14 Tips to Sew Marine Vinyl

Marine vinyl fabric is versatile and durable, but sewing it is challenging. It’s thick, stubborn under the presser foot, and requires special techniques. Follow these tips for sewing marine vinyl so you can be confident in using the fabric for projects!

1. Use the Best Needle.

There are no rules on which needle to use when sewing marine vinyl. But stick to what the experts recommend. Try sizes 16, 17, 18, 21, and 22, and avoid plastic-coated needles. 

A marine vinyl fabric requires more force from your needle than cotton because of its stickiness. Try a denim or leather needle if the recommended needles don’t work.

A number 90 is also acceptable. Make sure to try the needle on the machine before getting started with the project. 

2. Don’t Use Pins.

Safety pins leave huge holes in your luxurious marine vinyl. Use a double-sided craft tape instead to keep it secure while sewing. Or place it between two tissue pieces. This technique allows the fabric to move smoothly through the machine. 

A sewing pinch, binder clips, and bull clips also work. Be resourceful!

3. Have a Wide Surface for Cutting.

Marine vinyl does not fold and bend conveniently like ordinary fabric. Forcing it to tuck will create irreversible creases. So, make sure the surface is large enough when you’re measuring and cutting. And use a rotary cutter rather than scissors!

4. Use UV-Treated Thread.

Most high-quality marine vinyl materials come from UV-treated thread, making them perfect for outdoor use. But the stitching also needs to be resistant to UV radiations. 

Look for a marine vinyl thread that uses 100% bonded polyester to shield itself from heat, UV, and other elements. It’s perfect for boat covers, boat seats, awnings, and general upholstery. 

Threads for marine vinyl do not have to be heavy-duty. However, it works best when you intend to use the marine vinyl material a lot. 

5. Preshrink Properly.

Your vinyl fabric will shrink no matter how much vinyl coating you apply to it. Always preshrink the material before sewing to get the correct measurements. 

Preshrinking is a challenging yet necessary process. Try experimenting with other fabrics before washing your marine vinyl. Find out first if the fabric will shrink or if it will separate. 

6. Pick a Visible Marker.

Marine vinyl and fabric marker do not make an excellent match. Use a tailor’s chalk, chalk cartridge pen, or chalk wheel to make your marks visible. Other alternatives include Frixion pens, a Teflon crease maker, and an embroidery transfer pen. 

7. Use Tissue Paper for Vinyl.

Any tissue paper you use in packaging, gift wrapping, and bags will be helpful when sewing. Marine vinyl’s surface is sticky and doesn’t easily glide in the machine, so it needs specific tools for a smooth flow. 

Never use toilet paper or facial tissue. Keep tissue paper from the gifts you got last holidays, no matter how many wrinkles they get. It will work perfectly under the presser foot. You will sew more easily between these papers.

For piping, make the bias strips broader and then cut them according to your preference. You can also use gift wrapping tissue for drafting and tracing styles.

8. Use the Right Stitch Length.

Marine vinyl’s appropriate stitch length is usually longer than regular fabric. The sewing machine’s needle holes turn into a tear strip, making the vinyl less durable. This tear strip is more common among basic types of vinyl than coated ones.

This fabric is more robust than plain vinyl. Try testing different stitch lengths and no thread on a scrap of the material to see what works.

9. Use a Heavy-Duty Sewing Machine.

A machine for leather or upholstery is better than a regular sewing machine. These machines do not quickly burn or overheat due to stress from the vinyl’s multiple layers. Tighten the tension on the device if the material bunches up. 

Change the foot tension to a lower setting and try it on a fabric scrap. You can do this by setting it to level one, which is the lightest. And don’t confuse this button with the thread tension dial!

10. Do Not Backstitch

Backstitching does not perform well with any vinyl type. The technique may be better on other fabrics, but marine vinyl looks better if you put the thread backward. Secure the stitching by placing both ends together on the other side and knotting them.

11. Sew Slowly

Take it slow when you’re sewing marine vinyl to prevent your machine from breaking. Pull the fabric layers gently and gradually onto the needle with one hand. The other hand should be on the other side, pulling the fabric out. 

12. Don’t Hand-Sew Vinyl

Unless you’re willing to take risks, then hand-sewing marine vinyl is not a good idea. If you insist on doing so, pre-perforate the holes using a thick needle. This process will make sewing easier later on. 

13. Don’t Iron Directly

Directly ironing a marine vinyl can cause severe damage, so avoid folding and creasing it to reduce the need for pressing. If necessary, place a thin cotton material between it and the fabric.   

You can also use a rubber mallet. Hit the fabric flat using the soft rubber device to straighten it without melting.

14. Roll it When Storing

Avoid creases and wrinkles on your marine vinyl by storing them appropriately. Instead of folding it along with your fabric collection, why not roll it? 

If your container is too small to roll the vinyl, hang it vertically with clips and hangers. Do an accordion fold and let it dangle vertically in place. 

Practice Makes Perfect When Sewing Marine Vinyl Fabric!

And the best tip when sewing marine vinyl fabric is to keep practicing. Experiment with the machine settings and fabric scraps first. Marine fabric can be challenging to work with because it requires a different stitch length and resists feeding. 

Got other tips for marine vinyl projects? If you’re looking for more fabric options, we’ve got some amazing marine-grade fabrics.

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