Discovering Marine Vinyl


photo 2-3I live in an area where boating and other water activities are a way of life, especially when the Gulf of Mexico is 30 minutes from your house! So when I was shopping in our new JoAnn Fabrics a few weeks back I noticed the saleswoman stocking a new area that focused on marine products.  There were tons of new indoor/outdoor fabrics but what caught my eye was a leather-looking material.  I assumed it was just regular thin vinyl or other faux product, but looking closer it read marine vinyl and it was thick and heavy! A tote bag popped into my head.

I purchased 2 yards of the beige vinyl at the store. You may also order it online HERE. in a few different colors. I paid $16.99 a yard, but with their handy-dandy coupon it was much cheaper.

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Some initial observations:

Looking at the vinyl, you’ll notice that on one side will be the color vinyl while the other side has a poly backing. The backing feels like little ridges but it really does help keep the shape of the vinyl.  I did notice when I cut a strip off to test (1″) it REALLY stretches out, but it was fine with bigger cuts.  If you read reviews of it online, many people love to use it to recover seats, make tablecloths, cover outdoor items, etc.

I also took out a penny and scratched it. No problem. I used my fingernail and went back and forth on it. Nada. That’s a plus in my book! I also snuck a crayon out of the kiddos pile and used it. All came off with a little water cloth. No peeling off the vinyl or the color.

If you have ever sewn with vinyl before, you will find this basically the same BUT thicker and you’ll need to look at your pattern and factor this thickness in to your seams, etc.

To Sew Marine Vinyl:

1.  Put a fresh needle in your machine. I used a 90/14 and it was perfect. If you are using marine vinyl and you are adding some thicker interior lining, etc. you may want to use a bigger needle.

2. Use a Teflon foot! I could sew without one on my JUKI industrial, but it wasn’t a smooth stitch and the machine even struggled. I used my Janome with Teflon foot and it went through like butta! If you don’t have a teflon foot, I’ve heard scotch tape under your regular presser foot often works as well.

3.  Set stitch length.  I make sure to use a longer stitch length when topstitching. I used a 2.5 to sew the bag together, but a 4 for topstitching and it looked great.  Warning:  Take your time! Unfortunately, vinyls and leathers are not forgiving so if you mess up you can’t hide the holes or steam them out.

4.  Put away those pins and get out the clips! When cutting or sewing vinyl do not use pins!  Same reason as #3. It creates holes that cannot be closed up (and it makes your straight pins into animal shapes!) For my larger and more delicate bags, I use different sized clips I get at Office Max:

photo 45.  Thread.  I used a Gutermann 100% poly sew-all for the tote. I love Gutermann because of it’s strength and that I can get it in large cones. But that’s just my preference.  A strong thread is a must. If you are super crafty, hand sewing your decorative topstitching would be cool as well.

6. Do not interface.  Iron=Smelly Melty Mess. A sew-in interfacing you may be wondering? I suppose you could, but the thickness may be too much, even hammering it out. I’d skip it.

photo 1-1If you are sewing this vinyl to fabric. Finger press the seams the best you can.  The photo above shows how I topstitched the vinyl and also the nice grain look it has.  The topstitching helped with the seams here, but I did have problems with the sides before I boxed the corners.  The seams of this material will want to stand up, not press flat.  I did read that local hardware stores may sell glues specifically made to adhere vinyl like this, but with 3 kids in the house I tend to shy away from the toxic smelly glues.  If you have a go-to vinyl or leather adhesive that you have success with I’d love the tips.

So what do you think of the marine vinyl tote? The top is an indoor/outdoor and so is the interior. I have seam to seam pockets to store all my goodies and a small magnetic closure to keep it closed.

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I hope you enjoyed my trip into the world of marine vinyl. Next time you have a JoAnn’s coupon, grab a yard of it and see what you can create~ Cindy




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  1. Looks great Cindy, thanks for the suggestions. It is always fun sewing with new and exciting material other then just cotton.

    1. Thanks Natalie! It is fun to try new materials especially when the patterns are so cool!

  2. Looks great. Very sturdy, and I like how it holds it’s shape. I’m not sure my machines can handle it though. I like the reinforced bottom on your tote. I’ve been doing the double layer on the totes and I love it too!

    1. Thank you 🙂 I double layer too, usually and SF101 and a fleece of muslin/felt type sew-in. I like how it turns out. I was able to put this through my normal Janome and going slow with a sharp needle it fed easily. It’s hard to hear our machines go through thicker materials and waiting to see if a needle snaps LOL!

  3. That looks awesome. I’ve been thinking about doing something like a beach bag with outdoor fabrics. The marine vinyl looks great.

    1. Our local Hancock Fabrics has an excellent selection of outdoor/indoor fabrics. I have tested quite a bit of them and liquids roll right of them 🙂 Dirt and sand were fine too. They make excellent pool/beach bags!

  4. I recently learned to use vinyl in the same way, to combat the “stand up seam” I top stitched the fabric to it, and also top stitched across the vinyl giving it a nice double stitch look. AND I LOVE your bag! The fabric is really cheerful!

    1. Top stitching this vinyl is a must! Double stitching looks so nice with it too. Thank you for the complement 🙂

  5. Hi Cindy,

    Nice tips on working with marine vinyl! People choose it because it’s tough, but some people might be discouraged by the sewing machine choke-ups if they aren’t familiar with the material.

    And not to hi-jack the comment section, but it’s surprisingly easy to find high quality marine vinyl for great prices, considering its one of the few nearly indestructibles out there. We’ve got several colors here:

  6. A million Thanks 4 ur blogging @ marine vinyl. I also bought m/ vinyl on clearance @ Joanne’s 4 super low $. I want 2 replace the top awning of an outdoor 3 person swing(bought at Lowes). I have most of the supplies u recommend but I’m concerned that my home use Kenmore sewing machine may not be up 4 the job. although it is a sturdy metal internal construction. I plan 2 use a lighter weight fabric sewn 2 the back of the vinyl2 form the pockets/tubes 4 the awning poles 2 slide into. I also need 2 make an 8″ apron that hangs on the circumference of the awning & wrap the edge with a medium weight hem tape type fabric. I am concerned the apron will require sewing 2 thickness of the vinyl & again concerned it’s too much for my machine. Should I make the apron from indoor/outdoor fabric insteadl? Should I not use my home use machine 4 such heavy construction fabric? You thoughts & comments on my project will be greatly appreciated. Luv ur bags & blog!

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