Sewing with clear vinyl can be easy if you know just a few tricks to get things going smoothly.
There are so many fun projects to sew using vinyl - pouches, wallets, bags, home organizing items, and more. I’m guessing that you reached this post because you want to make sewing on vinyl easy and your projects to look amazing.
In this post I’m going to share:
What thicknesses of clear vinyl are best for sewing
Where to buy vinyl to sew with (or find it for free)
Tips for making sure the vinyl on your finished project looks great
Techniques for helping the clear vinyl move smoothly through your sewing machine.
I will also share links to my free tutorials just in case you want to make any of the projects featured in these photographs.
What Thicknesses of Clear Vinyl are Best for Sewing?
The higher the gauge of the vinyl, the thicker it is. Most rolls of vinyl by the yard have a tag that will tell you what gauge it is - or the package should indicate it.
My local craft shop sells different clear vinyls from 4 gauge all the way up to 20 gauge. Marine and upholstery businesses often sell very thick vinyl going up to 60 guage.
For sewing purses and pouches, I really like 12-16 guage vinyl. It doesn’t hold wrinkles very easily and it is sturdy without being too stiff to work with.
If your project will require turning inside out and back again, you will probably want a thinner vinyl in the 8-12 gauge range.
Honestly, vinyl is so inexpensive (less than fabric!) that I suggest you buy 1/4 yard of several different gauges and see which ones you like working with most.
Where to Find Vinyl To Sew With
First of all - just about all clear vinyl can be used for sewing projects.
Vinyl that is specifically made for sewing projects can be purchased at your local quilt or craft shop in packages that look like this, by the yard in the home decor section of the fabric store (see photo above), and even online from retailers like Amazon.
I have also used vinyl that I re-purposed from the packaging that my dog’s bed came in. Bedding (for humans), curtains, and lots of other household items come in vinyl packaging these days.
If the vinyl on your packaging isn’t very wrinkled you can re-use it by cutting out the clean, smooth parts.
That’s free vinyl for sewing!
Tips for Ensuring the Clear Vinyl on your Finished Project Looks Great
The vinyl on your finished sewing projects should look clean and new - whether you bought it new or recycled it from a store bought package.
1. To make your vinyl look smooth and wrinkle-free you can iron it with a warm or medium-heat iron if you are always careful to place a press cloth in between the iron and the vinyl. If you don’t have a press cloth - no worries! Just use a spare fat quarter (18’’ x 20’’) piece of cotton fabric.
Sometimes I press my vinyl (using a press cloth) before starting to get out any wrinkles that happened during shipping or when bringing it home. I also press while sewing if needed - still using a press cloth to make sure that the hot iron doesn’t touch my vinyl.
After pressing, let the vinyl lay flat on your ironing board for a few seconds to cool off. This helps it keep the flat shape that you pressed it.
2. I have found that the easiest way to cut vinyl from pattern pieces is to lay the pattern under the clear vinyl and trace over the pattern with a sharpie marker.
Then I use scissors to cut out the traced shape just inside my marker line so it won’t show on the project.
If your vinyl edges will be covered with binding or will otherwise not show, you don’t have to worry about that.
3. When sewing with vinyl, try to use clips instead of pins, especially on areas of the vinyl that will show. I really like Clover Wonderclips.
The holes that pins make won’t heal up like they do on fabric.
When attaching vinyl to the underside of a zipper, Wondertape double sided sewing adhesive is a great alternative to pins and neither will shift!
Techniques for Helping the Vinyl Move Smoothly through your Sewing Machine
Whenever possible, I try to sew on the fabric parts of my project instead of directly on vinyl, but sometimes you simply must.
In the photo above, you can see that I am sewing a dividing line directly on the vinyl surface of my pocket. When I started sewing the foot got stuck and the stitches are very small. You can even see some bobbin thread coming up when the foot didn’t move.
A few centimeters past the tiny stitches my sewing machine’s foot began to glide evenly over the vinyl. Can you guess why?
I put a drop of sewing machine oil on my finger and wiped it across the bottom of the foot. Voila! Smooth sailing.
I really like this method because I already have sewing machine oil in a drawer near my machine and it’s very quick. If there is any oil left when I am done I can easily wipe it away.
There are also sewing machine feet made especially for sewing on vinyl. Some are teflon coated and some have little rollers on the bottom that glide over the vinyl. If the oil trick doesn’t work for you, it might be worth it to invest in one.
If your vinyl is getting stuck on the bed of your sewing machine or the needle plate, there are other techniques to try.
One tip is to place a piece of tissue paper under the project while you sew. This works very well and vinyl often comes with tissue paper between the layers so you don’t have to buy any.
If only a certain part of your sewing machine is sticking to the vinyl (such as the bobbin window or the needle plate) you can place masking tape over the place that sticks. The slightly rough surface of masking tape prevents it from sticking to the clear vinyl.
I hope these tips help you make beautiful clear vinyl sewing projects. If you have found any more tips or techniques that work for you, leave them in the comments below.