There is a SLIPPERY foot for that!
People who sew are most familiar with the two main fabric types, wovens and knits, but there is a third category, less used, and even less understood, which presents several diverse challenges. If you ever try sewing plastic, like the clear vinyl that can be used for covering table cloths, you will find that the vinyl just does not like to move through the machine like normal fabric does.
There is a whole category of plastic-like fabrics, and other fabrics that behave like plastics that present these sewing challenges, which include plasticized fabrics, fabrics fused with Heat and Bond, oil cloth, foam, microfibers and ultrasuedes, leather and pleather, and foil-type prints on fabrics that are popular in the pre-Halloween season.
The biggest challenge with these fabrics is that they do not move under the foot readily and through the machine like most other kinds of fabric. Increasing the stitch length usually does not help. That is because there is too much friction which causes these fabrics to feed improperly.
Friction is what causes the brakes on a car to make it stop. The harder you press the brake pedal the more friction is applied, and the quicker the car stops. Translated into sewing, when the presser foot presses with a certain amount of pressure, it works with the feed dogs to move the fabric. But that pressure, with the added friction of plastic type materials, is also what keeps those materials from sewing nicely.
If it sews at all the stitches usually become very small. Too many puncture holes from the needle will cause the material to rip easily along the perforations. Increasing the stitch length might help, but usually not enough. In fact, you may want a longer than normal stitch length anyway for some of these fabrics so they won’t tear along the needle hole lines.
Decreasing the amount of pressure for the presser foot is not the answer either, but decreasing the FRICTION is the answer, and there is a slippery foot for that.
We are familiar with the word Teflon in the kitchen, also called “non-stick”. And you know how it keeps foods from sticking the pan. It is the same principle that makes the slippery type foot work for the sewing challenges we face with plastic-like fabrics. This foot makes it possible to sew and slide over those in a normal manner. You can also increase the stitch length so the needle perforations are not too close so as to weaken the seam.
BERNINA provides the widest variety of non-stick type of feet, and makes four different ones with the sliding sole to cover most of the usual sewing operations. Choose from the general all purpose zigzag sliding foot #52, straight stitch sliding foot #53 for perfect straight stitching, sliding zipper foot #54, and open toe sliding foot #56 for specialty techniques and decorative stitches.
Use these feet for all the same purposes as you would the regular feet for those difficult and challenging materials. The straight stitch foot provides the most support for the fabric and prevents flagging, another case of too much friction, or the tendency of the fabric to be pulled up when the needle comes up out of the fabric. The straight stitch needle plate used with this foot will help keep fabric from being dragged down into the needle hole.
When you need to purchase any of the basic feet, #1, #4, #13, or #20, or repurchase if you loose any of these, get the sliding sole version to have them to use for all three fabric categories. They can be used in place of the standard feet for general sewing, and if they work well on difficult materials, they will work great for all usual fabrics.
VIKING machines come packaged with the non-stick glide foot H. Also included with these machines are two stick-on glide plates that can be applied to the sole of any regular foot such as the zipper foot, making any foot slippery for specialty sewing.
An easy project to test how well the slippery type feet work is to make to make a clear plastic “TSA” bag (Travel Supplies and Accessories) for small bottles and personal items that you might take with you while traveling, or for sewing accessories to take to classes. It might even be a bag for all these extra accessory feet you now have. Follow the basic directions for the Face Case using the sliding sole zipper foot (Bernina foot #54), and the sliding zigzag foot (available for all brands of machines), or straight stitch foot (Bernina foot #53) for the rest of the construction.
Ever wanted to work with outdoor or boating fabrics? The non-stick feet a must. Click the picture to read more about this pontoon boat being reupholstered.