Have you sewn bags with fabric or leather and now are ready to try something new? How about cork?
Yes, we’re talking about cork like you find in a wine bottle — but in fabric form. It’s ideal for making all kinds of bags, purses, accessories and even can be used as trim on garments. And a bonus is that it’s surprisingly easy to sew!
What is cork fabric?
Cork fabric is made by applying thin sheets of natural cork to a backing. The backing is often a cotton/polyester blend or polyurethane fabric. The cork can be applied in different ways, such as patchwork or in thin strips, and can be dyed in a variety of colors.
Some cork fabrics are printed with a pattern or have metallic designs added, making them really interesting for use in a variety of items.
The cork fabric is naturally water- and dust-repellent, although most are also treated with a sealant for added durability.
You can find cork fabric in various sizes, and online sellers offer anywhere from small 9″ squares to large yardages. For a small zippered clutch bag, an 18″ square is ample.
What you need to know about sewing with cork
Surprisingly, sewing cork fabric is not very different from sewing any other fabric. I used a size 80 Universal needle, regular thread and the standard presser foot on my sewing machine and it sewed beautifully.
Most things you can make out of leather can be made with cork, and an added benefit is that you don’t have to fit your pattern pieces on irregular skins as with natural leather.
Cutting cork fabric
To cut out the cork fabric, you can use regular scissors or a rotary cutter. I found it helpful to mark my cutting lines on the back of the fabric, which takes pencil or chalk very well.
Avoid pinning cork fabric
As with vinyl or leather, you want to avoid using pins to minimize perforations and holes.
Use small craft clips to hold the pieces together. It’s much faster than applying the tape and easy to adjust as you go.
For applying zippers, a peel-and-stick tape designed for sewing works perfectly and keeps your zipper in place as you sew.
Ironing the cork fabric
Cork fabric presses like other fabric, though the seams won’t stay pressed. If you want the seams to stay crisp, you may need to topstitch.
The backing on cork fabric adds quite a bit of stiffness, so interfacing may not be necessary. But if you do want to add a fusible interfacing, it can ironed on just like other fabrics. Use the synthetic setting on your iron and press just enough to adhere the interfacing.
Trim away bulk
Because cork is very sturdy, you may want to remove any unneeded fabric. As you sew, you can trim away the corners to reduce bulk. On the other hand, leaving the excess fabric in can create some structure in your project.
No edge finishing needed
Cork doesn’t unravel, so you can leave the edges raw. I found this useful when creating straps and loops for my bag — I just folded and stitched.
I’m already planning my next project with cork fabric — perhaps a case for my e-reader or a tote bag. The possibilities are endless!
I have made a few things with cork, and I like it a lot. I need more practice, but love making a variety of crafts.
thank you so much. All my questions were answered on this one page!!!!
I have sewn a small make up bag with cork fabric and love the finished result. I am now trying to source different designs of cork fabric for some more projects.
Thank you for an informative and helpful lesson. The pictures are a great help too.
I’ve bought cork fabric but haven’t used it yet. Thank you for the informative lesson.
Does cork fabric have a grain?
I’m having tension issues and can’t seem to adjust correctly. I’m using coats and Clark dual duty xp and an 80/12 needle. I’m just trying by to sew a wallet with 2 layers or cork and no interfacing. Any help is appreciated.
Can I wash cork? How?
Cork fabric is washable. I spot clean my cork fabric purse with lightly soaped wet sponge (DAWN dishwashing detergent) and wipe with wet clean sponge or rag. Let it dry. I have also used disinfecting wipes on my purse and no damage to cork occurs. I have read that you can wash cork in a washing machine but I have not tried that.
I have several questions about cork fabric still. This article could have been more informative in my opinion. For example, can it be pre-washed, and should it be? What size needle and what type of thread? Top stitching thread? Ways to deal with seams – flat felling?
Oh I am so sorry! I did just now look back and see you did mention needle size and type of thread. Though I am surprised it doesn’t call for a heavier duty needle and thread. Wouldn’t top stitching thread show up more nicely if you want that effect? I still have my question about flat felling seams. Thanks, and sorry about my previous post due to my not reading everything apparently.
Excited to try sewing with cork
I’m just getting to know cork. I’m trying to figure out how to cut pattern pieces without using needles. Been looking for a good video to explain, but have not yet found one…..