Sewing Through Hard Plastic: Can a Sewing Machine Sew Plastic?

No matter what industry you are in, the right tools are always needed to make any task go easier and a lot smoother. Even when you are tackling difficult projects, the right tools are needed to ease the burden. Sewing is no different and with the right tools, you can sew almost anything.

Can a sewing machine sew plastic? A sewing machine can sew plastic, as long as you own and use the right tools. Plastic comes in many forms and you probably have already sewn through it and not even been aware of it. With the right tools, you can sew just about any fabric but stay away from hard plastics that come on toys.

To learn more about sewing plastic just continue to read our article. it has the information you need to know in order to do a first-class job. Sewing plastic can be done if you have the right tools and the correct know-how.

Can a Sewing Machine Sew Through Plastic?


There will be some alterations to your sewing technique but yes, a sewing machine can sew through plastic. Technically, polyester is a form of plastic as are other synthetic fabrics so you already so through the material.

But if you are talking heavier plastic fabrics, like raincoat material, vinyl for table cloths, rubberized fabrics, and so on, it can be done with those few alterations. One change you would have to make is to swap out your regular foot for a Teflon model.

The Teflon will not stick to the plastic materials like a metal one will and make the sewing process a little easier and smoother. Then you would have to change the needle. Finding the right needle size is not going to be that difficult.

Next, you would have to lengthen the stitch length to make sure the needle holes are not close together. With them close together it is possible to tear the plastic edge off. Sewing plastic layers is like creating a perforated edge when done incorrectly.

As long as your sewing machine motor has the power, and you should check on that, you should be able to sew thicker plastic fabrics.

Can You Sew Plastic Bags, Tablecloths, and Shower Curtains?

Yes, you can and one of the pieces to the right toolset was mentioned already. A Teflon foot does not stick to the plastic and should be put on your machine when you get ready to do that sewing project. You do not want to use a foot that will stick to the material for if it does, you will mess up your stitches, etc.

Then for plastic sheeting, and this size may work for table cloth vinyl, shower curtains, etc., you should use a 70/10 needle. There are plenty of needle charts on the internet to guide you in selecting the right needle.

If you do not have a Teflon foot, you can go with a roller foot as that option feeds vinyl through your machine quite well. As for optional needle sizes, a leather 90/14 is one suggestion, as is a universal 100/16.

As for the thread, industrial or heavy-duty are the two best options you can try. Don’t forget that you really can’t pin most plastic materials. You will have to use clips, paper clips, or some other clipping method other than pins.

With the right tools, you should be able to sew anything.

How do You Sew Plastic?


The techniques can differ and one technique is better for one form of plastic over another. However, the first step is to put the pins aside and find clips or paper clips. These tools have the strength to hold the plastic in place while you sew.

They also make extra holes that will compromise the integrity and strength of the plastic fabric. Then you will need a large workspace as the plastic fabrics do not drape, fold or bend as normal fabrics do.

While an industrial and heavy-duty thread is advisable, make sure those thread options are made out of polyester. Then boost your stitch length up to a basting length or #4 for topstitching.

Along with a large workspace, you need to keep that space nice and clear. Other objects can damage the plastic in different ways when accidents happen. If your surface is metal, cover it with a cotton cloth. Plastic and vinyl will stick to metal and to feed your machine correctly you need plastic and vinyl to move freely.

Also, you do not press the plastic material. The heat will melt it or cause distortions that cannot be removed. If you get a crease, you can steam it out, leave the material in the sun or place some weight on top of the material to remove the crease.

Sewing Through Hard Plastic

This will be a challenge that may not be overcome. The hard plastic is very brittle when it is cold and the slightest impact can break or cause a crack in it. Then when the plastic is warm it can be tough to work with.

When construction men need to drill through plastic, a piece of good tape in place over the intended drill hole to prevent cracking and splitting. This is how hard it is to work with hard plastic. This technique doesn't always work.

Sometimes you have to use a very small drill bit first to make a very small hole, then change to a larger drill bit to make the hole a little larger, and so on until you have the right size hole. You can’t do that with a sewing needle. Plus, with each strike of the hard plastic, you make the needlepoint duller. The needle won’t last that long and you will need to make frequent changes.

Also, the needles can break and fly off in any number of directions. This option may not be something you will want to try unless you utterly have to do it. You will have to use a long and thin needle and go very slowly when attempting this task.

Sewing Plastic Canvas


One option is to use plastic canvas needles and cotton yarn. The thread is thick and when you are done sewing through the grid, no one should see the plastic canvas under the stitches.

Then you can use any number of stitch patterns. There is the traditional backstitch, or you can try the continental stitch pattern. Or if you want you can try the reverse continental stitch or a cross stitch pattern. Then there are the long stitch, the running stitch, and the scotch stitch patterns that work just as well.

When you work with plastic canvas you do not want any loose threads hanging off the end. Tie the stitches off and then cut the excess. Try to avoid a bulky knot when you have completed a row.

If you want a little bit of a fringe on the canvas, you can use the lark’s head knot or the overcast stitch to make the fringe. After that, you can connect more than one piece of plastic canvas by using a whip stitch.

