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Polyurethane laminate (PUL) is a special fabric consisting of two layers. It consists of a lightweight polyester interlock knit fabric laminated to a thin (1 mil) film of polyurethane. Clothing manufactures (and those of us who sew at home) enjoy this laminated fabric for its special properties to act as a wind and/or water barrier.
It’s most commonly used in making cloth diapers, wind-break garments, and shower curtains. Personally, I only use it for it’s water barrier properties to make diapers, trainers, pull-ups, nursing pads, wet-bags, feminine pads, etc.
As unique and wonderful as it is, learning to sew with it can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. Here are some tips and tricks to help you sew with PUL.
Pins And Needles
When pinning a pattern on, or pinning garments together for sewing, remember that wherever you poke a hole in your fabric, you are poking a hole in the protective barrier. It seems obvious, I know, but if you tell yourself this, it will encourage you to remember to put the pins as far to the outside as possible.
Much of this hole will fill back in when you remove your pins, and putting your garment in a hot dryer for 20 minutes after you are done stitching will somewhat re-activate the laminate, but once that hole is there, you can’t erase it.
Pinning a pattern on may not be much of a choice, but you can avoid pinning the actual creation itself by using wonder clips. Using wonder clips means one less set of holes in your garments, and they are pretty cheap, so if you’re going to do a lot of sewing with PUL, I’d highly suggest getting a set.
Check with the PUL fabric manufacturer, but in general a size 11 Ballpoint needle (or a 10/12 Universal) is the preferred choice to keep from making bad punctures. If you sew a lot, then consider changing to a newer (sharper) needle before sewing your PUL garment.
Most PUL manufacturers will suggest using polyester thread on your garment as cotton threads may allow wicking. I’m guilty of using cotton threads myself, and don’t have a problem with any wicking or leaking–but I consider myself informed in the case it should happen.
Positioning Your Fabric
Sewing your garment PUL-side-down means that your machine foot is pulling on the PUL to keep your creation moving smoothly. This can cause tiny abrasions to the PUL, which can wear at the laminate. Instead, try to sew with the PUL-side up if possible.
Prewashing And Prewashing
Most PUL manufacturers will assure you that PUL does not shrink, therefore it does not need to be prewashed before cutting and sewing.
However, since most absorbent materials do need to be prewashed before using, and that is oftentimes what is directly attached to PUL (as in a cloth diaper), it is suggested that the garment be washed before actually using.
As mentioned previously, 20 minutes in a hot dryer after your stitching is complete helps the holes seal. An additional 20 minutes may sometimes be necessary.
How much yardage you will need depends on what you are making, and then again what size you are making. I like to purchase my PUL by the bolt because it’s just cheaper that way. I have found however, that one yard makes about 6 or 7 of the one-size diapers which is the size I make the most.
Some PUL comes in 64″ and some comes in strange lengths. When you buy a “3 pack” of material, all those individual lengths are less than a yard–don’t think because you are getting 3 pieces you will get 3 yards.
As I mentioned earlier, I find that buying PUL by the bolt is the most affordable way to purchase it in the long run since I sew with a lot of it. I buy plain, versatile colors this way, like brown and white.
If your budget only allows you to purchase a yard or two at a time (because, it’s not a cheap fabric), then look for coupons to your favorite fabric store. Occasionally they will have coupons for 10%-20% off (or more). Read these coupons carefully, as some can be used for a single cut of by-the-yard fabric. This will help your finances tremendously when you’re getting a couple yards and paying $15 or more a yard.
When ordering PUL (or any fabric) by the yard on-line, be sure to do your research carefully before purchasing it. When we go to the fabric store and order 4 yards of a fabric, we will receive one piece that is 4 yards long. When purchasing on-line however, you could receive 4 separate pieces all 1 yard in length. It pays to read the fine print. If it’s not mentioned in there, you will often find it in the questions section, or the review section.
Also, PUL materials will break down when washed with certain laundry soaps, such as any homemade soaps made with Borax (darn, I know). Tide is one brand that I have found that is safe to use. It is recommended by PUL manufacturers to use 1/4 to 1/2 as much as you would for a normal load.
If you are making diapers or another item for someone else as a gift, you’ll want to let them know their item will need special detergent.
What are you making with PUL? Let me know in the comments.