This is the sixth part in a series on crafting with inner tubes. You can find the introduction, learn about how to choose and clean inner tubes, how to cut inner tubes, how to glue inner tubes with contact cement, and 3 ways to hand-sew inner tubes by following the links.
And in case you missed it, check out the interview I did with Nancy McDonald of Re-Velo Bags. She’s got a lot more tips to add about working with inner tubes.
If it’s not obvious by now, I really enjoy crafting with inner tubes. I love that they’re a recycled craft material, and I love their industrial-chic look.
One of my absolute favorite things to do is to sew with them. Mostly I make pretty straightforward things like belts and wrist cuffs, but after all this series I’m inspired to branch out into making bags, too.
Ideally I’d have an industrial sewing machine that could handle the inner tube abuse, but since I have nowhere to put it, it’s out of the question.
I’ve sewn inner tubes on my old Singer, as well as on my new Pfaff Ambition. I was a bit nervous about using the Pfaff, actually. Even though I knew it was a much stronger machine than the Singer, I was deathly afraid of destroying such an expensive purchase.
The very first project I sewed on it, though, was an inner tube belt for an Etsy order.
It performed amazingly better than the Singer. It has a built-in dual feed (Pfaff calls it the IDT—Integrated Dual Transportation) which helps move the rubber through the machine. Add in a teflon presser foot and titanium needle, and sewing inner tubes is relatively easy.
Not entirely easy, however. Sewing inner tubes is still difficult, but I’ve learned some tricks along the way. Back in October I wrote a post that gave some tips for sewing inner tubes on a home sewing machine. I’ve sewn a lot more since, and it’s time for an update.
Especially since on
Friday Saturday I’ll be posting a tutorial I’m really excited to share: sewing a shopping pannier using inner tubes and oilcloth. It’ll be super helpful to keep these tips in mind if you decide to make it.
Use the right tools
Sewing inner tubes is so much easier with a few simple tools: particularly a teflon presser foot and titanium needles. You could use denim or leather needles, too, but I prefer titanium because they won’t dull as quickly. I found titanium needles at my local fabric store, and the teflon presser foot at Quality Sewing & Vacuum, where I bought my machine.
Clean off your needle from time to time with rubbing alcohol, since it can get a bit sticky from the rubber.
Keep an eye on your tension
Stitch a couple practice lines to check your machine’s tension. Be sure to check the bobbin thread—it may look totally fine on top, but be snarled below.
I find that I need to keep my tension higher than normal (in the 7-9 range).
Check the tension every time you change thicknesses—like if you double over the end of a belt to sew on a buckle.
Drop the feed dogs
If you find yourself stitching inner tubes to something other than themselves, you may encounter problems with both fabrics feeding at different rates. I had this problem with sewing inner tubes to oilcloth—the thinner oilcloth fed at a faster speed, which made it pucker horribly.
I tried a half-dozen different things before I finally thought to lower my feed dogs. (My Singer didn’t have the option, so I forget sometimes that it’s possible to do.) I left the upper IDT feed on. I had to manually pull the work so that it fed through, but the result was that everything lay perfectly smooth.
How about you? What are your favorite tips for sewing with inner tubes?