This week is all about sewing difficult fabrics and materials! We are going to share with you our top tips for sewing everything from vinyl/leather to PUL and other sticky stuff! So let’s get to it!
Machine Feet & Needles
Before we hop into the good stuff, there is a few things you will want on hand when working with these fabrics and materials. Number 1 is a non-stick foot, a teflon foot OR a walking foot. These feet help the sticky materials glide smoothly as you sew. They help to prevent sticking to almost all slippery fabrics so are worth the investment! You’ll also want to have clips, be it Wonderclips or binder clips, on hand so you don’t puncture these materials!
As for needles, Denim, Leather and Microtex needles will become your best friends! I always have various thicknesses of needles on hand depending on the project. We’ll get into more detail for each material as to which is best where but trust me when I say, the right needle makes all the difference!
PUL (Polyurethane Laminate)
This fabric is geared towards use for baby items like cloth diapers and such but is EXCELLENT as a lining for toiletry and workout bags such as the Bree’s Box Toiletry Caddy! One side of the fabric is an interlock knit and the other has a slick water resistant covering. When working with it you want to try to avoid using pins because it can leave holes behind. You want to make sure you use a ballpoint needle when sewing PUL because it is a knit material though I have had success with universal needles! Also, because the material is a knit fabric, it does not fray! If you desire to use interfacing on PUL you will want to use a sew-in as you have the possibility of melting it if you attempt fusible.
Bonus tip: If you happen to put a hole in it with a pin, cover it with a pressing cloth and lightly press it and it will seal that hole up!
This material is a nylon fabric that is made in a way that prevents ripping or tearing. It has a unique woven crosshatch look that is done by adding thicker reinforcement threads to add strength. It is amazing for lining bags with that you wish to be waterproof and for snack bags too! When sewing this material you do NOT want to pin because it will leave holes behind.
If your Ripstop nylon has wrinkles in it, you will want to use a pressing cloth over it to smooth them out. My biggest tip: press out wrinkles BEFORE you cut out your pattern pieces. Even on a low setting, it will shrink! Being a nylon material that is slightly stiff, there is no need for interfacing it. If you feel you NEED to interface, make sure you use a sew-in style as a fusible one will not adhere! Any universal needle will work on Ripstop Nylon though the Microtex Needle makes the cleanest looking stitch!
There are many, many, MANY types of vinyl you can sewing with! Things too look for are thickness, stretching and backing. If you find one that is stretchy, you may want to add an interfacing to it or it is a nightmare to sew (ask me how I know 😉 ). Thickness is truly a personal preference. I prefer a thinner vinyl as it is easier to sew multiple layers for straps and such. As for the backing, some vinyl comes with a fleece backing. This can be beneficial because it can take out the extra step of fusible fleece or interfacing. Fleece backed vinyl sews like a dream and looks beautiful so definitely give it a try!
When sewing with vinyl, always use a leather or Microtex needle. It pierces the material in a way that doesn’t rip or damage it. Thicker top-stitch thread looks very professional on vinyl as well, though try it on some scrap first! Not all machines can handle the thicker thread going around the bobbin.
When it comes to interfacing vinyl, you have to be quick and ALWAYS use a pressing cloth. If your vinyl has a texture to it, be careful because the heat may reduce the texture. I have successfully added both fusible fleece and fusible foam to vinyl BUT it does not stick as well as it does for fabric so I always suggest basting as well.
Like regular vinyl, you want to be sure you are using a leather or Microtex needle. What makes this material unique is that it can be stiff almost like paper. It is generally very thin but because it is stiff, you do not need to interface it at all. If you are adding it to a project as an accent (zipper overlay) be sure to never touch it with your iron. It WILL melt and melt good! If you must, sew-in interfacing is the way to go!
Unlike vinyl, leather doesn’t have a true “grain” exactly. You will find it stretches some but you have plenty of freedom when cutting pattern pieces out. Like vinyl, leather comes in plenty of thicknesses and types so you will have to play around and see what you like best! Getting scraps from local upholsterers is the best place to start!
When stitching leather, you always want to use a leather needle! It pierces the hole in a way that prevents the leather from tearing. A top stitch thread looks amazing on leather as does something with a shimmer! it really pops!
When it comes to interfacing leather, you have to baste. You won’t need a light/medium weight interfacing on leather but if you need to add foam or fleece, it’s best to baste as it will not stick when fused. Trimming the seam allowance after you sew is a definite need too as most machines don’t want to fight with those layers!
Cork & Oil Cloth
We will touch on these in a new post further down the track so hold tight on these for now!
I think we have covered most of the most difficult fabrics you will encounter when bag making! If you want us to add something to the list, let us know below!
Which material are you most excited to try next? I love experimenting with vinyl. There’s just so many options to choose from!
Happy Bag Making!
The Little Bird Designs