Thursday, February 12, 2015

sewing with vinyl and shortening zippers

When developing the pattern for my Work In Progress bags, I tested at least 7 different kinds of vinyl! I bought 3 at JoAnn's, 3 different ones at Wal-Mart and I also used two that I had on hand. Ok, so maybe 8 different kinds.

Here in the US (I'm not sure about other countries) vinyl is sold by the yard and it comes on 54" wide roll. Vinyl comes in different weights, ranging from 4 gauge (the very lightest I found, which is the thickness of a really cheap shower curtain) to 20 gauge (which is pretty thick).

I tested 8 gauge vinyl for the pattern and I found it to be a little bit wimpy. It could work in a pinch, but it was too thin for my tastes.

I tried 12 and 16 gauge vinyl and those both worked beautifully! There is a little bit of heft to it, but not overly thick and pretty easy to sew through. 12 or 16 gauge is what I recommend for the pattern. Easy to use, but sturdy enough to hold up over repeated use.

I also made at least one bag with 20 gauge vinyl, which worked, but that stuff is pretty thick! After making several WIP bags, the thickness didn't phase me, but if you are just starting out, it might be a little intimidating.

I purchased vinyl at JoAnn's and at my store it ranged in price from $4.99-$8.99/yard.

My local Wal-Mart also carries vinyl on the roll (sometimes referred to as clear table covering) in the craft section, but they don't specify the gauge anywhere on their product. (Because why would it be that easy, right?) I tried 3 of their products, Heavy Weight Clear, Clear Vinyl Premium and Super Weight Clear. If I had to guess, I would say that they would be 12, 16 and 20 gauge respectively. That's just a guess! All of them worked well for the pattern. At my store, the prices ranged from $2.97-$4.77, which is significantly cheaper than JoAnn's and no coupons needed! But, finding someone to cut it might be a little tricky.

I had some vinyl on hand that I used as well. It had been rolled up, folded up and shoved in the back of a closet for a few years. It was kind of a mess and it was creased in some areas. I cut around the most significant creases. For the less significant creases, I found that if you place a piece of fabric over the vinyl, a warm iron can release/relax some of the kinks. I would be cautious in doing this, because you don't want to melt the vinyl (and ruin your iron), but it does help. I would start with a warm iron and increase the temperature gradually, as needed. Just be careful!

When purchasing and storing vinyl, be cautious not to crease or smash it. Also, don't roll it up too tightly into a tube, or it will retain it's curl and it is harder to use. A little experience talking!

Now, a few thoughts about sewing with vinyl....

Sewing with vinyl isn’t difficult, but it takes a bit of getting used to. Don’t expect perfection right out of the gate! Be sure to sew slowly and take your time. That really does help! You can't pin through vinyl (without leaving holes) so Clover wonder clips are essential. They hold the layers in place while you sew. I used a standard piecing foot on my sewing machine--even when attaching the zipper to the vinyl. If the vinyl sticks to the sole plate of your machine, you can place a piece of tissue paper under the vinyl and it will allow the piece to move through your machine easily. Sometimes the first few stitches are sticky, so I just nudge it along to get it moving and usually it's smooth sailing from there. I used a Universal 80/12 sewing machine needle.
 
I've heard that a Teflon foot helps, but I have never tried one. If you have, I'd love to hear if you think it was beneficial.
 
Now, a few things about zippers. I feel like I'm writing a book report. Hahaha!

Did you know that a zipper is always measured from end stop to end stop? (Not from one end of the zipper tape to the other.) I didn't know that until last week. There is a whole diagram here about how to measure a zipper that is pretty interesting.

My local quilt shop sells zippers for $1.10 (which is a good price) and they come in so many fun colors. They only carry one size (14"), but since they have vinyl teeth, they are easily shortened.

I thought it would be beneficial to share how to shorten a zipper. As always, this is just one way to do it!
Here I have a 14" zipper and two fabric tabs that I made. (These tabs can vary in size, depending upon your project. I made smaller tabs when I made my sew together bags.)
Slip one of the zipper tabs over the end with the metal stop and sew in place. Don't encase the metal stop inside the fabric tab.
Mark the length that you want your zipper to be. In this case, I want my zipper, with tabs, to be 13 3/4", so I made marks at 13 3/4". A sharpie works great for this step.
Cut on the markings. Be careful NOT to slide the zipper right off the end!
Place the remaining fabric tab over the zipper ends so they are fully enclosed. Pinch the two parts of the zipper tape together. Carefully take the piece to your machine and sew it in place.
It's a little tricky! As you can see, the tab isn't placed exactly 90 degrees on my zipper. But really, it's ok! Once the zipper is installed, you won't even notice. The overall measurement of the zipper, with tabs, is about 13 3/4". That's it!

