I’m using the word “Vinyl” as a general name for all kinds of fabric with a plastic consistency or non-fiber feel. This includes artificial leather, pleather, oilcloth, etc. Generally speaking, these fabrics are all man made to serve a cheaper or more ethical purpose. But what exactly is the difference? Let’s take a look:
Vinyl: This is a pretty generic term. It comes in a variety of forms, but for the most part it’s a type of plastic. It’s waterproof, durable, flexible, and super cheap (relatively speaking).
Artificial Leather : These range from resembling animal hide to the wearable latex-look of Patent Leather. It’s much cheaper than buying real animal skin, and for a growing population of people, more ethical. It’s also water resistant and comes in many styles, textures, and prints. Some will have a cloth backing and others will not.
Oilcloth: This super slick material often comes is fun, brightly colored patterns that are printed on the surface. It’s water proof, durable, and very flexible. It’s a great starter fabric for kids crafts and generally low maintenance. Traditionally, Oilcloth was duck cloth coated with boiled linseed oil to give it it’s waxy, waterproof quality. Now, it’s mostly vinyl with a design printed on one side.
You may think of vinyl and think of laminated fabric or PUL fabric. Although these have a plastic-like film, they are more of a hybrid fabric and are handled just a tad differently. We’ll explain why in an upcoming post!
The surface of Vinyl is sticky and slippery at the same time. It’s notoriously difficult to feed with a standard general purpose because Vinyl needs a little extra help. A Walking Foot will help pull the fabric through at the same rate as your feed dogs. The Roller Foot and Non-Stick foot are also fantastic tools for feeding Vinyl, as well as many other fabrics.
The Needle: 100/16
You can normally find these in packages labeled “Leather” or “Denim“. Both work wonderfully. You can even use Denim Twin Needles for perfect parallel stitching. If you find a Leather or Denim needle that’s a size 90/14, you’re in the clear. It’s all about the needle design.
The Thread: Quality All Purpose or Heavy Duty
If you don’t expect to be constantly tugging at the seams, general purpose thread works well. However, if the vinyl you are using has a fair bit of weight to it and you expect your seams will experience stress, use Heavy Duty thread instead. It’s often beneficial to pull the needle thread to the back and manually tie a few knots.
The Pins: None.
Using pins will cause permanent holes which compromise the strength of the fabric. And any holes can easy to tear into bigger holes. Wonder Clips are a great, but you can also use paper clips or bobby pins as an alternative.
Stitch Length: 3.0 mm or greater.
Anything less than a 3.0 stitch length causes the seam to perforate (think of when you tear paper out of a notebook). It really compromises the strength of the seam. As far as width, try to keep it wider than 2.5 mm.
Pressing: No iron.
An iron will instantly melt the fabric. Instead, finger press the seams. If you have some serious creases, try leaving it out in the sun or somewhere warm. You can even turn on a hot shower and get the creases that way. You can also add weight (like a heavy textbook) to flatten out creased or set seams.
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