Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sewing With Vinyl

This post was originally written as part of a series of posts for The Nosy Pepper Better Bag Making Series.  Go to her blog to check out all of the posts for tons of great bag making tips!

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  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  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! 

Double Sided Bag Handles Tutorial

I've had quite a few people ask me lately how I make my double sided handles.  One side is vinyl, and the other side is fabric.  It is really easy to do, so I thought I'd throw together a quick tutorial!  

I've recently used this method on my Swoon Patterns Annette Satchel (get the pattern HERE - affiliate link). 
Swoon Patterns Annette Satchel

And on the Sew Sweetness Coalition Bag for Bag of the Month Club (join the club HERE).  
Sew Sweetness Coalition Bag

So, lets get started!!  First you will need to cut one piece of vinyl, one piece of quilting cotton, and one piece of interfacing (I use Pellon Shapeflex SF101). The length will be whatever size the pattern suggests (unless you know you want longer or shorter) and the width will be twice what you want your finished width to be.  So, for 1" wide handles, you'll cut each of these 2" wide.  For 0.75" handles, you'll cut each of these 1.5" wide, and so on.

First, iron the interfacing to the quilting cotton piece.  Next, on the quilting cotton, fold each of the short ends 1/4" toward the wrong side and press well. 

On the vinyl piece, mark a line that is 1/2" in from each short edge on the wrong side.  Place a line of double stick tape along the line on each end (I use tanner's bond as shown in the picture), then fold 1/4" of each end toward the wrong side up to the line you drew, and press firmly to stick down.

For the cotton side:  First press in half, long edges together.  Open, and fold each long edge to the center crease and press well.  Now you have all raw edges in the center of the back.

With the vinyl side, draw a line right down the center of the wrong side.  Place a line of double sided tape down the length of the handle on each side of the center line.  

You'll then fold each long edge up to the center line so they meet. Press firmly with your fingers to adhere to the tape.  

Now, I smear glue stick generously on the back of the vinyl side of the strap.

Place the wrong side of the straps together and press firmly so the glue will hold them together.

Now I top-stitch all the way around the entire handle (this was a stitch length of 4 and a 1/8" SA.)

Then, if you want to use rivets to attach the handles to your bag, I make the marks at 3/8" and 1 3/4" (shown here in gold marker).  

I hope that was helpful to you and easy to follow!!  

Monday, May 30, 2016

Adding Credit Card Pockets to the free Swoon Patterns Dollie Mini Crossbody Bag

Alicia, owner of Swoon Patterns, has done it again!  Her most recent pattern is the Dollie Mini Crossbody, and she is FREE!!  If you haven't already downloaded the free Dollie Pattern from Swoon Patterns, head over here to grab it!  This tutorial is adding on to the Dollie pattern, so you will need that first!  Also, if you aren't a member already, join the Swoon Patterns Group on Facebook!  It's an awesome group of ladies always willing to help out with any questions, and its a fabulous place to share your finished Swoon Bags and see other's bags!

This bag is tiny, only 6" High x 6" Wide x 2.75" Deep, perfect for summer activities where you don't need much!  In order to save a little room, I wanted to add card slots to mine so I could just skip my wallet altogether.  I'm not the best at tutorials, but I figured others may be interested in adding card slots to their Dollie's too (or any other bag) so here is a super quick tutorial!  Enjoy :)

Measure and cut:
11 inch x 4.25 inch rectangle of lining fabric
3.75 inch x 4.25 inch rectangle of lining fabric
11 inch x 4.25 inch rectangle of featherweight interfacing (not sure which I used since it was just a scrap, just go with a very thin interfacing)

Then iron the interfacing to the back of the larger rectangle. (Ignore those creases in the pic below, because I didn't tell you to do that yet, haha!  I'm not so good at this tutorial stuff!)