Ok, that is a LOT of information in one blog post! I hope that it helps clear up any questions you may have. If I missed anything, please ask and I will try to answer in the comments.

Go forth and sew with vinyl AND zippers without fear! :)

40 comments:

Esperanza✿⊱╮ said...

Gracias, eres muy amable al compartir esta gran idea!!!

Debbie Faber said...

A hair dryer may also take those difficult wrinkles out of the vinyl?

La Pecora Nera said...

Grazie. Thank you so much 😘

Jeanenne Nielsen said...

A teflon foot is very helpful in sewing with vinyl. I have sewed on vinyl with and without a teflon foot and it works best with a teflon foot.

the momma said...

I did not know that about zipper length! Thanks!! I often don't have the correct size zipper and cut it down, but never without some angst, as I'm not sure I'm cutting it to exactly the right size....
(your bags are super cute. I don't tend to keep a lot of WIPs, but if I did, this would be a great way to keep up with them)

sara brownlee said...

i have used a teflon foot and it makes sewing with vinyl much,much easier! i have 18 wips in various stages of completion---7 only need backings and to be quilted. 1 just needs binding. but with so many quilts to make--who has time to finish everything? haha
love these bags and would love to win a copy
thanks you
sara

Sally said...

Just purchased the pattern. Our first grandchild arrives next month and thought I would make a bag to hold burp cloth and bib in for those out and about times when you want something a little nicer. Of course I will need to purchase more fabric to have all matching! I purchased the bump to baby charm pack for the baby quilt so think I will stick with those. Thank you for the pattern and the helpful hints. Sally

coastal gray said...

Teflon foot is great, I use it with any leather or vinyl project...

Nann said...

I don't know why shortening a zipper has always seemed to be a scary prospect. Your tutorial shows that it's easy! Thanks also for the tips about sewing vinyl. (I wonder who invented the gauge and if it's a world standard or just U.S.)

Suzanne said...

This post was full of great information. I loved making the WIP with your pattern and the whole time I thought, she is wicked smart. The zipper construction was truly clever.

I echo your comment that wonder clips would be ideal for the project. I don't have any yet so I had to slow down even more to keep the vinyl from slipping. I was still able to complete the bag without them though. Do you have a favorite place to buy wonder clips?

Ps I am jazzed about the off-centered zipper placement. That is going to be the next version I make. Xoxo

einfach bunt said...

Thanks for sharing your knowledge!
I had fun reading the "how to shorten a zipper" section! In Germany you can buy zippers by the yard. They don't have any end stops, you just cut them the length you need and you insert the zipper pull yourself. You stop being afraid of loosing zipper pulls...
I like the way you make the tabs!
Did you ever hear of "quilters vinyl" by c&t ?

Lea said...

I love the WIP bags you are making. Thanks for all the vinyl and zipper information. I will have to check at Wal-Mart for that. (They finally have someone to cut fabric in my local store, and it is awesome!)

Lisa J. said...

I've never used a zipper tab before. That's a great idea and I think I've always shortened from the other end. Thanks for the tips.

made by ChrissieD said...

I teach a lot of vinyl zippered wash bag classes so know quite a bit about sewing vinyl and shortening zippers. I have teflon feet which are amazing but not everyone wants to lay out money for these feet when they're just testing the water. I tell my students to use baking parchment or tissue paper on the bed of their sewing machine and sew straight through it as it'll tear away and then to put a piece of painter's tape/masking tape on the sole of their presser foot - this stops it sticking. Presser feet stick to some vinyls worse than to others - watching my students I've noticed that softer vinyls are stickier to use and don't work as well with a push than firmer ones. I also get students to shorten their zippers in class and always cut away the metal zipper stop with no problems at all, also we don't necessarily add tabs as just enclosing the zipper in the pouch seams automatically closes both cut ends if you have both ends longer than the pouch itself and only cut the zipper after adding it to the pouch so the ends are enclosed in the pouch seams (hope this makes sense!) - Chris :D

Lynn said...

I use my walking foot when sewing vinyl because all my feet are metal and the vinyl just sticks to them. My walking foot is also metal, but because the foot "walks" instead of "sliding" on the vinyl, it works fine. A previous commenter recommended putting tape on the bottom of a metal foot so it won't stick to the vinyl. I hadn't thought of that! I might give it a try the next time I do a project involving vinyl.

Sharon said...

