12 TIPS FOR SEWING WITH VINYL
Vinyl fabric has some quirks and it takes a bit of getting used to when sewing with it. Because it has a sticky surface, it can get caught– causing tangled stitches and mangled seams. If you are unfamiliar with this material, the tips in this article can save you some frustration. I’ll share with you how I sew with this fabric, and I will put some tips and tools to the test in my video.
But first, …
What is vinyl fabric?
Vinyl has become a catch-all term for any material that is made of plastic or has a plastic layer adhered to it. Don’t confuse vinyl fabrics with craft vinyl, which is an adhesive material that can be cut into all kinds of shapes and attached to your project using pressure or heat. Vinyl fabrics include everything from PVC, oilcloth, laminated fabric, and faux leather.
Depending on how thick the vinyl is and how many layers you want to sew, a household sewing machine might not be able to handle this material. Every sewing machine has its limitations. But if the material is thin and you are just sewing 2 layers, you can sew vinyl with a regular machine.
Be prepared and warned...
Before you start sewing with vinyl, read these tips to prepare the fabric, set up your machine, and gather the right tools.
Always preshrink the fabric you are using. Yes, even some vinyls can shrink. But be extra careful. If you are not sure how to wash this fabric, check the manufacturer's instructions and determine whether your material is dry-clean only or not. You can even test it yourself with a little scrap. Some materials may need to be hung or gently warmed to remove creases or other storage marks
Stitch length: Use a longer stitch length than you would usually use on regular fabric. With tiny stitches, threads can tangle, break, or your machine or can start skipping stitches. Plus, the holes that the needles make can create a ‘tear strip’. This will weaken the vinyl and make it prone to tearing. A stitch length of 3 mm is a good rule of thumb, but you need to run some tests before you can determine what works best with your particular material.
Needle: Vinyl fabric puts more stress on your needle than a lightweight cotton, so choose a heavier needle. A denim, leather needle, or a number 90 will do the trick. Make sure to test your needle tension before you start as you might need to adjust to a lower setting
Don’t use pins. The holes you make are permanent. This doesn’t need much explanation, doesn’t it? Use sewing clips instead. Ripping out stitches is also a no-no. Again.. permanent holes.
I never backstitch with vinyl. With some material it might work perfectly, but it’s neater to just bring the thread backwards and attach both thread ends on the wrong side with a little knot.
If your fabric marker doesn't write on the vinyl, try a chalk marker. That always works for me on this material.
You don’t have to finish edges with vinyl as it doesn’t fray.
Don’t iron directly on vinyl. If you want to press a seam, put a thin piece of cotton in between the iron plate and your fabric. You could also use a finger-presser. Some people even use a rubber mallet and pound the material in place. To avoid ironing this material as much as possible, think about storing this fabric on a roll so that there won’t be too many creases.
Smooth sewing with vinyl!
When you are finally ready to take your vinyl project to your sewing machine with your regular presser foot attached, you may find that feeding vinyl under a presser foot (especially your normal presser foot) is not always a smooth operation. Because of the friction that the material causes, your stitches can end up small and uneven, or your material will bunch up.
Does this situation looks familiar?
One option is putting gift wrapping tissue between both the fabric and the presser foot and the fabric and the needle plate. It’s the see-through paper that gives extra protection to your gifts, not the gift wrap itself. I’ve never done this. So, I’ve put this tip to the test in my video, and it worked really well! The only downside is you have to tear away the paper afterwards and the paper blocks your view, so if you want to work really accurately, it might not be ideal.
There are also 3 different presser feet that are designed to make sewing with vinyl easier. Two of them are in our 32 pcs presser foot set: The teflon or non-stick foot (number 13) and the roller foot (number 7). The walking foot you can find in the Big Five set.
10. A walking foot pushes both layers (top and bottom) of material under the needle at the same pace with its built-in upper feed dogs. This foot is great when you are putting together several layers and you need a bit more power.
11. A roller foot is also made for fabrics that are difficult to feed. It will move the fabric forward with the little rollers and also presses your seam as you sew. The roller foot gives that extra bit of control in feeding more than a standard foot. In addition, it also does not leave harsh marks on your more delicate fabrics.
12. A non-stick foot has a coating or is made out of material that slides better over the difficult surfaces. The material prevents the fabric from tugging against the foot. Always test with a little scrap to see how this foot reacts with your fabric. I noticed that with some synthetic fabrics it sticks even more than a regular foot.
In my video, I tested these feet with my piece of vinyl– which I got from an old windshield. The walking foot with the tissue paper worked best, followed closely by the roller foot. The non-stick foot appeared to be a bit sticky with this material. With other vinyls and faux leathers, the non-stick foot did a great job. So I advise you to always test before you ruin your project!
I hope you learned something new today and you are ready for more crafty adventures!
Interested in the finger presser, the roller foot, the non-stick foot or the sewing clips? We have them in our store!