But before you do all of this work, you still have to decide on the needle you should use. A tapestry needle is recommended and then you have to decide on the type of plastic canvas you want to work with. There are the 5, 7, 10 & 14 count styles and your project should let you know which one is best.

While you can use different thread types, yarn or floss are the best options for this work.

How to Sew Plastic Sheeting

This is just one technique you can use and the first step is to clear your work area so that there are no obstacles and the plastic sheeting can lie flat. Before you lay out the sheeting put down some tissue paper first. This is step two and on that tissue paper, place one layer of your sheeting.

After the sheeting, lay another layer of tissue paper and then another layer of plastic sheeting. Step three has you placing paper clips 8 inches apart to hold all these layers together. The paper clips should be coated.

Now that all that is done and the plastic sheeting is ready to be sewn, change the needle in your machine to a 70/10 and set your stitch length to a long basting length. When those two steps are done, you are ready to sew and can place the sheeting layers under the presser foot.

Start sewing slowly, holding the sheeting tight without pulling it through the needle. When you are done, remove the tissue paper. it should simply tear away. Also, keep the room a little on the cool side so that the plastic does not stick together.

Sewing Plastic to Fabric


Again, you need to start with the right tools and the needle you use should work easily on plastic. That is the material you should be the most concerned about as most needles go through fabric even if they are the wrong ones.

Pick a good strong thread, depending on your project so that the union will not have any vulnerable spots. One good easy tip if you do not have a different foot to use. You can place scotch tape over the bottom of the foot except where the needle goes through.

The scotch tape should help cut down on any sticky issues when the fabric feeds through the needle area. If you are sewing a zipper onto the plastic, use a zipper foot with scotch tape on the bottom as well. Sew normally like you would when adding a zipper.

Even when adding fabric or fabric embellishments, once you get set up properly, you should be able to sew like you would when sewing two pieces of fabric together.

If you are not sure about sewing plastic and fabric together, you can try some good plastic and fabric glues that will have a strong enough bond to hold the two materials where you want them.

You don't always have to use a needle and thread to create a great sewing project.

What Size Needle for Sewing Plastic

The size will depend on the type of plastic you are working with and how thick that plastic material is. Some people say to use a leather needle whole others do not agree and say you should use a denim needle.

Those that do not recommend the leather needle say that option leaves holes that are too big. When you are doing plastic sheeting, you should use a 70/10 size needle for the best results. Or you can use a 90/14 or 100/16 for other plastic fabrics.

The best thing to do is to find a very detailed needle chart that gives you exact sizes for the different types of plastic materials you can work with. That way you can be sure of using the right needle.

Also, the thread type is very important. Not only does it need to go through the eye of the needle without scraping or fraying, but it also needs to be tough enough to hold the plastic together.

A good polyester heavy-duty thread or an industrial strength thread will do. Get a hold of a good and detailed thread chart to make sure you have the right choice in your machine.

Best Sewing Machine Needle for Plastic


The 70/10 sized needle already mentioned is made for lightweight materials. Plastic sheeting is fairly lightweight for the most part thus that size is the best for that material. You can use the 70/10 for similar lightweight plastics as well.

Then we already mentioned the 90/14 and the 100/16 as those needle sizes are made for medium-weight materials. Thicker plastic sheeting, some PVC materials, some vinyl fabrics will fit into that category.

Because some plastics are quite hard to work with and can be very tricky when it comes to having a needle constantly inserted into their form, the best needles will be very sharp ones.

Then because you are going through difficult material to sew, the needles may get dull quite fast. A dull needle is not good when sewing with plastic. You will have to keep sharp needles in the sewing machine at all times.

On top of that, the eye of the needle has to be large enough to handle the thread size you selected to use. If the needle eye is too small, you will end up having thread problems.

The best needle will be the one that meets all the criteria that come with sewing with plastic.

Can You Hand Sew Plastic?

It is possible and if you have a good thimble, that will protect your fingers when you go through materials like thick plastic or vinyl. But hand sewing plastic can be tough on the fingers as well as the rest of your hands.

The thinner plastics, like plastic sheeting, is okay and you should not have a too difficult time getting the job done. The task may take a lot more work but if you clip the layers as described above, you should be able to handle it with little to no problem.

Just make sure you have lots of work space that is free from obstacles that can damage the plastic as you work. The thicker and harder plastic materials, you should avoid doing by hand. That is just too much work and it may take too long for you to complete the task.

Nut if you are determined, the final decision is up to you if you want to try this option.

An Alternative to Sewing Fabric to Plastic


Using your machine to sew plastic and fabric is always a good option. It saves you time, effort, and energy but there is a quicker way to get the same task done and uses a little less effort but a little more energy.

That alternative method is glue. There are some very good adhesives on the market today that work perfectly when you are putting fabric and plastic together. They also should work well on attaching plastic to plastic.

The top glues for these tasks are E6000, Loctite vinyl fabric and plastic adhesive, Misty heavy-duty spray adhesive, 3M super 77 multipurpose permanent spray adhesive, & Scotch super 77 multipurpose fabric adhesive.

Gluing is a great alternative especially when you do not have a machine to handle the heavy sewing work.

Some Final Words

There will be times where you will need to work with plastic. As long as you have the right tools, you should be okay and the job should go smoothly for you. Just make sure your sewing machine has the power to handle the material before you get started.

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