Thanks for the zipper info, I really like the look of the zipper tabs :)

Sharon said...

Great & clear information. thank you for sharing

Terri Faust said...

The Wonder clips are definitely great for working with vinyl!!

Lynne Tilley said...

Thanks so much for this great information. It's so helpful to hear it "from the horse's mouth", someone who has done it. I'm putting this in my file and I have a large remnant of heavy vinyl that I got in the sale bin at Hobby Lobby. Cute zipper bag with clear sides, HERE I COME :)

Dresses and Spurs said...

Thanks so much for all the good info.

Allison said...

Thank you for this very helpful information. So many new things to try...

Joy said...

Thanks,I love your tutorials I have found a shop that sell vinyl here in UK, just have to check what guage. I also have a teflon foot. Got to get pattern next and I'll be ready to go x

jskeeffe said...

Thank you for all this great information! I'll be going to my stash, finding the vinyl and unfolding it today!! I really like the way you handle shortening the zipper. Much better than just stitching across the end!

Terri said...

This is such as awesome post! I definitely want to make some of these vinyl bags. I love to use vinyl zipper pouches to hold my drawing supplies so I can see through them when looking for just the right tool. I really appreciate all the testing you did on different weights of vinyl. Thank you for sharing!

nancie boyce said...

Thanks for such clear instructions.

Betty C said...

Wonderful post and great comments. I also shorten zippers from the other end. When you sew a tab on that end the zipper is closed and will stay nice and straight. Sew tab on before cutting away the excess length of zipper so the zipper will stay closed.
If you don't want to sew a tab of fabric on then hand stitch over the teeth real well and then cut off the excess zipper. Just more options to chose from. One way is no better than another way!

Pamela said...

Thanks for sharing how you do zippers. I do the same way but have always cut off the other end. I'm gonna try it your way next time. It makes more sense!

Anne / Springleaf Studios said...

Thanks for sharing all the info. It's a new way to me of shortening zippers so I'll try it the next time.

Rebecca said...

You wrote
"no coupons needed! But, finding someone to cut it might be a little tricky." I have not solved that problem but have let my displeasure be known by taking the fabric up to the customer service counter and asking them to cut the fabric for me. I met the store manager doing this.

Rebecca said...

Also... thanks for the information about the gauge and test results.

Christina Mejer said...

A teflon foot is well worth it! I use it for vinyl, ripstop, and laminated cottons.

S.Marie said...

It's a wonderful idea to organize WIPs in vinyl bags & I could sure use some help organizing 'mine'! I'd love to win the pattern.

sbecker(at)oaklandcorp(dot)com
thanks

eva said...

Thanks AmandaJean
you explain every detail so very well. no room for misunderstanding! thanks for sharing your fantastic knowledge and experiences.
thank you so much!!!
xo
eva

Carol E. said...

What do you consider your local quilt shop? You don't have one in CW, do you?

Jenny Schnedler said...

When I need a smaller piece of vinyl for something like this, I recycle the bags sheets or duvets come in...just a thrifty idea for starting out.

Rose E. Glasses said...

Howdy...a quick blast of a blow dryer will take wrinkles out of the plastic you are using for bags. Kind of fun to do. I use tissue and tape...and I have a Teflon walking foot, but I still use tissue and tape.

I was thinking of using chiffon to make your bags for my scarf collection.

Thanks for the tutorial and inspiration.

Liz said...

Great Tips, thank you! I'm definitely going to have to check out that pattern it looks great :)

carolaj3 said...

I am taking a 3 part pillow class and yesterday we made three ways to put in a zipper. Your tute just became the frosting on the zipper! thanks.

Rachael said...

Just yesterday I was thinking about how to shorten a zipper so I don't have to buy a new one for my daughters bag and today you supplied a lovely answer. I look forward to trying this tonight, thanks!

Gayle Ballinger said...

I love my teflon foot! I didn't realize that teflon feet came with the assortment of feet when I bought my different Husqvarna Viking machines. Found out that I would need one for a clsss, so I went to my dealer to buy one... Thankfully the very nice, honest sales lady showed one to me, explaining how to use it and insisted that I didn't need to buy one. She was right! I already had it in my little tray. Makes me always shop her first! And yes, I had tried the paper under method just to see, and the teflon coating on my foot was WAAAAAYYYY BETTER!

I am excited to try your WIP bags! What a fabulous idea. I have made lots of cute non-see- through bags for all my knitting and needle work WIPs. It just makes sense to do the quilt components in a bag. Currently I am using cardboard boxes, which is not user friendly for quilting. Thanks, you get an A+ for your book report! 😉