish laminates do). In short, this fabric had a rich, opulent appeal that I couldn’t help but be fascinated with even through my disappointment. And that’s when I started thinking…

“Why not try out this material in a bag?”

After all, the coating would make a bag almost indestructible, BUT… these were my two main concerns…

  1. How well I could press this fabric?…   and
  2. Would it cause bulking issues in the seams?

But by now, with visions of such a durable bag floating in my head, I was hooked and simply HAD to give it a go, and let me tell you, I’m SO glad I did, because I TOTALLY love the way this bag looks, feels and carries!

However, using a fabric such as this does present a few challenges, and since so many of you indicated an interest in giving this type of fabric a try, here’s SIX key changes I would recommend for you if you intend to use PVC coated cotton for your Cosmo Convertible, or for most any other bag pattern.

  1. DO NOT even try to fuse your fleece or interfacing directly to the wrong side of your coated cotton fabric. It’s virtually impossible to get the fleece or the interfacing to fuse to the cotton side of this fabric. Instead, just baste your fleece or interfacing in place about 1/8″ from the fabric edges.
  2. In the preliminary steps of the Cosmo Convertible, you’ll be directed to cut away ~1″ of the fusible fleece at each bottom corner, but when using coated cotton, I would instead recommend cutting an additional inch (for a total of two inches). This will help you avoid some serious bulking issues in the bottom Bag corners later on. My machine handled it, but my bet is, that many machines will balk).
  3. DO NOT place your hot iron directly onto the right side of this fabric. You can press your seams, but use a pressing cloth and keep your iron moving. Additionally, its unlikely that your seams will lay open and flat no matter what you do. If you want them to lay open and flat, then I would advise topstitching along both sides of the seam.
  4. Pins can leave holes that don’t ‘heal themselves’ so do make an effort to pin within the seam allowances where you can.
  5. It’s OK to use the Optional Trim with your Flap but if you do, then substitute interfacing for the Flap fusible fleece that you’re directed to use within the instructions and fuse it to the lining. I used the coated cotton for my Flap, but NOT for the optional trim. I think it would’ve been a bit too bulky if I had used the coated cotton for both.
  6. Do not use PVC-coated cotton for the lining or for any of the areas calling for ‘contrast’ fabric in the Cosmo Convertible. I used it for the Liner of my Straps, but I definitely do not recommend it for the Strap ‘Wrappers’.

Sources for PVC-coated fabrics

(please note that this is not an all-inclusive list)  For some reason, the best selection of PVC-coated cottons seems to be from overseas. I’m not sure why this is. But here’s what I’ve found.

Marimekko– has an excellent selection of very contemporary coated cottons. Be aware though, that for the most part, these repeats are VERY large. It can present problems matching the prints along seamage areas, (but I’ll address this in a separate post).

Textile Express– a British store with an online presence. They have a good selection of fabrics.

Fryetts– another British store with an online presence. Most of their fabrics seem more suitable for the table to me though.

ItalySo, in conclusion…

I am totally happy with this bag. (I carried it on vacation to Italy last week and it functioned beautifully!)  It did seem to take longer to make this bag in this material than it did in 100% cotton. It could be because it was my 1st try with this fabric and I was being EXTRA careful, but the result is SO fabulous that it would be worth any amount of extra effort considering the extra life that this special coating will lend to the bag!

And now… it’s YOUR turn!

Have you ever tried using coated cotton as an exterior bag fabric?
Do you think you’d be inclined to try it now? and if you know any additional places to purchase this type of fabric (particularly within the US), please feel free to share that in the comments section as well!

And remember, we actually LOVE comments (and questions too), so if you’d like to share yours, please do so in the space provided below and stay tuned for our next post in this series because we’re getting oh-so close to the release!

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11 Comments So Far, You're Next!

  1. Thanks for doing all of that extra work for us. I’ll keep the coated cotton on my wish-list of products to use and this post will be a great reference.

    • Good idea! I for one will be revisiting the coated cotton option in the future. I like it that much. However, i am hoping for a less-espensive resource for it and am waiting to see if any of my readers has found such a resource. 🙂

  2. I have several teflon coated presser feet for my machine, which seems to help when sewing on leather. Do you think they would be helpful on these coated cottons? Thank you.

    • HI Eileen

      Good question. I didn’t address this in my post, because I found that there was absolutely NO need for a special foot of any kind when sewing on this fabric. It glided thru using my regular machine foot with no problems at all! 🙂

  3. I echo Jessica’s comment…great tutorial and now I will be searching for the coated cotton (and then FIND time to use it).

  4. I wish I knew some US sources for PVC coated fabric. I live near San Francisco and perhaps Britex carries this fabric. Hmmm, an excuse to go into the city and to Britex….
    BTW, I LOVE this bag! Definitely my short list of all time favorite SK bags.
    Is the pattern available now?

  5. This would have made a fabulous cover bag — I like it better than any of the other Cosmo samples.

    • Thanks Carol. I love it too, and actually its also MY favorite. But I have to restrain myself from placing my favorite bag on the cover as that’s not always the best cover choice.
      Remember, the cover bag by definition, should be strikiing enough to lure a customer into picking the pattern up for a closer inspection, AND it should show off as many of the bag’s unique features as possible.
      For this particular bag, the print is SO large and SO bold that it certainly is striking, but it’s also one of those prints that folks either love or loathe. Additionally, the front pocket aide straps are rather camoflaged by the large print, so for these two reasons, I dont think its my best cover choice. It doesnt diminish how much i like it though and I love hearing that you like it too! 🙂

  6. has a nice selection of laminated cotton fabric. More contemporary designs, including children’s patterns.

    This is so great that you are telling us about this fabric. I have needed something like this for my grandkids’ bags, bibs, and aprons. You’re the best, Kat!