Saturday, 29 March 2014

Sewing the Vinyl Headlining

Vinyl is not the easiest material in the world to sew, as I discovered. The initial scrap I test sewed was fine as a single layer but as soon as I tried to sew 2 layers of the vinyl, my machine ran into trouble. The foot seemed to be sticking and the stitches became really uneven. I changed the stitch size to the maximum size and loosened the tension. Neither approach did any good. I then switched to the heaviest duty needle I could find. Unfortunately, that didn't help much either.

The fact that it sewed one layer of vinyl perfectly and not 2, suggested to me that the bottom layer of fabric was not moving at the same pace as the top layer, so, I ordered a Teflon foot for my machine along with a walking foot. In addition, I ordered some leather needles, as the vinyl I am sewing is quite similar to leather in terms of weight and texture.

Walking Dog Foot & White Teflon Foot

The purpose of the Teflon foot is to allow the fabric to slide along the foot without sticking. I tested it out when it arrived and whilst it did work on scraps, I worried about how it would cope with large panels of the vinyl as they are going to create far more drag and resistance to the machine.

The walking foot is a really interesting attachment for a sewing machine. Basically, the foot has its own feed dog, which moves the top layer of fabric you are sewing along at the same pace that the bottom layer of fabric moves at. When you connect the foot to the machine, you position the walking foot lever over the screw to tighten the needle. This allows the feed dog of the foot to move at the same pace as the feed dog on the sewing machine. 

I tested the foot on a scrap and felt that the walking foot in combination with the leather needle is definitely the best way to sew the vinyl headlining. I found the largest Leather needle (size 100) to be the most appropriate for the weight of vinyl being sewed. 

Test strip

The Real Sewing Begins

Once I had tested that I was not going to completely mess up the headlining, I started sewing the smaller more fiddly bits. I rationalised that at least if I make a mess of one of them, that I have enough headlining left over to cut a new piece if needed. 

I started with one of the curved pattern pieces. The thing you have to remember with vinyl is that it is that much harder to maintain a smooth curve because of the weight of the fabric and as it doesn't  lend itself to being eased into curves like a thinner woven fabric would. The best way to deal with curves is by cutting out small notches, which allow the vinyl to have a bit more flexibility when working round awkward concave or convex shapes.

Sewing curves on vinyl
Whilst, I have not yet finished sewing the headlining, I have made good progress. I have finished all the fiddly strips and I have finished sewing one of the large panels. I doubt it will take me more than a few hours to finish the last few large panels.


The thread I used for the sewing of the vinyl headlining, is a thread called Nylbond. It is a close bonded nylon yarn, which makes it particularly strong. Also, being nylon it is better suited to dealing with damp, UV & mould.

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