I finally completed the project I recently set myself: a zipper pouch. I opted to use some PVC coated cotton I recently purchased. It looks and feels as though it is relatively durable, which is exactly what is required from a zipper pouch. In order to make the zipper pouch, I followed a tutorial from ‘MADE Everyday’. This is the third tutorial from this vlogger that I have used, simply because they are really easy to follow and she has a range of projects that I am particularly interested in creating, which are suitable for beginners like myself.
This project enabled me to see that my sewing skills have really improved in a short space of time. I think this is predominantly because I am currently sewing almost every day (I have a lot of time on my hands at the moment). Plus, I make sure that each new project builds on a skill that I have previously learned, as well as teaching me a new skill.
The most challenging part of the project was working with PVC coated cotton. Sewing on the wrong side of the fabric did not pose any problems and I was able to install the zip without any issues. In hindsight, this was because the right side of the fabric was sandwiched between the silky cotton fabric I used for the lining, when I was sewing the wrong side. Had the right side of the PVC coated cotton been exposed to the feed dogs, I would have discovered the impending problem much sooner. Next, it was time to topstitch on the right side of the fabric.
I used the standard presser foot for this and immediately noticed that something was not right. The fabric would slowly go through the feed dogs then grind to an unexpected halt. I unpicked the stitches and started again but the same thing kept happening repeatedly. When I looked at the threads in the fabric I was attempting to sew, I could see that the stitches on the wrong side of the fabric were pulled up really tightly, compared to the stitches on the right side of the fabric, which were as normal. I immediately jumped to the conclusion that the tension needed adjusting. *Note to self – always check on the simplest of potential errors before rushing to fix presumed larger ones.* Thankfully, this thought came to mind before I started playing around with the tension of my sewing machine!
I tried increasing the length of the stitch, to no avail. I re-threaded the sewing machine and re-wound the bobbin but there was still no change. By this time, I was fed up and decided to pack away my project for the rest of the day. Overnight, I kept wracking my brain to try and work out where I was going wrong. The two changes I had made with this project compared to all of my previous projects was to use a different type of needle (I was sure that this was definitely not where the problem lay) and a different type of fabric.
The next morning, I woke up determined to find the solution to my sewing conundrum. I decided to Google “Working with PVC coated cotton,” to find out if anyone else had encountered similar problems to me when working with this particular type of fabric. If I could rule out the fabric as an issue, then the solution would most likely be to readjust the tension of the sewing machine, something that for me needed to be the very last resort. Lo and behold, there were blog posts galore about the difficulties of working with PVC coated cotton.
The most common suggestion was to purchase a Teflon presser foot, which would easily glide over the surface of the material without sticking to it. I went on to order one via ebay, but there would be a significant wait for it to arrive and I wanted to complete the project as soon as possible. The second suggestion was to cover a standard presser foot with scotch tape, in order to get a similar effect to the Teflon presser foot – I tried it but this technique did not consistently work for me.
Unsatisfied after another unsuccessful attempt at completing the project and with frustration quickly setting in, I stepped away from the sewing machine and gave myself the rest of the day to mull things over. I set about finding my own solution to the problem. After much thought and careful consideration (to document my thought processes would require another post, so I’ll spare you…this time) the next day, I set about my mission: to successfully complete a zipper pouch!
I thought it might be a good idea to cover the right side of the material in baking paper. YES, BAKING PAPER! I sewed my topstitch to the right side of the garment and through the baking paper. The fabric went over the feed dogs with ease and the stitches on both sides were even. Once I had finished the topstitch, I carefully ripped the baking paper away from the stitches.
This method worked perfectly every single time. The baking paper was strong enough to provide a barrier between the presser foot and the sticky PVC coated cotton, yet fragile enough to enable me to tear it away, leaving the stitches intact. Using this method enabled me to finish not one, but two zipper pouches within a few hours. SEWING TIP ALERT: having issues sewing oilcloth/PVC coated fabrics and you don’t have a Teflon presser foot or scotch tape? Using baking paper works like a dream.
Another con of working with PVC coated cotton is the fact that the remaining holes from unpicked stitches can be quite noticeable. I did make sure to press the wrong side of the fabric with a warm iron after unpicking seams, in order to help minimise the holes. However, this fabric can be unforgiving if constant mistakes are made. Of the 2 zipper pouches that I made, I kept one and gifted another to a relative in order to obtain some much needed feedback about the pouch’s usability and durability. My plan is to eventually start selling handmade items on Etsy – zipper pouches being a favourite of mine to make – so the more feedback I can get on my handmade items, the better.
I really enjoyed completing this project, particularly independently overcoming the difficulties with using my choice of fabric. I stretched and challenged myself just enough to learn some new skills without getting too disheartened when I reached a stumbling block. Over this next week, I plan to consolidate what I have learnt so far by making more of the same items that I have completed over the past 3 weeks. My next challenge is to sew my first ever garment, so I will need to practice the basics as much as possible beforehand. For now, I will leave you with some photos of my finished zipper pouch. Until next time, happy sewing!