Approximately a thousand years ago, I promised to share with you everything I know about iron-on vinyl. Now, I’m finally getting around to it, thanks to my sister’s oft-repeated request for me to make her a makeup bag.
I very strongly recommend that you NOT use this stuff to waterproof any kind of apparel. First, it’s not really washable or extremely durable. Second, it can wrinkle like mad, especially if you’re turning your project inside out for any reason. Third, it makes a crackly, plastic-y sound that would be unpleasant (and weird) for clothing.
But, for simple projects like makeup bags or place mats or whatever other crafty project your heart desires to waterproof, iron-on vinyl can be a cost effective solution if you can’t find some good oilcloth or other laminated fabric.
I used this stuff a lot last Christmas. Makeup bags were sort of my go-to gift for friends and co-workers. Purchasing the iron-on vinyl ensured that I could use fabric already in my stash for these little bags. Throughout all this bag-sewing, I picked up a few tips and tricks that really helped with the process.
1. Follow the directions. I know this should be a given, but based on some Amazon.com reviews, I don’t think everyone knows how to read directions. The instructions on the package are very specific. If you follow them exactly, you really shouldn’t have a problem getting the vinyl to adhere. But, if you’re feeling uncertain, do a test run on a scrap.
2. Before peeling and sticking the vinyl to your fabric, remove all lint and threads and hair from your fabric. Seriously. I have a makeup bag that has a little strand of cat fur permanently fixed under the vinyl because I didn’t pull out my sticky roller before ironing. I would perform the final lint removal just before attaching the vinyl. In my house, the general atmosphere is approximately 37% cat fur that just circulates and lands anywhere it’s most inconvenient for me. Sticky-rolling just before the adhesive hits the fabric lessens the chance that a stray hair will find its way onto your nice, clean surface.
3. Using a medium to heavy weight interfacing on the wrong side of your soon-to-be vinyl-covered piece really helps cut down on the wrinkling and the crackling sound. Even if your pattern or tutorial doesn’t call for it, adding the interfacing probably won’t hurt your project at all–assuming, of course, that you’re making something crafty, not clothing. I often add interfacing to my bags because I prefer them to have a bit more structure. I like to attach the interfacing before the vinyl.
4. As the vinyl cools on the fabric, it can tend to make the fabric curl up. This isn’t really a huge deal since it’s easily flattened again when you sew, but if it bothers you (like it did me), set a few heavy books on top of the cooling pieces. They’ll come out nice and flat.
5. It’s not entirely necessary for the vinyl to completely cover your fabric. What you do want to make sure of, however, is that your vinyl reaches well into your seam allowance. If the vinyl edges are exposed, they can start to pull off over time. (Like I said, this stuff isn’t remarkably durable.)
6. You can sew over the vinyl. I never had a lot of trouble with the feed dogs moving the vinyl-covered fabric along or with the fabric sticking to the presser foot. But, you can always use a Teflon foot. Or (I remember reading this somewhere, but I can’t remember where–sorry!) you can try using some satin-finish scotch tape on the bottom of your presser foot. I have no idea if it really works or not, though. You can also use a sheet of tissue paper under your presser foot. You’ll just have to tear it away afterwards.
7. Since any pin or needle holes through the vinyl are permanent, you may want to avoid using pins to keep your pieces together. You can try using bobby pins or clips instead. If you do want to use pins, just keep them in the seam allowance and you should be just fine. The vinyl can be pretty slippery, so sewing without pins or clips of any kind is tricky–it can be done, though! Just take your time.
I hope that if you ever decide to use iron-on vinyl for a project, you’ll find these tips useful. And, if you have your own vinyl tips, I’d love for you to share!
Before we go, here are some details about the makeup bag: I drafted the pattern myself. Although, saying I “drafted” it sounds a little pretentious since I basically drew a rectangle with some cut out rectangle corners. It turned out smaller than I thought it would since I have no powers of visualization. I do like how wide the opening is when you fully unzip it. But, because it’s so small when it’s closed, I’m not sure if my sister will actually be able to use it as her actual makeup bag. Oh well–I’m sure she’ll figure out something to do with it.
I put in a tiny little zippy pocket on the back.
And there you have it.
By the way, I learned to make my own bags from Brett Bara’s “Design Your Own Handbag” class–which is my absolute favorite Craftsy class that I have taken. So, if you’re interested in sewing handbags, I highly recommend it!