Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Week 12 Craft: How to Wax Fabric

For some reason I'm fascinated with making fabric waterproof.  I'm not sure why, but thought I would give it a go.  Method number one was with linseed oil.  Like the Wright brothers early attempts at flight my first try was an epic fail.  The linseed didn't dry even after letting the fabric sit outside for two weeks!

Method number two uses wax and worked much better.  Inspiration came from Analogue Life.

I used my tote from my tote bag translated post.  Here it is pre-waxing:

and post:

This was a fun project and will come in handy if you want to make something water resistant.  Please note: if you REALLY need to make something waterproof (like a jacket or tent) this is not the tutorial for you.  There are several nice tutorials on the web designed to assist the serious hunter/camper.  A couple of other things to keep in mind - this will darken your fabric somewhat.  It will also make the fabric stiffer. 

What you need:
Fabric item you want to waterproof (I recommend a durable cotton, canvas or denim)
Equal parts paraffin wax and beeswax
Foil pan (or double boiler you only EVER want to use for wax projects)
Rubber gloves
Paper towels

Start by covering whatever work surface you are going to be doing this on.  It is wax, and you don't want it going anywhere other than on your project.

1. Place equal parts paraffin and beeswax into your container (my tote used about 3 oz. of each) and melt slowly.  I used a foil loaf pan and placed it on my griddle.  While your wax is melting preheat your oven to 200 degrees (NO hotter) and place foil on your bottom rack to protect your oven.

2. Once melted using a paintbrush apply the wax evenly over the fabric.  Make sure the fabric is coated, but don't saturate.  Too much wax is not only a waste, it will take you a lot longer to complete your project. 

The wax hardens immediately and here is what it looks like.  Don't worry if it appears the wax didn't penetrate all the way through.  The oven will take care of it.

3. Place your item on a foil lined baking sheet and put it in the oven.  
VERY IMPORTANT: if your item won't fit nicely on a cookie sheet this project is not for you!  In other words: tote bag = good.  Camping tent = bad.  Keep an eye out to make sure you don't cook your fabric or start a fire!  If you feel too nervous you can use a hair dryer to heat the wax instead, but the oven works great as long as the fabric doesn't touch the racks, sides or heating elements.

4. Every twenty minutes take your item out of the oven.  Make sure you have your rubber gloves on and work your project over with the paper towel.  Really wrap the towel around and grip it.  What you are trying to do is work the wax into the fibers as well as work out the excess wax.  This is a process, so don't think you'll be able to get all the wax the first time around.  After the rubdown put your item back in the oven.

5.  Continue the heat/rub process until the paper towels no longer have wax on them when rubbed over the heated fabric.  Be patient; this took about three hours to accomplish.

6. Let your project cool and then it's time to use!

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