Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Tips for Sewing with Vinyl with Leah B.

Hi! I’m Leah. I Instagram constantly at @leahbee, and I blog occasionally at

Lately I’ve been obsessed with sewing vinyl pouches and Melinda asked me do a post with some tips and tricks for vinyl sewing. I’m happy to oblige!

I really love the results when you use vinyl in a project. (Notice I didn’t say I love sewing with vinyl?) It can be a pain to work with, but to me the finished product is worth it. The see-through factor is great, and honestly I kind of just like the way it feels.

When I first started sewing with vinyl I read a million things about how to do it, but not all of it worked for me. So here is it what I do.

  1. Label your pieces! I usually cut pieces for multiple projects at once since my roll is such a pain to get out and cut from. It can be hard to keep everything straight, but a little piece of washi tape with the size written on it solves that problem. 

  1. Know your machine, and don’t be afraid to experiment. I just got a new sewing machine, and what worked on my old machine doesn’t work on this one. I used to have to put the fabric on top, vinyl in the middle, and a piece of tissue paper on the bottom to help the vinyl slide through. With my new sewing machine, I place the fabric on the bottom and the vinyl on top with a walking foot. No tissue paper necessary! I am careful to hold the vinyl up off the bed and everything works perfectly. So try different things out! Scotch tape on the bottom of my presser foot didn't work for me, and I’ve never bothered with the expense of a Teflon foot. Some techniques to try:
  • Tissue  paper: put a layer of tissue paper on your vinyl so it doesn’t stick to the presser foot or machine. When you finish the seam, simply tear the paper away.
  • Scotch tape: Stick a piece of scotch tape on the bottom of your presser foot to keep the vinyl from sticking.
  • Teflon foot: you can buy a presser foot made of Teflon that theoretically the vinyl won’t stick to. (I’ve never tried this!)
  • Walking foot: you probably already have one. Extra feed dogs may be all you need to pull the vinyl through evenly.
  • Hold the vinyl up: hold it away from the bed of your machine so it doesn’t stick!

  • Wonder clips are your friend! You can’t use pins with vinyl because they’ll leave a hole. You'll need something like wonder clips to hold them in place.
  • Avoid creases. You can't really iron vinyl without it melting so try to avoid folding it. If you have a bad crease, you could try a medium heat iron with a press cloth, but definitely don't hold the iron on it for very long. Finger-press all seams. To store without folds, keep it rolled up on a cardboard tube. If it curls up too much, just set your pieces under a few books and you shouldn't have any trouble.
Where do you buy vinyl?
The vinyl I have now was purchased from, but I’m officially done shopping there (ask me about it some time, I’ll happily rant at you!) so next time I’ll be sourcing elsewhere. Luckily it’s pretty easy to find, and pretty inexpensive. You can expect a yard of 12- or 16-gauge to run about $4-6. And when you’re using it for pouches, a yard lasts a long time. I bought mine over a year ago and I still have plenty left. I’ve seen it at Joann and Hancock Fabrics, and of course any google search for “16-gauge clear vinyl” will bring up multiple sources, most from reputable shops. The higher the gauge, the thicker the vinyl. The patterns I’ve seen that specify a weight say 12 or 16. I have 16-gauge and find it to be just the right weight; I’ll buy it again in the future.

What are some good patterns that use vinyl?

There are lots! Noodlehead’s Road Trip Case is one. I made one of those in March for my sister, modified to be a knitting needle case. I love that huge vinyl pocket!

Aneela Hoey has several patterns with vinyl pockets. I’ve made a bunch of her patterns and find them to be excellent. Her Foldover Sewing Pouch is so useful—I bring mine to every guild sewing day.

I also love the Crazy Mom Quilts WIP Bag pattern. It has the cleverest zipper installation I’ve ever seen! I need a whole army of these to wrangle the piles in my sewing room.

And my favorite recent vinyl pouch is a modified Noodlehead Open Wide pouch. This one is directly inspired by fellow guild member Dana Seltzer, who made one that I immediately copied 5 times. I’m working on one for each of my son’s puzzles. He and I both love the way they look, and I love the way they keep the pieces off my floor!

Thank you, Leah, for such a thorough post!  

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  1. Nice post, Leah! I might even feel inspired to pull out the vinyl that I put in time out after the last time I tried to work with it...

    1. Thanks Alyson! Dooooo it. Vinyl pouches for everyone!

  2. Great tips Leah. I have a teflon foot which I've tried to use with vinyl with little success. The walking foot seems to work much better. I've found that if you have vinyl which has gotten folded, using a hair dryer can help to flatten it back out. Thanks for the inspiration photos and project ideas!

    1. Ooh the hairdryer great tip! I'll definitely keep that in mind.

  3. My husband gets paid tomorrow, and I have big plans to go buy some vinyl (if the sick little boy doesn't hamper those plans). You have really inspired me, Leah.

  4. Sorry, that last comment was from Melinda ;)