As Earth Day approaches (mark your calendars! April 22nd!), I've been thinking about ways to reduce and reuse the things I don't need in my life anymore. I'm pretty good about recycling what I can - cardboard, papers, and bottles go in the curbside recycling, and compost I take to the local natural foods store. Plastic bags go to grocery stores with those plastic bag bins up front, along with other random thinner plastics like cereal bags, plastic wrap, and bread bags. If you don't have access to a plastic bag recycling bin, you can reuse your plastic bags by fusing them together to create a waterproof, flexible fabric!
Why do they call it oil cloth? What is currently being sold in stores as oilcloth is actually made from cotton fabric covered with a petroleum-based coating. However, genuine oilcloth (the real thing grandma had on her kitchen table) is made from cotton, canvas, or linen fabric coated in linseed oil. The fabric can be dyed or printed before the linseed treatment, and the oil gives it a water-resistant surface. Genuine oilcloth (also known as oilskin) is biodegradable in a landfill. The "real" oilcloth sold in stores today is made from PVC or polyvinyl chloride, and as such does not break down in a landfill.
Here's how to make oilcloth, the old-fashioned way: