Waterproof Picnic Blanket V. 1

I really don’t enjoy picnicking on wet ground, especially when it’s the sort of picnic with blankets, not chairs. I’d say that 80% of the picnics I attend are the sit on the ground sort, and I’d say the ground is at least a little bit damp at least 30% of the time.

I’d searched around a bit for a nice thick wool picnic blanket that would be generic enough to use for 19th and early 20th century picnics without looking glaringly modern, but found that the nice thick ones were more money than I wanted to pay. So I thought creatively and found a nice remnant of wool fabric to use as a picnic blanket. But it’s a little thin, and when the ground is damp the fabric doesn’t have much to defend itself.

So I thought about things some more and decided to make a non-period accurate waterproof blanket by backing my wool fabric with some waterproof modern material. I considered tarps, or a plastic-y tablecloth, or just waterproof fabric… but all of these things would cost money, even if not very much. But then I bought a new shower curtain liner for our bathroom, and I thought: “Ah ha! Now I’ll have an old already grungy large piece of waterproof plastic that I can use to back my picnic blanket!”

To make it, I first cut off the top few inches where the rusty grommets were and the bottom area where the rusty magnets were. Then, I cleaned it. (Of course, part of the point of buying a new shower curtain is that I didn’t really feel like giving the old one a really good scrub… irony!) I didn’t clean it as much as I would have if I planned to still use it in my shower, since after all the point is to put it on the dirt and grass, but I did clean it enough.

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Cutting off the top edge.

Once I had cleaned it, I laid my wool fabric piece over the plastic and cut it to be just a little smaller than the fabric. Then I used tacky glue to adhere the plastic to the back of the wool along the hems. (As a side note, Mr. Q thought I was crazy while I had all of this spread on the living room floor…)

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Gluing the plastic to the wool.

I did serge the edges of the blanket before hemming them. I figured that since I was adding inaccurate shower curtain plastic backing to my blanket a little serging couldn’t hurt!

At home, the plan seemed to be working out fine. Once the glue dried, I had a plastic-backed picnic blanket! But, in using it multiple times last summer I encountered a few flaws. #1: The plastic backing is bulky, making the blanket hard to fold/roll and take up a lot of space. #2: The tacky glue didn’t hold very well. The wool slides across the plastic when anyone sits on it, pulling at the edges. The tension has caused the two layers to detach in some places. Of course, I could have solved the second problem by sewing the layers together instead of gluing them, but I was trying to avoid sewing through plastic.

So, a partially useful solution to the waterproof blanket idea. Over the fall and winter I wasn’t super motivated to do anything with it, but perhaps now that picnic season has come again I might have to tackle the idea again and try Waterproof Blanket V. 2!

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About quinnmburgess

Quinn M. Burgess creates reproduction and costume historic clothing. Her inspiration has a strong foundation in history: historic dress, social history, and material history. With the addition of clothing construction knowledge, her passions converge in an imaginative world of creative history that she loves to share with others.
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4 Responses to Waterproof Picnic Blanket V. 1

  1. Sabine says:

    I hope you will enjoy lots of amazing picknicks with this blanket 🙂
    By the way, I’ve recently came along a text, which was all about the manufacture of waterproofed fabrics in the early 19th century.

  2. lenelein says:

    Great idea and definitively easier than waterproofing with bee’s wax or othe rnatural remedies!

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