Tips for Sewing with Vinyl

Updated: Jan 8

From my Nancy's Project Bag Pattern

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I wrote a pattern for a vinyl Project Bag that I was taught in a class at a sewing retreat! I loved It so much, but the instructor, Nancy (!), did not have a pattern. I made a few notes as I made the bag and although I put in the zipper differently and I machine bind my bags, everything seemed to match what she taught!

As I started the project, I decided to do some research on what tips I could find with working with vinyl. Here are the ones I found most useful, plus my own tidbits on using a regular sewing machine foot to put in a zipper!

Tips for Working with Vinyl

  • Use a slightly longer stitch to avoid perforating the plastic. I use a 3.0 or 3.5 mm length stitch. This will also help tension issues as vinyl is thicker than fabric. I also used my free motion foot to baste the edges of the bag 1/8 inch from the edge with really wide stitches to avoid any unnecessary holes. I do the same thing with quilts on a longarm sewing machine.

  • Use Polyester thread. Polyester tends to be thicker; this will help with tension on your machine. It is also made with synthetic fibers, so it will not shrink if washed.

  • Use a fresh needle and your all-purpose scissors/rotary blade.

  • Use clips or paperclips, not pins, to hold vinyl in place. You want to avoid unnecessary holes.

  • Vinyl likes to stick. Use a specialized Teflon foot or one of the suggestions below:

o You can use scotch tape on the bottom of your pressure foot, leaving a hole for the needle to help. You can also put scotch tape on the needle plate (on either side of the feed dogs) to help.

o I use a very thin paper when working with larger pieces of vinyl. Such as tissue paper, parchment paper, even newspaper, or the paper it comes with. I use a piece underneath the vinyl, so that it slides over the needle plate and sewing table. If this thin paper gets caught, it tears off easily.

Tips for Using a Standard Foot with a Zipper

A zipper foot is great when you have one. If not, you can use a regular foot with a few precautions.

  • When stitching to the zipper tape, unzip the slider about ½ way down the zipper tape. Then stitch the front strip and the lining in place for 3-4 inches. Zip the leader up and continue stitching.

  • Be very aware of where your zipper teeth are, you do not want to stitch too close or over the plastic. If this happens, the zipper could get stuck in the fabric, the zipper will not be able to zip, or your needle might break (yikes!).

  • Stitch a line at the end of the zipper tape to keep the zipper from coming off/unzipping all the way during construction. Is there anything more frustrating than trying to put a zipper slider back on?? You can see in the second picture below that I made the stitch near the end, but you can do it at any time.

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You can find the free pattern Here!

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