Tuesday, August 9, 2016

IITBS-- Jen of Sincerely Jen: How to sew with Vinyl

How is it the last day of the It's in the Bag! series already? What a fun week with some great giveaways and so many awesome tips from bag gurus. For our last day, the queen of vinyl herself, Jenny of Sincerely Jen gives us her tips on sewing with vinyl to take the fear out of adding this to your bags.

Jenny makes the most incredible bags, and many of the Swoon Patterns feature her bags on the cover. She does a fabulous job mixing fabrics with vinyl and other design elements to create stunning and professional looking bags.

If you don't already follow Jenny on Instagram, you are missing out! I always feel inspired to sew whenever I see what gorgeous projects she is working on. If you'd like to order one of her stunning bags, hit her up on Facebook to see what she currently has to sell or to order your own custom bag. 


Hi there!  I'm Jenny, from Sincerely, Jen, and we're going to talk about vinyl today!  I was honored when Cyndi asked me if I'd be willing to write a post on sewing with vinyl.  I've been sewing bags with vinyl for a few years now.  Usually they just have vinyl accents (typically per the instructions of my #1 favorite, Swoon Patterns.)  When I was asked to do this blog post, I figured I better make an all vinyl bag so I could at least feel qualified ;)

This is the Blanche Barrel Bag.  Pattern by Swoon Sewing Patterns.

Since sewing with vinyl is always surrounded with so many questions, lets do this in a Q & A format!  I posted on Instagram a few days ago asking for questions about vinyl and everybody was so helpful!  Now I'll try my best to answer the most important questions to the best of my ability.  My way may not be the "right" way, but it is what works for me!

First things first, what is the best vinyl to purchase for sewing bags?

When I'm shopping for vinyl, I usually like to buy it in person so I can see what I'm getting.  You want an upholstery vinyl, so it is heavy enough to hold up in bag making, and it doesn't have much, if any, stretch to it.  I have a local shop where I buy a lot of my vinyl, unfortunatly they are not online.

This is the type of flannel backing you are looking for.
However, I buy my most favorite vinyl at JoAnn's, and you can find it here - this vinyl has a flannel backing, which is what you want to look for.  I find that most marine vinyls are too thick and stiff for bag making - my only exception to this is glitter vinyl, of which I prefer the marine vinyl variety (I buy that from Fabric.com).  In my experience, with vinyl, you get what you pay for!!  I love looking for a good deal as much as the next guy, but don't scrimp on your vinyl!
You DO NOT want this!! The backing seems
like a quilt batting and the vinyl feels like thin plastic.

What sewing machine do you use?

My main squeeze is my Juki DDL-8700.  It is an industrial machine and she is a beast!  I go through several layers of vinyl on this machine and have no problems at all!!!  (Just look at all those layers!)

For years, I sewed all my bags on my Brother PC420.  It is an electronic domestic sewing machine.  I wouldn't dream of sewing an entire vinyl bag on this machine, but I've made several bags with vinyl accents on this machine with no problems! (Especially if you get the Jo'Ann's vinyl I linked above!)

What needles do I use to sew vinyl?

   For my domestic machine, I use Schmetz Size 18 Leather needles.

   For my Juki, I use Organ DB X 1 size 16 needles.

Do you use special feet for sewing vinyl?

The foot I would most recommend for sewing vinyl is a Teflon foot.  It has a non-stick coating on the bottom that helps it to glide across vinyl easier.  There are also roller feet that are useful in this application, however I have not used one before.  With my Juki, I use the regular metal feet with no problems with most vinyls.  Test the foot you want to use on a scrap of your vinyl to see if it sticks before sewing your bag.  If your machine has an adjustable presser foot pressure (say that 5 times fast!) I notice that it is helpful to reduce the pressure on the foot and that helps the vinyl to glide more easily as well. 
These are both Teflon feet (see the white coating on the bottom?)  The one on
the left is for a domestic machine, and the one of the right is for the Juki.
I have also heard many recommendations of using a walking foot to help your vinyl feed more easily and evenly.  This is a walking foot for a domestic home sewing machine.  I'm not even sure if there is one for my Juki (I'd like to know that if there is!)

What kind of thread do you use?

I just use what my machine likes!  With my Brother, I always used Coats and Clark.  My Juki loves Gutermann thread!  If I know what colors I want, I order Mara 100 from Wawak.com.  Most of the time, I just buy Gutermann polyester Sew-All thread from JoAnn's - it is very close to the Mara 100.  If I want a nice thick top-stitching thread, I buy the Gutermann's top-stitching thread they sell at JoAnn's.  

While we're talking about thread, I use a stitch-length of 5 for top-stitching with the heavy top-stitch thread.  If I use the other threads for top-stitching, I use a stitch-length of 4.  For seams, I usually use a length of 2.5. 

Left:  Gutermann 100% Polyester Top-Stitching thread
Center:  Gutermann 100% Polyester All Purpose Thread
Right:  Gutermann 100% Polyester Mara 100

You can't pin vinyl (because the holes will be permanent) so what do you use instead?

Wonder Clips and Tanner's Bond Double Stick Tape are my two favorite things when I can't pin!

I use the double stick tape for things like making handles or piping.  

For handles:  Draw a line down the center of the handle pieces.
Add a line of double stick tape along each side of the line.  Press
well and remove the paper backing.  Fold each long edge in to the
center and press well along the DST.  
With both long edges folded to the center, add one more line of DST
along one of the folded edges, then fold in half again.  Then just top-stitch
along each long edge of the handle at a 1/8" seam allowance.

