When looking at a piece of beautiful vinyl, you may think that it looks so similar to any other fabric you have, just a little thicker; that it cannot cause any difficulties for you to make beautiful creations with it. But you are so so wrong. They are very much different from fabric and hence all the more difficult to sew with the same machine that you sew fabric.
- Plastic, Pleather and Vinyl (all different types of plastic) are hard and not as flexible as fabric.
- You cannot pin it, if you do not want large holes and later rips.
- It doesnot move easily in the sewing machine, and if you drag it to move there will be marks on the material.
- It sticks to surfaces.
- If it is a thick piece your home sewing machine is definitely going to protest.
- And sewing with ordinary needles with short stitches may leave visible holes in the material.
- You cannot make stitching mistakes (my hardworked seam ripper heaves a sigh). Those holes will be very difficult to hide
- No question of ironing or pressing.
What is Vinyl ? What is Pleather ?
Vinyl is a material made of plastic components like chlorine and ethylene (full name Polyvinylchloride or PVC). It is extensively used in making accessories like belts and bags and for upholstering sofas and headboards and wall and floor covering.
Pleather is a combination of plastic (PVC) and polyester; it is also called faux leather being an inexpensive look-alike of leather. Though not as durable or as good-looking as leather, the cost and ease of cleaning the material make it material in demand. If you get pleather which is thin and slightly stretchy, this is best for making clothes and will be easier to sew as well.
All the problems associated with sewing vinyl and plastic doesnot deter from the advantages of plastic products or vinyls. Plastic is the 6th most important invention in the modern world. Refer this article. You can make beautiful things which look way more expensive than they are with this material.
Let us move on about how to sew with plastic and vinyl
Sewing machine for sewing with vinyl/ pleather ?
First and formost you cannot sew thick plastic and vinyl on a flimsy home sewing machine. You need a sturdy enough machine for that. Hope you have one. Because when it comes to sewing with many layers of vinyl your home sewing machine is going to be severely shaken up. Follow these steps for a better experience.
- Use walking foot. Plastic and vinyl will move easier under the machine with a walking foot, without getting stuck or marking the material. You can also use teflon foot or nonsticky foot for the same purpose.
- Use polyester thread. It is sturdy enough for the material. Good quality all purpose nylon thread will work as well.
- You can use an ordinary sewing needle for thin plastic and vinyl sewing. But for thicker vinyl use denim sewing needles or Sewing machine needle no 16. Do not use leather sewing needles as it will tear into the material. Change sewing needle after every project. A dull needle should not be used with this material.
- Adjust the stitch length to 3 for ordinary stitching and 4 for top stitching. Lessen the pressure on the pressure foot.
With these tips you can use your ordinary machine to sew two to three layers of vinyl / plether / plastic. But for more layers and frequent use, look for a vinyl/leather sewing machine.
Some tips before sewing with vinyl /pleather
- When sewing with thick vinyl try to incorporate a pretty fabric to the pattern. This way you can avoid the inevitable bulk at the seam, especially when sewing straps, near fastenings etc.
- You need a good clear working surface. You have to keep the pattern pieces safe without making scratches. Not on the kitchentop with everything nearby. (Microwave and stove – heat is going to destroy the material). One little scratch will grow big in no time.
- A large cutting surface. The plastic and vinyl is not going to bend and drape like cloth. You cannot bend and fold the material without damaging it.
- Plastic and vinyl will stick to metal and plastic surfaces, so cover the area with a cotton cloth for ease of movement.
How to mark and cut vinyl / pleather /plastic
- Use chalk to mark the pattern. If you can get your hands on Chaco liner pens , nothing like it. A white pen is enough to mark fine thin lines . The marks will brush off easily enough. No need to say do not mark with ball pens. I have been foolish enough to do it once.
- Use small plastic binder clips ( as you cannot pin or baste vinyl) to hold edges together.
- Use rotary cutter to cut vinyl for a smooth cutting experience. If you do not have one, use the sharpest scissors in your sewing basket. Checkout simple ways to sharpen your scissors here.
How to stitch vinyl / pleather
- A simple seam is enough to sew plastic and vinyl. As the edges of this material do not fray you do not need any fabric edge finishes done. I simple do a double seam stitch like the picture given when doing a simple seam.
- Lapped seam – For extra strong seams and to ensure that the seams do not have pressure ( because of the seam stitches the material may tear at the seam) You can sew a lapped seam. This is made by folding the seam allowance to one side and sewing along the edge. You have to make a seam with a seam allowance of 1/2 inch. Then fold the seam allowance to one side. Stitch along the edge of the seam allwoance joining it to the main fabric.You will now get a stitching line parallel to the seam. This will make the seam extra strong and prevent ripping of material at the seam
- Use heavy duty topstitching thread for top stitching and sew with a longer stitch length than normal ( 4 is good).
- Using glue at the seams in addition to the stitches will reinforce the seam. Just a drop of glue some 2 inch apart on the seams would do the trick.
- You cannot backstitch at the starting and ending of sewing like you do with other fabric. The stitching will be very obvious. The trick is to leave long tails of thread at the start, take it to the back of the material and end and tie off at the back
- Use interfacing on the back wherever you are stitching or applying fasteners. The material will tear when pressure is applied.