Tips on sewing sunbrella fabric

Written by mary schultz
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Tips on sewing sunbrella fabric
Sunbrella fabric is sewn for multiple uses. (sailboat image by pearlguy from Fotolia.com)

Wherever boats sail, children play in covered outdoor structures and workers seek shade, you are likely to find Sunbrella®. This canvas type fabric from Glen Raven, Inc. is made in a proprietary process and used for indoor and outdoor purposes. It has received a Skin Cancer Foundation's Seal of Recommendation and a Green Guard Children and Schools certification as a contributor to healthy indoor air. To get the longest lasting use from Sunbrella, follow these sewing tips.

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Use a Walking Foot Sewing Machine

A walking foot sewing machine serves as a bridge between an ordinary home sewing machine and an industrial machine. Instead of an ordinary presser foot, the walking foot moves or "walks" the fabric as it feeds. It provides leverage and control that is unavailable with an ordinary sewing machine. With an ordinary drop feed machine, needles are likely to break when you sew Sunbrella, especially if you are sewing through multiple fabric layers. A walking foot makes it possible to sew without needle breakage and bunching through multiple layers of heavy fabrics.

Heavy Duty Thread

The thread you use should be sufficiently sturdy to withstand the intended use of the sewing project. An upholstery project for use on a covered patio, for example, will not require thread of the same weight as you would employ for marine uses including sail covers, boat tarps and sheet bags used to house ropes. Frequent exposure to salt water, sun and wind demand the use of the strongest thread possible.

One factor to consider is potential for shrinkage. Cotton threads that are not preshrunk can cause the project to bunch and change shape after all the effort of sewing. Polyester threads and blends are more shrink resistant. For outdoor use, look for ultraviolet (UV) protected thread. For all uses, look for threads that are mildew resistant. Bonded threads tend to run smoothly through machines and are known for higher tensile strength combined with low stretch. Strength means less worry about thread breakage during sewing. Low stretch means less of a tendency for thread to sag and create loose stitches.

Threads for canvas sewing purposes are customarily available in tubes, a cone or beehive shaped spool. The amount of thread and its size are usually marked on the bottom of the tube. V-69 and heavier V-92 are common thread sizes for sewing canvas.

Heavy Duty Needles

Needles in size 19/120 are commonly used with V-69 and V-92 thread to sew canvas. Other commonly used sizes are 18/110, 20/125 and 21/130. These are generalisation only, as the needle descriptions can vary with certain specific walking foot model sewing machines. Read the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the appropriate needle for your use. Needles for walking foot sewing machines may not be available at ordinary fabric and craft stores. They are available from upholstery and marine canvas suppliers, speciality sewing machine stores, from sewing machine manufacturers and via the Internet.

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