Lay your larger rectangle right side down with the long edges at the top and bottom.  Mark a line that is 2.5" from the left short edge.  Mark another line that is 1.75" from that line, then 2.25" from that line, then finally 1.75" from that line.  You'll have 4 lines marked on the back.  (Sorry, but I forgot to take a picture of that!)  Mark them with something that you can iron over.  A very light line in pencil should work fine.

If you look at the above picture, each of those creases is where one line was marked.  At the first line that was 2.5" from the left, fold the fabric wrong sides together and iron to crease.  At the next line, fold the fabric right sides together and iron to crease.  At the third line, fold the fabric wrong sides together and iron to crease.  Finally, at the forth line, fold the fabric right sides together and iron to crease.  Fold all of the creases and press the entire piece well, you should have this:

The folded piece should now be the same size as the smaller rectangle, 3.75 inches x 4.25 inches.

Top stitch along both of the folds that you can see in the above picture at 1/8 inch seam allowance.  Those are the tops of your two card slots.

Now, place your folded card slot panel and the smaller rectangle right sides together, matching all raw edges, and pin (pin well so that your card slots don't shift when you stitch over them).  Sew around the pieces using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.  Leave a small opening along the bottom edge so you can turn it right side out.  Make sure to backstitch at the start and stop.

Trim the corners, then turn right side out.  Press well, folding in the edges at the opening 1/4 inch.

Fold the card slot panel in half and finger press to mark the center.  Fold a lining main panel in half and finger press to mark the center as well.

Now, lay the card slot panel on top of the lining main panel.  The top of the card panel should be about 1 inch down from the top of the lining main panel and the center creases should be lined up.  Pin in place. 

Now, starting at the top right corner, sew down, across the bottom, and up the left side of the card panel.  Make sure you backstitch at the start and stop!  

Now you have two card slots and a deeper pocket in the back that is perfect for cash!  Complete your Dollie Mini Crossbody according to the directions in the pattern!

This probably isn't the best tutorial, but hopefully it helps you if you'd like to add some credit card pockets to your bag!  Thanks for visiting my "blog" (I say that loosely, because I'm not much of a blogger!)

*This post contains affiliate links*

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Adding Front Pockets to Swoon's Ethel Tote - A Tutorial

I can't believe that its already been two years since I wrote this tutorial to add front pockets to Swoon's Cate Pattern!  Although Cate was a beautiful bag, the pattern has now been retired.  I was thinking about how my technique to add the front pockets could be used for several other patterns, so I decided to write a new tutorial to add similar front pockets to the Swoon Patterns Ethel Tote Bag!  One added bonus about the Ethel pattern, it is FREE!!!

So let's get started!  If you haven't already downloaded the free Ethel Tote Bag Pattern from Swoon Patterns, head over here to grab it!  This tutorial is adding on to the Ethel pattern, so you will need that first!  Also, if you aren't a member already, join the Swoon Patterns Group on Facebook!  It's an awesome group of ladies always willing to help out with any questions, and its a fabulous place to share your finished Swoon Bags and see other's bags!

I have made almost all of the Swoon bags, but I realized the other day that I hadn't made Ethel yet!  So I just had to get another check on my list!  I loved the pockets that I added to the front of Cate, and I thought what would be more perfect than to add them to Ethel as well!!  And to share how to do it with all of you!  I absolutely cannot wait to see all your beautiful creations!  Enjoy :)

Materials needed (in addition to what is already listed in the pattern):
1/2 yard contrasting pocket lining fabric 
1 yard mid-weight fusible interfacing (I used Pellon Shape-flex SF101)
A 16" long scrap of piping

First, print all of the pattern pieces, printing two copies of pages 7 & 8.  Cut all the pattern pieces out and tape together as instructed in the pattern.  You will have two Main Panel pattern pieces (you can discard the extra side panel pattern piece that printed on the second copy of page 8 - we only need the bottom piece of the Main Panel from that page).

On one of the main panel pattern pieces, measure in 2 inches from the right (fold) side and make a mark and measure 4.5 inches down from the top left corner and make a mark.  

Then line up something round with those marks and trace around it.  I used a small plate. (Trace with pencil, not permanent doesn't wash off that easy...oops!)

