Can You Sew Vinyl With a Regular Sewing Machine?
Vinyl might seem like a challenge to sew. But it can be done with a regular sewing machine so long as the material is not too heavy. For heavier vinyl, an industrial-weight machine is required.
Vinyl has become a catch-all term for any plastic or plastic-layered material, though the term does not technically apply to all. For instance, clear plastic is not an actual vinyl.
Craft Vinyl vs Vinyl Fabric
There are two main types of vinyl of which you should be aware. Firstly, craft vinyl is not appropriate for sewing but is an adhesive material requiring heat or pressure to apply to a surface.
Vinyl fabric is the type of vinyl we will discuss in this article. It comes in a wide variety of thicknesses, textures, and colors.
Types of Vinyl Fabric
Here are some of the more common vinyl fabrics:
PVC (polyvinyl chloride) fabric is a polyester fabric coated with PVC. Regular machines can handle a lightweight PVC fabric. Heavier weights are for industrial use.
Artificial leather is one of the more popular vinyl products since it is so much more economical than the real thing (and less controversial) while providing the same look. Faux leather mimics many types of animal skins with varying textures, colors, thicknesses, and patterns.
Laminated fabrics are usually made from a high-quality cotton fabric coated with clear polyurethane. The clear coating makes the material ideal for waterproof clothing or bags. This vinyl is easily sewn with a regular machine.
Oil cloth is heavier than laminated fabric. It’s made with a cotton mesh support covered with thick layers of PVC. Because of its durability and easy cleaning, oilcloth works great for kids’ crafts. It helps that the vinyl is available in many bright colors and patterns.
Chalk cloth really can be written on with chalk. It’s similar to but much thicker than oilcloth, so it may not be a good choice to sew with a regular machine. Chalk cloth is used for signs, tags, and interior home decor.
Tips for Sewing Vinyl With a Regular Sewing Machine
If you’re not sure whether or not your machine can handle the thickness of your choice of vinyl, many fabric shops will cut you a sample piece to experiment with. Before you start, you’ll need to set up your machine for sewing this type of fabric.
If you anticipate washing the article you’re making in the future, you’ll need to pre-shrink the material. Check for washing instructions, especially temperature settings. And some vinyl cannot be machine washed at all.
Sewing Machine Settings and Accessories
Vinyl requires a heavier needle. Use a 90/14 or 100/16 (denim/jean needle) at the very least to avoid bending and breaking. For thicker material, a leather needle will cut through easier.
Use a heavy-duty or industrial weight thread for best results. Regular thread may break, tangle, or lack the necessary durability.
Use a Teflon coated, roller foot, or walking foot if available for your machine. Vinyl tends to stick under the presser foot, which can cause small, uneven stitching or thread bunching. It can also cause the material to rip apart like perforated paper.
If none of the mentioned presser feet are an option for you, coat your regular foot with a piece of clear tape such as you use when wrapping gifts.
You can also avoid sticking by laying a layer of tissue wrapping paper on top of the vinyl, beneath the presser foot. The paper will tear away easily after sewing, but it can also make it difficult to see what you’re sewing on.
Use an extra-long stitch length to minimize the perforation effect.
Use a test piece to adjust thread tension. Vinyl often requires a looser tension to prevent the thread from digging into the material.
Do’s and Don’t’s When Sewing Vinyl With a Sewing Machine
DO use chalk to draw any necessary lines on vinyl. Markers can be used on the wrong side to ensure they will not show later.
DO use a rotary blade to cut vinyl fabric. The lines will be smoother and cleaner with a rotary cutter than with scissors.
DO use a press cloth or iron vinyl on the wrong side to prevent heat damage. Ironing vinyl should be avoided, but if it’s necessary, test the iron temperature on a scrap piece. And try finger pressing before attempting to use an iron.
DO store vinyl in a roll to prevent creasing. Even small pieces should be stored flat or rolled loosely.
DO use fabric clips to hold pieces of vinyl together for sewing.
DON’T use pins on vinyl. Any holes you make will be permanent. Vinyl is not self-healing.
DON’T use a seam ripper on vinyl if you can help it. Measure and plan carefully. If you must remove stitching, it will leave behind permanent holes. You will not be able to resew in the same seam line without damaging the material.
DON’T use a backstitch. Although backstitching is an established method for knotting the thread at the beginning and end of a seam, it’s not good for vinyl. Backstitching adds extra holes that may result in tearing. Instead, pull both ends of the thread to the wrong side and hand knot them there.
DON’T finish the edges. Vinyl doesn’t ravel or fray, so there’s no need to serge or zigzag the edges.