Sewing with Vinyl

 Amp and guitar

The other half had a significant birthday in May, and I bought him a cigar box guitar  (Yes, that is a guitar made out of a wooden cigar box) and he bought an amplifier to use with it.   He asked me to make covers for them.  Instead I made a cover for my new light box!  Guilt set in, so I have now made him a cover for the amp.  I am no designer, which is why I started with the amp as it is a simple cuboid shape and only needed a drop on dust cover.  

Sun Visor

He wanted me to make the covers out of this red vinyl we used to make sun visors for my truck. I learnt a few lessons about sewing with Vinyl when I made them, the most important ones being;-

  • Use the right tools if you want to get the best results
  • always test by sewing a sample before the real thing gets spoilt
  • never try this in a hurry!

THE RIGHT TOOLS

"Leather" page in my Sewing Machine Needle Organizer
“Leather” page in My Sewing Machine Needle Organizer

Needles – You need to use Leather needles.  They have a chisel shaped tip to cut through leather and vinyl without tearing it.  Fit a new one for a new project.  I keep mine in my organizer.  (Make yourself a Sewing Machine Needle Organizer – download the pages and tutorial for free )

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sewing Machine Foot – Use a non-stick teflon coated foot (Janome’s is called an Ultra Glide foot) which is specifically designed for vinyl.  Yes, you can get by covering the foot with Scotch Invisible tape, but if you expect to sew vinyl quite often it’s worth investing in this purpose made foot.

Thread – I found out last time that I couldn’t use a thicker upholstery thread as it got shredded in the needle.  My best results were from using Gutermann’s Sew-All polyester thread.

Smiley drawn and half erased with Frixion pen
Smiley drawn and half erased with Frixion pen

Marking – I found a Frixion Pen was a good tool for this, you can rub the marks out with the eraser on the end of the pen.  It works better on the vinyl than the backing.  I bought a set of 3 (Red, Blue and Black) from Amazon.co.uk

Jelly_clips_sm

Pinning – DON’T EVER USE PINS!  I use these clips from www.u-handbag.com (in their Haberdashery), or you can use the red ones from Clover, or bull-dog clips, (or even paper clips but be very careful when you take them off).  You can use Wonder Tape as I did for my applique, but use enough to be sure it won’t move!

TEST EVERYTHING FIRST

Stitch Length – making perforations in Vinyl weakens it, and you don’t want your perforations tearing, so use a LONGER stitch.  I use 3 – 4 on my Janome

Tension – you may be okay on Auto, but with several layers I found I had to change mine down to 2

Starting and finishing – DO NOT BACK STITCH!  As I said making perforations weakens it, repeated perforations weakens it more.   So at the beginning and end of stitching simply pull the top thread to the back and tie the ends off.  If you find it easier, thread the tail into a hand sewing needle and use that to pull it through.  

tails not held!

IMPORTANT TIP – HOLD THE THREAD TAILS TAUT BEHIND THE NEEDLE AS YOU START SEWING.  Just for a couple of stitches.  This will prevent you getting a tangle of threads like this one.  Yes, I forgot that tip on the applique!

Neatening Seams – Well obviously vinyl doesn’t fray.  I trimmed some with pinking shears because it looks nice.   Others I topstitched to hold them flat, which does give a more professional finish.

HOW I MADE THE COVER

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I started by taking the measurements, then added 1/2″ seam allowances and rounded everything up to the nearest 1/2″.  As I am a chicken, I decided to sew a flat bag then box the corners, so I could avoid having to fit gussets!  I trimmed these seams with pinking shears.  

I could have stopped there, but the amp has a carry handle on the top so I decided to cut a slot to reach it and add a flap to cover the slot.  Not much point having a dust cover with a hole in the top letting the dust in!

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I did a bound slot using the same method as for a bound buttonhole/zipped interior pocket, and top stitched around the edge.  Next I added the flap, made by sewing 2 pieces right sides together with an opening left for turning.  I topstitched round the 3 stitched sides.  The opening was tucked in and stitched closed when I attached it to the cover, carefully meeting up with the topstitching.

Faked bias binding

Again I could have stopped there, but I wasn’t happy with it.  I decided it looked a bit short, and the single layer at the hem looked a bit thin and unfinished.  So I decided to add some fake bias binding to make it longer.  I cut a strip and sewed it to the inside, wrong sides together. You can see it easily here as I stitched it on in black for some reason(?!?!). 

Bound hem

Then I wrapped it around to the outside,  turned under 1/2″, and top stitched it down.  Now it hangs better, reaches down further, and looks far more substantial.  Well faked!

wrong length, right length!
wrong length, right length!

It was at this point I decided I should have top stitched the side seams to make them lay flat.  This is definitely done in the wrong order, and it would have been okay if it had been the same day.  Unfortunately it was the next morning, and I forgot the Janome defaults to a short  2.2 length stitch so I had one row stitched before I realised, and re-set it back to three.  Just as well the sewing police were off duty.  The other end looks great!

Topstitched seams

Lastly I looked at it and thought it was a little plain and boring, so I got out my collection of Applique templates and some black vinyl.  I chose the skull and crossbones from my kids apron collection, and then used a black permanent marker to colour the white edges of the vinyl.I used Prym Wonder Tape to hold the applique in place and it all worked well until I got to his jaw, which now looks dislocated.  Or maybe he’s saying something?

Skull and Crossbones with dislocated jaw!
Skull and Crossbones with dislocated jaw!

Overall I’m pleased, and the other half laughed when he saw the decoration so I guess he is too.  Next I have to work out how to do the cigar box guitar cover as I want to line it, and add a zipper closure….  I’ll be back!

 

Making Leather Bags