Sewing with Sunbrella fabric

flyingflowerJuly 19, 2006

I'm locking the barn door after the horse has escaped, don't know why I didn't think to ask this question before I started my project...I've just finished sewing all of my patio cushions out of Sunbrella fabric (Buttercup yellow).

Q#1...Why is it that the top stitches are as loose as if they were a basting stitch, even with a normal stitch length of 2.5 and not a 6.0 basting stitch? The stitches aren't raised, yet I can pull it out much easier than if it were sewn on cotton fabric. It doesn't look right either, especially compared to the reverse side where the bobbin stitch does look normal, nice and tight. I've tried an 80 and a 90 needle, changing fabric weight setting from medium to heavy, tightening tension to no effect. What is it about Sunbrella fabric that makes it do this? I've compensated for this by stitching over twice to help lock in the stitches. I'm using 100% polyester thread. Doesn't seem to be a problem with the machine because it stitches normal when I go back to cotton fabric to test.

Q#2...since this is light colored fabric should I spray Scotchgard on it or is that not necessary with Sunbrella? I know it is water resistant already but could a spray help to keep spills from staining the fabric?

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kathi_mdgd

When i sewed my sunbrella fabric i didn't have any problem at all.It was just like sewing plain cotton!! I never had to make any adjustments.I think i used either a 14 or 16 schmetz needle.

I didn't add any scotchguard to mine.Mine are green and white stripe.After about 2 years use the white looked a little dingy,so i threw them in the washer one at a time,and hung them outside to dry.Turned out fine.
Kathi

    Bookmark   July 19, 2006 at 10:46PM
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momrox4

Sorry I don't have an answer for you Flyingflower, but I DO have a question: were you recovering cushions or did you make new ones and did you have a pattern? Thanks.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 9:19PM
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flyingflower

I had existing cushions that were badly faded. To get a pattern I carefully cut them apart so that one side remained intact and the other side was cut away. Wherever there was pleating I ripped out the stitching in order to lay the pattern flat. Then I laid the pattern over the Sunbrella fabric, drew around it to transfer the shape to the new fabric and marked the places where they had snipped the corners. In my case, the cushions had a little pleat in each corner so the pattern was very usefull in showing me how they folded it to get that particular looking pleat. I wanted a zipper in my version so I added that to the back of each cushion.

Sunbrella fabric frays like crazy! After dealing with the constant fraying I started cutting out the pattern with pinking sheers. This was one of those projects where I wished I owned a serger. But a couple bottles of Fray check sealed up the finished edges. I hate that stuff because it dries so stiff but in this case I didn't want to take chances that it would fray during a wash cycle.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 11:36AM
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momrox4

Thanks for the helpful info; I will try doing what you did; can't believe how expensive new cushions are, not that the sunbrella fabric is cheap, either!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 2:31PM
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flyingflower

When I went back to the patio store to order new cushions I just about fell over when he told me how much they would cost. I bought this Brown & Jordan furniture 15 years ago so by now what I paid for them sounds cheap in today's dollars. I told the guy, "the cushions now cost almost as much as I paid for the furniture!!" Unfortunately the manufacturer knows that these chairs have a unique shape and if customers want new cushions they are the only ones who can provide them, off-the-shelf cushions won't fit. I didn't know what to do when the guy leans over and says, "why don't you just order the fabric and have them made, it will be cheaper". Yeah, why not, if I can make a pillow surely I can handle a cushion. But then he told me how much the Subrella costs per yard if I ordered it through their store, something like $50 a yard (I forget). I decided to search on my own and sure enough I found out that Calico Corners sells it for half that amount. I waited for a fabric sale and ordered them for even less. I didn't try the internet or eBay so I might have done even better, who knows. But as it was I was already saving a bucket load of money and I was getting the same high quality fabric as if I had ordered them. When it was all said and done I was able to make 4 cushions, 1 chaise lounge, and a loveseat for about the price I would have paid to have one cushion made. And I was able to customize them with zippers for easy cleaning.

If your cushions have welting on them you don't have to make the new ones with cording, just omit it. You're in control now as to how they are designed. You can add or detract according to your skill level. My cushions didn't have welting or zippers. When I took them apart and saw how simple the construction was it really made me angry at the prices they were charging for new cushions.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 4:32PM
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flyingflower

momrox...I just looked up your page to see where in the country you live and I noticed your birthday....it's the same as mine (although I don't put that on my personal page it really is my birthday). :-D

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 4:39PM
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kathyg_in_mi

Try Fray Block, it doesn't get stiff and works just as well at Fray Check!
Kathy G in MI

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 5:00PM
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momrox4

Flyingflower: wow, that's a coincidence, altho birthdays are getting to be a subject I don't like to discuss!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2006 at 1:50PM
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josal

Flyingflower, go to beaconfabric.com and click on Sew with Lydia. She tells you about sewing with Sunbrella. If I was more computer literate I would have included click directly to the site, but maybe it's true that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. (: )

    Bookmark   July 23, 2006 at 7:32PM
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flyingflower

Oh if only I had known about the beaconfabric.com article before I started my project! Just to see if it works I'm going to do as they suggested (jeans needle,etc) on a scrap piece.

Fray Block works nicely. I bought a tube today and ran out of it quickly so I'll have to go back for more. One of these days I'm going to buy a Serger so I don't have to worry about fraying edges ever again.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2006 at 3:09AM
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chelone

In the shop we cut everything with an electric hot knife ("Heibershneider"). It looks like a "Chickadee", but when the trigger is activated the blade is heated and heat is what cuts the fabric. This not only cuts the fabric but seals the edges, as well. This is industry standard when working with acrylics.

Since you probably don't have a hot knife, you can cut with shears and then singe the raw edge with a soldering gun. You can also pass the raw edge through a candle's flame, but this is RISKY! the acrylic smokes when it meets heat and the open flame tends to leave a smokey residue on the underside of whatever you pass through the flame. Light colored fabrics will be "smoke damaged"!!!

I own an overlock machine (5 thread) and would use the SERGE stitch (3 thread overlock) to secure a raw edge before resorting to "fray check". But if you don't have one, hate pinking shears as much as I do, it might be your best alternative, failing the soldering gun.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2006 at 3:20PM
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