This article is a beginner’s guide to sewing with vinyl. Vinyl in sewing projects is definitely a popular trend at the moment, lots of people are using clear or glittery vinyl to create see through pockets or windows on bags and pouches plus coloured vinyl can be used to stunning effect in bags.
However, it can be daunting sewing with this very unfabric like material. It doesn’t handle the same as most fabric plus it can stick to your machine making it harder to sew. Don’t panic! The simple tips below will have you confidently sewing with vinyl in no time.
With vinyl fabrics the higher the gauge the thicker the fabric. The lower gauges, the thinner vinyl fabrics are easy to sew and very flexible. The middle gauges are a bit sturdier and work well for things like tablecloths and protective covers. The thicker gauges are a lot stiffer and less flexible and are used for things like windows in tents.
Personally I tend to use this premium clear vinyl from Search Press, it is 12 gauge so flexible and easy to sew. It comes on a roll so you don’t get creases on it. The glitter vinyl pictured in this article is from Minerva Crafts, it’s a little heavier weight that the clear vinyl I use (it doesn’t give the gauge on their site) but adds nice sparkle to projects.
I found that cutting vinyl makes my rotary cutter blade blunt so I keep a spare rotary cutter that I use only for vinyl. It’s a different colour from my main one so I don’t get them mixed up. If you only have 1 rotary cutter you could keep an old blade to use just for vinyl. You could also use scissors, but I would use paper scissors not your best sewing shears just in case they make them blunt.
If cutting around a pattern piece do not use pins to attached the pattern, they will leave permanent marks in your vinyl. Use pattern weights instead, or if you don’t have any tape the pattern piece to the vinyl with washi tape. Washi tape doesn’t leave a sticky residue on the vinyl like other tapes do.
Unless you are buying vinyl on a roll it will inevitably have creases in it. You will also find it creases when turning through your project. Don’t ever apply your iron directly to vinyl, it will melt and stick to your iron.
The easiest way to remove creases is to use your hair dryer to soften the vinyl, then lie it somewhere flat with a heavy book or 2 on top of it. This will flatten it out quickly. If you get the creases when turning through and can’t lie it flat just keep putting the heat from the hairdryer onto it (move it around so you aren’t melting one bit too much) and you should find the creases drop out.
Alternatively, you can iron it on a very low heat, with a pressing cloth between the vinyl and the bottom of the iron. Very quickly glide the iron over it, it does not take much heat to make the vinyl very soft.
Sewing with vinyl
There are 2 key issues with sewing vinyl:
- Vinyl will be punctured by pins so you cannot use them.
The easy option is to use Wonder Clips to hold your materials together. But on some occasions, you can’t use clips eg. if the vinyl is not near the edge of the fabric, so then you can tape it instead. Tapes like washi tape, masking tape or Maker Tape have much less glue on them so don’t leave so much reside on the vinyl as Sellotape will. It will hold the vinyl in place as you sew, then you peel the tape off after. Test the tape on a scrap first, sew through it and make sure it peels off easy and doesn’t leave gluey residue.
Also bear in mind that your needle will leave permanent puncture marks too so ideally you don’t want to make any mistakes or have to unpick as you would be left with visible holes in the vinyl.
- Because vinyl is plastic it can grip to your machine as you sew it
Vinyl has a tendency to stick to your presser foot and/or needle plate when you try and sew it which means it does not easily feed through. There are a few things you can do to prevent this. Ideally if you plan to sew vinyl frequently you would be best investing in a non-stick foot (and or needle plate). I use a Janome MC9400QCP so I got the ultra glide foot and needle plate set for it. This does exactly as the description says, it makes tricky fabrics like vinyl glide through as if you were sewing cotton – nice and easy. Both are plasticky rather than metal so ‘sticky’ fabrics like vinyl don’t cling to them.
If you don’t want to invest at this time, or are only planning to sew vinyl on rare occasions you could use tape to cover the bottom of your foot (and your needle plate if you find the vinyl is sticking) and this will give the same non-stick effect.
Another solution is to place a sheet of tracing paper above and below the vinyl, this also breaks the friction with the needle plate and foot. When you have finished sewing just tear it off and throw it away.
Now you can sew with vinyl with confidence. What project will you make first? What about our travel sewing case project which has an internal vinyl pouch?