What Is PVC Fabric?

A man in a red leather type jacket in his red sports car.
A man in a red leather type jacket in his red sports car. (Image: altrendo images/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, was developed by scientist Waldo Semon back in the 1920’s. It gained a more mainstream following in the 1950’s and 60’s and, since then, has been used in a variety of products, from piping to apparel. Today, crafters can use PVC fabric to create all sorts of unique items that were previously made from less durable cloths and materials.

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Composition

PVC, which is also commonly referred to as “vinyl,” is made from two basic substances: chlorine, which comes from salt, and ethylene, a compound derived from crude oil. The chlorine and ethylene are combined to produce ethylene dichloride, which undergoes high heat and polymerization to create the powder known as “polyvinyl chloride resin.” To make PVC fabric, manufacturers process PVC resin with other materials to obtain the desired color and texture, and then use the PVC to coat one side of a knit fabric, such as polyester or Lycra.

PVC Fabric Advantages

Because PVC varies widely in its appearance and rigidity depending on how it is processed, PVC fabric is available in many different varieties. It is available in many colors, can have a shiny or matte finish and is used in items as varied as upholstery, shower curtains, rainwear and lingerie. PVC fabric’s slick, stretchy surface makes it durable and easy to clean. PVC is also heat- and fire-resistant, making PVC fabric appropriate for applications in which heat is a concern.

Sewing with PVC Fabric

PVC fabric, which is also sometimes known as “Patent Vinyl Cloth” within the garment industry, is popular in gothic and rave-inspired fashion. However, the material is also used in accessories and interior design. PVC fabric is available in 4-way or 2-way stretch, which differ in the type of stretch knit backing used for the cloth. Use 2-way stretch PVC for home decorating and stiffer accessories, like handbags. Use 4-way stretch for form-fitting apparel and soft accessories.

Craft Applications

PVC is durable, easy to clean, and waterproof, giving it a whole host of household applications. Use it to refurbish an old chair or sofa. Make it into a baby's bib or a school lunch bag. Create a fitted table cloth with it. Turn it into a raincoat, umbrella or porch awning. Use it to make a rain-proof handbag or watchband. And those who love the outdoors can even make their own camping tent or roll-up bag with it.

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