Cut along the curve you just drew, and you have now created a new pattern piece for the front pocket. 

If you don't want to make your own pattern piece, or if you just prefer having your patterns from template plastic instead of paper (or card stock), the lovely Jenna Appleton is offering templates for sale for the Ethel, including this front pocket mod!  The templates can be purchased here.

The image below will show you what will need cut from each of these pattern pieces now.  See below the following picture for the new updated cutting instructions!  For pattern pieces that are not shown, you will still cut what is listed on the pattern piece.  

Please ignore the writing on the above pattern pieces and follow the cutting instructions below!  Eventually I'll get a new picture of the pattern pieces with the updated cutting instructions on them!

From New Pattern Piece - Cut on Fold:
1 Exterior
3 Woven Interfacing
1 Pocket Lining

Then Cut 1 Pocket Lining and 1 Woven interfacing in half along the center fold line.

From Main Panel Pattern Piece - Cut on Fold:
1 Exterior Fabric
2 Foam Interfacing
2 Lining Fabric
4 Woven Interfacing
1 Contrasting Pocket Panel Fabric

Then Cut 1 Foam Interfacing and 1 Contrasting Pocket Panel Fabric in half along the center fold line.

Slip Pocket Pattern Piece
2 Lining
2 Woven Interfacing

Cut all pieces as directed from Exterior Fabric, Contrasting Pocket Fabric, Lining Fabric, Fusible Foam, Woven Interfacing, and Stiff Fusible Stabilizer.

Below you can see the fabric pieces that will be cut that differ from the original pattern.

Fuse woven interfacing to lining main panel, lining side panels, lining bottom panel, lining pocket panels, straps, front main pocket panel (exterior piece with two curves cut out), and two contrasting pocket panels (with curves cut out).  Fuse foam interfacing to back exterior main panel, exterior side panels, exterior bottom panel and contrasting pocket panels (that do not have the curve cut out). 

Place the exterior front panel right side up in front of you.  Cut the scrap of piping in half and pin the piping along the curves matching the raw edges.  Sew the piping in place using your zipper foot and stitching as close to the piping as possible. 

Place the curved contrasting pocket panels right side up in front of you.  Lay the front exterior main panel, with piping attached, on top of the pocket panels with the matching the curved edges.  Pin along the curves only.  The piping will be sandwiched between the two layers.  Stitch just inside of the previous stitching lines from attaching the piping.  Trim the seam allowance.  

Flip the contrasting pocket pieces to the back along the curves. Press well and topstitch 1/8" away from the piping.  You should now have a piece that looks like this:

Flip the Main Pocket Exterior Panel over so the back is facing up.  We will now be attaching the other contrasting pocket panels.

Right sides together, place the contrasting pocket pieces that do not have the curves cut out on top of the backside of the Main Pocket Exterior Panel.  Line up the bottom, sides, and the raw edges that run down the center.  Pin along the center raw edges.  

Make sure you are only pinning contrasting pocket pieces together.

Sew the contrasting pocket pieces together using a 1/4" seam allowance along the center edges only.  Repeat to attach the other contrasting pocket piece.  

Flip the whole panel over, and this is what you have:

Baste along the top center, then down the side, around the bottom, and up the other side using a 1/4" seam allowance to hold everything in place.

Now head back over to your Ethel pattern and follow the rest of the assembly instructions to finish the bag!!  You will be skipping the directions to attach the slip pocket to the exterior (only attach a slip pocket to the lining).

I wanted to share a picture of my phone in the pocket to show how deep it is, but it is so deep you couldn't even see the phone!!  And my phone is not small!  These pockets are perfect for me!

And a picture of the back, just because I love it!!  And who doesn't want to see more Parisville? ;)

Thanks for checking out my tutorial!  I hope you enjoy adding these front pockets to your Ethel Tote Bags!  Let me know if you have any questions or issues, because I'm afraid I'm better at following directions than writing them!

*This post contains affiliate links*