Wonder clips are best for holding parts together.  Like holding the piping on and holding the ends to the main body.  Just pull them off as you sew!

Not enough time to go into the complete how-to of making vinyl piping in this post,
but if you try it, make sure you clip into the seam allowance so it fits nicely around
the curves!
I also LOVE to use glue sticks with my vinyl!  Just regular glue sticks (this one was left over from the 16 my son needed for Kindergarten last year).  I typically use the glue stick to adhere overlays and handle connectors to the bag.  Cover the entire backside of the overlay, press it in place, let it dry for just a little while, and it stays in place nicely for you to sew!

Do you interface vinyl and can you iron it?
As far as interfacing vinyl is concerned, sometimes you do and sometimes you don't!  I do not add interfacing to handles.  As long as you have chosen a quality vinyl, it will be sturdy enough to hold up for your handles.  If you think it feels a little thin, then go ahead and add a layer of fusible woven interfacing (Shapeflex SF101).  For bag that need to hold their shape, such as the Swoon Blanche that I sewed all in vinyl, you will still want to use the foam interfacing and the stabilizer in the bottom panel.  Basically, you will still interface if it is meant to give the bag shape.  If the interfacing is only intended to make the fabric a more heavy weight, then you can skip it.

I use wonder-under fusible webbing to adhere my foam to by vinyl or fabric when I'm sewing bags.  Never touch the hot iron to the right side of your vinyl, IT WILL MELT!!!  I iron the wonder-under to the vinyl from the wrong side.  Then I place the foam over the wonder-under, place a pressing cloth over the foam, and iron the foam to the vinyl.  I have pressed many different vinyls from the wrong side and haven't melted any yet.  Of course, try a scrap of your vinyl first, to make sure it can hold up to the heat.  

Wow!  That was a lot of information!  I only covered the basics here, and tried to answer all the questions I am asked most often.  I could go on all day with more specifics, but will have to save that for another time.  I hope this is helpful to you and hope that you feel a little more comfortable working with vinyl now! 


Unknown said...

Thanks for the great tips and tricks!!!!

Unknown said...

Awesome tips, thank you!

Linda said...

Thank you Jenny! What a beautiful vinyl bag!!

dalla nonna said...

Thank you Jenny! You create BEAUTIFUL bags! great tips for sewing with vinyl - thanks for touching on making and attaching vinyl piping.

Norma's Bag Boutique said...

Great tutorial on sewing with vinyl. Thanks for all the information. You make awesome bags. I just started using vinyl and I tested before sewing. There's a walking foot for JUKI. Mine is the TL2000Qi and it brought one with it. It's pretty big. I tried it with my vinyl when I was testing for the handles but it left some scratching on the vinyl. So I just used my regular foot. I used a new jean needle. Maybe I needed to adjust the pressure on the foot. My vinyl was from Joann's. I didn't interfaced the vinyl but if I ever need to I will like to know; which setting do you use on your iron for the SF101? Thanks again for all the great information.

Unknown said...

I love your work! Thanks for the tips!

Terri said...

Great info... thanks for sharing.

Terri said...

Great info... thanks for sharing.

Dawn J said...

Hi Jenny great info and tips! I feel a little more confident now in trying to sew with vinyl. 😉

Carmal Hall said...

Love your work Jen, I use a Janome with a walking foot for all my leather and faux leather projects

Unknown said...

Is the foam interfacing withe the vinyl bulky or over kil?

Unknown said...

Is the foam interfacing withe the vinyl bulky or over kil?

Unknown said...

Hi Jenny this was a great post. I have a Juki semi industrial and it uses industrial feet. I have both a Teflon foot and Walking foot for my Juki. Look on Ebay or if you live near the Asian sewing community often the little shops have a stock of industrial presser feet.

I also like the double sided tape but was really interested in reading about your glue stick. Will have to try this and also sewing a totally vinyl bag.
Thanks for the interesting information.

Jenny said...

I always use the hottest setting, and you'll want steam to adhere the SF101. Make sure you test a scrap first so you know if your vinyl will melt!

Jenny said...

Thank you! I'm not near an Asian sewing community, but I'll have a look on eBay!

Jenny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Thank you!

Unknown said...

Thank you for a most informative article.

zeb312 said...

AWESOME TIPS!!! Thank you!!!

bluvs2shop said...

I haven't had my Juki very long so maybe there's a trick I'm not aware of...I can only use thread on a cone. I'd love to be able to buy Gutterman top thread from Joanns but how do you get it to work with your Juki since it's not on a cone?

Janelle said...

This is such a great article, thanks so much! I have never sewn with vinyl but I want to start. Do you just leave the edges raw, for example on the piece of vinyl sewn on to the outside of a bag that will have hardware for handles?

Unknown said...

I've just started making bags and sewing with vinyl (first up was a Maisie from Swoon!) and this post has been so very helpful! Thank you for sharing!

Jenny said...

Janelle, you can leave the edges rawith on vinyl with no problems! There is acrylic leather paint available (I've seen it listed on Amazon) that you can use to paint the raw edges before sewing the bag together.

Jenny said...

So glad my post could help you!! You're welcome!

Jenny said...

I just slide it on where the cones go. It sits above the part that fits inside the cone.

Jenny said...

I just slide it on where the cones go. It sits above the part that fits inside the cone.