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

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Does the idea of sewing vinyl or vinyl coated fabric make you stop in your tracks? Do you hesitate 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 sewing vinyl or vinyl coated fabric. 

Vinyl fabric or other fabric that has a sticky surface will resist feeding under the presser foot on your sewing machine.

This tip helps solve the problem... without you going out and buying special equipment!

Whenever you open packaging or a gift, there maybe a sewing notion (even if you have unusual sewing notions) that you haven't been saving! Tissue paper. That light weight tissue used in gift wrapping, gift bags, and many manufacturing packaging can solve the problem of sewing fabric that does not want to smoothly feed under the presser foot. It is also a great material for tracing patterns and drafting patterns. Most people throw away wrinkled tissue thinking they can not re-use a wrinkled sheet...not so! Don't throw away gift tissue!

The fabric shown in the photo is a printed denim fabric with a light vinyl coating on the correct side of the fabric.For the most part, I will be sewing the fabric with the right sides together so it won't present a problem but when I started creating piping for the project, I was sewing with the vinyl coating to the outside and it did not want to feed under the presser foot.

By enclosing the fabric in gift tissue, it was able to feed under the presser foot and once the sewing was done, the tissue tears and removes from the fabric without any problems.

Gift wrapping tissue is see through so you can put fabric between layers of a difficult fabric to enclose those surfaces that do not want to feed under the presser foot.

In the case of making your own piping, I would recommend making the bias strips wider than what you want for the finished piping and trimming it down to the desired seam allowance after you have sewn the piping. This is because it is easier to sew between the tissue when there is more fabric than when there is less 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 six-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, then it would be to make the project and have it shrink or separate after you wash the item.

Another thing to keep in mind when you are sewing vinyl fabric. Your stitch length 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.

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.