Tips for Sewing Vinyl Fabric: Feeding Through Sewing Machine and More

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The idea of sewing vinyl or vinyl-coated fabric can be daunting. You might hesitate to use it even though it would be perfect for what you have in mind. There are a few things that need special handling when you are sewing vinyl or vinyl-coated fabric but once you master those tricks you can be confident in using this material.

Vinyl fabric or other fabric that has a sticky surface will resist feeding under the presser foot on your sewing machine. You will also need to vary the stitch length you would normally use. These tips help solve the vinyl problem without you going out and buying special equipment.

Tissue Paper for Sewing Vinyl

The type of tissue paper that is used in gift wrapping, gift bags, and manufacturing packaging is very useful when sewing sticky-surfaced fabric like vinyl that does not want to feed smoothly under the presser foot.

This is not facial tissue, but gift wrapping tissue. Whenever you get some in a gift or in a packaged item, save it even though it may be wrinkled. It will work just as well for this purpose.

Gift wrapping tissue paper is see-through, which is another advantage. To use it in sewing vinyl, place the fabric between two layers of gift wrapping tissue paper. This encloses the fabric so the surfaces feed smoothly under the presser foot of your sewing machine.

It is easier to sew between the tissue when there is more fabric than when there is less fabric. In the case of making your own piping, make the bias strips wider than what you want for the finished piping and trim it down to the desired seam allowance after you have sewn the piping.

Another use of gift wrapping tissue paper is for tracing patterns and drafting patterns.

Stitch Length for Sewing Vinyl

Your stitch length when sewing vinyl fabric should be longer than you would use on regular fabric. Think of your stitching as if there were no thread in the holes created by the sewing machine needle. Those holes become a "tear strip", which will weaken the vinyl and make it prone to tearing. This is less prevalent on a fabric that is coated with vinyl than it is when you are sewing plain vinyl.

In the case of vinyl-coated fabric, the fabric is providing strength and durability that plain vinyl does not have. Use a scrap of vinyl to experiment with stitch lengths and no thread in the sewing machine. Then try using the stitching as a tear strip and experience just how easily a short stitch length tears.

Preshrinking Vinyl Fabric

Vinyl coating will not prevent a fabric from shrinking when it is laundered. Always preshrink the fabric before cutting out your project. If you are not sure how to handle laundering the fabric, experiment with 6-inch squares in your regular laundry. If the fabric shrinks and the vinyl doesn't or if the vinyl separates from the fabric, it is better to find out before you put the time, energy and resources into a project.

Any new technique can be challenging. Practice the techniques and experiment on scraps of the fabric and become comfortable with the techniques and fabric before you start the project.